The winningest Union County baseball coaches leave their mark

UNION COUNTY, NJ — Two of the five winningest baseball coaches in Union County history are still very active.

As the high school baseball season began Monday, March 11, with pitchers and catchers reporting, it is still 1987 Roselle Park High School graduate Dennis McCaffery at the helm of the Cranford High School Cougars and 1992 Governor Livingston High School grad Chris Roof in charge of his Governor Livingston Highlanders.

The rest of the team players are scheduled to report for practice for the first time on Thursday, March 14. The first scrimmages are set for Thursday, March 21.

The first Opening Day of the 2024 campaign across New Jersey is Monday, April 1.

McCaffery, now in his 25th season at Cranford after three years as an assistant there, is three wins shy of 500.

Roof, now in his 20th season at his alma mater Governor Livingston after three years as the head coach at Millburn, is just two victories away from reaching 450.

Both of these coaches have guided their programs to state championships and to all of their Union County Tournament crowns. As a matter of fact, the last three UCT titles were won by Governor Livingston in 2021 and Cranford in 2022 and 2023.

In his last year at Westfield High School in 2021, Bob Brewster passed Gordon LeMatty of Union High School and then Ray Korn of Roselle Catholic High School and Elizabeth High School–Frank J. Cicarell Academy to become the winningest coach in Union County history with 655 wins.

When LeMatty was done coaching, the 1991 season turning out to be his 33rd and last at Union, he was No. 1 in victories not only in Union County but in the entire state.

Korn passed LeMatty for No. 1 in Union County during his final season at the helm of the Minutemen in 2009. Korn guided Elizabeth to its last UCT championship the year before in 2008.

Winningest Union County baseball coaches

Bob Brewster, Westfield: 655
Ray Korn, Roselle Catholic and Elizabeth: 651
Gordon LeMatty, Union: 641
Dennis McCaffery, Cranford: 497
Chris Roof, Governor Livingston: 448

McCaffery at Cranford and Roof at Governor Livingston have turned their programs into the gold standard in Union County. Both were successful while McCaffery was an assistant at Cranford to best friend James Shriner and Roof an assistant at Governor Livingston to his mentor Bill Howard, but since they became head coaches they have both taken their programs to even higher levels.

McCaffery is 11-1 in the UCT final and has guided the Cougars to state championships in Group 3 in 2010, 2012 and 2013. Cranford last reached the final in 2017 and then again in 2022 and last year was 26-0 before it was finally defeated in a sectional semifinal. His 2013 team that went 25-1 finished No. 1 in the state at season’s end.

After many near misses, Roof has led Governor Livingston to UCT championships in 2016, 2018 and 2021. He has won it all in Group 2 in 2011 and 2015. His 2017 squad earned the state’s No. 1 ranking during the middle stages of the regular season. Although GL did not repeat as county champions that year, the Highlanders pulled off a dramatic, bottom-of-the-seventh, come-from-behind victory to win Central Jersey, Group 2 in walk-off fashion.

State championships, county crowns and division titles have become the norm at both Cranford and Governor Livingston the past 25 years. With McCaffery and Roof still doing what they’re doing at opposite ends of the county, there’s no reason to believe that their success will dip at all in the near future.

Union County’s top 5 winningest baseball coaches

Bob Brewster: 655-342-3 or .657

1983-2021 – 38 seasons at Westfield

Brewster has guided the Blue Devils to Group 4 state championship games in 2011 at Toms River South, 2013 at Toms River North) and 2018 at Veterans Park, Hamilton.

Brewster has led Westfield to all five of its North 2, Group 4 titles: 1988, 2011, 2013, 2018 and 2019.

Brewster has also led Westfield to 11 UCT championships, the most by any coach, with his last coming in 2017.

Ray Korn: 651-308-1 or .679

1974-1979 – Six seasons at Roselle Catholic

One state championship – Parochial A in 1978

1980-2009 – 29 seasons – he did not coach one of those years – at Elizabeth

Three state championships – Group 4 in 1983, 1986 and 1994
Korn also guided Elizabeth to Union County Tournament championships in 1983, 1985, 1989, 1991 and 2008.

Korn was 110-91 or .547 in his six seasons at Roselle Catholic.

Gordon LeMatty: 641-272-4 or .702

1959-1991 – 33 seasons at Union

Two state championships – Group 4 in 1972 and 1974

LeMatty also guided Union to Central, Group 4 state titles in 1966 and 1968 and the Farmers to the first seven of their eight UCT championships, the last one coming in 1975. In addition, LeMatty led Union to the 1966 and 1970 Greater Newark Tournament crowns.

Dennis McCaffery: 497-143-1 or .777

1999-2023: 24 seasons at Cranford

Three state championships – Group 3 in 2010, 2012 and 2013
McCaffery has also guided Cranford to all 11 of its Union County Tournament championships and has an 11-1 record in the UCT final. Cranford is 71-21 in state tournament play with McCaffery. Numerous division titles, including the last four Watchung Division crowns outright. Cranford has only finished less than .500 once, 2002, during McCaffery’s tenure. Cranford is the last team to repeat as UCT champions – 2022 and 2023 – and is also the last team to three-peat: 1999, 2000 and 2001, which were McCaffery’s first three seasons at the helm and the program’s first three UCT titles. Cranford finished as the No. 1 ranked team in New Jersey in 2013.

Chris Roof: 448-179-1 or .715

2001-2003: 3 seasons at Millburn – 54-34 or .614
2004-2003: 19 seasons at Governor Livingston – 394-145-1 or .731
2001-2023: 22 seasons overall record – 448-179-1 or 715

Two state championships – Group 2 in 2011 and 2015

Roof has also led Governor Livingston to all three of its Union County Tournament championships, those titles won in 2016, 2018 and 2021. Governor Livingston reached the No. 1 ranking in the state during the 2017 campaign.