Al DeWall the greatest pitcher of Minnesota’s Golden Age

Written by Bob on January 6th, 2017

ST. PAUL ALL-AMERICAN BAR won the 1976 ISC World Tournament with pitcher Al DeWall leading the way with five victories. DeWall, pictured in the last row, third from left, was selected the tournament’s Most Valuable Pitcher. Courtesy Photo

ST. PAUL, Minn. – The decades of the 1950s through the 1980s are considered the Golden Age of Minnesota men’s Fastpitch.

The Golden Age saw many outstanding teams rise to power such as St. Paul’s Belmont Club, New Bar and Clover Club, Mankato Happy Chef, St. James James Gang, Duluth and Scandia.

But none rose to power like St. Paul’s Whitaker Buick (1962 – 1973) and All-American Bar (1976 – 1986). Basically the same roster, just a change of sponsorship.

Between the two teams they appeared in 14 ISC World Tournaments and several ASA Major National Tournaments. In 1976 All-American Bar won the world tournament, beating the Lakewood, Calif. Jets twice, 5-2 and 6-0, to take the title.

    STARS A PLENTY

“It was unbelievable playing for Whitaker Buick,” said Mike Payton, the team’s centerfielder in the 1960s and 70s. “Back then you didn’t play a qualifier and go to the nationals like now. You had to win six or seven games (state and regional playoffs) and it was single elimination.”

To win those state and regional championships it took great pitching. Heading Payton’s list is Al DeWall.

“Al was the greatest pitcher I ever played with,” said Payton. “There wasn’t a tougher competitor. In 1970 he was unreal. One through nine, we had a great hitting lineup, but in the ASA regional tournament we scored only five runs in four games. Al had to shut everyone out for us to win, and he did. If a guy’s on second or third base, and no outs, I pity the next hitter. It didn’t matter if they were the three, four or five batter, they were in trouble.”

ELBERS AND DEWALL, none better in the history of men’s fastpitch pitchers. Photo Courtesy / Jeff Collins

Sadly, DeWall passed away in 2007 at the age of 68. But in an early story, he shared a few of his fondest fastpitch memories.

    MINNESOTA’S LONE ISC TITLE

Two memories stand out, but the most cherished? A tough choice for the right-hander considered by many to be the best pitcher in the history of Minnesota fastpitch.

Is it winning the 1976 ISC World Tournament with All-American Bar in its first ever appearance? Or is it getting the best of ASA Hall of Fame pitcher Bonnie Jones?

“We went into the ISC as an unknown,” said DeWall. “We had a lot of local boys. We took a lot of pride in competing. Before that we didn’t know anything about the ISC. We had very, very good players.”

DeWall, finished the tournament with a 5-1 record and was named the World Tournament’s Most Valuable Pitcher. It is the only ISC World Tournament championship for a Minnesota team.

AL DEWALL pitching for St. Paul Whitaker Buick at the age of 22. Photo Courtesy / Jeff Collins

    BEATING THE FABLED JONES

Roll the tape back to 1963. It’s the ASA Major national tournament. DeWall versus Bonnie Jones of Burch Gage of Detroit. Both hurlers locked in a scoreless dual, but DeWall beats Jones in the most unlikely of ways.

“I batted ninth, but I hit a home run to win it,” Said DeWall of his sixth inning home run that gave Whitaker Buick a 1-0 victory, and a sixth-place finish in the 20-team field.

For DeWall two teams held top billing in the sport.

“The Clearwater (FL) Bombers and Aurora (IL) Sealmasters were the two best teams back then,” said DeWall. “We had all Minnesota guys, Clearwater and Aurora recruited and had the big money players. Aurora had a ballfield across the street from their plant and Clearwater sponsored the (Bombers).”

    COMMANDER IN CHIEF

Leading the St. Paul dynasty was manager Jim Rubbelke (ISC Hall of Fame induction, 2003). He did virtually everything for the ball club from raising money to arranging the schedule; recruiting players to the on-field general.

For Rubbelke, pitchers DeWall and Dutch Elbers (ISC Hall of Fame, 1988) were the arms that carried the ball club to national prominance.

“Al had the good drop and pretty good raise,” said Rubbelke. “Dutch had that good change up, great control. When we had the two of them going, we could compete nationally from 1962 and on.”

**DeWall and Elbers were both inducted into the Minnesota Softball Hall of Fame; DeWall in 1988 and Elbers in 1987.

1 Comments so far ↓

  1. Marley Lloyd says:

    Very nice article about a really great team & a very good bunch of guys. We enjoyed our rivalry with those guys for 20 plus years. Jim Rubbelke was definitely a class guy & the main reason their team was so successful. Ironically, both of our 2 great teams folded after the 1990 season.

    Marley Lloyd
    Happy Chef Softball Team

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