Is 616 wins enough?
Belleville's Bill Corbin just recorded his 616th victory as a Babe Ruth baseball manager on June 21 against Lewistown and the big question is: Is that enough wins to be at the top in Pennsylvania when it comes to junior Babe Ruth (13-15-year-olds)?
Corbin has managed 32 years - since 1983 - and he has a regular-season record of 533-294; as an all-star manager he is 83-33. His overall mark is 616-327.
Sentinel photo by BRADLEY KREITZER
Bill Corbin shows his ‘600 Club’ T-shirt. The Belleville manager is believed to be the state’s winningest Junior Babe Ruth coach.
There are very few Babe Ruth leagues that keep track of records the way Mifflin County does.
And, most managers don't stay on the job for 32 years, either - most of the managers coach when their sons are of playing age and then they are gone. In Mifflin County, the top 12 managers in the win column all have more than 100 wins.
The one league that had a manager who could challenge Corbin's mark is Phoenixville. They had two men, Tom Graham and Jim Vojcisk, who coached longer than Corbin. Vojcsik lasted for 41 years, while Graham coached 46 years.
But Barry Sankey, a reporter for the Phoenix Sun and the Pottsville Mercury, said Corbin more than likely holds the record.
"Jim (Vojcisk) coached the Cubs for years in the Phoenixville league, but he had a lot of teams that didn't have great records. On the other hand, Tommy (Graham) coached the Braves and they were very good most years," Sankey said. "But 600 is a pretty big number."
John Cole, the current Phoenixville Babe Ruth League president had this to say about Tom Graham, who coached at Phoenixville from 1959 to the mid 2000s when his health declined:
"I played for (Graham)," Cole said, "He was a great coach and a great guy. He was a great influence on a lot of young men in the Phoenixville community including myself who went off to college, came back a lawyer and have been involved with Phoenixville Babe Ruth for years. We talked it over in a meeting and we feel that (Graham) had about 600 wins - but no one kept records. On the other hand, Mifflin County does keep statistics and as far as we are concerned your man (Corbin) has the record."
"It's a big accomplishment," Ron Zimmerman, the Pennsylvania Babe Ruth state commissioner, said of Corbin breaking the 600-win plateau. "Very few coaches in youth baseball ever get that many wins. What it means is a lot of dedication and work and you just don't find that very often in youth baseball."
Corbin has had very few family ties during his 32 years in Belleville. But, his family played a big part in his coaching career as his father was a longtime Little League manager in Belleville.
During tenure, Corbin has won six league titles and has had only seven seasons below .500. His first year as manager was 1983 and it took him 11 years to have his first losing season.
Back when he took over the team, Belleville was a much different town than it is today. In 1983, New Holland and Fairmont Foods were in full swing and houses were being built at every turn in the road in the Big Valley.
Once Belleville was one of the most thriving communities in Mifflin County. It had several grocery stores, its own weekly newspaper and gas stations on every corner.
But when those industries pulled up stake, Belleville suddenly had more "For Sale" signs than ball players.
Corbin kept soldiering on. One manager in the league said, "Bill Corbin does more with less than any other person in the league."
As an all-star manager, Corbin has won 10 district titles and eight of his teams have finished second or first in the state. He has guided four of those teams to state titles, all at the 13-year-old level, in 1987, 1990, 2003 and 2007.
There is no doubt that he is from a different generation (although you could never tell by the type of music he likes). When you play for a Corbin-coached team, he expects you to know the game and show up to play. What really makes him mad is when players just don't care.
Corbin, who is a member of the Pennsylvania Babe Ruth Hall of Fame, has been very loyal to the town that sits in the middle of Big Valley. His players from the town and his territory, which includes Union and Menno townships, come first. He would rather lose with players from Belleville than go outside the limits to fill his roster.
There is no one that picks up on the little things in a game more than Bill Corbin. When most coaches are in bed after a game, he is always thinking about what little things his players could have done to make a play. Where were they on a double play ball hit to the right side of the infield? Did they hit the right cut off man? If he would have laid off that high, fast ball, he might have drawn a walk and that could have changed the inning?
The Mifflin County League has set almost all the records in the state - most state titles (20), most state runners-up (20), most times in the state finals (40), most district titles won in a row (34), most members of the state's Hall of Fame (16).
Now it can seemingly add another to that list: manager with the most wins.