Ty Stofflet versus Kevin Herlihy in “The Game” at the 1976 ISF World Championship

Written by Bob on March 7th, 2013

Ty Stofflet.1web
Ty Stofflet, hurled a 20-inning game in which he beat New Zealand’s great Kevin Herlihy in the 1976 ISF World Championship. An encounter remembered for all time as “The Game.”

AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND – It’s been called “The Game” and the greatest pitching duel in the history of the International Softball Federation (ISF) World Championship.

The principals in the circle: Ty Stofflet of the Rising Sun Hotel representing the USA, and Kevin Herlihy pitching for the New Zealand National Team. The two great pitchers hooked up in a pitchers’ marathon in the 1976 ISF World Championship in Lower Hutt, New Zealand.

Many of the 8,000 fans that witnessed The Game, consider it the greatest fastpitch game and pitching classic of all time.

It was a marathon that went 20 innings and lasted four hours and 20 minutes. It was a game in which both pitchers were considered the best in the world from their respective sides – Stofflet the lefty, Herlihy the righty.

In the history of the ISF that started in 1966, it is without question the greatest game ever pitched on the world stage. And when all said and done, Stofflet drove in the winning run.

Stofflet hit a two-out, run scoring single in the top of the 20th to give USA a 1-0 victory.

Though he lost, Herlihy, who died in 2006, was quoted as saying:

“The fact that I was able to play against a guy as great as Ty made it that much more memorable…it is the one game that I will remember more than any other. It had been billed as the best left-hander in the world versus the best right-hander at the time…”

herlihy,kevin.web Kevin Herlihy, perhaps the greatest right-handed pitcher of all-time.

Herlihy allowed but five hits and struck out 20. But of those five hits, Stofflet claimed two. But it’s his pitching that’s made him legendary.

With his explosive riser and drop, and knee-buckling changeup – along with speeds that reportedly reached 100 mph or more – Stofflet retired the first 56 Kiwis before the No. 57 batter, Basil McLean, was hit by a pitch that ended Stofflet’s perfect game at 18 2/3 innings.

Carl Solarek, catching Stofflet, reportedly said that he felt McLean “leaned into the pitch. He turned into it, a change-up, and it was a natural reaction.”

Solarek, who was inducted into the ASA Hall of Fame in 2011, added that Stofflet got stronger each inning. “You could see it in his eyes. I have never caught a game that long, that perfect.”

After his game-winning hit, Stofflet retired New Zealand in order in the bottom half of the inning and finished with 32 strikeouts. Age 34 at the time, he said “The Game” was his greatest ever.

Ty Stofflet had it all working in The Game.

“That day I had command of all my pitches…everything worked like a dream. Everything went the way it was supposed to go. I was still strong at the end.”

For Stofflet, it was the only World Championship in which he would play. He was selected for the 1980 USA Team, but had to decline because of an injury. He was since inducted into three Hall of Fames: The ISF, the International Softball Congress, and the Amateur Softball Association.

Herlihy, though, represented his country five times in the World Championship, winning 20 games. But it’s that one game against Stofflet that elevated his status worldwide. And had top club teams clambering for him to come pitch in the United States, which he did, winning several national titles.

“I believe that one game more than any other set up my reputation as one of the world’s best pitchers,” he reportedly said. Herlihy too is a Hall of Famer: The New Zealand Hall of Fame, the ISF, and the ISC. And he was awarded New Zealand’s “Softball Player of the Year” three times.

In the 1976 World Championship, Rising Sun advanced to the championship game by beating Canada in the semi-finals. The Canadians and New Zealand would then battle for the right to meet the Americans for the Gold Medal. But that didn’t come to pass as monsoon weather forced the cancellation of the tournament.

USA, Canada and New Zealand were declared tri-champions.

Stofflet was awarded both the Most Valuable Pitcher and Most Valuable Player honors. In 59 innings, he finished with a 4-2 record, 0.00 ERA (4 runs, none earned), walked only four, and struck out 98 of the world’s best batters. And he had three game-winning hits in the eighth, 12th and 20th innings for a .375 batting average.

Stofflet’s 98 strikeouts fell one short of Herlihy’s mark of 99 set in 1972. Herlihy also pitched a perfect game in 1984 event, and earned four medals in over 30 games played.

Lefty and the righty would meet five times in their careers. In their first encounter after “The Game,” Herlihy, pitching for the Saginaw Bolters (Mich), beat Stofflet 1-0 in 14 innings.

“…within each and every game there was a second duel taking place between the two of us,” Herlihy reportedly said, “all stemming from that first and most fantastic game of them all in 1976 in Lower Hutt (NZ).”

santilli.rocky Rocco “Rocky” Santilli, ISF Hall of Famer, and USA manager.

Rising Sun and USA manager Rocky Santilli said this of “The Game.”

“What can you say about a game like this? It comes around once every 50 to 100 years. Under the circumstances (playing in a World Championship with two of the game’s best pitchers), you had to wonder if it was ever going to end…neither (pitcher) slowed up. They just kept going and going.”

Please visit the following sources for more information:
ISF Softball
ISC Hall of Fame
USA Softball
Amazon: Softball’s Lefty Legend

2 Comments so far ↓

  1. Rex Giberson says:

    Batted off Ty and Kevin many times, Definately two of the all time bests. Anyone who ever played and stood in the batters box,should of had that thrill.Those were the days

  2. Bob says:

    That definitely would be a thrill Rex batting against two great fastpitch legends of all-time. And they certainly were the days. Fortunately for me, I got to see Stofflet and Herlihy both pitch. Sure wish I’d been into photography back then.

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