Bruce Meade, Rick Scherr, Craig Elliott, Mike Macenko, Dave Steffen, Charles Wright, Don Arndt, Stan Harvey and the Williams brothers, Curtis and Steve. Their names are at the top of the list when it comes to talking about All-Star performances on the national tournament slow pitch softball scene.
Bruce Meade, who played for such teams as Warren Motors of Jacksonville, Fla., Nelson’s Painting of Oklahoma City, Dave Carroll’s Skoal Bandits of Sherrills Ford, N.C., Jerry’s Caterers of Miami, Elite Coatings of Gordon, Ga., Smythe Sox of Houston, Steele’s of Grafton, Ohio, Starpath of Monticello, Ky., and Vernon’s of Jacksonville, has 20 All-Star selections between ASA and USSSA play. He is the leader with nine USSSA selections. He earned seven ASA first teams and four second teams. He was named MVP three times — for Nelson’s in the 1977 ASA, for Jerry’s in the 1982 ASA and for Jerry’s in the 1983 USSSA.
Elliott, Wright and Scherr each have a total of 17 selections. They called Meade “Bruiser,” Elliott “Crankin’ Craig,” and Scherr “The Crusher.” Wright didn’t really have a nickname. One annoucer on a stop on the Steele’s tour when Wright hit 503 home runs in 1986 called him “Good Night Wright” every time he homered. Harvey hit 290 home runs in 1977, James “The Rattler” Boyett hit 303 in 1978, Mighty Joe Young 337 in 1980, Scherr 356 in 1982, Elliott 390 in 1983 and Scherr 451 in 1985.
After Wright’s 503, along came Mike Macenko with 844 in 1987 and 830 in 1988 when the barnstorming Steele’s Silver Bullets were playing 355 and 386 games. Meade once hit a ball that was measured at 510 feet (in Amarillo, Texas, in 1978). Macenko hit one in Las Vegas in 1986 that went 508 feet. It hit the tournament director’s car way in the back of an empty parking lot. When Macenko was hitting all those home runs, he hit just as many in baseball parks as he did on softball fields. This writer is the only person to witness both the 510 and 508 shots by Meade and Macenko. The only people to have seen more home runs are Dave Neale, the Steele’s manager, and Macenko.
Two veterans who have retired in 1998 were Mike Macenko with 6 ASAs (plus 5 second teams) and 2 USSSAs and Dave Steffen with 6 ASAs (and 3 seconds) and four USSSAs. Macenko has five MVP selections, Steffen two. Macenko is coming back in ’99. Mike “The Masher” (he likes to be called “Big Cat” now) once had 10 home runs in one game, 16 in a doubleheader. Huggins and Arndt also have hit 10 homers in a game. Macenko once had 10 RBIs in one inning. So did Roberson. Macenko is one of several players with four HRs in one inning. Craig Elliott had five HRs in one inning, believe it or not. Macenko, Roberson and Mike Bolen each had 12 hits — in the same game when Steele’s scored 109 runs. Macenko had another 12-hit game. Jimmy Powers had 12 hits, including seven homers, and a walk in 13 at-bats when Shen Valley scored 122 runs in four innings in 1997 at Little Rock, Ark. Most of Macenko’s career was with the Men of Steele, all but 1991 when he played with Sunbelt (Steele’s did not field a team that year) and 1994-95 when he was with Ritch’s-Superior.
On the other hand, Steffen, a product of Flat Rock, Mich., has played with a long line of teams — Steele’s (in 1984), Lilly Air of Chicago, Shubin’s of L.A., Marlton of Oregon, Superior-Apollo, Ritch’s-Superior, Converters, Bell-Sunbelt and Sunbelt. He played part of last season with Steele’s. Steffen had a record nine home runs in one game in the 1989 USSSA World Series at Omaha, Neb., the last one inside the park when the opposing team sort of gave the 300-pounder they called “Daffy Dave” a “gift.” Steffen, once a pitcher in the Tigers’ chain, once had ambitions of being a professional wrestler. He was the Michigan heavyweight champion in high school. Macenko, who batted .750 as a “youngster” when he earned his first ASA All-Star honor in 1977, said he wanted to be like Craig Elliott. After “The Cranker” joined Steele’s, the home run chart usually had Macenko 1, Elliott 2.
Another fellow who hit some long home runs was Monty Tucker. He got the nickname “Mile High Monty” after winning a home run derby at Mile High Stadium in Denver while on tour with the Steele’s Silver Bullets. The 6-8, 308-pounder also was called “Montrous Monty” and “The Gentle Giant.” Nobody knows for sure how Boyett, who played for Dave Carroll and Jerry’s, got the nickname “The Rattler.” Elliott says somebody told him it was for “rattling” the chain-link fences with line drives, “but it probably was because he was always running his mouth.” Elliott was a pretty good talker too. Read on. Why was Andrew Young called “Mighty Joe.” He was the mighty one from Louisiana.
Elliott, who played for Ken Sanders of Augusta, Ga., Jerry’s, Ken Sanders again, Elite and Steele’s, has been named to 10 ASA All-Star teams and six USSSA All-Star teams. He added an ASA second team in 1982. He was on the first team five consecutive years (1977-81), then five more years in a row (1983-87). He is a six-time MVP — in the 1977 ASA, the 1982 and 1983 NSPC, the 1984 USSSA and the 1985 and 1986 ASA.
Wright, who played for Ken Sanders, Elite, Marlton Trucking of Portland, Steele’s, Ritch’s/Kirk’s of Harrisburg, N.C., Ritch’s-Superior of Windsor Locks, Conn., and Sunbelt of Centerville, Ga., has seven ASA selections, six USSSA selections and four ASA second teams. He is a four-time MVP — the ISA in 1991 and 1992, the ASA in 1989 and 1993. He played for Sunbelt at the age of 46. Wright played on a record six successive Smoky Mountain Classic winners between 1982-87, then on another four in a row from 1993-96.
Scherr, who played for Taylor Brothers of Texas, Howard’s/Western Steer and Superior/Apollo, has nine ASA selections, seven USSSA selections and an ASA second team. He is a five-time MVP — in the 1984 ISA, the 1981 ASA and USSSA, the 1983 ASA and the 1984 ASA.
Arndt, who played for his hometown Howard’s teams until he was 50 years old, is tied with Elliott for most ASA All-Star teams — 10. He has three second teams. He earned three USSSA All-Star teams. Howard’s did not start competing in the USSSA until 1978. By that time, Arndt was over 40. To give you an idea of the impact Arndt made as a player, he was the MVP in the 1972 ASA, despite the fact that Howard’s finished fourth. Arndt was the MVP in the 1985 ISA . . . at the age of 50. Herman Rathman, the Nelson’s catcher, called Arndt “Left Turn Don.” Rathman explained: “He would hit the ball, go down to first base and make a left turn.”
Harvey, Arndt’s running mate (they were labeled “The Hall of Fame Twins”), was named to seven ASA teams and five USSSA teams, plus two ASA second teams. Harvey started his career with teams from Chattanooga, Tenn. — Kobax, Golden Gallon, Thurman-Bryant — before joining Howard’s in 1973. That year produced the first of 12 Howard’s championships, thanks in part to two more “recruits” — Bert Smith from Long Island, N.Y., and H.T. Waller from Florida (Vernon, a tiny town in the Panhandle). Smith played for County Sports, Waller for Jo’s Pizza and they both played for the Virginia Beach Piledrivers in 1972. Rathman had a nickname for Harvey too. He called him “Sweet Swinging Stan.” Harvey’s son, Bryan, was an ace relief pitcher for the Angels and Marlins. He played a little softball with Howard’s (and Elite) coming out of high school.
The Williams brothers have combined for 25 All-Star teams, counting 10 second team selections. The Milton, Fla., products are ahead of the Elliott brothers (from Wadley, Ala.), thanks to Craig’s big numbers. Scott’s two ASA first teams and one ASA second team, plus three USSSA teams, give the Elliott family 23 All-Star recognitions. Scott has played for a host of powerful teams too — Steele’s, Converters, Shen Valley and Sunbelt. Take it from this observer, Scott can hit it as far as big Craig ever did, even without today’s high-tech equipment. The third-place brothers are way behind in the All-Star category. Steve Loya of Cleveland was named to three ASA first teams and one second, while his brother, Andy, was named to two. Larry and Fred Carter should eventually take over third place. The Loyas played in the 1960s and early 1970’s, before the USSSA came along.
Curtis, who earned his first ASA award for Jerry’s in 1977, has played for Ken Sanders, Howard’s, Vernon’s, Lighthouse of Stone Mountain, Ga., Williams of Spring, Texas, and Sunbelt. He’s still playing at the age of 43. He made six ASA first teams and six ASA second teams. He made four USSSA teams. Steve played for Buddy’s of Tallahassee, Fla., American Realty of Concord, Calif., Campbell’s Carpets of Concord, Triangle Sports of Eagan, Minn., Ken Sanders, Elite and Howard’s. Although he is the younger brother, Steve retired after the 1988 season. They played together with Howard’s for several years, Curtis in the outfield and Steve at shortstop. Curtis was playing for a team from Panama City in 1976. He told his manager: “I’m bringing my brother next weekend. He just got out of minor league baseball.” The manager asked: “What position does he play?” “Short,” was the reply. “That’s your position,” said the manager. “You can move me to the outfield,” Curtis said. They both could hit, they both could play defense, but their biggest calling card was their rifle arms.
When you talk about the Loya brothers, you have to talk about the All-Star dominators of the early years. Myron Reinhardt, who played for Kentucky teams across the river from Cincinnati and for Cincinnati teams, made the ASA All-Star team 5 times in the 1950s and early 1960s. Walt Wherry, from the same area, was honored 4 times in 4 years. Newport-Covington and Cincinnati won 6 titles and was runner-up 3 times between 1953-64. Paul Tomasovich, who played for Pittsburgh teams, made it five times in the 1960’s. Joe Albert called Tomasovich “no doubt the best two-way player of his time.” Dave Neale said the big Pennsylvanian was “a smooth fielder and he could hit it as far as Jim Galloway.” Galloway was a seven-time ASA All-Star for the County Sports teams out of Long Island in the 1960’s and early 1970’s. He also had a couple of second team selections. Tomasovich’s teammate on the Skip & Hogan outfits that ruled the ASA throne room in the ’60’s, pitcher Louis Del Mastro, was a four-time ASA All-Star. Albert called him “a real pitcher.” Neale said Del Mastro “took control of a game.” Two other four-time selections in the old days were Carl “Tex” Collins and Bob Auten, who played for the Michael’s Lounge and Little Caesars powers out of Detroit in the late 1960’s and the early 1970’s. Michael’s won the ASA in 1966 and was second in 1967, while Little Caesars won the ASA in 1970 and was runner-up in 1971. Little Caesars won five consecutive Springfield (Ohio) Invitationals between 1969 and 1973. That skein was ended by Howard’s in 1974.
When you talk about All-Stars, you can’t forget Cecil “Buddy” Slater, a little Texan who played with a lot of enthusiam. He pitched for 8 (out of a possible 9) championship teams in 1979-80-81 — Nelson’s, Campbell’s and Howard’s. Slater came out of retirement to pitch Elite and Smythe Sox to USSSA titles in 1985 and 1986, then went into managing. He earned five USSSA All-Star honors, then managed four USSSA winners — Smythe in 1987 and Ritch’s-Superior in 1991-92-93. Remember 1987 at Waterloo, Iowa? Steele’s had a 24-12 lead, only to see Smythe expode for a 21-run inning and go on to win 50-31. Dave Neale had this remark: “I guess you could say we met our Waterloo in Waterloo.” The R-S teams claimed the Grand Slam in 1992 and won three legs in 1991 and 1993. And Slater was a coach on the 1988 Steele’s team that won the USSSA crown. Slater once got two called third strikes on behind-the-back pitches against Steele’s . . . in the same inning.
Randy Gorrell, later a coach with Steele’s, managed back-to-back Triple Crown winners with Campbell’s and Howard’s in 1980 and 1981. Slater was part of the Texas connection for both teams that included Dick Bartel, Richard Willborn and Bill Ferguson. Willborn and Ferguson, plus Mickey McCarty, had played on the Nelson’s team too, along with Meade, Young, Rathman, Chic Downing, Mike Parrott, Danny Basso, Donnie Wood, Myles Schexnaydre and Terry Perryman. McCarty was on the Campbell’s team too. Nelson picked up Elliott for a tournament in Milwaukee. He wanted to play the Milwaukee Schiltz on the side for $5,000. “When they said they didn’t want to play, I offered to spot them 10 runs,” said Nelson. Remember the ASA at York, Pa., in 1979? They had a blind draw and Howard’s drew Campbell’s in the first round. Campbell’s won, then beat Howard’s again near the end of the tournament. That was the year that Nelco, with three of the Nelson’s players in Meade, Young and Terry Perryman, won in a stunner of herculean proportions. Most of the Nelco players were locals. Back then, the ASA did not allow players to come from all over the country. You had to establish residence in the state you played in by March 1.
Nelson brought in Bruce Meade and Mike Nye that year, although Nye later jumped to the winning Detroit Caesars team in the new pro league. Meade, Nye and Ronnie Ford, who went to Caesars too, played the previous year with Warren Motors. Nelson tried to lure Ford too, prompting Harold Warren to protest to the ASA headquarters. Nelson’s retort was: “Tell Mr. Warren if he can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.” Campbell’s finished second, Howard’s third. Just before R.T. Nelson’s team came out of the losers bracket to beat Jerry’s, Howard’s and Ken Sanders twice in the 1977 ASA (one of the most exciting tournaments ever as Nelson’s and Ken Sanders played three one-run games), a former player shouted from the stands. “Old man, you will never win a national championship as long as your son (Mike) is playing.” Well, Mike played on two ASA title teams when you add the Nelco team. And Mr. Nelson had the last laugh on Mr. Warren. Warren wanted to bet on the 1977 ASA at Parma, Ohio. Nelson loved to bet. Nelson and Howard won $8,000 off Warren that year. And Nelson won a lot more. There was a fellow going through the stands getting up wagers for the final game. “I’ve got the green team (Ken Sanders),” he yelled. Nelson told one of his associates to cover everything “on the red team.” Dave Neale and Richard Howard liked to bet too. They once had a $10,000 bet in the Smoky Mountain Classic. “But don’t tell Eathel,” Howard said referring to his wife.
“You’ve got to have the hitters, but you’ve got to be able to catch the ball too,” said Gorrell. “I believe the Howard’s team was even a better defensive team than Campbell’s.” Slater pitched, Ferguson played third and Willborn and Bartel played in the outfield. The Campbell’s shortstop was Stevie Williams, the Howard’s shortstop was Russell “Rooster” Bradley. Both teams won over 100 games, losing less than 20. Howard’s won every tournament but one. Like Slater, Willborn and Ferguson, Meade, Rick Wheeler and Doug Brown played for three teams that won USSSA titles in a stretch — 1982-83 with Jerry’s, 1985 with Elite and 1986-87 with Smythe. Meade and Brown joined Steele’s after Smythe folded during the 1988 season. Steele’s won the USSSA that year, but they were not eligible.
Howard’s chalked up a gaudy 160-15 record in 1981 Triple Crown season, winding up with 1,981 homers while winning all but one tournament. Elite, with the likes of Meade, Wheeler, Brown, Wright, Ford, Whitehead, Freddie Trice, Bill Pollock and Stevie Williams, plus Slater pitching, had a 115-11 record in 1985, but did not claim the Triple Crown, being upset by Howard’s in the ISA and Steele’s in the ASA. The Smythe Sox, with Slater, Bartel, Meade, Wheeler, Brown, Bill Gatti, Britt Hightower, Bill Blake, Mark Hierlmeier and Greg Whitlock, went 85-5 and 96-10 in 1986-87. Steele’s was 217-13 in 1986, but lost to Smythe and Howard’s in the USSSA.
Of course, the best record ever was the 94-2 mark compiled by Warren Motors, with Meade, Nye, Ford and Ray Fleetwood setting the pace, in 1976. Warren won its first 78 games that year and wound up sweeping the ASA with some big contributions from local players before the home crowd in Jacksonville. Warren’s only two losses that year were inflicted by Tom’s of Columbus, Ga., which had such players as Craig Elliott, James Boyett, Charles Wright and a fellow named Sidney Cooper. Tom’s, by the way, did not make it to the national that year. The Warren team was so popular back then, that a radio station carried their games. Steele’s topped that with win streaks of 97 and 94 in 1987, then bettered that with a mind-boggling 142 wins in a row (and 13 tournament titles in a row) in 1990. The Silver Bullets’ final record: 226-9. They won the first three legs of the Grand Slam, but finished down the line in the USSSA. Bell Corp. of Tampa , the last team to beat Steele’s and the one that ended the streak, was the team that eliminated Steele’s in the USSSA. When Steele’s was in the heat of their barnstorming tour, the records were 340-15 in 1987 and 366-20 in 1988. Those were the years that Mike Macenko hit 844 and 830 home runs.
But nobody can match the success of the R-S Express in 1991-95. Ritch’s-Superior, a combination of the first and second place finishers in the 1990 USSSA World Series, plus the additions of Dirk Androff and Rick Weiterman when Steele’s did not field a team in 1991, ran off records of 80-7, 80-9 and 81-6 while winning 10 of 12 Grand Slam events, including all four legs in 1992. R-S added 1-2-1-3 and 1-2-1-6 finishes in the 1994 and 1995 Grand Slam events. Coy Honeycutt’s Ritch’s team became the only team to win both the ASA Major and the ASA Super in 1989. Superior was second and third in those two events, then won the USSSA. That was the only year the ASA allowed the “Super” teams to participate in both. Back in the old days, Skip’s, of Pittsburgh, and Gatliff of Newport, Ky., dominate the ASA. Gatliff was first in 1956 and 1957, first in 1963 and second in 1964 and 1965. Skip’s was first in 1962, second in 1963, first in 1964 and 1965. The same team, under the name of Jim’s Sport Shop, won in 1967.
Let’s go back to the subject of this column, listing the leaders in the ASA-USSSA All-Star sweepstakes:
Ron Parnell, who came from California to play for Steele’s and later became a Ritch’s-Superior mainstay, has been named to 6 ASA and 6 USSSA teams. Ditto for Dennis Graser, who played for the three-time pro champion Milwaukee Schiltz in his hometown before playing for such teams as Steele’s, Elite, Steele’s again, Superior, Ritch’s-Superior, DJ’s and Spectrum before retiring. “You’ve got to see this Graser,” said Dave Neale. “Everytime he gets a hit, it’s a double.” Later when Scott Virkus joined the Silver Bullets, an article called him the team’s fastest player. “He might be faster,” said Graser, “but I’m the best base runner.” Other speedsters in their time were Charlie “Beep Beep” Pierce and Tuck “Fast Feet” Hinton. Brad Stiles, Jason Kendrick, Johnny Allen and now Toiro Mieses are today’s speed demons. The big racehorse from the Dominican Republic, once a pitcher in the Twins’ chain, is the center fielder in a 3-man outfield and the other two outfielders are instructed to give him room to roam.
Cecil Whitehead, who played on five consecutive USSSA winners with Elite (1983-84-85) and Smythe (1986-87), then hit homers in his first 12 at-bats en route to MVP honors for Ritch’s/Kirk’s in the 1990 USSSA, has been on 6 ASA and 4 USSSA, and the late Dirk Androff, with Steele’s before moving to R-S, has been on 7 ASA and 4 USSSA. Ray Molphy, the “Voice of Softball,” called Charles Wright “The Georgia Peach.” That label should have been saved for Whitehead, the All-America type who played football at the high school “football factory” of the nation — Valdosta. There is no telling the career numbers that would have been compiled by Androff, whose death while riding an exercise bike on Oct. 27, stunned the softball world. He averaged .752 over the last eight season, with 1,061 home runs. He played on 21 championship teams in Grand Slam play since 1989. The 6-7, 290-pounder had just turned 35. When Androff first joined Steele’s, Mike Macenko told this scribe: “This guy can hit it.” And he worked at it.
Dick “The Rocket Man” Bartel was named to five ASA and four USSSA. Five and five for Greg “The Baby Bull” Fuhrman, who went 17-for-18 as a hefty 18-year-old for his hometown York (Pa.) Barbell team in the 1978 ASA at Elk Grove, Calif., before going on to play with such teams as Jerry’s, Campbell’s, Jerry’s again, Steele’s and Superior. And Fuhrman was overlooked despite batting over .800 when Campbell’s won the 1980 ASA in Montgomery, Ala.
Bill Gatti, who was the MVP in the pro league for the Kentucky Bourbons from his hometown of Louisville, before being picked up by Elite, then Smythe, was named to five ASA teams, the first two back in 1971 and 1972 (he helped Jiffy Club to the ASA title in 1972; that was the year that Jiffy’s Cobbie Harrison, now the field manager for Steele’s, won the batting title with a 29-for-32 effort), and three USSSA teams. Elite sponsor Gary Hargis almost told Gatti not to come back after the first week, but a couple of players talked him out of it. At the end of the season, Gatti was ruled ineligible for the ASA at Burlington, N.C. Hargis said, “I went as crazy as an outhouse rat, and them’s the craziest kind.”
Hargis used to say about Elliott: “He’s like a machine, put a quarter in and watch him go.” And: “When Craig said he was going hit it over the tree, all you had to do was figure out which tree.” Elliott had a few sayings of his own. One was: “I ought to hit it, they are throwing it underhanded.” Another was when he was pitching. “Here it is fellows, I’m going to lay it in there. You get yours because we are going to get ours.”
Britt Hightower, a Houston product who has been big for R-S since 1991, has a 6-4 ASA-USSSA All-Star chart to his credit. Doug Roberson, the West Palm Beach product who would be in the running for the best all-around player of all time (he had an even better gun than the Williams brothers), has a 4-4 All-Star ledger. When he played on the barnstorming tour with the Silver Bullets, he went wild in the RBI department. He had 44 in a three-game Saturday. He had 20 in one game one night (in Utah), and 21 in one game the next night (in California). He twice had two grand slams in one inning. Wright and a fellow named Don Clatterbaugh, who is still playing at the age of 50, each had two grand slams in one inning. Clatter totaled 13 slammers in that 1977 season for Howard & Carroll Sports. Playing on the H&C team that year was Tony Cloninger, a pitcher for the Braves who once hit two grand slams in one game against the Giants.
Ricky Huggins, from Savannah and still going strong at 45, has been named to three ASA teams and four in the USSSA. He played on the Steele’s tour too, hitting 20 home runs in 21 swings in one span — part of it in Pembroke, Ga., and part in Kennewick, Wash., on back-to-back days; Steele’s flew then, but they drove when Roberson went on his Utah-California RBI binge.
Carl Rose and Dan Schuck each have a 3-4 ledger too. Greg Cannedy has a 4-3 to his credit. Harold Kelley has a 4-3 too. When he played for Buddy’s in 1977, the big guy hit a lot of singles. “The outfielders played so deep, they were giving me the base hit,” he said. But Buddy Brandt wanted home runs. “Home run hitters drive Cadillacs,” he said. Kelley played for Nelson’s, Dave Carroll and Jerry’s. He is still playing at the age of 47. Denny Jones was named to two ASA teams and four USSSA teams. He played for Dave Carroll, Campbell’s, Steele’s and Jerry’s. He’s still playing too, but like Clatterbaugh and Kelley at a lower level. When Dave Carroll announced the signing of Jones, who was coming from Louisiana, he said something like this: “He’s got long hair and a beard and he hits it so far, they call him Jesus Jones.” Jones was the MVP when Campbell’s won the ASA in 1978. One of the nicest guys you will ever meet, he won numerous defensive awards for his play in the outfield. But the best defensive outfielder this writer ever saw was Richard Willborn. There’s a young fellow on the scene now that might change that. His name is Robin Higginbotham.
Charlie Mitchell made only one national tourney All-Star team on the Major level. When R.T. Nelson lost the Al White to Campbell’s a week before the deadline, he needed a power-hitting first baseman. Someone suggested Mitchell. Nelson had already recruited Kelley and Earl Chambers from the Buddy’s team out of north Florida, plus Joel Todd and James Abercrombie from Alabama. The late addition, Mitchell, got off to a slow start, and spent most of the season on the bench . . . after giving up his job on the spur of the moment. But he ended up earning ASA All-Star honors, and the next year took a job in security for the school system in Detroit. He still lives in Detroit, and he’s the head of security for the school system. He was said to be the best hitter in Detroit. When he first joined a team in Panama City, he was asleep in his car the morning of his first tournament . . . after working the “graveyard” shift. All he did was hit homers in his first nine at-bats.
A player who never made a national tournament All-Star team because he never got an opportunity was Steve Jones, from that same Panama City team. Everybody called him “Yank.” He was from South Bend, Ind. He was the best defensive pitcher this writer has ever seen, better than Rick Pinto of the Detroit Snyder’s teams in the 1970’s, better than Greg Cannedy, the best defensive pitcher today. He could hit a golf ball, but he had trouble hitting a softball 250 feet. But he could snag shots back up the middle like they were going out of style. Jones played on that last Buddy’s team too (1977). Mr. Brandt wanted to make it back to one more ASA national tournament. He had been there with his team in 1962. He didn’t make it. Buddy’s finished third in the regional . . . behind Ken Sanders and Jerry’s.
The All-Stars numbers will balloon when the ISA, NSA, NSPC and pro league all-star teams are compiled. Rick Weiterman will be the biggest benefactor. People like Parnell, Hightower, Huggins, Rose, Schuck and Cannedy will surely add more in the years to come. Even Huggins, because he will probably play until he’s 50. All he did was earn the 1996 USSSA World Series Offensive Player award.
By Jerome Earnest (editor since 1977 of such softball publications as Super Slowpitch, National Slo-Pitch, Softball Insight, Softball USA and Supreme Softball. Earnest had his own team in Panama City, Fla., from 1962-1976. His players included H.T. Waller, Harold Kelley, Charles Mitchell, and Curtis and Steve Williams. Earnest covered Waller’s high school (little Vernon, Fla.) and college football career (at FSU). Waller was said to have played every minute of every game in high school at quarterback and linebacker. He was a defensive end at FSU, despite being a 5-11, 190-pounder. He hit four home runs in his first game as an added player with Jo’s Pizza of Milton, Fla., in the regional. Jo’s was the ASA runner-up that year (1968), and the next year. Waller hit with technique, not muscle. He was the last player to go to the new aluminum bats and he was one of the first players to “cut” the ball and made it sail, even against the wind. Larry Fredieu, not a big guy either, is the best at that “art” today. Unlike a lot of players, Waller retired from the game early . . . at 34 after the 1980 ASA national. His last at-bat was a “Waller Wallop,” in the words of Ray Molphy. Thanks to the Internet, these words can be read a few seconds after they are filed away by someone across the country, or from around the world. When this writer does his book on softball, all this will be just a part of it. There’s much, much more. The title of the book-to-be? What about “You’ve Got To Love It.” You’ve got to love it to drive 8 hours and play a doubleheader, like Steele’s did on tour. You’ve got to love it to play nine games . . . in one day. You’ve got to love it to play, or watch, marathon games in 90-degree heat. You’ve got to love it, to drive all night after a tournament . . . to get home just in time to go to work. You’ve got to love it to play 30 tournaments, like the Bunch Brothers team from Arab, Ala., did in 1972. You’ve got to love it to be at a softball tournament when your NASCAR driver (Cale Yarborough) is winning a big race, like Richard Howard did more than once. If you are a sponsor, you’ve got to love it to spend money, and all you get in return is a trophy.)