Ty Stofflet

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Reliving Memories of one of fastpitch softball’s greatest pitchers

Monday, May 15th, 2017

WITH THE GREATEST OF EASE
Roy Burlison of the St. Louis Browns flies through the air before delivering a pitch to the plate in last night’s (June 16, 1973) professional softball game at Koch Park. Burlison tossed his third straight shutout, whipping the Philadelphia Patriots, 8-0. St. Louis Post-Dispatch Photo By W. Thomas Stewart

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. –Roy Burlison was one of the greatest fastpitch pitchers the sport has ever known. When his 27-year playing career came to an end in 1992, he had won over 770 games against the best teams in the world.

In 1997 he was inducted into the Amateur Softball Association Hall of Fame for an arm’s length of accomplishments: nine times competing in the ASA national tournament; twice selected Most Valuable Pitcher, and twice leading his teams to runner-up in the national championship.

Burlison was also renowned as a coach, teaching hundreds of girls how to play the game the right way. But sadly on May 11, Burlison, 71, passed away (see Roller Homes obituary).

His fastpitch legacy will live on, however, in the girls he coached, and with the players he both played with and against in his long and distinguished career.

Let’s relive some of Burlison’s prowess with a stroll down memory lane…

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ASA Meet May Top the World

Sunday, February 12th, 2017

TY STOFFLET pitched for several national championship teams, including 1979 York (Pa.) Barbells. Photo By BOB OTTO / 1991 ASA Masters National Championship

By Bob McGinn / Green Bay Press-Gazette
Aug. 14, 1979

GREEN BAY, Wisc. – The ISC World Tournament. The fastpitch softball faithful in the Fox Valley speak of it in almost reverential tones.

It conjures up images, always, of a week or two on the West Coast, in places like Sun City, Ariz., Long Beach, or even Bakersfield, Calif., where this summer’s version of the International Softball Congress’s national tournament is scheduled to begin Friday.

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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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Those Were The Days: Rex Giberson shares memories of a great bygone era of men’s fastpitch

Thursday, July 31st, 2014

HOUSTON, Tex. – For those who may doubt that fastpitch softball can take a ball player to far places and great heights, Rex Giberson would beg to differ.

Giberson started playing as a teenager in the Lancaster, Pennsylvania Men’s League and went on to enjoy a 29-year career playing in the United States, Canada and New Zealand.

But it was that inauguration in the Lancaster league that jettisoned him on his way.

“I started playing at 15 in (that) tough Lancaster League,” he said. “Many considered it the best league on the East Coast.”

    STRING OF CHAMPIONSHIPS

In 1976, 1980 and 1981, two of the league teams won ASA Class “A” national championships. Millersville, Penn. won the first one, with SH Good taking the last two.

Those times were some of the fondest of his career.

“We went undefeated to win the national tourney in Hamilton, Ohio (1976),” said Giberson. “In 1980 with SH Good we beat Jimmy Moore (ISC Hall of Fame pitcher.) in the finals. Jim, as you know, went on to be one of the all-time greats with Seattle Pay ‘N Pak.”

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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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Wrapping up the 2013 California Classic Men’s Fastpitch Tournament

Tuesday, July 2nd, 2013

SANTEE, CA – If you’re a men’s fastpitch fan living in southern California, there’s not much in the way of top-flight tournaments to watch. Except the California Classic. It’s the only big-time tourney being offered south of Santa Barbara where Clyde Bennett hosts the Best of The West.

Now concluding its fourth consecutive year, the Classic offers good competition. This year the Sooke Loggers of British Columbia, CA stopped the California A’s from claiming its fourth consecutive title with a 9-6 victory on Sunday.

Some thought California was heavily favored. That the A’s – loaded with international stars – were a superior team. Especially with Argentine and ISC All-World pitcher Lucas Mata toeing the rubber.

Schellenberg.Kevin.CalifA's.430web Shortstop Kevin Schellenberg is one of several international stars who play for the California A’s. He’s been a member of Team Canada that finished fifth in the 2013 ISF World Championships.

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

Thursday, 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.

PITCHER WHO CAN HIT
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.

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New Zealand softball great on hand to watch classic

Tuesday, March 5th, 2013

“The batting has certainly come a long way, and it’s fair to say the pitching has gone back,” said the former first baseman who was also an elite coach.” – Dave Sorenson

By TONY SMITH / Stuff.co.nz

AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND – Dave Sorenson played in one of the greatest games in New Zealand softball and witnessed another this week. And the contrast couldn’t have been starker.

Sorenson and fellow teammates from New Zealand’s first gold medal squad were honoured in an on-diamond parade before the dramatic batting fireworks in the Black Sox’ loss to Canada at Albany on Monday night.

The Hutt Valley stalwart captained New Zealand in 1976 and featured in a 20-inning marathon match against the United States, a veritable pitching clinic between the world’s two premier practitioners – New Zealand’s right-hander Kevin Herlihy and American southpaw Ty Stofflet.

It was, quite possibly, the greatest personal duel within a team sport context in New Zealand sporting history.

Both men threw all 20 innings, with Stofflet striking out and dismissing 56 consecutive batters. Only one Kiwi made base – after he was hit by a pitch.

Herlihy gave up a handful of hits, including one to Stofflet, who drove in the winning run in the 20th inning.

Oh how times have changed at the ball yard.

The Black Sox-Canada clash was a classic for entirely different reasons. The slugfest featured 26 hits – 17 to the Canadians and nine by the Kiwis – and five automatic home runs.

Stofflet and Herlihy hurled close to three regulation seven innings games in one encounter. There was no question of bringing on reinforcements to relieve tiring arms.

The Black Sox and Canada used four pitchers each in eight innings on Monday.

Sorenson said the game, won by 9-7 by Canada, showed how much softball had changed since ’76.

“The batting has certainly come a long way, and it’s fair to say the pitching has gone back,” said the former first baseman who was also an elite coach.

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Hitting a high-velocity fastpitch softball; a skill only the great ones possess.

Monday, March 4th, 2013

Abbott.Colin.98 ISCwt
Colin Abbott, three-time ISC World Tournament Most Valuable Player, one of the all-time great fastball hitters.

By BOB OTTO / www.ottoinfocus.com

AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND – I studied Canadian Brad Ezekiel and Ryan Wolfe. I leaned in closer to my computer screen, zoning in on New Zealand’s Rhys Casley, Donny Hale and Brad Rona.

How do they do it?

How do they hit a softball speeding toward home plate at 80-plus miles per hour from 46 feet away from a pitcher that can make the yellow sphere dive and dance and soar like a Hummingbird on steroids?

And then with the cruel nature of a sadist, the pitcher changes speeds. It’s as if the ball is attached to a string and our righty or lefty (prankster) yanks it back just when the batter starts to swing. Like Lucy pulling the football away from hapless Charlie Brown just as he’s about to kick it.

What special athletic gifts have been bestowed upon fastball’s great hitters, enabling them to hit the riser, the drop, the curve, and the change-up with such proficiency?

MEREDITH, A LASTING IMPRESSION
I remember in 1986 standing behind a backstop watching Kiwi Peter Meredith throw a softball harder than ANY ball I had ever seen thrown. I stood in awe of Meredith’s amazing talent.

Meredith.USA.2
ISC Hall of Fame pitcher, Peter Meredith, who once pitched for TEAM USA.

I wondered: “how can anyone possibly hit his pitches?”

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Hardnosed Mike Smith, NAFA Hall of Famer and 20th Year Anniversary selection

Wednesday, July 25th, 2012

“…He’s an absolute fighter.” – Matt Dailey

ALLENTOWN, PA – He’s been called tough and hardnosed. The kind of guy every ball club needs: determined, driven. A winner.

That sums up Mike Smith.

“He’s a grinder,” says Mike “Kusy” Kusmuk, who teamed with Smith for several years on D.C. Tire and the Reading (PA) Sunners.

“He’s a tremendous competitor who plays to win, and he’s hardnosed.”

Kusy remembers just how tough Smith can be. It was in an Allentown tournament when they first met over 25 years a go. Kusy’s team against Smith’s team. Kusy’s swinging a hot bat and goes 2 for 3 off Smith.

And Smith didn’t much like it.

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