Milwaukee Schlitz

Milwaukee was a hotbed of men’s softball for many years. Copper Hearth won the ASA National Championship in 1969 and Accurate Welding won the USSSA in 1971. In addition to those teams, there were others that were very competitive in the Big Eight League that contained the best teams in the area. Each of those teams was made up exclusively of players from the Milwaukee area. Copper Hearth finished 2nd in the 1970 ASA Championship and a few years later, added Rick Sherr, Phil Higgins and Chuck Drewicz to a packed line-up. Sherr eventually moved to Taylor Brothers in Corpus Christi, Texas and then Howard’s and Drewicz joined Snyder’s in 1976 but Higgins was a mainstay for Copper Hearth and the Milwaukee Schlitz for many years to come although he made all-USSSA in 1976 when as a pick-up, he helped Snyder’s to win the USSSA World Series.

In 1977, Bill Byrne, who had worked in the World Football League, started the American Professional Slo-Pitch League. John Korinek, sponsor and manager of Copper Hearth, was one of the first franchisees and put together a strong team made up primarily of players from his Copper Hearth team and rival Transport Oil that had finished third in the 1976 USSSA World Series. Another addition that year was a young first baseman, Dennis Graser. Although it took time for the team to gel, they eventually became one of the favorites to win the title. However, they lost to Cleveland in the first round of the playoffs. The team received tremendous television and newspaper coverage and drew over 3000 fans per night.

In 1978, playing in the League’s strongest division, Schlitz failed to make the playoffs despite having the League’s 4th best record. In 1979, pitcher Rick Weiterman and manager Mike Basile were added and the Schlitz won their first Pro League Championship, defeating Cleveland, Detroit and Kentucky. Weiterman, who was regular season MVP, was also World Series MVP and along with Higgins, Graser and Jim Dillard, led the team to victory. The World Series was televised by ESPN, the first game being the initial live event televised by ESPN on their first night, September 7, 1979.

In 1980, Milwaukee moved to the North American Professional Softball League where they won their second championship, defeating a very good Chicago team and Detroit for the title. Kenny Parker was World Series MVP. In the final year of Pro Softball, Schlitz won their third title in 4 years, defeating Cincinnati, Kentucky and Detroit. Dick Laba was MVP and Graser had a tremendous World Series. The team disbanded after the League was discontinued.


You may also like...