The Herald Bulletin

October 12, 2013

Factory workers found recreation in Anderson softball

By David Humphrey
For The Herald Bulletin

---- — ANDERSON — Upon returning home to Anderson after World War II, soldiers married their sweethearts, went to work in the factories, and found recreation in the Anderson Softball Association Industrial Division League. During the 1950's, Shadyside Park was the site of many fierce and competitive fastpitch softball games. On any given night, hundreds of fans filled the bleachers or watched the games beyond the outfield fence. Though players on the diamond were aggressive, the aura of Shadyside Park remained family friendly. Wives of players took up residence in the company cheer block while attending to the newest members of the post war Baby Boomer generation. In 1951, 14 teams played in the Anderson Softball Association Industrial Division League. Anaconda, Nicholson File, Emge, Indiana Bell, UAW-CIO 662, and National Tile were a few of the teams vying for the championship trophy. UAW-CIO 662 finished the 1951 softball season with a perfect record of 15 wins against zero losses. Anaconda came in second place with a record of 13 wins and two losses. Members of the UAW-CIO 662 championship team were Johnny Ellison, Clarence Phagan, John Craib, Gene Deck, Don Small, Harold Bess, Tom Fitzgerald, Kyle Couch, Bob Macklin, Roy Lloyd, Leroy Watson, Red Roberts, Barney Gilman, Keith Forrer, Dick Boyle, Mike Justus, manager Jim Stewart, and bat boy Larry Clem. UAW-CIO 662 put the bat on the ball during their game against The Stag, winning the contest by a score of 32 to 0. The closest the team came to losing a game during the 1951 season was a 1 to 0 win over Emge and a 6 to 5 victory over National Tile in extra inning play. Don Hooper from Container Corporation of America and Bob Walker of Pierce Governor led the league in the home run department with 6 round trippers each. Anaconda's Virgil Needler was batting champion with a .583 average. Lowell Cage of Emge was runner-up hitting .565 during the 1951 season. UAW-CIO 662 pitchers John Craib and Gene Deck had a combined win total of 15 games with zero losses to their credit. Craib led the league with seventy-five strikeouts in fifty-two innings pitched. Bill Dickerson of Anaconda had 13 wins to his credit. Industrial All-Star team selections for 1951 included pitcher Bill Dickerson (Anaconda), catcher Harold Payton (Anaconda), first baseman Sheldon Scott (Spot Lamps), second baseman Joe Ramsey (Spot Lamps), third baseman Bob Walker (Pierce Governor), shortstop Jim Coles (Local 957), left fielder Cliff Humphries (Pierce Governor), center fielder Ralph Clendenden (Emge), right fielder Virgil Needler (Anaconda), and manager George Humphrey (Emge). The All-Star team was selected by managers from the Industrial Division. During the summer of 1953, The King and His Court visited Shadyside where they played an exhibition game against the Emge softball team. The four man team consisted of famed pitcher Eddie Feigner, a catcher, shortstop, and first baseman. Throughout the game many Emge players got base hits, but spent most of the time in the batter's box fouling off Feigner's fastballs. Feigner delighted the Shadyside crowd that evening by pitching from second base. The game was in good faith with both teams shaking hands after the contest. Fastpitch softball leagues continued at Shadyside Park through the 1970's. It was then when the era of slowpitch softball began. Unlike the legendary fastpitch leagues of yesterday, when the ball traveled at 60-mile-an-hour thrown from 40 feet away, pitchers in slowpitch lobbed the ball toward home plate that often resulted in towering home runs. Granted, slowpitch softball is played for fun, but the intensity of the fastpitch leagues from yesteryear is gone, as are many of the players from that golden era at Shadyside.