by Ho Hoffman 28. September 2012 12:23


DALTON, GEORGIA - LIBBY'S had the “softball Gods” on their side in Dalton as the WISCONSIN team won three bracket games including the final one all by one run in taking the 2012 SPA 70 MAJOR TITLE.

“All three teams in the tournament were very evenly balanced,” LIBBY'S MIKE HANEY said,”Every game went down to the wire, it was that close.”

Libby's in their second year of 70's MAJOR COMPEITION, went 1-3 in pool play with it's only win, you guessed it a one-run 13-12 verdict over HAMEL”S CAVALIERS.

Bracket play started off with a 19-18 conquest of HAMEL's and followed with a 6-5 win over SCRAP IRON LEGACY.  LIBBY'S next found themselves at the short end of a 19-18 defeat to SCRAP IRON forcing an “IF” game for the title.

In the championship game the teams were tied in the seventh and following a triple by HANEY, OZZIE OSWALD delivered a two-out single to plate the lead run. As strange as it may sound because it being a MAJOR title game, SCRAP IRON went three-up and three-down in the bottom of the seventh as LIBBY'S took the title 10-9.

“The secret to our team is that we all get along, there are no ego trips,” HANEY said, “We have all played long enough to know when we have made a mistake, we do not need somebody else to tell us. We all accept responsibility for our mistakes and we know nobody is going to get on you about it.”

“An unusual thing teams do not know about us is although for the most part we are all from Wisconsin, two from Minnesota, the only time a lot of see each other is at a tournament,” Haney explained, “We are from all over the State not just one area of Wisconsin.”

The biggest problem for LIBBY'S this year has not been playing the games but rather finding some place to play the game.

“This was a WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP and it only had three major teams,” HANEY said, “But that’s even better than what we normally face. Usually we have to play 65's because there aren't any other MAJORS entered and the 70 AAA's don't want to play us.”

“We played in five other tournaments (COUNCIL BLUFFS, MILWAUKEE, ELGIN, OSHKOSH) and only played one other 70 MAJOR team,” HANEY said, "There just arn't that many 70 Major teams around."

BILL RUTZINSKI, found playing against 70 MAJORS an enjoyable difference, as the left center fielder batted over .800 to help earn him the tournament MVP nod. RUTZINSKI, a solid line drive hitter, had plenty of key hits and RBIs to keep innings alive helping LIBBY'S win those one-run games.

ALL-AMERICAN team representatives from the WISCONSIN team were Pitcher JACK SIMONS, who played great defense in addition to walking only two or three batters. Joining SIMONS in obtaining ALL-AMERICAN status were second baseman BARNEY SLOWEY outfielder GARY PALM and outfielder LOWELL THOMPSON. SLOWEY also received the SPA 2012 70 MAJOR MANAGER-OF-THE-YEAR AWARD,.



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by Ho Hoffman 26. September 2012 13:36


DALTON, GEORGIA – Playing the role of Don Quixote in the “Man of La Mancha” the Louisville, Kentucky ZEPPELINS “reached for the unreachable stars to reach an attainable goal”, the 2012 SPA 60AA World TITLE.

“It was our goal from DAY ONE, back in February to win the 60 AA SPA WORLD title, “ ZEPPELIN manager CHUCK HANCOCK said, “At that point we were a new 60 AA team after playing in the 55's for a few years, and we all had high expectations.”

Unfortunately for the ZEPPELIN'S that plan was put on hold after their first SPA tournament, THEE BUCKEYE CLASSIC held in BARBERTON in JUNE.

“We only went 2-5 and on the long road back home to Louisville, we started to have second thoughts about our abilities,” HANCOCK said, “WE thought maybe we aren't as good as we thought we were and our goal of winning the SPA WORLDS was really not obtainable.”

The ZEPP'S stuck with it and after winning the SPA SHELBYVILLE August tournament, they put it all together in DALTON.

Taking a 5-5 tournament record into the SPA WORLDS, the ZEPPELINS took no prisoners outscoring their opponents 130-52 over six games to win the six-team bracket.

“It was a great feeling after the final out and we were the 60 AA champions,” HANCOCK said, “All the months of playing in two Louisville Senior Leagues and the early tournaments paid off as we played the best best we had ever played all year.”

The closest anyone came to the ZEPPELINS, who had an on-base-percentage of over .700 for the tournament, was a 14-11 win over the INDY FOG.

In the championship game against the EAGLES, the ZEPP'S led only 7-5 after four innings but erupted for five runs in both the fifth and sixth inning and topped it off with fourteen runs in the seventh for a 31-16 championship game.

“What made this so special for me, “ HANCOCK said, “Some of us have been playing together since elementary school and our first team wasn't even a softball team, it was a basketball team.”

The self-sponsored team, who's name is play on words “played like a lead balloon” were not lead balloons in Dalton as all fourteen players hit at least THIRTY POINTS over their season average.

Tournament MVP AWARD went to catcher DAVE SMITH, who had an OBP of ,700 and contributed a number of key hits to keep the innings going. HANCOCK called him “the best clutch hitter for us throughout the tournament.”

ALL-AMERICAN honors went to outfielders JOHN HALL (.700), JIMMY STEED (.850), smooth fielding short stop GENO PERKINS (.700), 3b BOB VITTITOW (.750) and 65-year young first baseman BOB BLACKWELL (.800). Assistant manager pitcher GARY GAUS (6-0, .600) received the 2013 SPA 60 AA MANAGER-OF-THE-YEAR AWARD.

Rounding out the “Murderer's Row” offense were TONY SMALLWOOD (.600), KENNY LINDIG (.700), HANCOCK (.800), GARY PAWLICK (.700), RICK HEIL (.850), BILL TOWNSEND (.600) and the senior member of the team soon-to-be 70 years young CHARLIE ABELL (.800).

“When you pile up the runs and play “D” like we did you know it wasn't just six guys who were ALL-STARS, it was all fourteen guys,” HANCOCK said, “ Every player was deserving, we just tried to make certain that everyone received some type of individual award this year and we spread the honors around.”

“Everybody understands this was a team win and everybody contributed to us reaching our goal”

HANCOCK also had kind words for the DALTON TOURNAMENT and SPA in general.

“I was really impressed how nice and respectful all the teams were that we played in DALTON,” he said, “The staff of SPA has always treated us great, that includes the staff at THEE BUCKEYE CLASSIC and DWAIN LAIRD in SHELBYVILLE, as well as RIDGE and his DALTON staff. We really enjoyed playing SPA this year.”.


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About the Editor

Ho Hoffman of Wadsworth,Ohio is a sports writer for the Medina (Ohio) Gazette daily newspaper. Hoffman also has been playing competitive softball for nearly sixty years and 3,000 games starting in the adult fast pitch leagues as a teenager and continuing through into today's 70's senior division.  

Hoffman for the past twenty years has also been playing on senior softball travel teams. In addition, he along with Red Bole are the tournament directors of the highly successful SPA Ohio Buckeye Classic June senior softball tournament which last year drew 77 teams, in the 50, 55, 60, 65, 70 and 75 AA and AAA only divisions. 

He is also married. He and his wife Sue have three sons who are also active in softball and baseball. The youngest Matt plays adult slo-pitch softball, Mike plays Roy Hobbs 40-and over baseball and Marc is the founder, owner and president of U.S. Baseball Academy, the nation's largest baseball training program.


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