Fast-pitch softball returns to Outwater Park in August
By John D'Onofrio Lockport Union-Sun & Journal
Life comes full circle for a large contingent of Lockport men — well past their prime in body only — still full of the same youthful enthusiasm and playful banter that they shared a half century ago.
They competed together and against one another for years on now barren city diamonds — public parks that once thrived with a variety of baseball and softball leagues — most now painfully silent in the early evenings.
The leagues — some of which began in the 1920s and featured more than a dozen local teams in their hey day — faded away in the late 1960s, but not the men, who went on to become successful businessmen, teachers, lawyers and proud husbands and fathers.
Some of those former Lockport Softball Association and Old Timers Fast-Pitch Softball players went on to teach us the arts, others sold us goods, others raised all-star athletes and/or fixed our cars and still others became trusted public servants who endeared themselves to young reporters with their honesty and character.
Now, they're getting together again.
The First Old Timers Softball Game will be played at 3 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 23, at Outwater Park.
Players from the LSA and Old Timers leagues will compete against players from the Ontario Fast-Pitch Softball League in a seven-inning game that will be televised by Lockport Community Television, with announcers Jim Slowey and special guest, Niagara County Sheriff James Voutour.
“We're going to reminisce for one day, one occasion, about the times that were probably some of the best times of our lives,” said former player Jack DiMaggio. “We played on some of the great diamonds in Lockport and we'd like to renew that.”
Former players are encouraged to participate in any capacity, whether it's playing, coaching, keeping score, cheering, etc.
“It's going to be great getting together again with the guys that I used to get together with on a weekly basis a long time ago,” said former player James Ashcraft, retired Lockport City Treasurer.
Added former player Joel Grundy, “I look forward to getting together again with guys who used to be fierce competitors. Now, we're just survivors and friends.”
If you are a former Ontario Softball League player and are interested in participating, please contact Bill Harrington at Harrington Service (433-3730). Former players in the Lockport Softball Association and Old Timers League are asked to contact Bob Speck at 531-3772. The cut-off date to participate is Aug. 13.
“It's important to me because we're reminiscing,” Speck said. “In some way, the players who have played in Lockport have forgotten each other. It's a good time to renew old acquaintances.”
When the dust settles on another completed game, former players from the fast-pitch softball leagues will get busy preparing for their second annual Reunion Dinner. This year's event, which will be catered by Lockport's favorite, Donna Eick, is slated for 5 p.m. Friday, Sept. 12, at the South Lockport Fire Hall.
The cost is just $20 per person.
“Just to get together with all the guys I played with and against. I'll be glad to see them all,” said former player Joe Stranges.
Added former player Bill Harrington, “It's going to be great seeing the guys again who I used to beat the hell out of. And secondly, it's going to be a renewal of acquaintances and some great memories.”
Tony and Shirley Weiland, owners of Niagara's First Impressions in the Bewley Building, are selling T-shirts with the former league logo.
“Those were probably some of the best times in my life, playing softball,” said legendary former pitcher Dan DeNardo. “I look forward to seeing all the guys again and just being around the ball field again.”