By Bob McGinn / Green Bay Press-Gazette
Aug. 14, 1979
GREEN BAY, Wisc. – The ISC World Tournament. The fastpitch softball faithful in the Fox Valley speak of it in almost reverential tones.
It conjures up images, always, of a week or two on the West Coast, in places like Sun City, Ariz., Long Beach, or even Bakersfield, Calif., where this summer’s version of the International Softball Congress’s national tournament is scheduled to begin Friday.
It is the reward for the highly skilled players, most of whom approach their game with fierce competitive drive and a willingness to spend virtually every precious summer weekend at a ball diamond.
These men are very good at their game. They are recognized for it here, one of the country’s last outposts of fastpitch softball. But for many, the ultimate goal is to prove they can perform well and win at the highest levels of the game.
IN WISCONSIN, for the better part of 10 years, that has meant the ISC World Tournament. But sometimes it is forgotten or, perhaps disregarded, that there is more to fastpitch than the ISC.
The Amateur Softball Association remains as the sport’s major sanctioning body.
The ISC was founded in 1947, 13 years after the advent of the ASA. The major difference is that the ASA concerns itself with all types and genders of softball, while the ISC deals exclusively with men’s fastpitch.
Two area teams, All-Car Speed Shops and Tommy’s Angels of Oshkosh, have qualified for this year’s World Tournament. The question is this: Are they competing in the best national tournament?
Ty Stofflet, perhaps the greatest softball pitcher ever, should be able to provide an answer. The Pennsylvanian threw in half a dozen or so ISC World Tournaments in the 1960s, climaxed when he led Sal’s Lunch of Philadelphia to the championship in 1969.
Stofflet’s current team, the York (Pa.) Barbells, has won the ASA crown three of the last four years.
“ASA people say theirs is better, and ISC people say theirs is better,” Stofflet said Monday. “I’m telling you how it is. Nobody can tell me one is better than the other. When it comes down to the six or seven best teams, it’s about the same.”
Stofflet’s only qualifier is that pitching at the ASA nationals could possibly be better – “I’m saying possibly now” – than in the ISC World Tournament.
About 20 or 22 teams qualify for the ASA nationals, 15 from regional meets across the country. Last Year’s ISC World Tournament field numbered 36 teams. Ten teams receive automatic berths by winning designated travel league championships as All-Car did in capturing the Fox Valley Classic League title. The rest of the field consists primarily of state champions, like Tommy’s.
Indications are that the qualifying procedure is stiffer in the ASA. Don Porter, the organizations’ executive director, estimates that about 50 percent of the teams that reach the ASA nationals first survive county, district, state and regional tournaments.
Some ISC qualifiers, like Tommy’s, come from state tournaments which are wide open to any team with an entry fee.
Stofflet, as would befit his stature, doesn’t worry about the weaker teams which manage to get in. But ISC national director, Carrol Forbes, who regularly attends ASA as well as ISC tournaments, says the ASA nationals may be slightly better from top to bottom.
“Right at the top they’ve (ASA teams) never been better,” said Forbes. “But we don’t have the depth. I suppose if you say we got 36 or 38, if you take it percentage-wise, we’d have four bum teams. They’d maybe have two.”
TODAY, ASA FASTPITCH in the state is almost extinct. Only two teams, the Farm Tavern of Madison and the Menomonie Blues, are designated as major class. No state tournament is scheduled. If the teams want to play in the ASA Great Lakes Regional at Kalamazoo, Mich., they are free to do so.
Before Wisconsin went almost totally ISC in 1968, however, Peter’s Meats of Eau Claire had an ASA dynasty. It won nine state titles, four times advancing to the regional finals only to lose to the powerful Aurora (Ill.) Sealmasters. Regarded as one of the state’s greatest teams ever, Peter’s never played in a national tournament.
How good were those Peter’s teams?
Bob Moore, who will pitch for All-Car this weekend, is now in his 40s but is rated by many as the state’s top pitcher. In 1966, however, Moore was no better than Peter’s fourth pitcher.
If those Peter’s teams weren’t good enough to play in a national tournament, one wonders how many other current teams and players wouldn’t have been either if the state had remained ASA.