"Now the thing
is that you get offered jobs. Last night alone I had two calls. I've probably
had, oh, 50 offers over the years. Office work, know what I mean? You wouldn't
do nothing, of course, just sit around all day. Sure, a lot of ballplayers have
moved around to take a better job with a certain company. There's nothing
illegal about it. But it's not for me. Sure, they're going to give you more
money. But how many more years before your arm gives out and they don't want
you then, know what I mean? Nope, I've got security, a wife and three kids. I
ain't going nowhere now."
A home. Wife.
Children. Security. They were the lessons of Stofflet's youth. They are the
lessons the Pennsylvania Dutch have been teaching since they emigrated to the
Lehigh Valley from the German Palatinate in the early 18th century to escape
high taxes and religious persecution. They were known more logically then as
the Pennsylvania Germans, but three splinter groups evolved because of
religious differences. The stricter Amish and Mennonites moved 100 miles west
to the vicinity of Lancaster, while the Pennsylvania Dutch, whose language
evolved into a distinctive mishmash of English and German, remained in
settlements throughout the Lehigh Valley. The Amish and Mennonite societies
remain closed and almost totally agrarian; the children are educated at home.
But the strict old customs are dying because the most recent Amish and
Mennonite generations have balked at staying down on the farm. In fact, some
older Amish people have begun emigrating to smaller farms in Canada and Ohio,
because they can no longer get their children to work the more sizable ones
they had in Pennsylvania.
The tradition of
which Stofflet is a part is not going through the same cultural shock. Long
ago, the Pennsylvania Dutch more or less melded into the mainstream. You can't
ride through Ballietsville and "see" the Pennsylvania Dutch, as you can
still ride through Lancaster and "see" the Amish and Mennonites
trudging along beside their horse-drawn black carriages. The Pennsylvania Dutch
were less austere, more open; surely no Amish mother would've named her son
after Tyrone Power as Melba Stofflet did.
But there is still
an undeniable Pennsylvania Dutch sensibility. They are, first of all, frugal
people. And they are reticent with strangers. This is not to say withdrawn,
because Stofflet treasures the Most Popular Player award he received at the
1966 state tournament. He is always approachable at the ball park. But when you
enter his home, he and his wife, Kathryn, don't roll out the red carpet. You
feel like an intruder until, ever so slowly, the conversation opens up. And he
doesn't appear to care at all about publicity; a reporter at the door is of no
more consequence than the paper boy.
"mishmash" speech pattern is still discernible in Stofflet's talk, but
it's less evident in that of his children. The Pennsylvania Dutch employ many
figures of speech that seem redundant in English, and Stofflet's use of
"know what I mean" is so compulsive that it seems as much a part of his
sentence structure as the subject and the verb. Another characteristic of
Pennsylvania Dutch speech is the absence of the sound "ow." Stofflet
forever talks of his strikeauts.
At least through
Stofflet's generation, the Pennsylvania Dutch have centered their life around
the home and church. The fact that Stofflet built his house next door to his
father's is the modern counterpart of an old Pennsylvania German custom; in
Lancaster, you know how many married sons an Amish man has by the number of
additions built on his house. In this kind of hearthstone society, it was
natural that young Ty followed his father into softball pitching.
remember sitting there, when I was maybe 10 or 11, and what I noticed was how
the team depended on my father," he says. "It stuck with me. I said
then that I wanted to be like him, know what I mean?"
He wasn't at
first. "The first game I pitched I walked like 17 guys. I really had bad
control, but I was gifted in other ways. I had the movements down right away,
natural. It takes most pitchers a lot of time just to learn them, but I had it.
And I was fast right from the start. I could blow it by people."
hard, and when he got his control down, he began pitching for the Allentown
Patriots. He was 19. The Patriots won six consecutive state championships with
Stofflet on the mound and qualified for the ISC nationals every one of those
years. "The best I could do was bring them in second," says Stofflet,
who has no false modesty about his value to a team.
By 1968 he felt he
had outgrown the Patriots and went to play for Sal's Lunch in Philadelphia, a
move that did little for Stofflet's hometown popularity. That jump nine years
ago is the reason many locals refuse to acknowledge Stofflet's greatness. When
he comes to pitch in tournaments and exhibitions in Allen-town, there is