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Ballietsville, Pa. (population estimated at 600) is blessed with two of the best, the Ballietsville Inn and Ty Stofflet. The inn claims to serve the finest medallions of veal baloise this side of Switzerland and may be the best restaurant in its corner of the world. Tyrone Earl Stofflet, the lefthanded softball pitcher, is the best at his calling in any corner of the world. And that's not one of those Pennsylvania Dutch tall tales out of the lush valleys of Lehigh County in the eastern part of the state, where Ballietsvilleans have been planting corn and potatoes for the last 250 years. As a matter of fact, Ty Stofflet is perhaps least appreciated down home. Joseph Hartmann, owner of the Ballietsville Inn, has never even heard of Stofflet, who lives just half a mile down the road. (Likewise, Stofflet, a man of simple tastes, has never stopped in to sample Hartmann's medallions of veal, baloise or otherwise.)
No, Stofflet has earned the designation of world's best out on the proving grounds of fast-pitch softball—places like Leesport, Pa.; Aurora, Ill.; Poughkeepsie, N.Y.; Springfield, Mo.; Vancouver, British Columbia; and Auckland, New Zealand. There, Stofflet has met—and almost always beaten—the best. They know him in those places.
Stofflet, 37, is at long last ready, albeit reluctantly, to accept the designation himself. For several years now he has been advertised as "The World's Greatest Lefthanded Softball Pitcher," as if on Judgment Day the righties and lefties will be herded into different corrals. But the job of any pitcher is to get people out, something Stofflet does better than anyone else, righthanded or lefthanded.
"Over the years I've never said too much about it," he said at the end of last season. "I've never said nothing, in fact. I figured I'd let my arm do the talking. But after this year, I feel different, know what I mean? If they can't understand this year and what I've done, they don't understand nothing."
So, are you the best, Ty?
"Well, I still won't come right out and say it."
Well, do you know anyone right now in organized softball who is better?
(Hesitation.) "No, not right now."
Have you ever pitched in a game when you thought the other pitcher was better than you?