It’s hard to believe how fast time goes by. This year marks the 40th anniversary of the men’s fast-pitch softball national tournament held in the city of Oswego, sponsored by Miller Beer.
The tournament was held at Fort Ontario and took place Sept. 3-7, 1980, with 24 states represented from as far away as Hawaii in front of an overflow crowd.
Mr. M’s softball team proudly represented Oswego and New York State in the tournament. The team was organized and sponsored by Fran Mott, who was also an Amateur Softball Association state commissioner.
Mr. M’s opened the tournament, beating Texas, 2-1. In its second game, Mr. M’s lost to Pennsylvania, the eventual tournament winner. That night, Mr. M’s lost to Utah in nine innings. What impressed me most, especially with the local team being eliminated, were the local fans that continued to flock to Fort Ontario to watch the tournament.
Mr. M’s was a very popular team, not only in Oswego but also in the surrounding area. Wherever Mr. M’s played, it had an outstanding following. Over the years, Mr. M’s won many independent and state tournaments. The team won a regional tournament in Newark, New Jersey, qualifying it for a national tournament in Stockton, California.
The Mr. M’s team was coached by Bill “Wimpy” Germain and consisted of the following players over the years: Del Leween, Dick Johnson, Dick Dunsmore, Larry Eagan, Dan Sullivan, Leo Mott, Pete Sears, Bob Farrell, Art Chetney, Dennis McDermott, Mike Cloonan, Vinnie Savona, Ted Palmitesso, Mike and Pete Reidy, Lou Angelina, Nick DiGaetano, Bob Clark, Bill Drumm Sr., Bill Drumm Jr., Ed Ruggio, and Tom Himes.
Mr. M’s had planned to hold a reunion this year, organized by Dick Johnson. Unfortunately it had to be canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Fast-pitch softball in Oswego was not exclusively for the men. In 1955, an adult women’s softball team was organized. The team played in a state tournament in Oswego at Fort Ontario. The team was organized by Rita Gimmie and Helen Jermyn. This tournament was played in front of the biggest crowd I have ever seen at the fort.
For more than 20 years, Oswego High School varsity softball coach Mike McCrobie held many independent and state tournaments. He was also instrumental in organizing a girls youth softball league. Years later, a girls fast-pitch league was formed by JoAnn Cloonan, Kathy (Martin) Santos, and Patti Crucitti. They initially played in the mornings and eventually expanded the league, playing both in the mornings and in the evenings. JoAnn Cloonan is the first woman in Oswego to have a ball field named in her honor, and deservedly so.
I know this will bring back a lot of good memories, not only to members of the Mr. M’s team, but to the many people who came to the fort to watch the tournament. You may remember at the event of every Bob Hope television show he would say, “Thanks for the memories.” As we all move into the golden years, our memories are so important. Hang on to them.
Butch Ponzi, Oswego
Member of the Mr. M’s softball team