REBOUND FROM LOSER'S BRACKET TO WIN 70 AA CROWN
DALTON, GEORGIA - The CHICAGO GRAY SOX made their first appearance as a 70's team in the SPA WORLDS a memorable one by winning the 70 AA TITLE at DALTON, GEORGIA'S HERITAGE POINT PARK SEPTEMBER 4-7.
“This wasn't just our first time winning the SPA WORLDS as a 70's team,” MANAGER MIKE FOSTER said. ”This was also our first ever SPA WORLD title at any age level.”
The GRAY SOX, who still have eleven players (CHARLIE BYRUM, RICHIE DOUGLAS, JACK FELVER, FOSTER, GARY HEIFNER, ROY IVERSON, KENNY KIRK, ROGER LENART, WAYNE MARKETT, JERRY SANTERELLI and GARY STONE) from the original 2003 team, had to really work to win the championship.
They started out fine winning both pool games against LEIDEN'S LEGENDS (24-10), DAYTON LEGENDS (20-16), and their first bracket game 11-4 against LEIDEN’S again. But an 18-12 loss to DAYTON in the second round ushered the GRAY SOX into the dreaded losers' bracket.
“We were surprised how strong the 70 AA competition was,” FOSTER said. “Nobody was able to run away with the title and every team was capable of winning it all.”
After catching their second wind, The GRAY SOX knocked off the INDIANAPOLIS CLASSICS (13-10) and then forced an “IF” game with DAYTON by escaping with a 10-9 win.
“That was a close one,” FOSTER said. “Our defense was the difference.
” The GRAY SOX had everything working in the title game beating the OHIO team 20-11 for the championship.
“We were really tired after that championship game,” FOSTER said. “It was our fourth game of the day (11:00,12:30, 2:00, 3:30) and third against DAYTON. We were really worried about them coming into the tournament because they handled us pretty well at SYLVANIA, OHIO.”
FOSTER said the biggest key to them winning the tournament was the entire roster.
“We play everyone on the roster and rotate them not only every game but even every few innings,” he explained. “It keeps everyone fresh and makes a huge difference, especially at age 70. We don't lose anything with the changes because most of us are about even in playing ability.”
One player, who did not rotate much was tournament MVP JIM DUCHARME, who led the team in hitting.
Joining DUCHARME on the ALL-AMERICAN team were DOUGLAS, IVERSON, STONE, JACK ZUZAK and JIM MANNING.
Others on the team are: EDDIE ACCOMANDO, ROGER LENART, JACK WATKINS, EDDIE DUNN and JIM HANDLEY.
KIRK Received the SPA 70 AA MANAGE-OF-THE-YEAR AWARD. KIRK, who has been the third base coach and assistant manager all year, ran the team in DALTON.
In addition to the large travel team roster, the GRAY SOX also have a faithful fan base which accompanies them. Serving as cheerleaders, social planners and “nurses” to the team are BARB DOUGLES, CONNIE DUCHARME, RONI WIDRI, KATHLEEN DUNN, BONNIE BYRUM, DIANNE FOSTER, and LINDA HEIFNER
. “The wives have been a great support group to us at all of our tournaments and we really appreciate them,” FOSTER said.
Even though the team is self sponsored, they do attend a lot of tournaments.
“DALTON was our EIGHTH this year and the only we one we won,” FOSTER said. “We usually try to attend 10 or 11 each year, with most being around our area.”
Comparing the SPA WORLDS to others the GRAY SOX have played, FOSTER had this to say,
“The SPA WORLDS are great. It is a tremendous facility, the umpires are outstanding and the competition is excellent.", the manager said, " The OPENING CEREMONIES and the WIVES BREAKFAST are just fantastic. No other organization has anything like that. RIDGE (HOOKS) and SPA really do a great job with their WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP. We certainly look forward to attending it again.”