Step back in time: The Tampa Bay Smokers

Written by Bob on June 1st, 2010


Tampa Bay Smokers photos taken during the 1998 ISC World Tournament in Kimberly, Wisconsin where the Smokers defeated the Farm Tavern of Madison to win the championship. The Smokers also won the 1996 World Tournament in Kimberly by knocking off another Wisconsin team, the Green Bay All-Car Roadrunners.

Story and Photos by BOB OTTO (first published Oct. 1999)
botto3@verizon.net

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Pete Porcelli and the Tampa Bay Smokers, gone but not forgotten

TAMPA BAY, FL – He blew into fastpitch softball like a young gunslinger eager to make a name for himself. Green but confident, he swaggered up to the fastpitch table, jostled aside the old guard and demanded, “Move over I want in the game.”

The fastpitch establishment soon learned that Pete Porcelli’s choirboy smile was deceiving: Underneath the salesman’s charm, there was toughness. He knew how to play his fastpitch cards. And the establishment soon realized they couldn’t take him lightly.

Bland? Not Pete Porcelli. Arrogant and cocky? Yes, a touch. Refreshing, accommodating, contradictory, and charismatic? Sure, that’s in his make-up too.

UPSTARTS WIN WORLD TOURAMENT
Like a cool breeze sneaking into a hot, stuffy room, Porcelli and his band of Tampa Bay Smokers turned the fastpitch world on it’s ear 14 years ago – blowing into the game in 1996 and winning two ISC World Championship titles (1996 and 1998).

Some resented Porcelli’s audacious style, while others welcomed his charm and daring ways. With their Smokin’ Joe mascot, 1930s-style baseball uniforms, and gaudy attire, the Smokers were the team you either loved or loved to hate. Never the less, they were the main attraction at the big tournaments – especially the ISC World Tournament.

They drew fans like a magnet. “When are the Smokers playing?” fans would ask as they eagerly scanned the ISC bracket board.

COCKY BUT GOOD
They came swashbuckling, loose and easy. In the effervescent personality of their owner, they smiled often and weren’t camera shy – strutting proudly in their 1930s old-style uniforms, while puffing on fat cigars during World Tournament opening ceremonies.

Kids tugged on their arms, begging for autographs. Players dressed in plain vanilla uniforms shook their hands in admiration; some with envy. “Why him – why not me? How can I become a Smoker?” they’d ask themselves jealously.

They played the game as little boys do, with exuberance, joy and delight. Pressure to win? Not this band of extroverts. The magnitude of the moment caused them neither fear nor chased them from victory. They believed invincibly.

The Smokers high-fived, dog piled together, bear-hugged and doused each other with champagne as they frolicked around Sunset Park in Kimberly, Wisconsin after winning the 1996 and 1998 World Tournament championships.

The Smokers bitterly denied Wisconsin fans and their favored sons, the All Car Roadrunners and Farm Tavern, the coveted crown. And it was done in Kimberly, no less.

THE FINAL SEASON
Can Wisconsin fans ever forget the great heist done on the state’s most hallowed fastpitch ground? But sadly, Kimberly was the Smokers final curtain. Like the death of a good friend, the Tampa Bay Smokers are gone. Two world titles later, they disbanded and went their separate ways, infiltrating other teams with their talent and personality.

The Smokers memorial wall of honor includes: Brian Paton, Todd Martin, David Boys, Jason Hanson, Scott Deuel, Todd Garcia, Darren Zack, Trent Rubley, Doug Sleep, Todd King, Rob Gray, John Huebner, Shawn Rychcik, Boomer Brush, Steve Schott, Michael Mink, Walter Wilkins, Marty Grant, Pete Sandman, Taifau Matai, Paul Walford, Mark Morawski, Tim Wahl, Ray Hlad, Richard Schmitz, Fabian Barlow, Jarrad Martin, Hayden Smith, Kere Johannson, Andy Jackson, Buck Buchanan, Greg Wagner, David Braund, the late Chris Wilson, Terry Baytor (coach), Matt Birmingham (Publicist), Matt Snow (statistics), Bongo Baird (trainer), and Pete Porcelli Jr. (owner/manager).

Many of these great players moved on to play for other great fastpitch teams. But it’s as the “Smokers” that they will forever be remembered.

For more great fastpitch news, visit these websites:
Al’s Fastball
Fastpitch West
International Softball Congress
North American Fastpitch Association
2010 ISC World Tournament, Midland, Mich.

4 Comments so far ↓

  1. Trent Rubley says:

    It was a great ride with Pete for years! Rubes…

  2. Bob says:

    Trent, I’m sure your softball buddies would like to know what you’ve been up to since retiring from the sport? Any plans for Midland and the Masters tournament? Not sure you’re old enough, yet?

  3. Trent Rubley says:

    In the last 5 years I’ve owned and operated The USA Patriots Softball Travel ball organization. I manage our 16U girls softball team, 14U girls softball team and our 11U Boys AAU baseball team and do personal lessons. Check us out at http://www.usa44.com. This is my third year as the Head Softball Coach for Shorecrest Prep High School in St. Petersburg, Fl. 15-4 last year! :)Check us out http://www.maxpreps.com. I’m still very involved in softball! 🙂

  4. jason hanson says:

    greatest time of my life, thanks Pete and all the studs i played with!

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