A couple of lifelong buddies have been making the rounds of the local TV and radio shows, drumming up support for their dream of a softball league for guys 55 and over. Ray Blum and Bob Ruhland played together decades ago, and they’re going to again – this summer, at Goodman Park.
My pal Doug Moe wrote a great column about the Greater Madison Senior Softball League, a few days ago, in the State Journal. I saw Ray and Bob on Channel 3’s “Live at Five” the other night and since then the softball bug has bitten me again. But I’d pound my beautiful titanium left hip into a pile of shrapnel if I did.
I have always loved baseball and softball, and they are two very different games. My very first baseball coach was the legendary Russ Tiedemann, who left Hortonville High to eventually become head baseball coach of the UW-Oshkosh Titans, and Coach Tiedemann has sent more than his fair share of young men to Major League Baseball.
Does the name Jim Gantner ring a bell? Gumby, as they called him, was second-baseman for the Brewers from ’76 to ’92, a member of the World Series team. He was one of Coach Tiedemann’s products, a member of the Titan Hall of Fame.
Like Ray Blum, I’ve faced legendary fast-pitch softball star Eddie Feigner, who campaigned around the nation for years as “The King and His Court”. That guy could make a softball dance! I got a solid single to right off Eddie at the South Side Lighted Diamond in Oshkosh back in the 80's and I’ve replayed the moment in my mind thousands of times. The radio station I worked for back then brought Eddie to town for a charity event, and after the game, I got to buy The King a beer at the Holiday Inn.
I was decent at bar-league softball. I could hit the cover off the ball, but couldn’t leg a single into a double to save my soul. I still have a softball trophy on the shelf in my office, of a game ball the team gave to me after I hit a one-out bases-loaded blast to left field to clear the bases and win the game. Probably any other guy on the team would have had at least a triple, if not an inside-the-park homer on that massive hit, but I barely made it to second. The next guy struck out, which was good, because if I’d had to run, I would have been thrown out at third. We hung on to win the game and the guys gave me the game ball and later gave me a nice trophy to put it in.
If my friend Steve, up in Oshkosh, is reading this, he may remember the night at Sportsman's Park. After I connected with the ball, he said "Boy, did he get a hold of that one!" - and it was one of those audio/video moments that's burned into your memory. I believe another friend named Steve, who lives in Neenah, was pitching for our radio station team that night.
So I’m happy that Ray and Bob are having great success in organizing this over-55 softball league. They said they have room for 8 fifteen-man teams, and they already have a hundred guys signed up.
I have a feeling I’m going to be hanging out at Goodman Park on Wednesday mornings to get my vicarious softball fix. Play starts the 12th of May. Can’t wait!