E.M. Swift's article on the Rocky Mount (N.C.) Pines, the "worst team in organized ball" (It's Been Some Rocky Year, Sept. 1), brought back memories of the summer of 1958, when I played for one of the losingest teams (39-86-1) in professional baseball—the Aberdeen (S. Dak.) Pheasants of the Class C Northern League. The Pheasants played in snow, tornadoes and stifling heat. They nearly went 0 for May—losing 27 of 28 in one stretch.
In spite of our failures, the fans supported us, and one evening after a particularly valiant loss they took up a collection in the stands and sent us two cases of Grain Belt beer to soothe our ruffled feathers. A local cartoonist acknowledged our plight by creating a character called Philbert the Pheasant for the local daily. We would fight over the paper each night to see what new ways he had found to show the wounds on Philbert's battered body.
The manager, Barney Lutz, who was a real old pro, left us at about the 20-loss mark. The new manager, Billy DeMars, who's the Phillies' third-base coach now, was able to break the streak. Other alumni of that team were Bo Belinsky and Steve Barber; when Bo threw his no-hitter in happier times, it was against Steve.
Before reading your article I had always felt that being fired as a pitcher for the Dublin (Ga.) Orioles by Earl Weaver was the highlight of my baseball career. Now I can proudly say that it was being a member of the '58 Aberdeen Pheasants.
ALLIE L. MALAVASE
Congratulations to Bill Colson for a heck of an article on slo-pitch softball (Teams That Go Bump in the Night, Sept. 1). He perfectly described the greatest play in the sport—the home run or bump—as it is performed by the greatest bumping team, Jerry's Caterers.
I'd like to toot my own horn by saying I batted .843 with an Edina, Minn. Classic League slo-pitch team representing Archie's Bunker, a Minneapolis bar. My teammates include ex-NHLer Bill Nyrop, Rick Chartraw of the Canadiens, Ron Zanussi of the North Stars, pro wrestler Steve Olsonoski, former National Leaguer Paul Siebert and Minnesota Gopher stars P.W., Ho, Huffy and John Holme.
Our team has been to the state tournament four out of the last five years. Hats off to Jerry's, but Archie's can bump with the best.
Bill Colson's article unfortunately gives national attention to the worst aspects of "amateur" slo-pitch softball. He glosses over the obvious point, namely that there are two types of softball teams in any community: those composed of friends who get together to compete, using whatever skills they have, and those that recruit all-stars, who have nothing in common with their teammates other than their .600 batting averages and their 40-inch waistlines. The former combine modest athletic ability and considerable camaraderie; the latter provide four home runs per inning (that's "action and drama"?) and friendships that fade when "bump" production slumps.
I'll take true amateur softball any day—no contracts, no free rents, no big-dollar sponsors. I wouldn't go across town to see a bunch of meats play, especially knowing they're getting money for it!
I fail to see the action or drama in watching a procession of 250-pound fatsos lumber around the bases after clobbering a pitch any Little Leaguer could have hit. As to Bill Colson's contention that fast-pitch softball is practically extinct, the thousands of fast-pitch teams across the nation refute that remark. I played 112 games this year, and I know that as long as the better young athletes in our area continue to accept the more challenging game of fast-pitch, we won't become an endangered species.