Three Northern California communities that in the 1970s and 1980s were united by fast pitch softball will come together one more time next week when the Colfax Recreation Association hosts its 49th annual Men’s Softball Classic (Aug. 22-24) at Living War Memorial Park.
In connection with this year’s tournament, a special “Labor Day Tournament” Hall of Fame ceremony is set for Sat. Aug. 23 at 6 p.m.
Included, among others, will be former players, coaches and contributors from teams that haled from Colfax, Grass Valley and Tahoe City in a time when fast pitch flourished in the three cities..
“It’s too bad that fast pitch died, … that sure was a different era,” said John Rutter, the owner of Pete n’ Peters in Tahoe City, a spirits and sports bar that once was the “fast pitch Mecca” of the Northern California. “All we have up here now is slow pitch.”
In the way-gone era of men’s fast pitch, the Colfax Fireballs had several duels with Perata and Pete n’ Peters, a pair of top-notch Tahoe City squads that won several Nevada ASA state titles.
In 1977, the Fireballs defeated Perata to win the Richard Rodarte tournament in Tahoe City, only to have the Tahoe squad come back two weeks later and eliminate the Fireballs in their own Labor Day tourney in the semifinal round.
“We used to have some good battles with them,” said Ed Marson of the Colfax Recreation, who was a slick-fielding second baseman for the Fireballs. “There was good competition and sportsmanship between the two teams. A lot of fun.”
Included into this year’s tournament Hall of Fame induction will be 13 players from the Tahoe City area, including two posthumously.
The Tahoe City group includes Rod Collins, Bob Habeger, Derek Markstein, Greg Xpoleas, Rob Walters, Dwight McCarthy, John “Tinker” Ward, Dale Wolfe, Kurt Hawkyard, Pete Perata and Peter Paine. Honored posthumously will be Keith Walters and Dale Halter.
Already inducted into the tourney’s HOF from Tahoe City are Chendo Hernandez, J.B. Bechdolt and the late Steve Moore.
In addition, several members of the former SPD Markets teams will also be inducted in the tourney’s HOF. Long a top flight team in the Nevada County Softball Association, SPD was one of the few teams from Grass Valley that actually came and played in the Colfax league too.
Former SPD players to be honored include Carl Barnes, Hank Harr, Bob Costa, Dick DeLaughter, Dennis Painter, Dean Painter, Doug Painter, Gary Sharpe, Rick Metz and Steve Staser.
“When we were running the Colfax league SPD made it easy for us with the schedule,” said Marson. “They basically said, put us down to play every Friday night. It was great.”
Colfax area players and contributors headed into the HOF include Lennie Noxon, Don Ladd, Bob Ewing, Mike Gibson, Eldwin Nickerson and Lloyd B. Wheat.
— Mike Ray is sports editor at the Colfax Record.