Baseball: Guam Major League
Budweiser Baseball League
The Guam Major League was formed in 1974 and has been Guam’s premier baseball league ever since, although it changed its name to the Budweiser Baseball League in 2003. Except for one season at the LeoPalace Hotel, the GML has played nearly all its games at Paseo Stadium in Hagatna and watching GML games has become a tradition for baseball fans on Guam.
Forming the League
While an adult baseball league existed on Guam with local and military teams before World War II, no such league had been started up after the war. Youth baseball had become big on Guam in the 1950s and 1960s, but after players graduated from high school there was no outlet for them except for the many softball leagues.
According to Dennis Zermeno, who ran the GML for many years, the person who initiated the desire to organize an organized adult baseball league was Lloyd Tatum, who had a son playing baseball. Tatum ran a small notice in the Pacific Daily News calling for those interested in forming a baseball league to attend an evening meeting in the old Guam Legislature building session hall across from the Hagåtña Cathedral.
From this meeting, a board of directors was formed and Dr. Robert Connolly was elected president and Tatum was elected secretary-treasurer. The first official GML board meeting (the first of the annual board meetings) was held on Sept. 30, 1973, setting the league rules, fees, and by-laws. Other board members included Junior Taeu and Joe Guerrero.
The board decided to play night games on Tuesdays and Thursdays with a double-header on Saturday and Sunday afternoons. Weekly radio broadcasts were also set up for KUAM radio, with Dennis Zermeno announcing the games. Zermeno would continue announcing the games for nearly thirty years.
The games were to be played at the Paseo baseball field in Hagåtña, and a cyclone outfield fence was constructed, with advertising billboards placed on the fence to defray the cost of putting it up.
The first season had six teams: the Agana Heights Cougars, University of Guam Tritons, Atkins Kroll Islanders, 4-0 Dodgers, USS Proteus, and Tamuning Rebels. The season consisted of twenty games with the two winners meeting in a best-of-five game series for the championship.
The highlights of the schedule were the weekend day doubleheaders at Paseo, which saw large crowds filling the old rusted out wood planked bleachers.
Led by slugger Ronnie Tavares and manager Alex Ojeda, the Cougars won their first eight games of the season. Agana Heights met the UOG Tritons in the title series, and beat the Tritons three games to two, winning game five by a score of 5-3 to capture the first-ever GML title.
In 1976, The Atkins Kroll Islanders were declared GML champions. They held a 2-0 lead over the Ace Hardware Aces before Typhoon Pamela came and tossed Paseo ballpark into the Paseo de Susana landscape and the Agana boat basin.
All-time great John Farnum has been involved with the GML for almost its entire history—first as a player and later as a coach. Farnum is remembered by old-timers as an amazing power hitter with a vicious swing.
Keith Hattig, a more recent player, is also remembered for his all-around playing ability. Hattig was a line-drive hitter with enough power to hit homers when it counted, and he was just as exceptional at shortstop as he was as a hitter. Hattig, the first person from Guam to play professional baseball in the major leagues, currently plays in the minor leagues.
Ronnie Tavares is also hailed as one of best baseball players Guam has ever produced, with brilliance at both pitching and shortstop. The Agana Heights phenom became the first ever GML Most Valuable Player, and the MVP award was later named after him. His career and life were cut short in 1976 by a boating accident.
Other greats include Eddie Aguon, Pete Aguon, Lavoice Thomas, Benji Pangelinan, Bob Misko, Richard Martinez, Randy Kakigi and Uchel Sechewas. Pete Aguon and Rick Miner were known for their dynamic double-play combination, and Roke Alcantara was known for his superior fielding at third base. Willie Brenan and Ben Taijeron were also known for their intensity in every game.
GML and international baseball
In 1982, the GML introduced the Western Pacific Invitational Baseball Tournament. With a usual four-team format, this tournament featured top teams from Korea, Chinese-Taipei, Japan and the Micronesian region. In the thirteen year run of the tournament, Korean teams were involved in eleven championship games. Participating teams included visiting squads from Japan; Hawaii; Korea; Chinese-Taipei; Philippines; Oceania; China; and Palau.
In 1989, both China and Chinese Taipei participated. The two teams competed against each other at the Paseo Stadium several years before diplomatic compromises allowed such athletic meetings.
In 1996 escalating costs and lower revenues forced suspension of the tournament. In this final year of tournament play, Team Guam captured its first ever and only Western Pacific Invitational Baseball Tournament championship.
On the radio
The Guam Major League was unique in its weekly AM radio play-by-play coverage. The radio games keep fans in touch with the league action and helped build a loyal following.
Dennis Zermeno, league treasurer and coordinator since 1975, was also the league’s passionate play-by-play radio announcer for twenty-eight years. Zermeno was a nightly fixture in the stadium press box and was known as the voice of the GML.
He was aided by numerous memorable “color” announcers, including Jr. Taeu (also known as “the Mad Samoan”); Jerry Modene (who managed GML games and later did his radio announcing dressed in a suit and bow-tie); Simon Sanchez, who later became a senator; Bobby Torres, who later became a Supreme Court justice; and Roger Wynn, who also served as official scorekeeper, umpire, public address announcer, ticket-seller and other roles.