Although men’s slow pitch softball was growing in California in the 1970’s, Campbell Strange took it to a whole new level. In 1973, Bay Area Merchants with a roster made up of players from Northern California won the Men’s USSSA World Series, beating favorite Dino’s Pizza of Detroit, 4-2 in Southgate, Michigan. The next year, Bay Area Merchants finished 2nd to Dino’s in Pinole, California out of an expanded field of 8 teams.
In 1975, a team from Southern California that would make a strong mark in Men’s Softball for more than a decade emerged, Capitol Insulation, sponsored by Don Webster and Bob Edmiston. Their first few years, they were made up exclusively of Southern California players and they made the USSSA World Series almost every year.
Campbell Strange, a native of Ireland, became interested in men’s softball in the mid-70’s through several of his employees in his successful carpet business. Soon, he took over sponsorship of Bay Area Merchants, called Campbell’s-BAM and entered numerous national tournaments. Although the team had a good showing in the 1977 ASA Championship, that experience caused Campbell’s competitiveness to seek out players from coast-to coast in order to capture a national title. During that off-season, he went to Tennessee to recruit Ron Masterson and Eddie Corum, North Carolina to get Russell Bradley, Louisiana by way of North Carolina to obtain Denny Jones, Oklahoma for Al White and Gordon Wheeler and closer to home, Southern California for Mike Cellura.
He also retained several of the Campbell’s-BAM team, including Charlie Pierce, at that time the best player to come out of Northern California. He molded that group into a true team through the efforts of manager Tom Crellin and coach Ed Mennosse and pretty much dominated the 1978 season, winning two of the initial four NSPC tournaments as well as other national titles, traveling across the country, before defeating Howard’s to win the ASA Championship in Elk Grove, California.
In addition to developing a championship team, Campbell did a great deal to promote softball in California and around the United States. He was very instrumental in making the 1978 ASA Championship and the 1980 USSSA Championship, both in Northern California, extremely successful events from a fan and publicity standpoint.
In 1979, Campbell continued his recruiting, getting Jerry King, Greg Fuhrman and Dick Bartel and went into the season as a prohibitive favorite. However, Nelson’s wound up with the Triple Crown that year. Unfortunately for softball but fortunately for Campbell, Bob Nelson retired from softball following that season. Campbell then obtained Richard Willborn, Mickey McCarty, Buddy Slater and Bill Ferguson from Nelson’s and also recruited Elby Bushong and Dennis Meyers from Capitol. That team, managed by Randy Gorrell, recovered after a relatively slow start and won the Triple Crown over Jerry’s Catering, the favorite going into 1980.
Campbell determined after that achievement to follow Bob Nelson into retirement from softball. During the relatively brief time that sponsored a team, he made a huge impact, both in on-field success and popularizing slow pitch throughout the country and in California in particular.