Reliving Memories of one of fastpitch softball’s greatest pitchers

Written by Bob on May 15th, 2017

WITH THE GREATEST OF EASE
Roy Burlison of the St. Louis Browns flies through the air before delivering a pitch to the plate in last night’s (June 16, 1973) professional softball game at Koch Park. Burlison tossed his third straight shutout, whipping the Philadelphia Patriots, 8-0. St. Louis Post-Dispatch Photo By W. Thomas Stewart

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. –Roy Burlison was one of the greatest fastpitch pitchers the sport has ever known. When his 27-year playing career came to an end in 1992, he had won over 770 games against the best teams in the world.

In 1997 he was inducted into the Amateur Softball Association Hall of Fame for an arm’s length of accomplishments: nine times competing in the ASA national tournament; twice selected Most Valuable Pitcher, and twice leading his teams to runner-up in the national championship.

Burlison was also renowned as a coach, teaching hundreds of girls how to play the game the right way. But sadly on May 11, Burlison, 71, passed away (see Roller Homes obituary).

His fastpitch legacy will live on, however, in the girls he coached, and with the players he both played with and against in his long and distinguished career.

Let’s relive some of Burlison’s prowess with a stroll down memory lane…

NITEHAWKS WIN OPENER, DROP SECOND TO SAN DIEGO
July 29, 1968
Long Beach Press-Telegram

SAN DIEGO – Art Bunge and Roy Burlison took turns pitching complete game victories here Sunday as the Long Beach Nitehawks and San Diego Navy Sub-Flot 1 split a Western Softball Congress doubleheader.

The Hawks won the first game, 3-1, behind Bunge’s four-hitter. Long Beach scored all its runs in the first on RBI singles by Milt Stark, Tommy Gonzalez and Ross Grimes.

Burlison had a no-hitter for five innings in the second game and wound up allowing only two hits as Sub-Flot breezed 7-0.

Bob Custard had five hits in two games for San Diego who is now 20-14, while the Hawks are 14-20.

SHUTOUT PITCHING LIFTS FOUR TEAMS INTO SEMIFINALS
Sept. 13, 1971

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – Shutout pitching Sunday lifted Stratford, Conn; Chicago; Reading, Pa., and Cedar Rapids, Iowa, into tonight’s semifinals in the ASA Men’s National Fastpitch Softball Tournament.

Reading left-hander Ty Stofflet set the pace by stopping Fort Worth, Tex., 7-0 in the tourney’s second perfect game. He fanned 14 and allowed only one ball to hit out of the infield.

The other tree semifinalists won on one-hitters.

Al Lewis pitched Stratford, the defending champion, to a 4-0 victory over Fall River, Mass; Roy Burlison was the mound star in Chicago’s 2-0 victory over Nashville, Tenn., and Cedar Rapids’ Jerry Ralfs was the winner in a 1-0 triumph over Poughkeepsie, N.Y.

In the semifinal matchups, Stratford plays Chicago and Cedar Rapids meets Reading.

Burlison’s Two Shutouts Send Mountain View Into National Championship Game
Sept. 11, 1969

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – The Mountain View, Calif. Falcons came up through the losers bracket to win two more games in the ASA National Men’s Fastpitch Softball Tournament, Thursday, and will meet Stratford, Conn. for the championship Friday night.

Roy Burlison pitched the two shutouts for Mountain View in a 2-0 victory over Aurora, Ill., and a 4-0 win over the Armed Forces.

The losers were eliminated. These were Burlison’s sixth and seventh wins in the tourney.

  • Ultimately, Mountain View lost to Stratford (4-3 and 7-0) to finish runner-up, but battled back into the final after losing their first game and winning eight straight. Burlison finished with a 7-2 record, struck out 108 batters in 62 innings, allowing 26 hits and 11 runs. His outstanding performance earned him the Most Valuable Pitcher award.
  • 1969 ASA ALL-AMERICAN TEAM

    Don Benedict, catcher, Stratford, CT.
    Ed Loveless, first base, Mountain View
    Ray Phillips, second base, Mountain View
    Frank Hurtt, shortstop, Aurora
    Don Dungee, third base, Armed Forces
    Glen Beamon, outfield, Mountain View
    Earl Kenue, outfield, Aurora
    Bob Christianson, outfield, Aurora
    Roy Burlison, pitcher, Mountain View
    Ron Peterson, pitcher, Fox Hill, VA
    Joe Lynch, pitcher, Aurora
    Roy Burlison, Most Valuable Pitcher, 7-2 record

    PITCHING WHIZ COMES TO TOWN
    By BOB FALSTROM
    Herald Sports Editor
    May 9, 1970

    DECATUR, Ill. – After a couple of warm-up games, the softball season accelerates tonight and Sunday at Hayes Field.

    Pitcher Roy Burlison, most valuable pitcher in the ASA national tournament last year, is the attraction.

    Burlison will be with Highland Park Anixter’s for doubleheaders with Riley’s and Aamco, Saturday and Sunday.

    Anixter’s is the heir apparent to the disbanded Aurora Sealmasters as “Mr. Big” in Illinois fastpitch softball.

    Last September Anixter’s was runner-up to the Sealmasters in the West Central Regional tournament.

    Now, with the addition of Burlison and catcher Dave Timok, formerly with Aurora, the North Shore team looms as indeed formidable.

    Burlison is the best pitcher you’ll watch at Hayes Field this season. He won seven games for Mountain View, Calif. In the 1969 ASA national tournament. Mountain View was runner-up to Stratford, Conn. Over-all, Burlison’s record was 34-9 with an earned run average of 0.78.

    Burlison, 24, is backed up by pitchers Dick Brubaker, former standout in the International Softball Congress (ISC) at Rock Island, and Tony Dobrenski.

    Burlison is supposed to be as overpowering as Joe Lynch, the Sealmasters’ ace who has switched to Clearwater, Fla. We’ll see.

    BURLISON PERFECT FOR ANIXTER BOMBERS

    By MIKE CONKLIN
    The Chicago Tribune
    May 14, 1970

    CHICAGO – The perfect game. While it’s the dream of every softball pitcher, few actually experience it.

    One Chicagoland pitcher, however, realized it twice in the same week recently and turned it into a nightmare for opposing batters.

    He’s Roy Burlison of the Anixter Bros. Bombers.

    Pitching in the Glencoe Division of the Chicago Metro Fastpitch Tournament, Burlison threw perfect games on successive starts against Skokie Club and Dundee Jockey Club.

    He fanned 19 of 21 batters in the first start and 20 in the second to gain 2-0 and 9-0 decisions. He then came back to hurl three more perfect innings for the Bombers in the championship game, running his streak to 17 consecutive innings.

    “I usually can tell around the fifth inning whether I have a chance for a perfect game,” Burlison explained. “By then I’ve faced most of the best hitters twice and I just go with fast balls, up and down.”

    As his remarks might indicate, Burlison, 24, is no stranger to perfection. In five years of pitching, he has thrown six perfect games.

    Four came in the Navy and it was there he first took up the game seriously – almost by accident.

    “We needed a pitcher for our intramural team in Guam,” Burlison said, “and I volunteered. I used to practice by throwing against brick walls until I gained control. I went through a lot of softballs, too, before I started using catchers. I taught myself the grips for pitches by catching other pitchers in games.”

    It wasn’t long before Burlison’s reputation began growing and he was snatched up by Mountain View, Calif., after his discharge from the Navy. He stayed with the team one year and was chosen most valuable pitcher in last year’s national tournament.

    This year he’s with the Bombers and a lot of area teams wish he’d go back to brick walls.

    BURLISON’S NO-HITTER ELIMINATES EAU CLAIRE IN SOFTBALL MEET
    Marshfield News
    Sept. 7, 1971

    AURORA, Ill. – Anixter’s Bombers of Skokie defeated Eau Claire, Wis., 2-0 Monday night and successfully defended their championship in the ASA West-Central Fastpitch Regional Softball Tournament.

    Anixter pitcher Roy Burlison tossed his third straight no-hitter in tourney play to assure the victory.

    The Skokie team will go on to the national tourney in Springfield, Mo., beginning Friday.

    BURLISON FIRES THIRD SHUTOUT; BROWNS ROUT PHILADELPHIA
    St. Louis Post-Dispatch
    June, 16, 1973

    ***In 1973, professional men’s fastpitch softball made its debut, but it was short lived as the league folded after the season ended. But in that one year, Burlison established himself as the league’s top hurler.***

    ST. LOUIS – Before the Major League Softball, Inc. season started, Browns manager Ed Langendorf was asked how many games Roy Burlison would pitch for the St. Louis team.

    “Oh, about 25,” replied Langendorf.

    How many do you think he’ll win?

    “About 25.”

    When the season ends, Langendorf may not be far wrong.

    Last night at Florissant’s Koch Park, Burlison made his tenth start of the season and won his tenth game of the season. Burlison, who has won once in relief, raised his record to 10-1 as he whipped the Philadelphia Patriots, 8-0, on a five-hitter.

    The victory, before 1270 fans, was the Browns’ twelfth without defeat at Koch Park and raised their league-leading record to 16-4. Philadelphia is 4 ½ games back at 7-4 before the teams meet again tonight in a 7 p.m. doubleheader.

    For Burlison, the shutout was the third in succession. All of them have come since the birth of the Burlisons’ first child, Keven Scott, in Tulsa two weeks ago.

    “I haven’t been getting too much sleep,” said Burlison.

    Opposing batsmen haven’t either.

    The outcome of last night’s game was of little mystery after the first inning when the Browns scored five runs.

    Dick Furrer, the 41-year-old milkman who doubles as a designated hitter, smashed his first homer of the season, a two-run clout, to spark the surge.

    Bob Sagle, who pounded out nine hits in last weekend’s series against Montreal here, ripped his first home run of the season in the third. He finished the night with three runs batted in.

    The rest was left to Burlison, who struck out 12 and walked just two.

    In 93 innings this season, Burlison has fanned the startling total of 123 batters.

    His only defeat of the season came at Mobile when K.G. Fincher of San Diego outpitched him, 3-1. Mobile and Fincher now are both out of the league.

    “That Burlison, he’s an animal,” said Norb Thurmer.

    “He’s beautiful,” said second baseman Scott Harrington.

    Managers and players in other cities aren’t saying things quite so complimentary about Burlison. They think he jumps forward too much when he releases the ball from the rubber.

    Montreal manager Pat Patterson, who protested two games last week here, had promised that Philadelphia’s Frank Chevanne would raise even more questions this week, but Chevanne was silent last night.

    “Their (Philadelphia) pitcher was as bad as Burlison was,” said on Brown official. “He jumped forward too.”

    NO BLUES IN MUSIC CITY
    Mic’s of St. Louis took home all of the hardware yesterday (June 25, 1972) when they captured the sixth annual Music City Invitational fastpitch softball tournament. From left are the meet’s most outstanding hitter Hank Urbanowicz, coach Dan Windle, and the meet’s most outstanding pitcher Roy Burlison. Photo By Joe Rudis, The Nashville Tennessean

    BURLISON BANNED IN NASHVILLE
    By BILL HILES
    The Nashville Tennessean
    July 1, 1974

    NASHVILLE – A restless figure in sky blue uniform of Springfield, Mo., Gaslight paced the dugouts at West Park this weekend.

    Alternately he smoked cigarettes and paced. Before games of the Music City Invitational Softball Tournament the same figure could be seen giving a relaxed lesson to any aspiring fastpitch softball thrower who cared to watch from behind the fence.

    The ease with which he tossed the ball to his catcher and the noise with which it popped into the mitt gave an indication that this man is very much at home toeing the rubber on any softball field in the country.

    But not once as his team marched through the winners bracket and then lost two games and the championship to losers bracket winner Montgomery Ala. United Surgical Steel did his manager insert him into the lineup.

    Softball connoisseurs often pointed in his direction and whispered to a companion:

    “That’s Roy Burlison. He is about the best thrower around.”

    They were right on the money. Roy Burlison is considered about the best in the business of whirling a softball at high speed the 46 feet from the pitching rubber to the plate.

    Twice Burlison has been named Most Valuable Pitcher in the Amateur Softball Association national tournament. In 1969 he was MVP when Mountain View, Calif. finished second in the ASA classic. In 1971, he again was MVP when he led Chicago to third place.

    ROY BURLISON plays the waiting game with the ASA until he was eligible to pitch in August 1974 in the national tournament. Photo By St. Louis Post-Dispatch

    Mention the name Burlison to any fan of fastpitch softball and the room quiets. There is the same hushed reverence baseball fans reserve for names like Ruth, Gibson and Jackson.

    But Roy Burlison could do nothing more than entertain the fans with his warm-ups and cheer for his team this weekend.

    Last year, Burlison played as a professional in an ill-fated attempt at pro softball. Because he played his last pro game on August 4th last year, he is ineligible for ASA sanctioned events until August 5th.

    He admits that he had something to do with the failure of the pro league.

    “Our team, the St. Louis Browns, was so good that we hurt the other teams because we hurt the competition,” he said. “At the end the Browns picked up the expenses of the other teams and we played almost all our games at home. That hurt the other teams and our record made the league championship such a runaway that the fans wouldn’t come out except in St. Louis and Montreal.”

    Burlison appeared in 30 games as a professional. He wouldn’t say how much he received. Rumor has it that he got one check for $5,000 and other money as well. Whatever he got, it must have been worth it.

    In 30 games, he won 28. That’s twice as many as Gaylord Perry’s consecutive win string that has the sports world abuzz.

    But there are those who don’t feel Burlison has been treated fairly by the ASA. He is the only player still ineligible for amateur competition of the some 60 who played pro ball at Charlotte, Philadelphia, Montreal and St. Louis. The rest were reinstated as of June 20.

    “The ASA asked for copies of W-2 forms,” Burlison said. “They sent one in on me. As far as the ASA knows, all the other players got only expenses. The ASA interpreted the rules correctly and made me sit out on calendar year.”

    Burlison showed no signs of bitterness about his enforced absence from active participation in the game.

    It is widely thought throughout softball that at least a dozen other players received bonuses or salaries of $1,000 or more. But the pro league only turned in Burlison’s W-2.

    “They did what they had to do and that’s that,” Burlison said quietly. “All I’m waiting for now is August and my shot at winning the national title. I’ve been there twice but I’ve never won it. That’s the most important thing on my mind right now.”

    No one who knows the facts of the legend of Burlison’s pitching ability and who saw the Gaslight team play this weekend is betting against him.

    SPRINGFIELD GASLIGHT’S BURLISON CARRIES LOAD
    By JIM VIETH
    News Tribune Sports Writer
    Sept. 5, 1974

    SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – Roy Burlison pitched and batted Springfield Gaslight Realty to the championship of the Mid-Central Men’s Fastpitch Softball Regional Tournament in Springfield Tuesday evening and to a spot in the ASA national tournament in Clearwater, Fla., this weekend.

    Gaslight won its third straight regional title with a 12-0 romp over Springfield News-Leader after the Parrots had eliminated Kansas City Gaslight 4-2 in the final of the losers’ bracket to earn the title shot.

    Burlison broke a scoreless tie in the championship game in the third inning with a grand slam home run off losing pitcher Steve Murdaugh.

    The youthful looking right-hander also had another RBI in the contest and scored two runs in addition to pitching a one-hit ball for his five innings of work, allowing only two base runners and striking out four.

    Springfield Gaslight, managed by Jim Little, now goes to Clearwater on Friday morning for the national tournament, which begins that evening. The club will not know its opponent until sometime Friday.

    Clearwater is the defending champion, having beaten Sunnyvale, Calif., 4-1 a year ago in Seattle, Wash.

    “This is the first year that we are going out to the tournament and not worrying about who we are going to draw,” said Little after his team had won the regional crown. “We feel that with Burlison we can beat anybody. Naturally we wouldn’t want to get is a bracket with a bunch of strong teams at one time, but we feel like this is our best chance ever to win the title. I’ve brought other good teams to the national, but this may well be the best because of the pitching of Burlison and Dick Brubaker.”

    Gaslight finished fourth in the national meet last year, winning four and losing two. (Gaslight went on to finish third in the 1974 national tournament.)

    SOFTBALL PLAYER LANDS STRIKE AT LAKE

    By LARRY S. HAZELRIGG
    The Springfield News-Leader
    March 18, 1987

    Softball pitcher ROY BURLISON is skillful at baiting batters into swinging futily at his offerings, but he’s also skilled at landing big fish.

    SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – Roy Burlison can catch largemouth bass as well as he can pitch softballs. Burlison, 41-year-old right-hander who will return to fastpitch action this season with Osbern-Merit of Springfield after going into semi-retirement in 1983, landed a 10-pound lunker Sunday at Buttermilk Springs on Table Rock Lake.

    “You should have heard him yelling when he hooked it,” said Bonus Frost, the Osbern-Merit manager who was fishing nearby. “He also caught a 5-pounder and we could hear him yelling then, too.”

    Frost said Burlison caught four “keepers’ that weighed 21 pounds.

    BURLISON INDUCTED INTO ASA HALL OF FAME
    July 15, 1997

    SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – Roy Burlison, former Springfield fastpitch softball pitcher who lives in Cincinnati, has been inducted into the Amateur Softball Association Hall of Fame in Oklahoma City.

    He had a record of 770 victories and fewer than 100 losses in ASA action. He threw 14 perfect games, and in ASA national championships had a 23-14 record.

    Burlison earned a reputation as one of ASA’s most feared pitchers and is an incredible seven time All-American and was named the Most Valuable Pitcher in 1969 and 1971 ASA National Fastpitch Championships. He also contributed to seven state championships and six regional championships in the days when even to qualify for a regional tournament was extremely difficult.  

    SPRINGFIELD AREA HALL OF FAME INDUCTS ROY BURLISON
    April 22, 2001

    SPRINGFIELD, MO. – Standouts from softball, baseball and boxing will be inducted into the Springfield Area Sports Hall of Fame during Tuesday night ceremonies at University Plaza Convention Center.

    Southwest Missouri State basketball star Melody Howard, amateur softball pitcher Roy Burlison, pro baseball player Roy Smalley and boxing coach Jim McManis comprise this year’s induction class…

    Roy Burlison enjoyed a 27-year career in major fastpitch softball, many of those seasons playing for Springfield teams, and had a 770-92 record as a right-handed pitcher. He was a seven-time Amateur Softball Association (ASA) All-American and Most Valuable Pitcher of the national tournament in 1969 and 1971.

    “When he joined us in 1974 (in Springfield), we would play the very best teams we could schedule every year, whether we had to travel to Canada, California, anywhere,” said manager Bonus Frost. “We were good without him before he came along. But when he came along, we were 100 percent better.”

    Burlison, a native of Newport, Ark., also is a member of three other Halls of Fame – The Springfield ASA, Missouri ASA and National ASA. He retired from softball in 1992 and resides in Mason, Ohio.

    HARD HURLERS
    Decatur Herald & Review
    Feb. 26, 1983

    DECATUR, Ill.Ted Hicks of the Decatur ADM fastpitch softball team is regarded as one of the top hitters in the game. He holds the record for the highest batting average in a national tournament – .632 – set in 1978.

    A right-handed hitter who will be participating in the Pan American Games tryout camp, Hicks lists these pitchers at the Top Ten he has ever faced:

    1. TY STOFFLET, Reading, Pa. “In his day and in my youth, I looked to him as the pitcher I considered head and shoulders above the rest. He was Mr. Softball. You have to concentrate so hard against him.”

    2. KEVIN HERLIHY, Saginaw, Mich. “He gets my ‘vote of confidence’ award because of his consistency. Always throws a strong game.”

    3. ROY BURLISON, Springfield, Mo. “Very tough and very quick.”

    4. DICK BRUBAKER, Aurora. “He used to be real tough for me although he has lost a little now.”

    5. DAVID SCOTT, ADM. “I consider him to be the top American pitcher right now. When he pitches, he says, ‘Here it is, you try to hit it.’ It’s a challenge to a hitter to get up there and take your chances with him. He’s as fast as anyone and the fact that he’s a little wild makes him tougher.”

    6. ROB GUENTHER, Canada. “Extremely fast.”

    7. GENE McWILLEY, Canada. “Throws as hard as anybody.”

    8. PAUL MAGAN, Bakersfield, Calif. (originally New Zealand). “A good, hard rise and nice drop ball.”

    9. MARK SMITH, Camarillo, Calif. (originally Canada). “Very fast, his wildness scares me a little bit. Needs more consistency.”

    Leave a Comment