A Step Back In Time: ‘Expatriate’ Tolzin stops Jets as St. Paul wins 1976 ISC crown

Written by Bob on January 30th, 2017

ST. PAUL ALL-AMERICAN BAR won the 1976 ISC World Tournament held in Long Beach, Calif. St. Paul became the first and only Minnesota team to win an ISC World Tournament title. Photo / Courtesy ISC Guide Bood

Staff writer / Long Beach Press-Telegram
Aug. 1976

LONG BEACH, Calif. – A year ago Darwin Tolzin was the pride of the Lakewood Jets’ pitching staff and on his way to stardom.

His all-American (All-World) recognition came early Monday morning, but in an ironic turn of events. The Jets were the victims.

At the close of last season, the 35-year-old right-hander was transferred to Minnesota by the National Weather Service. He had to accept the move or lose a promotion.

Just coming of age as a pitcher – he started when he was 29 – Tolzin hooked up with St. Paul and was the No. 2 pitcher when the team qualified to play in the International Softball Congress World Tournament at Blair Field in Long Beach.

No. 2 became No. 1 Sunday night and Monday morning as Tolzin shut out his former teammates in a doubleheader to give St. Paul its first-ever ISC title, achieved the hard way by winning four games in a 24-hour span.

Tolzin hurled six scoreless innings in relief of Al DeWall to win the opener, 5-2, and came back to throw another blank in the title-decider, 6-0, in a game which ended at 1:10 a.m.

DeWall’s pitching in earlier games allowed Tolzin the opportunity to spin his masterpieces, and St. Paul’s lusty hitters, especially brothers Dan O’Connor and Jerry O’Connor, provided ample bat support.

St. Paul wound up with 42 runs in nine games, two shy of the tournament record set by the Long Beach Nitehawks in 10 games in 1960.

VIRGIL JONES, ISC Tournament Director, left, presents the championship trophy to Earl Montpetit and John Geena, sponsors of St. Paul All-American Bar. Photo Courtesy ISC Guide Book

The Minnesota comeback started with a doubleheader victory over Reno, Nev., and Oshkosh, Wis., Saturday night. Tolzin beat Nevada, 9-1, and DeWall stopped Wisconsin, 6-3, in a game which ended after 1 a.m.

St. Paul came back Sunday with DeWall beating Prescott, 4-0, on a two-hitter. DeWall started again against Lakewood in the championship finals but gave up two runs in the second inning and asked to be taken out.

Tolzin took over and scattered five hits, emerging as the winner when Jerry O’Connor doubled home brother Dan in the eighth inning to break a 2-2 deadlock. Two insurance runs were added on a combined wild pitch and wild throw.

With both teams now having one loss, the showdown came shortly after 11 p.m. and St. Paul decided to stay with Tolzin. It was the right move.

The slender right-hander gave up nine hits, including seven in the last three innings, but he pitched out of every jam. His teammates had staked him to six runs in four innings, so the late Lakewood hitting spree didn’t mean too much.

It was a bitter double defeat for the Jets who were trying to become the second successive Western Softball Congress team to come from a third-place league standing to an ISC title. The Nitehawks did it in 1975.

WSC teams had won 12 of the last 16 ISC titles and for awhile it appeared that the Jets would improve on that impressive figure.

The two runs off DeWall in the first game came on Ralph Smith’s sacrifice fly and Dennis Powell’s single, giving the home team a 2-0 lead.

Ed Bentley, in relief of Jim Knott, made that advantage stand up until two were out in the fifth. He got a pitch up and in to first baseman Tim Egan, who smacked it over the right field fence.

Bentley was the victim of St. Paul’s three-run burst in the eighth inning. He gave up only the one hit of Jerry O’Conner, but he walked two and threw a wild pitch.

Southpaw Bob Wills started the second game for Lakewood and he entered having hurled two shutouts. But his string of scoreless innings ended quickly when Jim McDonald hit a leadoff triple and scored on a wild pitch.

A two-out error and Jerry O’Connors’s hit mad it 2-0 in the third, then St. Paul broke it open and chased Wills with four runs on three hits in the fourth. The big blow was a three-run triple by Egan off reliever Guy Sparrow.

Lakewood committed five errors, more than it had in seven other games combined.

Hice Stiles of Lakewood collected four hits of Tolzin and earned All-World honors with a .435 average in seven games. Second baseman Dennis Powell of the Jets also made the elite team on the strength of a .333 average.

DeWall, who won five games (5-1), was chosen Most Valuable Pitcher and Jerry O’Connor was selected Most Valuable Player. He batted .444 (12-for-27) and drove in six runs.

AL DEWALL, left, with a 5-1 record accepts the Most Valuable Pitcher award from Virgil Jones, ISC Tournament Director. Photo Courtesy ISC Guide Book

Al Goldberg of the Lakewood Barons led the tournament in hitting with a .615 average (8-for-13) and was also chosen on the All-World team. His eight hits came in succession and broke a tournament record.

A second-place finish was commendable for the Jets in a field of 30, since they had to struggle just to qualify for the 10-day extravaganza of 63 games.

But the ultimate irony in their failure to win it all is that Tolzin said he is due for another transfer back to Southern California. The Jets wished it would have happened a few months ago.

St. Paul——–100 041 0——6 9 0
Oshkosh——–000 102 0——3 6 3
DeWall, Tolzin (6) and Schmid; Fels, Abts (2) and Neveau. HR Egan (SP), Delorit (O)

St. Paul——-000 400 0—–4 5 2
Prescott——000 000 0—–0 2 1
DeWall and Schmid; Henderson, Aragon (4) and Reeser, Chambers (4)

St. Paul————101 400 0—–6 7 0
Lakewood———000 000 0—–0 9 5
Tolzin and Schmid; Wills, Sparrow (4) and Murray, Thomas (5)

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