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Reminiscing about one of California’s revered fastpitch ballparks: Mayfair Park in Lakewood

Tuesday, January 17th, 2017

MAYFAIR PARK, once the home of the Lakewood Jets, played host to many of the elite men’s fastpitch teams in the country. If it could talk, oh the stories it would tell. Photo By BOB OTTO

LAKEWOOD, Calif. – For at least three decades, Mayfair Park was hallowed ground for men’s fastpitch. It ranked at the top of Southern California ball diamonds along with Joe Rodgers Field in Long Beach as two venues where the best teams in the sport battled for league and tournament supremacy.

Though long past its time in hosting men’s fastpitch games, Mayfair evokes many fond memories for the players that once played there.

“I pitched in 1976 for the Camarillo Kings. George Kinder was the manager. I wasn’t there long, but I did all of the pitching while I was there. Jackie Newman was our other pitcher, but he didn’t pitch a game. I did beat the Lakewood Jets two games on a sunny Sunday afternoon (at Mayfair) a few weeks into the season of the Western Softball Congress. Hice Stiles sat out the second game that afternoon. I think he hurt himself swinging at my change-up. I also pitched a pre-season game in Lakewood, after driving from Illinois. I got a room after midnight and was woken up early in the morning to pitch a game in Lakewood. We won about 8-3…,”

Doug Noble

“Played here many times. Once hit three home runs in a men’s fastpitch rec league here. Park is still immaculate. I live 10 minutes from it,” – Fred Hanker

“I played many, many times there. I remember a play there by Dennis Stilwell (pitcher), my teammate from Phoenix who fielded a bunt off Bobby Vandeburg’s team near third base and threw it behind his back to first to get a speedster. Saved the game. Great Yard….some good times there and some tough ones…,”
Paul Rubin

“It’s been a while since I played there. The Western Softball congress has been done for 20 years. – Mark Bennett

“I played there 1986 with Albuquerque. I’m not sure, but the (Lancaster, Calif.) Chameleons were in the tournament. I’m thinking they played out of Lakewood that year,” – Rex Giberson

“That’s Mayfair Park home of the Lakewood Jets. I played many games there and at Joe Rodgers park. Roy Burlison, The Western Softball Congress league was the toughest league I ever played in, lots of great talent in that league. And UCLA also hosted an NCAA regional there,”
Thomas C. Mclauchlin

CIF championships were held there for years…I won a couple and coached a couple,” – Tracy Compton Davis

“Tuck Bedford Jackie Newman, Pete Carlson, K.G. Fincher, Buck Brown, Jim Cheeseman, Ted Brown, Don Sarno, Art Bungee, McGinnis and several others… Las Vegas hAd the weakest pitching but strongest hitting,”

Roy Burlison

“Simon pitched and moved the team to Lakewood and kind of replaced the Jets. I came back with The King and His Court in 2000 against the Long Beach Nighthawks on Eddie’s (Feigner) birthday, Rosie Black and nine former court members played. An amazing night somewhere on tape. That was when fastball was King – Rich Hoppe

“I was fortunate to have a try out there. I was 19 years old . Greg / Brian Harper and I were in the outfield. I was in center he was in left. Fond memories. My first ISC World Tournament was in 1971 in Tulsa. I was fresh out of high school and played with La Tapatia Tamale Kings from El Paso. That was where I met legendary Red Mears, Don Sarno, etc. I closed my eyes and hit a grand slam off K.G. Fischer. I didn’t know who he was at the time. We finished second in the ISC World Tournament that year. That meant we were there all week and the rest is history. I got hooked on fastpitch softball. Great memories,” – Frank Del Toro

“Mayfair Park was our home field with Lanny Rupp and the Lakewood Jets from 1988-’94. Also the Lakewood Brewers from 1985-’87. Good times,”

Kenny Schwartz

“Very cool park. Our Arizona teams loved playing there. Note: I didn’t say winning there, but we got in a few,” – Steve Betts

Pitcher Jerry Ralfs reminisces about the good times in fastpitch

Friday, August 19th, 2016
Jerry Ralfs, one the greatest pitchers in the history of men's fastpitch was inducted into the ISC Hall of Fame in 2004. Photo By BOB OTTO

Jerry Ralfs, one the greatest pitchers in the history of men’s fastpitch was inducted into the ISC Hall of Fame in 2004. Photo By BOB OTTO

MOLINE, IL – Jerry Ralfs gazed out on the ball diamond as pitchers Sean Cleary of the Toronto Gators and New York Gremlins Andrew Kirkpatrick battled each other pitch-for-pitch in the 2017 ISC World Tournament.

Seeing their intensity, their talent, their will to win, brought back memories of the bygone days when he too was locked in intense battle with some of the games greatest teams and pitchers of the 1950s through 1995 when he finally retired.

Ralfs, an ISC Hall of Fame pitcher (2004), battled against and defeated some of the greatest pitchers ever to step on the ball diamond: There’s Dick Brubaker, Don Sarno, Art Bunge, Ralph Salazar, Ed Klecker, and perhaps the greatest of all-time – Ty Stofflet.

The two left-handers tangled several times. In 1969, Ralfs pitched Rock Island Sportshop to second place in the ISC World Tournament, and put together outstanding marks with a 5-2 record and 79 strikeouts in 47 1/3 innings.

In that tournament, he beat the defending champion Long Beach, Calif. Nitehawks twice. Both shutouts.

But his two loses? To Stofflet. But by the slightest of margins possible in the sport, both 1-0 setbacks.

But a smile comes to his face when he remembers when he did get the best of Stofflet.

“It was in 1971 in Springfield (Missouri) and we beat Stofflet,” said Ralfs, now 80 years old, but looking 15 years younger. “I even got a bloop single to win the game.”

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Former ISC Executive Director and Hall of Fame member Milton Stark passes away

Saturday, July 26th, 2014

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Eight distinguished Taft Union High School graduates were inducted into the school’s Hall of Fame Saturday night at a banquet held in the Mullen Gymnasium. From left, they are Ben McEnroe and Evelyn Dykes accepting for the late Dr. Ben Dykes (Class of 1940), John T. Howe (Class of 1953), Larry Peahl (Class of 1953), Bill Black (Class of 1943), Lee Roy Kelly (Class of 1960), Milt Stark (Class of 1950), second from right and Dick Walsh (Class of 1956). Inductee Tracy Rogers (Class of 1985) was unable to attend. They join 47 others enshrined in the Hall of Fame since its inception in 2007.

READ: Taft Union High School Hall of Fame adds eight distinguished alumni

Milton Dale Stark
April 28, 1932 – July 24, 2014

Milton Dale Stark, 82, class of 1950 died from congestive heart failure Thursday, July 24, 2014 peacefully at home in Anaheim. He was born in Fellows on April 28, 1932 to Ernest and Ruth Stark.

Milt left Taft after graduating from Taft College in 1956. He then graduated from Whittier College in 1958. He taught English and coached for 30 years at Los Altos High School in Hacienda Heights.

Through years of military, collegiate and recreational competition, Milt began to compile one of the most powerful resumes in the history of fast-pitch softball as a catcher. He was a member of the famed Long Beach Nitehawks and was an All-World catcher in 1966 and 1968.

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Long Beach Nitehawks Second Annual Fourth of July Tournament

Tuesday, November 19th, 2013

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LONG BEACH, CALIF. – Sixteen teams played in the Long Beach Nitehawks Second Annual Fourth of July Fastpitch Softball Tournament according to the Nitehawks program.

But on the printed program one very important piece of information is missing: the year.

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Irvin “Red” Meairs Dedicated Long Beach Nitehawks Man

Friday, November 15th, 2013

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The fabled Long Beach, Calif. Nitehawks won 10 International Softball Congress World Tournaments during their long run in men’s Major Division fastpitch softball. Photo illustration By BOB OTTO

“All I want of a ball club is a lot of hustle, keep the ball moving someplace, and most of all a desire to win,” said Irvin “Red” Meairs in the Nitehawks 1979 official program. “If a club has these qualities, they will win many games.”

By BOB OTTO
Originally published Sept. 24, 2001

LONG BEACH, CALIF – His devotion is legendary. His commitment 100 percent. So claim his former players and friends who know him best.

Drop the name “Red” or “Nitehawks” in Long Beach, California, and fastpitch softball old timers have instant recall. However, mention one name without the other, and those knowledgeable old timers will likely scold such rudeness.

In a career that spanned over 30 years, Irvin “Red” Meairs and the Long Beach Nitehawks men’s fastpitch softball team were linked as one. Their marriage never faltering right up until the team folded in 1988.

Devotion. Red’s strongest attribute, say Nitehawks players.

“This was his team, his players, his family,” said Bob Todd, a 15-year Nitehawks pitcher. “If you played for the Nitehawks you where part of Red and Connie’s family. Red’s devotion and love of the game and for the Nitehawk players was beyond that of anyone I ever knew.”

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Jarvis Travelers short circuit PA Power, earn a shot at three-peat

Saturday, August 18th, 2012

MIDLAND, MI – Now the question, do the Jarvis Travelers have enough left in their tank to pull off the coveted three-peat?

They will certainly get their chance after beating the Pennsylvania PA Power 5-1 in the losers bracket final of the ISC World Tournament, Saturday afternoon.

The Travelers (6-1) will meet the undefeated Hill United Chiefs (5-0) in a Saturday night game at Currie Stadium in Midland to decide the championship.

Jarvis scored single runs in the first, second and third innings to take a 3-0 lead.

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Reconnecting with “Brownie”

Tuesday, June 19th, 2012

FLORIDA – I met Craig Brown in the fall of 1973, while we were both freshmen at Mankato State University (now Minnesota State). We were in our early 20s and fastpitch fanatics. Pitching was our passion.

But Craig was much more talented than I.

His left-handed risers, drops and his great change-up far exceeded my much slower “junk pitches” from the right side. Craig went on to become one of the greatest pitchers in Minnesota fastpitch history. I challenge anyone to say he wasn’t.

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