The Herald Bulletin

November 30, 2013

Jim Bailey: Shadyside was the place for fast-pitch softball


The Herald Bulletin

---- — News of the recent death of Chuck Loewen in Florida jogged my memory of one of the busiest fast-pitch softball leagues in Central Indiana during the 1950s.

Loewen was one of the Anderson Softball Association’s standout pitchers during his heyday. He was one of a succession of outstanding pitchers that made Park Place Church of God a formidable foe in the Sunday School league.

Games then were played at Shadyside Park on what is now a Little League diamond. Initially there were two divisions, Industrial and Sunday School. Industrial league players had to be employed at the industry they represented. Eventually it evolved into the Commercial league, whose players could work anywhere. Then the Sunday School league split into A and B divisions (essentially the haves and the have-nots)

When I first moved to Anderson, I developed an interest in the league because of my friendship with one of the Park Place players. Don Smith was then the main Park Place pitcher, along with Chuck Humes. Loewen was on the team and eventually became its top hurler.

Throughout the ’50s several outstanding pitchers played in the Sunday School league: Hal Wood of North Anderson Church of God, Ron Patty of East Side Church of God, Roger Ellis of Fifth Street Methodist, Hubert Parks of Arrow Heights Church of God, Ralph Clarkson and Ed Fox of Christ Lutheran. Park Place’s pitchers also included Bob Deal and John Mefford.

Industrial and Commercial league pitchers featured such names as Ernie Ross, Mayo Sauerwein, Bob Kessler, Bob Carson, Carl McNulty and Ray Bird.

McNulty, then the Elwood basketball coach, is still the best I’ve ever seen. His pitches seemed to break in every direction as they neared the plate at unbelievable speeds, and it seemed the norm when he recorded a no-hit game.

Speed was these pitchers’ primary weapon, but breaking balls were just as effective. Loewen, who specialized in a figure-8 windup, had a rise ball that would bait hitters into swinging just before it elevated several inches by the time it reached the plate. Then just for kicks he’d throw a slow change-up and catch the batter swinging early.

Hitting a fast-pitch softball isn’t as easy as it looks. This team scorekeeper was on that field exactly once as a player for an exhibition game. The other pitcher was a curveballer named Bob Solomon. The first pitch looked as if it were heading right for my legs, and I bailed out only to watch the ball break over the plate for a called strike.

The most competitive game I recall was a 1952 city tournament matchup between Emge’s Ernie Ross and Park Place’s Chuck Humes. It went 11 innings, with Park Place winning 1-0.

Anderson has had outstanding traveling teams since that time. But nothing matched the competitiveness shown night in and night out at Shadyside in days of yore.

Jim Bailey’s reflections on Anderson’s past appear on Sunday. His regular column appears on Thursday. He can be reached by e-mail at jameshenrybailey@earthlink.net.