The last time the Stevens High School Cardinals won a New Hampshire State Baseball Title was in 1978 when they defeated Timberlane 2-1.
Ralph Silva was the head coach.
Ralph and his son Paul, who stepped down as head coach following the 2021 season, have been a part of the Cardinal program for 44 of the past 50 years.
Ralph, who became the head coach in 1972, had brought teams to three state championship games before his arrival. The first was in 1964 when he was coaching Charlestown High School, a position he landed directly after graduating out of Springfield College in 1959. Future major league Hall of Famer Carlton “Pudge” Fisk was a member of that team which lost a heartbreaking title game to Woodsville 3-2.
Three area high schools, including Charlestown, closed their doors in the spring of 1966 and became Fall Mountain Regional High School. Silva was chosen as the baseball coach at the new school and was at the helm when the Wildcats captured Class I back-to-back state titles in ‘68 and ‘69 with solid wins over Timberlane 7-2 and Goffstown 6-0, respectively.
Of course, Paul, who was in grade school at that time, was around when he could be, as bat boy.
The lead-off hitter/second baseman on Silva’s 1978 title team was Jeff McGuire. who later on would serve as a junior varsity coach for Ralph for twelve years, before eventually succeeding him as head coach. McGuire still cherishes those days and considers Ralph a mentor. “He was one of the men in my life I molded myself after,” the former Cardinal told the Eagle Times in a recent conversation.
McGuire, who had always wanted to be a varsity baseball coach, told us, “I waited a long time, but . . .”
The but was because he enjoyed working with his high school coach and looked up to the man he says “had a great sense of humor and was a complete coach because he knew the game so well.”
“He knew how to coach every single position,” McGuire said. “I saw it from the time we were in high school. We had a solid core and having him as our coach was perfect for us. He played such a big part in my direction. He encouraged me to go to Springfield College and I kind of molded myself after him.”
The student replaced his longtime mentor after Ralph had spent 26 years at the helm. The six years McGuire was in charge beginning in 1998 were the only seasons in the past half century in which no one in the Silva family was on the coaching staff.
Paul Silva has always loved the game of baseball. He also paid close attention to his dads’ place in the game. After spending time as bat boy and just hanging around, he grew to keeping the all important scorebook. He held that position as a teenager during the 1978 championship run.
Paul’s interest in baseball allowed him to branch out on his own and enter the coaching ranks. Many readers may remember the Northern League, a semi-pro baseball league which flourished in this reporting area in the eighties and the nineties. Paul’s first head coaching experience came in this loop as he was part of a two headed managerial group of the Walpole Blue Jays. The team found success capturing a Northern League title in 1985.
Stan Jurkoic, who was a standout player at Fall Mountain long after Silva departed and a member of that Blue Jays squad has since served himself as a successful assistant coach at powerhouse Franklin Pierce University, Jurkoic remembers Paul as the coach.
“He has always had a great baseball mind, showed he was capable of being in charge and you could predict his future success,” Jurkoic said. “He was very knowledgeable and loved the game.”
Silva’s co-coach Greg Chaffee agreed with Jurkoic’s assessment.
“We started out as co-coaches, but I was a player/manager, so Paul basically became the coach of the team over time,” Chaffee said. “It was easy to let him be in charge.”
After McGuire’s six-year stint as head coach of the Cardinals, Kevin Davidson took over in 2004. Davidson was joined on the Stevens staff by Paul Silva, who assisted in 2004 and then was officially hired as junior varsity coach in 2005-06.
Silva had to make a career change in order to make his dream of coaching at the high school level come true. After spending many years in the banking business, Paul decided.
“Some people say money isn’t everything and I have come to believe that is true,” he said in explaining why he would give up a very respectable annual salary as an assistant vice president at a prominent local bank after 23 years in the business to put himself in a position to coach.
“I spent a couple of years stocking shelves at Walmart so my work schedule would allow me to coach,” he said. “Eventually I was able to get a school job which allowed me to live a more regular life.”
A few people have remarked to me that the Silvas must stand alone atop the coaching ranks in Stevens history and although they most definitely rank somewhere high on that tree, probably number two, Paul set me straight about Cardinals coaching legends.
“I learned about Clarence Parker from the pictures of his teams in the basketball lobby at the school. He was a real legend,” Silva said. “He coached at Stevens from 1925 through 1957. He won 832 games over the years. He coached football, boys and girls basketball and baseball. He was hired as a PE teacher on December 1, 1924, and worked at Stevens until they made him retire after the 1957 baseball season.”
After adding that Parker also appeared in the major leagues as a player with the St. Louis Browns, Silva rested his case saying “he was a legend.”
Jumping back to the Silvas, like Parker, they were not one dimensional. When Stevens football fell out of varsity status just after the turn of the century, a third Silva, Ken (a brother of Paul’s), joined Ralph and Paul to make sure the sport continued in Claremont.
In fact, Ken played the biggest role in this development as he recruited 42 prospects at the middle school where he taught and most of them would advance to the high school to play a junior varsity schedule for two years before the program regained varsity status. Ken, Ralph and Paul have all served as the head coach in the past 20 years with Paul taking over in 2011 and still holding on to the reins.
Present Stevens Athletic Director Doug Beaupre remembers Ralph Silva working with his coaches when he was a student at Kimball Union Academy way back when, making sure his teams had a place to practice or play when KUA’s fields were not suitable.
“Ralph was a successful coach but it went beyond that. He helped out in similar ways when I was at Newport. He and his family impacted so many people over the years.”
Longtime Windsor baseball coach Don Swinyer actually did his student teaching under Ralph Silva. He compares Ralph to another great coach Swinyer was close to, his own high school baseball coach, the legendary Leon Royce.
“The two were a lot alike,” Swinyer said, “except Ralph was not quite as serious. I watched him work with his players and students and it was important to him to make it fun for all. I loved it when Ralph would tell us stories of all the Fisk boys. That was really fun.”
We leave things to another longtime Windsor connection, Bob Hingston, to wrap everything up. Hingston moved to Charlestown just at the right time to have Ralph as his high school baseball coach and lived near him. Hingston also coached Paul in Babe Ruth Baseball.
“Ralph stressed fundamentals and was always talking and teaching the game to us,” said the former Yellow Jacket athletic director. “A number of his fellow players got together recently and we were joking about how we might have known the game back then more than many of the major leaguers now. Ralph was fun to play for and to be around. He convinced me to go to Springfield College and that was important.”
“Paul pitched for me in Babe Ruth. He defeated a very good Windsor team 2-1 in the championship game. He was a very smart player. It isn’t surprising at all he turned into a good coach. He learned a lot from his father and was always a student of the game.”
Hingston has plenty of Silva memories but there was one that stood out more than the rest.
“My favorite memory was when I was Windsor Baseball Coach and had a chance to coach against Ralph. That was really special.”