- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
- TAMPA BAY buccaneersENEMY lines WHAT A RIVAL COACH SAYSJune 28, 2012
- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
"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.
The old "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.
"I can 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."
Stofflet worked 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 contemptuous silence.