John Younger defines longevity in men’s fastpitch

Written by Bob on June 28th, 2012

From a left-hander, I never saw a rise ball move away from a right-handed batter like (Ty Stofflet’s). It wasn’t logical, but he could do that. Stofflet didn’t give you good pitches to hit. He was always on the corners…” – John Younger

ST. JOSEPH, MO – A 10-year fastpitch career is nice. It’s solid. Hit the 20 or 30-year mark, exceptional. But 40 years and climbing, now that’s superb.

Enter John Younger of St. Joseph, Missouri. The 64-year-old has been plying his trade on ball diamonds throughout the ‘show me’ state and the U.S. for 42 years.

And he has no plans on quitting.

He shrugs off praise for his longevity since starting his career in 1970, only saying, “I still enjoy it.”

Younger has earned a reputation as one of Missouri’s all-time great players. He’s played 7 of the 9 spots on the ball diamond. Catching and pitching, the only positions he hasn’t conquered.

In 2003, the Missouri Amateur Softball Association (ASA) inducted Younger into the state Hall of Fame. His accomplishments are remarkable. He’s played in 34 ASA state tournaments, 15 regionals, and over 25 national tournaments – most at the major level. He’s also got one national championship (St. Joe Frontier Casino, 2001) and a third place (Harold’s Supermarkets, 1986) on his ASA resume.

“It was a great feeling getting inducted,” Younger said. “Missouri is such a great fastpitch state.”

Tack on another five North American Fastpitch Association (NAFA) World Series, and five International Softball Congress (ISC) World Tournaments, and it’s easy to see that Younger has played an incredible number of games.

Memories? He’s collected a few.

But a few stand out. At the spry age of 51, he hit a home run in the 1999 ISC World Tournament – believed to be a record for the oldest player ever hitting a homer in the event. But he outdid himself.

In the 2004 World Tournament, while playing for National Investors of Albany, MO, he blasted a home run off Farm Tavern pitcher, Paul Algar. As a 56-year-old.

“I hit a rise ball,” he said. “Todd Garcia was catching for the Farm and I remember him saying, ‘oh, oh’ when I hit it.”

There’s many a pitcher who wishes they could take back a riser, drop or change-up they’ve served up to Younger. His son Brian remembers another of his dad’s home runs that stands out. The bases were loaded, the count full, and Younger took a mighty cut.

“Dad let out a grunt, and I’ve never seen a softball hit that far,” Brian Younger, 45, said of that blast sometime in the 1980s. “(Doug) Middleton, Robert Newhart and Brian Shaw were comparing the longest home runs they’ve ever seen, and Newhart said dad’s was the farthest.”

On the national level, John Younger has faced some of the games best – including the greatest left-handed pitcher of all-time: Ty Stofflet. It was opening night of the 1984 ISC World Tournament in Allentown, PA. And Younger and his Crawford Construction teammates of Savannah (MO) were matched up against Stofflet’s Sunners of Reading.

“It was quite a thrill opening against Stofflet,” Younger said. “We lost 4-3, but I know we had more hits than they did. He had this great rise ball and change-up as his two main pitches.

“From a left-hander, I never saw a rise ball move away from a right-handed batter like his,” he added. “It wasn’t logical, but he could do that. Stofflet didn’t give you good pitches to hit. He was always on the corners, and was the (Most Outstanding Pitcher) of the tournament.”

The following year, he faced another renowned pitcher in Michael White, the ISC all-time World Tournament victory leader with 70 wins (1980-2006). White was pitching for Cedar Rapids, when Younger and Walnut Products tangled with the right-hander from New Zealand.

“We beat White with Vigortone (after) beating Oklahoma City in the first game,” he said. “Then we lost to Home Savings of Aurora in 12 innings against Chris Nicholas.”

And he had a glimpse of the tourney’s Most Outstanding Pitcher – Jimmy Moore of Seattle Pay ‘n Pak that won the tournament. “He was like Stofflet, always on the corners,” Younger said.

In his long career, John Younger has played with some outstanding Missouri teams. He says St. Joe Walnut Woods and Walnut Products, along with Frontier Casino, O’Byrne Electric, and Harold’s Supermarkets stand out. But back in the 1970s and ‘80s, great teams flourished in Missouri.

“I played in my first ASA state tournament in 1972,” he said. “There were about 50 teams, and major (level) was all we had. I know some guys who never made the state tournament. It was quite a feat and goal to get there.”

St. Joseph, renowned as one of the state’s fastpitch hotbeds, has produced some legendary players. Three brothers stand out – Charles, Bobby and Leo Blakley. All are Missouri ASA Hall of Famers.

“Charlie had the greatest arm I’ve ever seen,” he said. “I remember Charlie hitting a home run in ‘81 off Chuck D’Arcy (Guanella Brothers) to win for Walnut Products.”

He also recalls the best pitching staff he ever played behind – Edmore Johnson, Roy Burlison and Bill Marler with O’Byrne Electric of Springfield.

“Seven (players) on that team became ASA All-Americans,” he said. “That pitching staff was awfully good.”

Younger also reached that coveted status when in 1995 he was a first team All-American in the ASA Masters age 45-over. But, says Brian, his dad was still a remarkable player at an age when most players have retired.

“When he was 40 he hit over .400 and played shortstop at the major level,” he said.

John Younger has many accomplishments to look back upon with pride. But family always came first. His wife Kathy loves the game as he does. She and Brian traveled with him from one ballpark to another.

In fact, Kathy’s three brothers, Steve, David and Scott Greiner were fine players. And at family get-togethers, invariably the conversation turned to fastpitch.

“But,” says John Younger, “I’m the only one still playing, and I’m the oldest.”

Major fastpitch has all but disappeared in Missouri. But yet Younger refuses to quit. And since 1988, he’s given back to the game by forming a team that has played in the St. Joseph city league, going on 25 years.

The number of teams in the league has dwindled over the years with just four this year – Younger’s, Julie Fastball; Northwest Implement; Miljavac Electric, and Herzog Fastpitch.

Younger along with Leo Blakley of Herzog, Chris Miljavac of Miljavac Electric, and Northwest Implement led by sponsor and manager Greg McQuinn, are committed to keeping the league running in these lean fastpitch times.

“We want to keep it going and give the younger players a place to play,” John Younger said. “Leo still gets out there and plays and he’s approaching 70. He’s devoted to keeping the league going. Greg is a great guy and fastpitch enthusiast. We need more people like him and Leo to keep the game going.”

Younger’s team only plays city league, but he said he might put a team together for the NAFA World Series in Topeka, KS. If not, he’ll be on hand to watch Brian, a pitcher, and the Topeka Toros compete. Regardless, he will be at the ballpark and immersed in the game he’s played for four decades.

“I still enjoy it,” he said. “I can go and watch (games) all day. I just love it.”

9 Comments so far ↓

  1. The Abells says:

    All I can say is “GREAT MAN” and still a tough out!

  2. Ross Younger says:

    My Uncle , who I enjoyed playing with for several years. Never a player I would rather see at the plate when a hit was a must…the best and most clutch hitter I ever played with including all my baseball years little league through college. I was always proud to tell others he was my uncle.

  3. Kathy Younger says:

    I am John’s wife and I wanted to thank you Otto for the article you wrote and posted. I have been married to John (46 years) longer then he has played fastpitch. He was a great athlete in a number of sports but his love for fastpitch has carried on and not in just memories he is still on the ball field contributing what he can to keep the sport alive. I believe John as helped young players respect the game. They learn how to play the game and develop the talent needed to be good at it. Fastpitch brought alot into our families life for many many years. Every team John played for included ball players families and alot of fastpitch wife’s and children. We have alot of fastpitch friends so many good people. I naturally have always been proud of John. He takes the game seriously and was a good sport on and off the field. I believe those qualities carried over to our son Brian. Coaching is John’s way of keeping interest in the game and he also does it for the sheer love of the game.

    I absolutely loved the game, it would have been hard not to.

    Thanks again Otto and take care

  4. Bob says:

    Thank you Kathy. I enjoyed talking with John and Brian. Two men of the finest quality and character, I could tell. Take care, and maybe someday we’ll all meet at the ball park.

  5. Sonny Younger says:

    Thanks for the enjoyable article
    about my brother! He has always
    amazed me with the amout of time and energy he has devoted to fastpitch softball. Our family is proud of him in many ways and grateful that we are related to him.

  6. Kevin Busby says:

    RIGHT ON – RIGHT ON – RIGHT ON! Thanks John from from us guys on Julie Fastball!

  7. Bob says:

    You are very welcome Sonny, a pleasure to meet and write about John.

  8. June Brazzell says:

    My dad, Charlie Ridpath played for Walnut Woods in the 1970’s. He pitched. Any photos or articles on him for me? I know he threw some no hitters.

  9. Bob says:

    Sorry June, I don’t have anything photos or articles on your dad. I hope that you can find the material you’re looking for. I’ll do some checking and see if I can dig anything up in old newspaper articles.

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