Here's a rare photo of the only World Bowl (WFL Championship) ever played. It appeared in the New York Times and the big fullback is none other than Bill Gatti
Bill Gatti led Jiffy Club from Louisville, KY to the 1972 ASA National title. He tied for the tournament home run lead with Al White of Warren Motors with 14 and also was chosen ASA all-american for the second straight year. He led the tournament in batting in 1971 (.867) to go with his 9 homers and 17 RBIs to earn his first ASA all-american honor. Bill soon went on to play in the now defunct WFL He was a fullback for the Florida Blazers and played in the World Bowl when Florida was defeated 22-21 by Birmingham Americans. As a matter of fact, he played both years the WFL existed. In 1974, for the Florida Blazers, Gatti rushed 45 times for 161 yards (3.6 average) with 1 TD. He also caught 7 passes for 76 yards and returned 5 punts for 76 yards. In the playoffs, he rushed 12 times for 51 yards (4.3 average), including 4 carries for 26 yards in the World Bowl. In 1975, Bill Gatti played for the San Antonio Wings (most of the remaining Florida Blazer players ended up there). He once again was the fullback and was used mostly for blocking. He only carried on short yardage plays and gained 23 yds on 17 carries. He did catch 7 passes for 37 yards. He also returned 8 punts for 135 yards (16.9 avg). He also scored a couple action points (The WFL's version of extra points). The league folded midway through the season. All in all, his total stats were as follows for both years; Rushing-62-184 yards and a TD; receiving- 14 receptions for 133 yards, also 9 punt returns for 140 yards. He scored 8 points on a TD and 2 Action Points. He took some time off and when the Pro softball league started, he was back to playing the game he loved, softball. He played in the the professional softball leagues from 1977-1982. He stayed there for all six years of the league's existence and made all-league all 6 years, including the league MVP awards in 1980 and 1982 as well as the World Series MVP in 1981 for the Kentucky Bourbons. He led the league in home runs and RBIs in 1980 and in 1981 he won the batting triple crown. After the pro leagues folded, he went back to amateur softball and made the ASA all-american teams 4 more times including a MVP in 1989 for Ritch's Salvage. He also made 3 USSSA all-world teams for Elite Coatings and Smythe Sox. Gatti also led the Smythe Sox to the 1987 NSPC National Championship as he made the NSPC all-tournament team (13 for 24, .542, 4 HRs and 13 RBIs). He is a 1st team member of Jerome Earnest's Softball USA Publication team of the decade for the 1980's. He has won championships and made all-world teams for every organization possible including ASA, USSSA, Pro, NSPC, ISA and NSA. He was inducted into the ASA Hall of Fame in 2000 and the USSSA Hall of Fame in 2001.
In 1968 Ron Patterson hit 185 home runs for the Golden Gallons from Chattanooga, TN. He was one of the best home run hitters of his era and also made ASA all-american 3 times for various Tennessee based powerhouses such as Kobax, Golden Gallons, Thurman Bryant, Duggen & Duggen and Burnett & Associates. From 1968 until 1979, he hit at least 100 home runs per season, which was almost unheard of back in this era. He hit over 2500 in his career and won 26 individual MVP trophies of one kind or another in addition to winning 23 home run trophies.
When talking about home runs, these two guys were the national home run champions in the late 1970's. James Boyett played for Tom's and hit 125 homers in 1976, he then finished second to Stan Harvey in 1977 with 282 (Harvey hit 290 for a new record). In 1978, he broke Harvey's record by hitting 303 home runs. In 1979 he finished third behind Mike Parrott (220) and Craig Elliott (219), Boyett hit 218 that year. In 1980, he played for Jerry's Caterers and smacked 154 homers. He also made the ASA all-american team in 1980 for Jerry's. He previously made the USSSA all-world team in 1978 for Howard and Carroll as he led the tournament with 13. Mike Parrott played for Port City Ford out of Houston, TX in 1977, 1979 and 1979. His home run totals were 169 in 1977, 188 in 1978 and a national leading 220 in 1979. Playing for Dave Carroll Sports in 1980, he hit 206. He went to Jerry's Caterers soon after and then returned to the Houston area resurfacing to make the NSPC all-american team in 1987 for Smythe Sox. He previously made the ASA all-american teams in 1977 for Port City Ford and 1982 for Jerry's. He made the USSSA all-world teams in 1980 for Dave Carroll Sports (he also led the tournament in home runs with 9), 1982 with Jerry's and 1983 with Garrett's Raiders from Houston, TX. Parrott also made the 1979 NSPC all-american team with Nelson's Painting as well as the previously mentioned 1987 team for Houston's Smythe Sox.
The Detroit Legends:
These guys were just some of the players that made Detroit a national powerhouse in softball. It all started back when East Side Sporting Goods burst upon the national scene to capture the 1958 ASA national championship. It was the first time that a team from the Greater Cincinnati-Northern Kentucky did not win the ASA title. Led by ASA MVP, Joe Gauci along with Frank Panski and future ASA Hall of Fame manager Roy Lombardo, East Side Sports put Detroit on the slow pitch map. East Side went on to finish runner-up to Skip Hogan A.C. in 1962. Bill Cole from Detroit was named MVP as he went 22-29 (.759). Jim Puckett was also named to the ASA all-america team. In 1963, George Caloia led the way to a third place finish. They garnered a fourth place finish in 1964 before falling to 13th in 1965. Then in 1966 with a new sponsor, Michael's Lounge, they dethroned 2 time defending champ Skip Hogan A.C. to capture the title. This was tournament that saw Long Island's County Sports lose their first game to Skips and then go through the losers bracket to win 10 straight games in a span of 36 hours, only to fall in the end to Michael's. Mike Axelson of Detroit was voted the ASA MVP (.792, 5 HRs, 12 RBIs). Michael's lost to Jim's Sport Shop (Skip's) in the 1967 ASA finals, but Tex Collins set a then ASA home run record with 13 in the tournament (he hit 6 straight homers at one point) he was named to the ASA all- american team as he also batted .630 and collected 27 RBIs. The team reformed again in 1969 as Little Caesars and came up short to Milwaukee's Copper Hearth and Milton, FL's Jo's Pizza to finish third. Tex Collins (17-26 .654), Mike Axelson (18-25 .720) and Bill Cole (14-25 .560 7 home runs, 16 RBIs) all made ASA all-american honors for the Caesars. Mike Gouin chipped in with 7 home runs and 17 RBIs. 1970 found the Detroit squad back on top as they dethroned Copper Hearth. Mike Gouin was the MVP for Little Caesars as he went 19-26 (.730) with 6 home runs. ASA all-americans Tex Collins (10-16 .625 5 home runs, he hit 4 in the final championship game to clinsh the title), Bill Cole (14-25 .560 10 home runs, 16 RBIs), Tony Mazza, Bob Auten, Bob Malicki and Gary LaDue also chipped in. The Virginia Beach Pile Drivers made sure that Little Caesars would not repeat in 1971 as they came out of nowhere to win the ASA championship. Bill Cole (6 home runs), Bob Auten (11 home runs, 19 RBIs), Tex Collins (7 home runs, 18 RBIs) and Jim Puckett (13 home runs, 26 RBIs) were all named to the ASA all-america squad along with Bob Malicki. Little Caesars fell to seventh in 1972 as only Bob Auten was put on the ASA all-american team, even though Bill Cole (.720 with 6 home runs, 16 RBIs), Mike Gouin (.630 3 home runs, 14 RBIs) and Tex Collins (.583, 5 home runs, 15 RBIs) had outstanding tournaments. The team had one last ASA moment of glory in 1973 as they finished third behind Howard's Furniture and Empire County Astros of Long Island. ASA all-americans included Mike Axelson (.769), Jim Puckett (18 HRs), Tex Collins (.541, 11 HRs & 19 RBIs), Tony Mazza and Mike Gouin (32-43 .744, 7 HRs, 22 RBIs and 25 runs scored). Little Caesars had one last harrah as a team in the 1976 USSSA World tournament as they took a fourth place finish. Tex Collins was named to the USSSA all-world team (he was 6-13, .462 with 4 HRs and 7 RBIs) to go along with his 4 ASA selections. The Caesars also picked up Stan Harvey (1 HR) and Bert Smith (5-16, .312, 3 HRs and 7 RBIs) from Howard's to play in the USSSA. Mike Gouin (5-15, .333, 1 HR) also played. A future Howard's superstar and USSSA MVP played for Little Caesars in the 1976 USSSA World Series also. Denny Hogan, who eventually went to Howard's and was USSSA World Series MVP in 1978 made the 1976 all-world team for Little Caesars. He was 9-16, (.563) with 5 home runs to lead the Caesars in hitting. In the early to mid 1970's, other Detroit teams started to play more in the USSSA. In USSSA World tournament action, Detroit area teams such as Dino's Pizza and Snyder's Softball Club were pretty dominating. Dino's Pizza finished 101-20 in 1972 and with Cal Carmen, who belted 82 home runs on the year were a force to be reckoned with. Dino's was led by manager Gary Vitto, who took them to a 2nd place finish in 1973 and then captured the USSSA title in 1974. Cal Carmen (1972 USSSA Eastern World-MVP and 1973 USSSA home run champion-5) and 1974 USSSA MVP Joe Patti (10-16 .625) were the early stars. In 1975, Dino's took on a new sponsor, Uniroyal and they finished fourth in 1975 and sixth in 1976. 1975 saw a new power emerge in Snyder's Softball Club, they won back to back USSSA titles in 1975 and 1976. They almost had a three-peat, but came up short in 1977 as they came in second behind Mazzola Castle of Rochester, NY. Snyder's was led by 1975 USSSA MVP Doug Gerdes along with USSSA all-world performer Rick Pinto. And in the 1976 USSSA, Rick Pinto was the MVP and was supported by USSSA all-world players Doug Gerdes, Rick Trudeau and Larry Elkins. Rick Pinto, Rick Trudeau, Braxton Speller and Marv Geary all made the USSSA all-world team. Geary was the home run leader with 7. Later on, such teams as Softball City, led by the legendary Al White finished third in the 1980 USSSA World. Miller High Life earned a fourth place finish in the 1984 USSSA World. Braxton Speller was once again all world. The Detroit area players are a who's who of superstars and are recognized accordingly in the Hall's of Fame. Bill Cole (who played in 12 ASA national's between 1960-1974 and batted .587 with 48 home runs and 102 RBIs in those tournaments. Cole also had 335 home runs and 1001 RBIs between 1962 and 1974 and batted .603 during that span), Cole actually played in the 1991 45-over ASA nationals and led the tournament in hitting (.875). Bill Cole, Tex Collins and Mike Gouin are all inducted in the ASA Hall of Fame. Cal Carmen, Braxton Speller & Rick Pinto are all enshrined in the USSSA Hall of Fame. People can't forget that when professional softball made its debut in 1977, the Detroit Caesars won the first 2 Pro World Series by sweeping the Baltimore Monuments in '77 & the Minnesota Norsemen in '78. Former Detroit amateur stars led the Caesars. Doug Gerdes was an all-league performer in 1977 (.599 60 home runs, 124 RBIs), 1978 (.585 53 home runs, 112 RBIs) and 1979 (31 home runs and 97 RBIs). Mike Gouin was all-league in 1977 (.561 35 home runs, 124 RBIs) and 1978 (.601 28 home run and 90 RBIs). Tex Collins played a part-time roll in 1977 (.527 28 home runs, 60 RBIs) and 1978 (.631 26 home runs and 53 RBIs). His last season was in 1978 at the age of 44. Sadly, he died in December of that year just two days shy of his 45th birthday. What made the Caesars so good was that the owner, Mike Illitch got the best guys in the Detroit area to come and play pro ball for him. Such legends as the aforementioned plus Jim Mitchell, Gary Geister, Tony Mazza, Al Gibson, Rick Trudeau, Larry Elkins and even baseball superstars like Norm Cash and Jim Northrup. It didn't hurt that such nationally known players such as Ronnie Ford, Mike Nye and Bert Smith also came to Detroit to play ball. All these three did was collect two home run titles, 2 RBI titles, a batting title, a league MVP and 2 world series MVP's combined. Not bad for three out of town imports.
Some Industrial Legends:
The ASA Industrial National Championships are almost as old as the "Open" Nationals. The Opens started in 1953, the Industrials started in 1956. The Cincinnati Firefighters won the very first ASA Industrial National Championship in 1956. Don Connelly of the Cincinnati Fire Fighters was the very first ASA Industrial MVP. All he did in the final championship game was hit two home runs and drive in seven runs to lead the Fire Fighters to the title. The Turbine Jets, also from Cincinnati won the next three titles (1957-1959). The Cincinnati Firefighters had a shortstop named Tom Rizzo who was reportedly better than any of the shortstops that played in the open division at that time. Rizzo was picked up by Procter & Gamble of Cincinnati in the 1959 ASA Nationals and only went on to be named the ASA Industrial MVP winner for runner-up P&G. But, the first team to gain Industrial Softball superstardom were the men from McAdenville, NC. They were called Pharr Yarn and actually played in the ASA Open Nationals from 1955-1959 and finished second behind Gatliff's in 1957, along with 5th place finishes in 1956 and 1959 before they played in the ASA Industrial Nationals. They won the ASA Industrial Nationals 6 times, 1960, 1961, 1963 and 1970 through 1972. Their greatest player was ASA Hall of Famer, J.D. McDonald. He played from 1955-1979 with Pharr Yarn. He was considered one of the best fielding shortstops in history. He played in 22 ASA National Championships with Pharr Yarn and collected 10 ASA all-american selections. He passed away in 1986. Avco-Lycoming from Stratford, CT also had a couple of ASA Hall of Famers in Frank DeLuca and Eddie Finnegan. Frank DeLuca was the second slow pitch player inducted into the ASA Hall of Fame in 1974. He had a career record of 737-121 as a pitcher. DeLuca made the ASA Industrial all-american team in 1968 and 1969 as he led Avco-Lycoming to the ASA Industrial title both years. He was 8-1 in 1968 and 6-0 in 1969 at the nationals. His career ASA National Championship record was 28-7 (spanning 6 nationals). Eddie Finnegan was inducted to the ASA Hall of Fame in 1993. He played in 19 ASA National Championships and was selected to the ASA Industrial all-american team 10 times, including being named the MVP of the 1968 and 1971's ASA Industrial National Championship tournaments for Avco-Lycoming. Eddie Finnegan even played in the 1974 ASA Open and made the ASA Open all-american team as finished second in the tournament with a .722 average for New England Sports. But, the greatest ASA Industrial team has to be Sikorsky Aircraft, also from Stratford, CT. Sikorsky has won the ASA Industrial National title in 1979, 1980, 1982, 1984, 1987, 1990 and an unprecedented 8 straight times from 1992-1998. They are currently on another streak of three straight from 2000-2002. All total, they have won 17 championships on the Industrial level. They too have a Hall of Fame inductee in Ken Clark (1990). Ken Clark is a three-time ASA Industrial all-american. He played in 10 nationals and compiled a 31-6 record as a pitcher for Sikorsky. He had a lifetime record of 261-56 and belted more than 300 home runs before retiring in 1975. Other players that have put Sikorsky on the softball map include; Bob Hurd (10 time ASA Industrial all-american including the 1970 MVP and held the Industrial tournament batting average record -.933 until 1998 MVP-Jeff Toni broke it with a .947 average for Sikorsky), Bob Kownacki (11 time ASA Industrial all-american including 1987 and 1996 MVPs), Jeff Toni (6 time all ASA Industrial american, including 1997, 1998 and 2000 MVP awards). Jeff Toni also made the ASA Class-A open all-american team in 1994 and 1995 with Ray's of Bridgeport, CT before making his way over to the industrial ranks with Sikorsky. And last but not least, 11 time ASA Industrial all-american and 5-time MVP, Mark Trembley (MVP's in 1982, 1990, 1994, 1995 and 2002). Plus Dennis Appel (1979 MVP), Tom Follo (1984 MVP), Al Carfora (1985 MVP), Tom DeBarnardo (6 time ASA Industrial all american, including 1992 and 2000 MVPs), Mark Berrito (5 time ASA Industrial all american). Other past Industrial greats include Thad Malinoswki of Pharr Yarn (3 time all-american), Larry Spahn of Pabst (3 time all-american and 1973 MVP), Jeff Woodard of Publix (3 time all-american and 1988 MVP), Tony Bohannon of the Atlanta, Georgia based teams (2 time MVP, in 1986 for Landrum & Son and 1989 for the Delta All-Stars), Yogi Hunter of Russell Southern (4 time all-american and 1983 MVP), Chris Cammack (1974 MVP for Aetna and the all-time ASA Industrial tournament home run record of 15) and Jim Vertaramo of Grumman (4 time all-american including a 1967 MVP award). When all is said and done, some of these great players may also be inducted in to the ASA Hall of Fame.
Western United States Slow Pitch Legends:
(from Jerome Earnest's Supreme, this picture is probably the 4 greatest stars of the West)
Slow Pitch Softball was sort of an afterthought in the western part of the country back in the 1950's and 1960's, Heidelberg Beer from Tacoma, WA had a couple top 20 ASA finishes in the late 1960's. Gordon Pheiffer made the ASA all-american 2nd team in 1968. Another Washington team, Cambridge Square also had a little ASA success in the mid 1970's with a couple of top 10 ASA finishes in 1974 and 1975. Dave Rumppe made the ASA all-american team both years and actually led the nationals in batting in 1975 (.737). The USSSA had a western world series to get more western teams involved. Earlier USSSA powers included Goettl's Metals of Mesa, AZ and Big Apple of Phoenix, AZ. Although they were beaten soundly by the East representative in the 1971 and 1972 USSSA World Series, at least interest was rising. Larry Harrell of Goettl's was the first western USSSA MVP in 1970 (he pitched all 5 victories and gave up 7 runs in 5 games with 2 shutouts). Vince Peralta of Big Apple won the award in 1971. In 1972, Larry Sheppard of Gonzales Mexican Foods of Richmond, CA was 20-22 (.909) to capture the MVP. Gonzales later the next year changed their name to Bay Area Merchants (BAM). They were by far the most successful western softball softball team to date. BAM upset heavily favored Dino's Pizza of Detroit in the 1973 USSSA World Series. Charlie Pierce of BAM was the USSSA MVP. Dino's came back to defeat BAM in the 1974 USSSA World Series. The western part of the country now started to develop some stars as evident by these 1974 USSSA world series stats: Elby Bushong of BAM (15-29 8 home runs, 17 RBIs) Tom Sandau (20-29, 8 home runs, 16 RBIs) and Charlie Pierce (17-28, 15 runs scored and 10 RBIs). In 1976, BAM finished 27th in the ASA Nationals before Campbell Strange took on part sponsorship in 1977. They were now called Campbell's-BAM. A fifth place finish in the 1977 ASA Nationals put western softball on the map to stay. John Tercheria was named ASA all-american. Between the 1977 and 1978 seasons, Campbell Strange kept only three players from the old team (Tercheria, Pierce and Randy Barlich). Elby Bushong left the team and joined new western powerhouse, Capitol Insulation (He hit 127 home runs for them on the year). Campbell's Carpets as they were now called had recruited a bunch of new young superstars for the 1978 season and became one of the best teams in the country. They finished the year with a 93-15 record and won the ASA National Championship by defeating Howard's Furniture in the final. Denny Jones (34-41 [.829], 18 home runs, 40 RBI's) was the ASA MVP. Other ASA all-americans were Mike Cellura (.714, 21 home runs, 36 RBI's), Randy Barlich (.750, 15 home runs, 44 RBI's), Tom Sandau (.694, 12 home runs, 31 RBI's), John Tercheria (.647, 8 home runs) and Russell Bradley. Denny Jones hit 155 home runs and batted .670 on the year. Al White hit 109 home runs and batted .653 on the year. White had double vision at the ASA nationals and didn't play. The NSPC started up in 1978 and Campbell's won 2 out of the 4 at-large tournaments they had. They were thus considered the 1978 NSPC Champs. Denny Jones (13 homers, .759) and Mike Cellura (13 homers) led Campbells in the 1st NSPC tourny. Jones was the MVP at the other NSPC tourny thay won. Cellura chipped in with 10 home runs. Campbell's had a disappointing 1979, after finishing first in the NSPC regular season, they fell to third at the national championships behind Nelson's Painting and Howard's Furniture. Mike Cellura and Jerry King were NSPC all-americans. They finished second to Nelco Mfg. of Oklahoma City in the ASA Nationals as Cellura, Russell Bradley, Jerry King, Charlie Pierce, Denny Jones and newcomer Greg Fuhrman were all named ASA all-americans. The USSSA was the same kind of disappointing result, Campbell's was third behind Nelson's and Howard's again. Only Russell Bradley and Denny Jones were named to the USSSA all-world team. Dick Bartel finished the year with 155 home runs to lead Campbell's. The highlight of the year was when they won the Smoky Mountain Classic in Maryville, TN. Greg Fuhrman was the tournament MVP. When 1980 came around, Campbell's was more determined than ever to win it all. They first won the NSPC Championship by defeating Howard's/Western Steer. Mike Cellura (15-17, .882) was the NSPC MVP and was joined on the NSPC all-american team by Elby Bushong ( once again back with the team), Denny Jones, Dennis Myers and Greg Fuhrman. Next came the ASA National Championship, which they won by defeating Howard's once again. Pitcher Buddy Slater was 6-0 and batted .500 to earn ASA MVP honors. Other ASA all-americans were Dick Bartel (.667, 8 home runs), Jerry King (.700, 8 home runs) and Steve Williams (.520, 5 home runs). Denny Jones and Greg Fuhrman both hit 9 home runs but did not make the team. The USSSA World Series was next and Campbell's beat Dave Carroll Sports in the final to win the coveted triple crown (NSPC, ASA and USSSA). Buddy Slater was once again the MVP. Dennis Myers, Steve Williams, Mike Cellura, Dick Bartel and Greg Fuhrman all made the USSSA all-world team. Campbell's finished the year at 118-12. Bartel and Jones were the team home run kings with both right around 200 homers. Campbell Strange decided to call it quits as a sponsor after the 1980 season, So Campbell's Manager Randy Gorrell and a host of other Campbell's superstars joined the Howard's team for the 1981 season. Howard's went on to win the triple crown as well in 1981. Campbell Strange had at one time these Hall of Fame players, Elby Bushong (USSSA), Dick Bartel (USSSA and ASA), Mike Cellura (USSSA), Buddy Slater (USSSA) and Richard Wilborn (ASA). Another western team called Capitol Insulation had much success as well. They had back to back 4th place finishes at the 1977 and 1978 USSSA World Series. They also had Mike Cellura and Elby Bushong on the USSSA all-world team. Elby Bushong also had the 2nd highest batting average in the country in 1978. He hit .708 to go along with his 127 home runs. His average was behind Bruce Meade (.720) of Nelson's, Craig Elliott was third for Ken Sanders Ford with .700 average. Cruz Martinez made the all-world team for Capitol in 1980 and 1981. In 1983 and 1985 Capitol had USSSA runner-up finishes behind the outstanding tournaments of Denny Jones. Capitol finished 3rd in the 1987 NSPC National Championships, as they were led by none other than Mike Cellura (8-15, .537) and he also made the 1987 NSPC all-tournament team. As a matter of fact, Cellura has made the USSSA all-world team (USSSA Class-AA) as recently as 1995 with D's/Dynasty of California. When it comes down to it, probably the greatest western slow pitch player of all-time was Rick Wheeler, who played his early years with Capitol before going to national powerhouses like Elite Coatings and Smythe Sox. He was a five time member of the USSSA all-world team as well as an MVP winner. He also made the ASA all-american team with Jerry's Caterers. He inducted into the USSSA Hall of Fame in 1995.
©1998 Steve Dimitry, all rights reserved.