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Jack Mccallum
May 28, 1979
Pennsylvania Dutchman Ty Stofflet, softball pitcher extraordinary, would be famous were he not the modest Prince of the Front Porch
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May 28, 1979

This Guy Can Rise It, Drop It And Pop It At 104 Mph

Pennsylvania Dutchman Ty Stofflet, softball pitcher extraordinary, would be famous were he not the modest Prince of the Front Porch

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In the top of the 20th the Barbells' Paul Troika, a pinch runner for a teammate who had walked, scored from third on a single by—Frank Merriwell, eat your heart out—Stofflet. And in the bottom of the 20th, he completed his no-hitter by inducing three consecutive ground-ball outs. In all, he faced 61 batters, one over the minimum. Stofflet also won the three other games he pitched in the world championships, and he became the first player to be presented with both the Most Valuable Player and Most Valuable Pitcher trophies. (The tournament itself was brought to an inconclusive halt by the arrival of the monsoon season, and the U.S., Canada and New Zealand were declared tri-champions.)

Stofflet's near-perfect game evoked memories of what was undeniably the finest tournament game ever pitched. In the 1949 world championships—a bit of a misnomer, because at that time Canada and Mexico were the only non-U.S. teams in the competition—Herb Dudley of Clearwater, Fla. struck out 55 batters in a 21-inning game, still the world tournament record for whiffs. After that, Dudley grabbed a couple of hours rest and fanned 12 more in a seven-inning victory. His performance in that tournament is just one reason that Dudley is widely considered the greatest pitcher in softball history.

At 59, Dudley is still active. He tirelessly promotes fast-pitch softball and will spend hours with a stranger, imparting his encyclopedic knowledge of the game. Dudley has seen all the great pitchers—Johnny Spring, Clarence (Buck) Miller, Bill West, Harvey Sterkel, Clyde (Dizzy) Kirkendall, Al Linde, John Hunter and Harold (Shifty) Gears. To that list Dudley adds Ty Stofflet.

"I never make comparisons between pitchers of yesterday and pitchers of today," says Dudley, "because there's no way you can be accurate about it. Softball is not as strong today as it used to be, so I really can't judge whether Ty is better than Buck Miller or Bill West. But I know this: without question, he's the best in Softball today. He's got all the pitches, and he may be the finest fielding pitcher who has ever played the game. And he's got dedication. Very, very few players have that. When the pressure is on, he's at his best, and that's something you can't teach somebody. It comes from inside."

Because of Dudley's stature in softball—Stofflet holds him in awe—Stofflet can never hope to attain the status of "best ever." He will have to settle for the distinction of being the greatest of his age, perhaps the last great one, because the sport is rapidly declining. However, the claim that is frequently made that Stofflet is the best southpaw is even more secure than Dudley's claim to being the best righthander, because almost all the other great ones were righties. A few oldtimers might choose Spring over Dudley; others might pick West. But there's no lefty, not even Hunter, a member of the Softball Hall of Fame, who can equal Stofflet.

By now a lot of you are saying there's one name missing from this discussion. All this business about Stofflet and Dudley and the oldtimers just doesn't cut it. It's like the television critics praising some guy from Masterpiece Theatre, when every housewife from here to Red Bank, N.J. knows that Fonzie is the best actor in the world. And to the masses, there is only one Softball pitcher—Eddie Feigner, the crewcut, potbellied magician who barnstorms the country as the King of The King and His Court.

A brief comparison shows why Feigner is Fonzie and Stofflet the guy from Masterpiece Theatre. For one thing, almost everybody has seen, or at least read or heard about, Feigner. He made his reputation by traveling all across America. His act is equal parts bluster, theater and sport, but the fact remains that Feigner can make a softball talk. On the mound, he is Marques Haynes and Meadowlark Lemon, and he's still out there today, at age 54.

Feigner once asked Stofflet to go on tour with him, to step in on those nights when the road was too long and the arm too weary, to be, in effect, the King's vassal. Stofflet said no thank you. It wouldn't have worked out anyway, because it would be almost impossible to find two more disparate individuals than Feigner and Stofflet.

If Feigner is the King of the Road, then Stofflet is the Prince of the Front Porch. While Stofflet stumblingly avoids the question of who's No. 1, Eddie Feigner says things like, "It is a good feeling to know that I am the only one of my kind in the history of the world." Feigner not only believes he is the greatest, but also that he's the only candidate in the running.

Feigner, who never knew his father, had a Bells-of-St. Mary's boyhood in Walla Walla, Wash. Stofflet built his house in Ballietsville right next door to his father's, from whom he learned the art of softball pitching and the rudiments of ramrod-straight Pennsylvania Dutch living. Harold Stofflet and Herb Dudley occupy the only two pedestals Ty Stofflet has ever erected.

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