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Remembering Mike Solz, Minnesota men’s fastpitch icon

Wednesday, February 27th, 2019

MIKE SOLZ manages Danny’s Northeast men’s fastpitch team and he’s also the president of the Park Classic Men’s Fastpitch League. Minneapolis Star Photo by Russell Bull / July 17, 1965

By JOE HENNESSY
Minneapolis Star Staff Writer

The Star Salutes: Softball Pilot Loop Prexy

MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. – Being a manager of a team in the league of which he is president doesn’t seem unusual at all to a veteran of 35 years of Minneapolis men’s fastpitch softball.

Saluted by the Minneapolis Star today, MIKE SOLZ is manager of Danny’s Northeast team and president of the Park Classic Men’s Fastpitch League.

And for good reason.

“At a meeting last spring with Park Board officials, I agreed to the job to help keep the league going and even try to expand it at fields in south and northeast Minneapolis,” said Solz.

Of about 500 softball teams in Minneapolis, 88 per cent of them are in the slowpitch category, the rest in Solz’ type of league.

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Farmington Fastpitch Reunion In Photos

Sunday, January 27th, 2019

FARMINGTON, Minn. – The Farmington men’s fastpitch league flourished for over 54 years before it finally folded in 2011. It might be gone, but the good times the league offered hundreds of players hasn’t been forgotten by former ardent Farmington fastpitch fans.

On Aug. 26 over 60 players, fans and sponsors met at Castle Rock & Roll Bar in Castle Rock to reminisce about the good old days of Farmington men’s fastpitch.

Enjoy Some Photos of The Reunion

Farmington Men’s Fastpitch League Hosts Reunion To Remember The Good Times

Sunday, January 27th, 2019


PAUL HARRINGTON, who coaches the Farmington High School girls’ softball team and directed the men’s city league, shows former Farmington High school pitcher Ashley Betzold how to throw the rise ball. Ashley’s father, Daren Betzold, was a top pitcher in the Farmington league for 25 years (1976 – 2001). Contributed photo.

FARMINGTON, Minn. – For 54 years (1958-2011) men’s fastpitch softball was played in Farmington. The list of teams and sponsors, players, managers and umpires would as the saying goes, “stretch for an arm’s length.”

Though the historic Farmington Men’s Fastpitch League and Bobber Men’s Fastpitch Tournament are no more, that doesn’t mean they’re forgotten. And on Aug. 26, a reunion will be held to reminisce about those great times at the Castle Rock & Roll Bar & Grill in Castle Rock.

Of those 54 years, Paul Harrington directed the Farmington league 37 years (1975-2011). He was just 19 when he took the reins after the league director suddenly resigned in the middle of the season.

The league and tournament evolved over the years to become two of the strongest entities in Minnesota fastpitch history.

League teams claimed state championships in 1992 and ’99, along with Castle Rock and Morelli’s of St. Paul who are believed to have also won titles, while playing the league season in Farmington.

“Breaking the door down and winning a state championship in 1992 is a big memory for me,” said Harrington. “But knowing our league teams were always in the mix afterwards with other state championships and high finishes, and giving our league respect and recognition was very fulfilling as a league director.”

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The 1950s in Minnesota Men’s fastpitch softball, and remembering pitcher Red Anderson

Monday, January 7th, 2019

Pitcher RED ANDERSON is pictured in the back row, second from the left. Photo Minneapolis Star / Sept. 1, 1939

Softball’s ‘Old Man River’ Still Rolling

By MURRAY OLDERMAN
Minneapolis Star Staff Writer
July 13, 1951

MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. – When it comes to softball, Red Anderson’s one guy who can afford to scoff.

“You shoulda seen the way we did it in the good old days.”

He not only did it in the “good old days,” but he’s doing it now. Folks wandering out around Parade Grounds 1 tonight can catch 42-year-old Red still fooling batters as he serves them up for the Sathers against the Teamsters in Park National League Softball.

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Minnesotan Named ISC UIC

Monday, January 7th, 2019

ISC Press Release
Dec. 19, 2018

The International Softball Congress is pleased to announce the appointment of Steve Vail of Cottage Grove, Minn. as ISC Umpire-in-Chief.

Steve is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin River Falls where he played football and baseball. While at River Falls he started officiating under the direction of Donald Page.

  • He has umpired and officiated football, basketball, baseball and fast pitch softball for the past 54 years.
  • Officiating is not a job to Steve , it is a passion, His umpiring has taken him all over the US, Canada and other parts of the world.

    Steve is looking forward for the opportunity of being the UIC for the ISC allowing him to remain in an active roll with fast pitch softball at the highest level in the world.

    **Visit the ISC website at: ISC Fastpitch**

    The Grafmeier Features Top Men’s Fastpitch Softball Teams

    Saturday, January 5th, 2019

    Beautiful Sunset Park in Kimberly, Wisc. will be the setting for for the 2019 Jack Grafmeier Memorial Men’s Fastpitch Tournament, May 31-June 3. Photo By BOB OTTO

    By Justin Colombo
    Tournament Director
    Bossdj32@yahoo.com

    KIMBERLY, Wisc. – The 2019 Jack Grafmeier Memorial Tournament will be held May 31-June 2 at legendary Sunset Park, Kimberly, WI.

    Entry fee is $300.

    “We have 12 teams committed at this time,” said tournament director Justin Colombo.

    Committed Teams

    – New Zealand Men’s National Team
    – Tin Cup Tornados St Paul, MN
    – The Bar Buzz Appleton, WI
    – Kegel Black Knights Fargo, ND
    – Hustle Hogs Dekalb, IL
    – Kansas City Monarchs
    – Stoneyard Madison, WI
    – Hitters Kimberly, WI
    – Rice Lake Orangemen
    – Bar Blues Madison, WI
    – Silver Star Lacrosse, WI
    – Dolan and Murphy Aurora, IL

    Contact Info
    Justin Colombo at Bossdj32@yahoo.com with any questions.

    Santa Dan Delivers Early Christmas Present For Ball Cap Bob

    Sunday, December 9th, 2018

    DAN NESSLER sent me eight fastpitch softball and baseball caps, including front row, left to right, a Mankato Bethany Lutheran College Lancers softball cap, a Happy Chef cap, WBSC Jr. Men’s Softball World Championship cap, along with my Farm Tavern cap. The second row includes Dan’s gifts of which the MSU cap is from the 2012 Mavericks baseball team that finished third in the NCAA Div. II baseball national championships. On the top row is another BLC cap sandwiched by my 1995 ISC World Tournament cap, left, and 2017 NAFA World Series cap.

    YUCAIPA, Calif. – I’m a sucker for caps. Doesn’t matter if it’s softball, baseball, football – any kind of stylish ball cap will hook me into reaching for my wallet.

    In the back window of my car, there’s perched a Chicago Bears’ cap. I’m not a Bears fan, so why’s it there? I just like the way the “C” is prominently displayed on the crown. And if I forget one of my caps when I leave the house, “Da Bears” is my backup.

    I’ve also got NASCAR hats, my son’s Tyree Oil cap, my grandson Cam’s Spirit Aerosystems cap, Case, Farmall and John Deere hats, three Marine Corps caps…

    And a bunch of softball caps – 33 in all, and of course, only of the fastpitch variety.

    Click to continue reading “Santa Dan Delivers Early Christmas Present For Ball Cap Bob”

    Looking back to 1938: St Paul Packers Beat Minneapolis Jerseys, 7 to 1, for D-Ball Title

    Thursday, December 6th, 2018

    SUPERIOR PACKERS win 1938 Twin Cities Diamondball League with a 7 to 1 victory over the Jerseys. Left to right first row: Sonny Wrisky, Al Treichel, Don Fehrman and Shorty Mathes; second row: Gordy Johnson, Leo Tschida, John Vollmer and Earl Braun; third row: Charles Flaherty, Knut Hunt, Charles Kreyer, Bobby Tricker, Dwight Reed and Manager Tom Cunningham. – Tribune Staff photo

    As a young fastpitch pitcher back in the early 1960s, I heard of this legendary pitcher from the Twin Cities who many considered the greatest of all-time Minnesota hurlers. Of course, each era has its outstanding pitchers. But from the 1930s into the 1950s, none were any better than JOHNNY VOLLMER.

    VOLLMER GIVES ONLY FOUR HITS
    Three-year record crowd of
    6,000 sees St. Paul ace
    win despite injury.

    Star Tribune, Minneapolis, Minn.
    Aug. 17, 1938

    ST. PAUL, Minn. – Disposing of their last remaining threat, the Superior Packers won the Twin City diamondball league championship Tuesday night by defeating the Minneapolis Jerseys, 7 to 1, before a capacity crowd of 6,000 which set a three-year record at Minneapolis Parade Stadium.

    Despite an ankle injury, JOHNNY VOLMER, the Packers pitching ace, allowed only four hits, DWIGHT REED, former Minnesota football star, hit a home run, triple and double to lead the St. Paul team’s attack.

    Click to continue reading “Looking back to 1938: St Paul Packers Beat Minneapolis Jerseys, 7 to 1, for D-Ball Title”

    Some of the greatest in Minnesota fastpitch history to receive the sport’s highest honor

    Tuesday, October 30th, 2018

    Meet the 2018 Minnesota Softball Hall of Fame class: Of these 19 slowpitch, modified and fastpitch inductees, 13 starred in the fastpitch game as either players, umpires, managers and coaches, promoters, sponsors, administrators, or in some cases, were involved in every facet of the game. Photo courtesy of Perry Coonce / Executive Director of the Minnesota Softball Federation

    SOUTH ST. PAUL, Minn. – Some like the late Walter Nelson were great fastpitch pitchers in leading their teams to state and regional championships. Others like Tom Niederkorn, Bill Olson and Dan Lee could belt the riser, drop and change-up as well as any hitter to ever step into the batter’s box.

    And still others, made their mark in the sport in nearly every conceivable way possible. Including Jim Langowski and Jack Norman, who first excelled as players and then remained in the sport for years volunteering, managing, promoting and serving in any capacity needed in continuing the great legacy of Minnesota men’s fastpitch softball.

    For the following 13 men, whose time in the game stretches as far back as six and seven decades, they will receive the highest honor possible in Minnesota softball lore: induction into the Minnesota Softball Hall of Fame during a ceremony banquet at the St. Cloud River’s Edge Convention Center, Nov. 2nd, under the direction of the Minnesota Sports Federation.

      Meet The Outstanding 2018 Hall of Fame Fastpitch Class
  • Wayne Dahl, player, from Dawson
  • Gary “Meatball” Holtz, player, Hutchinson
  • Dick Erickson, player, Dawson
  • Dan Huisman, player, Ellsworth
  • Charlie Johnson, umpire / meritorious service, Detroit Lakes & Hitterdahl
  • Jim Langowski, player, manager, promoter, meritorious service, Winona
  • Dan Lee, player, Dawson
  • Dick McNally, player, St. Charles & Ridgeway
  • *Walter Nelson, player, Hastings & St. Paul
  • Tom “Weed” Niederkorn, player, Hastings & St. Paul
  • Jack Norman, volunteer, organizer, meritorious service, Mankato & Lake Crystal
  • Bill Olson, player, Duluth
  • Jim Prestholdt, player, sponsor, manager, meritorious service, Dawson
  • Many superlatives were spoken about the inductees, including this accolade from Wayne Dahl and Ken Club, who led the nomination of Jim Prestholdt.

    “In his career as a pitcher, Jim won over 450 games,” said Dahl. “(He) was always organizing fastpitch leagues, teams and games at his own time and expense! He started a four-team league in Dawson (pop. 1,600). He would implore players to participate, and they would. Jim raised $20,000 in a week for a new concessions stand at Prestholdt Fields in Dawson…Jim also coached and mentored many developing players in the local league, particularly pitchers.”

    And this from Stan Knopick, who nominated Jim Langowski, who starred as a pitcher for 15 years in Minnesota and five in Northern California.

    “Jim was a great pitcher and fine hitter,” said Knopick. “But Jim was very active off the softball field also. He arranged tournaments, started the Winona Softball Association and was a manager for over 15 years in Minnesota and five in California. Jim organized tournaments, hired the umpires, took care of the media work, selected volunteers to help at games and tournaments, helped prepare the fields, and used his knowledge to mentor young softball players, both boys and girls.”

    And the tributes for the others are just as inspiring.

    Minnesota Fastpitch History: When the ‘World Championship’ came to Parade Stadium

    Wednesday, September 26th, 2018

    In the 1958 ASA Men’s Major Fastpitch National Championship at Parade Stadium in Minneapolis, TOM NICHOLS of Toledo, left, WILL BRADY, Miami, JOHN SPRING, Stratford, and ROY STEPHENSON, Long Island display their prowess as pitchers in the national championship. SPRING went on to pitch Stratford to the championship over Lake Charles, La. Minneapolis Tribune Photo By Paul Siegel

    Minneapolis hosted the ASA Men’s Major National Championships at Parade Stadium in 1954 and 1958. Here’s some brief information about the teams and players who made the 1958 championship special in the state’s fastpitch history.

    Cloquet upsets Farmington 2-1 on Three Hits
    By AUGIE KARCHER / Minneapolis Tribune Sports Writer
    Sep 16, 1958

    MINNEAPOLIS – Northwest Paper of Cloquet, Minnesota’s ASA Northern Regional champion, shocked favored Farmington, New Mexico, 2-1, in one of the tightest games of the day.

    BOBO JOHNSON set the Builders down on two hits, one of them a 250-foot home run by Gehrig Garrison in the first inning. The only other hit was in the sixth, but fine defensive work prevented what could have been the tying score.

    Cloquet didn’t get a man on base until the fourth, which LES SALO opened with an infield hit. He was sacrificed to second and scored on JIM ARNTSON’S single to left. Arntson took second on an error and scored on a blooper to center by Dave Holmes.

    Farmington…100 000 0—1 2 3
    Cloquet………..000 200 x—2 3 1
    Bill Lingle and M.T. Autry; Bobo Johnson and Herb Huard

    ***Cloquet was eventually eliminated by Stratford, Conn., 8-2, who went on to win the the championship over Lake Charles, La.***

    “JUNK’ NETS ONE-HITTER

    A drop pitch that “didn’t drop” cost CHUCK HAYS a no-hitter Tuesday when Minneapolis Soo Line nipped St. Louis 3-0 in the World Softball tournament. St. Louis shortstop Chuck Stiebel got the only hit – a sharp single to center in the fifth.

    “I threw a lot of junk,” said Hays, “never have been a really fast pitcher.”

    SOFTBALL WORLD TOURNAMENT FIRST-ROUND

    Houston, Texas, 2, Cairo, Ga., 0
    Stratford Conn., 2, Miami, Fla. 0
    Seattle, Wash., 8, San Gabriel, Calif., 2
    Long Island, N.Y., 3, Toledo, Ohio, 0
    Washington, D.C., 6, Casper, Wyo. 0
    Cloquet, Minn., 2, Farmington, N.M., 1
    Lake Charles, La., 1, Montreal, 0
    Aurora, Ill., 4, Clearwater, Fla., 0
    Air Force 6, Washington, D.C., 0
    Winnipeg 19, British Columbia 8

    TODAY’S SCHEDULE / WORLD SOFTBALL

      PARADE ONE

    Noon – San Gabriel (0-1) vs. Casper, Wyo. (0-1); 1:30 – Sacramento (0-1) vs Farmington, N.M. (0-1); 3 p.m. – Vancouver, Canada (0-1) vs. Washington D.C. (0-1); 7:30 p.m. – Houston (1-0) vs. Long Island (2-0); 9 p.m. – Stratford, Conn. (1-0) vs. Cloquet, Minn. (1-0).

      PARADE TWO

    Noon – Minneapolis Soo Line (0-1) vs. St. Louis (0-1); 1:30 p.m. – Toledo (0-1) vs. Miami, Fla. (0-1); 3 p.m. – Cairo, Ga. (1-1) vs. Montreal (0-1); 7:30 p.m. – Lake Charles (2-0) vs. U.S. Air Force (1-0); Aurora, Ill. (1-0) vs. Seattle (1-0)