(Courtesy Tim 'Shoe' Sullivan)

Shoe Column: Softball…strange, but true…

By Tim “Shoe” Sullivan

The golden age of softball in Stevens Point and the surrounding areas spanned from 1960 to 1990. Teams, leagues, and tournaments were abundant.

Games always came with umpires and official scorekeepers. My buddies Bob “Ma” Pesch, Randy Wievel, and I played in hundreds of those games. As scorekeepers, we easily announced over a thousand.

Sit back now, as you’ll learn some of those softball memories.

The scene was the East Diamond at Doug Berry’s Royal Wood in Plover Complex. I was the announcer, sitting high up in the big scorebooth.

The pitcher was just about to make a pitch when suddenly, a softball came from nowhere and landed next to second base! Nobody could figure out how it got there.

Then one of the umpires happened to look way over to the West Diamond where a league game was going on.

Todd “Wad” Higgins of Aldo’s was jogging around the bases. He obviously had just hit a home run.

But think about this: Wad’s mighty blast easily cleared the left-field fence, went over the big net out there, sailed past the 20-foot area between the two fields, cleared the East Diamond fence, and landed on the fly near second base!

It was the longest home run I ever saw at Royal Wood, and I was there for over ten years.

I ran into Wad the other day where he works at St. Mike’s/Aspirus, and we chatted about that tremendous blast!

By the way, one other thing stood out for me at that East Diamond. The scorebooth was way up there behind home plate, and it was above the concession stand. I would tie a rope to a basket and lower it down to the stand.

The folks in the stand, like Ed Berry, would put a hot dog, a beer, or a Coke into the basket, and I’d haul it back into the score booth. It seemed similar to fishing.

Another strange memory also happened on the West Diamond at Royal Wood. It was a slow Sunday afternoon in league play. A hot, humid, and very windy day. Two teams were playing, and the game was dragging on due to inept fielding and strong winds.

Both teams scored over 20 runs. And then came THE play!

The team at bat had the bases loaded. Two outs. Ronnie “Coach” Glodowski was the base umpire out by second.

The batter hit a ground ball up the middle, which almost hit Ronnie. Players were running everywhere. I saw the ball roll out to the centerfielder but then lost sight of it.

So did everyone else.

The next thing I saw was one of the runners sliding into third. Then came a perfect throw to third. Ronnie ran over and called the runner out. End of inning.

The game ended ten minutes later. Ronnie came up to the scorebooth. I asked him, “Hey Ronnie, what happened on that play at third base? I missed it.”

Ronnie laughed and said, “Well, the outfielder threw the ball to second, and it was real windy, and I caught it. Nobody knew where the ball was. I saw some runner heading for third, so I gunned him down with a perfect throw.

“He was out by a mile, and I ran over and rung him up. And nobody on either team said a word.”

The next one was one of the zaniest I ever saw. It happened in a tournament in Plover at Memorial Field across from the Sky Club.

My team, the 1st National Bank of Point, was playing against a Plover team. We were losing by three runs in the bottom of the seventh. We had two outs and the bases loaded as I stepped up to the plate.

I hit the first pitch just over the right fielder’s head and took off. One run scored. The second guy scored. The third runner scored. And I scored! An inside-the-park grand slam-winning home run! A walk-off homer!

I was the hero, which certainly didn’t happen very often.

The umpire, a nice guy from Plover named Jesse, yelled out, “Game’s over!”

Our manager, Dan Houlihan, walked over to Jesse and said, “Yeah, we know it’s over. We won!”

Umpire Jesse corrected Dan the Man. He said, “No! You lost!”

We were stunned. We asked why we lost.

Jesse said, “The batter was out! He stepped out of the batter’s box when he swung. He’s out!”

Then Jesse knelt down on the ground and pointed to a mark in the sand. He said, “See? That’s his spike mark! It’s way out of the box!”

Hoolie was beside himself. He pointed to the spike mark and roared, “Yeah! I see that spike mark! Problem is, Shoe’s wearing tennis shoes!”

But the out ruling stood. Home cooking in Plover.

The coldest softball game I was ever involved in happened a few years ago at Iverson Park. It was the championship game in Erin Laffe’s Women’s Fall Softball League.

The game was in November. It was super windy and about minus ten degrees. In a word, it was freezing.

The game took about two hours to play. The teams combined for something like 80 runs. Nobody could catch anything, or properly throw the dang ball!! On the last eight batters in the game, there were eight errors.

I was the announcer up in the booth for the first inning.

Then my nephew Bobby Sullivan pulled his car up to one of the dugouts, and I announced the game from that heated car.

And a few of the players also came and sat in the car during the game.

And then there was the strange case of Rich Spreda. Our team was playing in a tournament at Lakeside Bar down past Bukolt Park. Bob “Ma” Pesch at third…Don “Duck” Shannon at short… Mike “Caz” Spreda, Pat “Woba” Witkowski, Larry “Crow” Zimmerman, and Bob”Mumbler” Giese in the outfield. Many softball players had nicknames.

So the game is ready to begin.

And as the first batter comes to the plate, our catcher Rich Spreda stands up and yells: “No outs!!”

Ma Pesch starts laughing. Then so does Shannon. Then pretty much everyone. The game is held up for five minutes.

Rich turns to Ma and says: “What’s so funny?”

Ma said: “Uh, I think we all knew there weren’t any outs. The game hadn’t even started yet.”