INTER-CHURCH SLOW PITCH SOFTBALL LEAGUE HISTORY
by David P. Henry
While serving in the military, I played softball for the Highlands Baptist Church in Sacramento, California in the summer of 1973. I returned home that fall and in the spring of 1974, I related this experience to my Pastor, John Goodhart. I asked him if he thought it would be a good idea for First Central Baptist to get a team together. He agreed and supported me. I called the Springfield YMCA and they gave me the phone number of the director of the only church league in the area. I called the director and said First Central had a team and was interested in joining. He was more than glad to have us, but wanted to let me know that this was a fast pitch league. I didn’t understand the difference between slow pitch & fast pitch, having played only the one season of slow pitch softball in California, so I signed First Central up since this was the only church league in the area.
First Central started practices and one of our players was one of the few active duty military still at Westover. He brought along one of his co-workers who was a pitcher for the Air Force’s Pacific Fast Pitch Championship Team. He was a great pitcher, and because no one else knew how to fast pitch, he became part of our team.
First Central was beating every team in the league and it was because we had such a good pitcher. Our pitcher was gradually bringing other good fast pitch players from the base. Then one night we played St. Mary’s. Their pitcher was the first pitcher we had seen who could pitch as well as ours. Our team at this point in the season was about 80% Westover and we quickly beat St. Mary’s by a very low score. The umpire congratulated me after the game and said, “Any team that can beat Erwin “Marbles” Midura, the best pitcher in Western Mass and Milton Bradley’s #1 team the way you did, should be able to take the state title”. I said, “You must be mistaken. According to the schedule, this is St. Mary’s”. He replied, “Oh, they just used that name to get in the league”. This, along with First Central church members getting little or no playing time, made me realize that this was not what I was thinking of when I first put a team together. While trying to keep hold of the reins of the team, I expressed my views about how the team was being run. Before I knew it the Westover players quit and First Central went on to lose the rest of the scheduled games.
I was back talking to Pastor John Goodhart, in the spring of 1975, about starting a real church league that met the goals of having fun and fellowship like I did in California. He encouraged me again and I went to the Springfield Parks & Recreation to see about getting some fields. At the park & rec’s office, I was told that fields were hard to come by because of the many men, women, children, and co-ed leagues. Even the Jamaican people were looking for fields for cricket leagues.
I was told it would be a long wait before I could get any fields. As I stood listening in front of this desk, a worker at a nearby desk was hanging up his phone and told the person I was talking to that the Church Fast Pitch League was folding due to lack of interest. The person whom I was talking to then looked at me and said” Congratulations! The Church League is the oldest league in the city in some form or another. You are now the new director”. I then went back to Pastor Goodhart and told him what had happened. He gave me the names of some churches that he thought might be good for this league. Finally the Inter-Church Slow Pitch Softball was off and running with the following eight churches: Bethany Assembly of God, Bethlehem Baptist, Beulah Baptist, Blessed Hope Advent Christian, Church in the Acres, First Central Baptist, First Congregational &, Union Congregational Church.
1976 – Church of the Nazarene joins league replacing Blessed Hope Advent Christian.
1977 – Blessed Hope Advent Christian rejoins league along with First Pentecostal.
1978 – Foster Memorial joins league replacing First Congregational.
1980 – Board of Directors is established to assist League Director with decisions and problems that occur.
1981 – Beulah Baptist and Church of the Nazarene merge, as they both were having a rough time fielding a team, bringing league to nine teams.
1982 – Beulah Baptist and Church of the Nazarene remain merged and Trinity enters the league to bring it back up to ten teams. First Pentecostal’s name changed to Christian Life Center.
1983 – Beulah Baptist drops from the league and Church of the Nazarene goes back on their own. Blessed Hope Advent Christian also drops and is replaced by Tabernacle Baptist.
1985 – Bethany Assembly builds two softball diamonds and is allowed to have two teams. Evangelical Covenant Church comes into the league bringing it up to twelve teams.
1986 – First all-star game is held on July19th.
On September 28th, James T. Vedovelli dies at the age of 49. He coached the Union team since the start of the league and helped the league in many ways, for example, going to Park Department meetings for the League Director.
1987 – League votes to name Championship Trophy in memory of James T. Vedovelli.
1990 – November 28th, Maurice P. Disley, coach of Christian Life Center, dies at age 49.
1991 – Enfield Assembly joins league and Bethany Assembly goes to three teams bringing the league to fourteen teams.
1992 – Faith Bible Church replaces Evangelical Covenant Church.
1993 – Heritage Baptist and First Baptist East Longmeadow join the league. Tabernacle Baptist goes to two teams bringing the league up to seventeen teams.
1994 – Somers Baptist, Granby Pentecostal, Westfield Evangelical Free and Upper Room Christian Assembly enter the league. Bethany Assembly goes to one team bringing the league to twenty teams.
1995 – Enfield Assembly’s name is changed to Church of Redemption.
1996 – Richard W. Lidwin dies on January 17th at the age of 54. He coached and pitched for Bethlehem Baptist since the start of the league. He was also a great help to the league as he served on the Board of Directors and had many good thoughts and ideas.
On March 5th, at the first meeting of the 1996 season, the Board of Directors voted to name the annual All-Star game after Rick. It was also brought to the league’s attention that the widow was left with a financial need. Each team volunteered to donate money to be given at the All-Star game. A check for a little over $3,000.00 was presented to Mrs. Lidwin.
Faith Bible and Granby Pentecostal drop from league. Evangel enters league and Bethany Assembly goes to two teams.
League Director, David Henry, starts Bi-weekly newsletter.
1997 – Greater Grace of Pioneer Valley replaces Upper Room Christian Assembly.
1998 – Tabernacle goes to one team and Templo Bautista enters the league. Somers Baptist drops and is replaced by Christ Presbyterian. Greater Grace drops and the league goes with 19 teams.
1999 – Crossroads Christian enters the league bringing it back up to 20 teams. Blessed Hope drops out and is replaced by First Congregational of East Longmeadow.
2000 – Church of the Nazarene and Evangel drop out. Second Spanish Christian Church and Springfield Church of Christ replaces them. The League splits into two divisions.
2001 – Crossroads Christian and Templo Bautista drop out bringing the league to eighteen teams. Eight in the National and ten in the American.
2002 – Second Spanish name changed to Koinonia. Greater Grace returns to the league along with Enfield Community and Fuente de Saluacion bringing the league to twenty-one teams. Ten in the National and eleven in the American.
2003 – Christian Life Center and First Congregational drop from league. League goes with ten in the National division and nine in the American division.
2004 – League goes to three divisions. Church of Christ and Fuente De Saluacion drops from league. Greater Grace goes to two teams and Agawam Church of the Bible joins.
2005 – Church of Christ returns and Bethany Assembly goes to three teams. Christ Life Fellowship, Grace Lutheran and Holland Congregational join, bringing league to twenty-four teams.
League goes on the web – www.interchurchsoftball.com
All-Star game is played on a Thursday with guest announcer Carl Beane, The Voice of Fenway Park.
2006 – Koinonia and Union withdraw from league. Bible Baptist of Holyoke joins and Westfield adds a second team. Greater Grace’s name is changed to Word of Grace.
All- Star game is moved to a Tuesday. Carl Beane returns with Wally the Green Monster.
2007 – Grace Lutheran withdraws from the league and Word of Grace goes to one team. Tabernacle Baptist goes to two teams and Pioneer Valley Assembly joins the league.
2008 – The league adds a Co-Ed Division playing on Thursdays. It includes two teams from Bethany and one team each from Christ Presbyterian, Glorious Gospel, Pioneer Valley Assembly, Redemption and Westfield Evangelical Free Church. Glorious Gospel is a new participant in the league. In the open division, Westfield was reduced to one team as their second team joined the Co-Ed division. Evangel Assembly joins the league and Bible Baptist changed their name to United Baptist.
Jim Corsi, former Red Sox pitcher, attends All-Star game along with Carl Beane and Wally.
2009 – The open division returns to a two-division format with the upper division including 14 teams and the lower division 12. Wellspring Church joins the league and Trinity United Methodist adds a second team. Enfield Community changes its name to New Life Community. The Co-Ed division expands to nine teams. It adds a third team from Bethany and two new teams: Dwight Chapel and Faith Tabernacle. Pioneer Valley Assembly drops their Co-Ed team, but still remains in the open division.
Bernie Carbo, Boston Red Sox Hall of Famer, attends All-Star game along with Screech from the Springfield Falcons.
2010 -The open division goes back to a three-division format. The league expands to 28 teams with ten teams in the A and C division and 8 in the B division. Second Baptist Church of South Hadley joins the league and Faith Tabernacle moves their team from the co-ed division. Tabernacle Baptist changes their name to LifePoint Church. The Co-Ed division drops to seven teams. Glorious Gospel withdraws from the league and Faith Tabernacle switches divisions.
Boston Red Sox Hall of Famer Rico Petrocelli and Bernie Carbo attend the All -Star game with Wally the Green Monster. Carl Beane, The Voice of Fenway joined Pastor Tom Crouse with the announcing and play by play. Big Red from the Holyoke Blue Sox also shows up.
League goes on Facebook.
2011 – League starts season with 8 teams in both the A & B divisions, 10 teams in the C division and 7 teams in the Co-Ed division. New Life Community drops from league shortly after start of season leaving B division with 7 teams.
Pioneer Valley Assembly changes name to New Life Christian Center and Agawam Bible changes to Hope Community.
Boston Red Sox Hall of Famer Bernie Carbo returns to the area to tell what God has done in his life. He attends the All -Star game along with Foxy from the WM Pioneers Soccer Club, Screech from the Springfield Falcons hockey team and Steal from the Springfield Armour basketball team.
2012 – League joins NSA. League drops to 28 teams, 11 in the American Division, 10 in National Division and 7 in the Co-Ed Division. Holland Congregational and New Life Christian drop from Tuesdays and Valley Church and Wellspring drop from the Co-Ed. United Bible merges with Westfield and New Life Community merges with Bethlehem Baptist. Second Baptist adds a second team. Bethany drops one team on Tuesdays and Trinity goes down to one team. Dwight Chapel changes name to Christ Community and adds a second team to the Co-Ed Division. Harvest Bible Chapel joins the league.
2013 – League stays with 28 team buts go back to three divisions, 6 in American, 6 in National, 9 in Central and 7 in Co-Ed. New Life no longer merges with Bethlehem and drops. Bethlehem adds second team. LifePoint drops and Mt View Baptist joins. Christ Community drops one team from Co-Ed and Second Baptist puts one of their Tuesday teams in.
2014 – League increases to 29 teams with the Co-ed division gaining one. The Co-Ed saw the addition of a third Bethany team and Mt View Baptist put a team in. Cornerstone Christian dropped. Hope Community merged with Redemption and Community Christian merged with Westfield Evangelical. Other changes in the league were Bethlehem dropped their second team, New Life Community joined, Heritage and Harvest Bible merged, United Bible split from Westfield to have their own team and Westfield had Zion join their team.
2015 – League jumps to 34 teams with the addition of Centro Cristiano Nacion De Jesus and City Church. Hope Community and Bethlehem each add a second team. Christ Community and Second Baptist each had teams in Co-Ed and now add teams to Tuesday. Heritage drops out leaving Harvest Bible on their own. New Life Community drops and Bethany drops their third team from Co-Ed. Bethlehem adds team to Co-Ed division and Redemption goes on their own in that division. We now have 8 in the American, 10 in the National, 8 in Central and 8 in Co-Ed.
2016 – League stays at 34 but National loses two teams and Co-Ed gains two. Redeeming The Time Ministries joins the Tuesday night lineup. United Bible drops out, Bethlehem drops their second team and Second Baptist takes out their team but stays in Co-Ed. West Springfield CCC comes on board with the Co-Ed Division and First Central and Cornerstone form a team to put the Division at an even ten. Community Christian drops leaving Westfield Evangelical with their own team.
2017 – League now drops to 30 teams with Tuesday and Co-Ed each losing two teams. Tuesday has Faith Baptist and Sonlife join and Harvest, Westfield Evangelical, Cornerstone and Centro Cristiano Nacion De Jesus drop out. In the Co-Ed division New Day Church comes on board and Cornerstone and First Central separate to have their own teams. Bethlehem, Redemption, Second Baptist and Westfield Evangelical drop.
2018 – League down to 26 teams with again Tuesday and Co-Ed each losing two. League now has 6 in American, 8 in National, 6 in Central and 6 in Co-Ed. Mt View Baptist dropped from both Tuesday and Co-Ed. Hope Community dropped their second Tuesday team and Bethany dropped their second Co-Ed team.