Jim Rubbelke

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Dutch Elbers helped drive St. Paul to fastpitch greatness

Wednesday, April 18th, 2018

Ben Maloney, left, Ed Mathias, and Dutch Elbers hold the 1963 ASA Northern Regional Tournament championship trophy.

(Sadly Dutch Elbers passed away on April 5, 2018. See obituary in which condolences and tributes are welcome)

Dutch Elbers served the International Softball Congress for over 20 years in several capacities, including the organization’s president. In 1988, he was inducted into the ISC Hall of Fame. Photo By BOB OTTO / 1995 ISC World Tournament

ST. PAUL, Minn. – Strong armed, with a lanky athletic build, Dries (Dutch) Elbers mostly likely could have stared at baseball, but fortunately for fastpitch softball, he never got the chance.

“My dad played baseball, but he steered me into softball,” said Elbers. “I have never played a game of baseball in my life.”

Elbers, who grew up in Steen in southwestern Minnesota, began playing fastpitch in the 4-H League in 1945 as a 15-year-old. It wasn’t long, though, that he graduated from the boys’ league into the Steen men’s league.

Steen might have been small in numbers with its 185 citizens, but they and the farm families surrounding the little village located 25 miles east of Sioux Falls, kept the six team-league healthy with numbers and talent.

“As kids, we wanted to get a uniform and play with the big boys,” Elbers said. Soon enough Elbers would be playing with the ‘big boys’ of fastpitch – worldwide.

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Al DeWall the greatest pitcher of Minnesota’s Golden Age

Friday, January 6th, 2017

ST. PAUL ALL-AMERICAN BAR won the 1976 ISC World Tournament with pitcher Al DeWall leading the way with five victories. DeWall, pictured in the last row, third from left, was selected the tournament’s Most Valuable Pitcher. Courtesy Photo

ST. PAUL, Minn. – The decades of the 1950s through the 1980s are considered the Golden Age of Minnesota men’s Fastpitch.

The Golden Age saw many outstanding teams rise to power such as St. Paul’s Belmont Club, New Bar and Clover Club, Mankato Happy Chef, St. James James Gang, Duluth and Scandia.

But none rose to power like St. Paul’s Whitaker Buick (1962 – 1973) and All-American Bar (1976 – 1986). Basically the same roster, just a change of sponsorship.

Between the two teams they appeared in 14 ISC World Tournaments and several ASA Major National Tournaments. In 1976 All-American Bar won the world tournament, beating the Lakewood, Calif. Jets twice, 5-2 and 6-0, to take the title.

    STARS A PLENTY

“It was unbelievable playing for Whitaker Buick,” said Mike Payton, the team’s centerfielder in the 1960s and 70s. “Back then you didn’t play a qualifier and go to the nationals like now. You had to win six or seven games (state and regional playoffs) and it was single elimination.”

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St. Paul fastpitch great Jim Rubbelke looks back on the good times

Wednesday, March 26th, 2014

“During warm ups, the umpire gave DeWall the ball. It was a DeBeer day ball. It was like handing Al an ice-cold beer. You knew he was going to have a good night.” – St. Paul manager Jim Rubbelke on Al DeWall pitching against the Long Beach Nitehawks in the opening game of the 1976 ISC World Tournament.

ST. PAUL, Minn. – A smile spreads across Jim Rubbelke’s face when he looks back upon his years in the fastpitch game.

Now, 63, and retired from fastpitch since 1990, Rubbelke’s received some of the highest honors in the sport: He managed for 19 years, and led a team to an ISC World Championship in 1976. He played for 13 years and was an ASA All American.

He’s a member of the St. Paul and Minnesota Softball Hall of Fames. And he’s about to enter another.

In August he joins the greatest of the greats when he gets inducted into the International Softball Congress Hall of Fame during the 2003 ISC World Tournament in Kimberly, Wisconsin. Rubbelke recently agreed to a Question and Answer session looking back upon his 32-years in fastpitch softball.

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Jim Rubbelke put Minnesota on the fastpitch map

Thursday, March 25th, 2010


St. Paul All American Bar entered the 1976 ISC World Tournament in Long Beach, Calif. for the very first time, and won the only World Tournament in Minnesota men’s fastpitch history with a double-knockout of the Lakewood, Calif. Jets. But if not for manager, Jim Rubbelke, it never would have happened. Rubbelke pictured third from right, second row in St. Paul team photo.

“We came ready to play for Jim. We were dedicated to him, reluctant to let him down…” – Jerry O’Conner, 1976 ISC World Tournament Most Valuable Player

By BOB OTTO
First printed July 3, 2003
botto3@verizon.net

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ST. PAUL, MN – For Jim Rubbelke the memory remains crystal clear. Shiny new Buicks lined up with ball players behind the wheel ready to begin another long distance softball road trip.

From St. Paul the motorcade wound its way to the softball diamonds of the Clearwater, Florida Bombers, Aurora, Illinois Sealmasters, and ASA National Tournaments.

Those memorable road trips ended 40-some years a go. But August of 2003, Rubbelke made one final road trip – right into the International Softball Congress Hall of Fame in Kimberly, Wisconsin, where he took his place among the greatest in men’s fastpitch softball history.

The 71-year-old Rubbelke along with Johnny Appell, Bill Boyer, and Mark Smith, comprised the 2003 class of ISC Hall of Famers. Rubbelke was inducted in the Managers category. In the 63-year history of the ISC, only 12 managers have been so honored.

TWO-CAREER MAN

Rubbelke really has two chapters in his 32-year fastpitch career. In chapter one (1957-1970), he played the hardnosed third baseman and lead off batter. His St. Paul clubs included the Clover Softball Club, 7-Up Softball Club, and Whitaker Buick.

In 1964 he was lured away by the Raybestos Cardinals of Stratford, Conn. where he spent the next four years earning ASA All American honors.

“He could run like a deer, good bunter, good defense,” said Mike Payton who played with and for Rubbelke from 1961 to 1975. “He had amazing power for a little guy. He would bunt and run during the season, but somehow he hit the long ball in the (ASA Regional Playoffs). There was seldom a regional where he didn’t hit a home run.”

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