Lively Tales About Dead Teams

Archive for the ‘United Professional Softball League’ Category

1977-1982 Pittsburgh Hardhats

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1977 APSPL Pro Softball MagazineAmerican Professional Slo-Pitch League (1977-1980)
United Professional Softball League (1981-1982)

Born: 1977 – APSPL founding franchise.
Died: 1983 – The UPSL ceases operations.

Stadiums:

Team Colors:

Owners: Jim DiLorio and Josephine DiLorio

 

The Pittsburgh Hardhats softball team played for six seasons during the short-lived Pro era of men’s slo-pitch softball.  The Hardhats competed in the first men’s pro league – the American Professional Slo-Pitch League – and, later, in its the APSPL’s successor league, the United Professional Softball League.

The Hardhats were a mom-and-pop operation funded by Jim & Josephine DiLorio, proprietors of Jim’s Sports Shop in Edgewood, Pennsylvania.  In practice, the Hardhats were really more of a semi-pro operation.  Hardhats players earned a few hundred dollars to play, but had to hold down other jobs during the season.  As a result, all league games were played only on weekends, typically as doubleheaders.

After three seasons, the team had lost a reported $100,000, but the DiLorio’s kept the club going, even in the face of new competition that arrived in 1980.  In June 1979, Ted Stepien, the President of the APSPL and owner of the league’s Cleveland franchise, got into a snit with other league owners.  He split off to form his own rival league in 1980 called the North American Softball League.  Stepien struggled to find partners for his rebel league and ended up owning most of the teams himself, including the newly formed Pittsburgh Champions who tried to loot the Hardhats roster of players.  Stepien and the DiLorio’s wound up in court over the matter.

Ultimately both Pittsburgh teams took the field in 1980.  The Hardhats were one of the best teams in the APSPL and advanced to the league’s championship series, where they lost to the Rochester Express 5 games to 4.  Stepien’s Pittsburgh Champions team finished last in their division and folded along with the rest of the North American Softball League at the end of 1980.

The Hardhats played two more seasons in the United Professional Softball League in 1981 and 1982.  The team changed stadiums frequently and never really developed much of a following, attracting only a few hundred fans per game in the early 1980’s.

The UPSL went dark in 1983 and attempted to re-organize for a return to play in 1984.  But the league was never heard from again and the Pittsburgh Hardhats went down with the ship.

 

==Downloads==

1979 American Professional Slo-Pitch League Franchise Sales Brochure

 

==Links==

Men’s Pro Softball Media Guides

Men’s Pro Softball Programs

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1981 Syracuse Salts

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Syracuse Salts ProgramUnited Professional Softball League (1981)

Born: March 18, 1981 – UPSL expansion franchise
Folded: Postseason 1981

Stadium: Hopkins Road Field

Team Colors:

Owners: A.J. Kalil, Peter Silvanic & G.A. Saumell

 

The Syracuse Salts were a truly terrible attempt to field a men’s professional softball team in upstate New York in the summer of 1981.  Owner A.J. Kalil and his partners paid $25,000 to place an expansion franchise in the United Professional Softball League that spring.  As things turned out they were comically overmatched.  The Salts played a 60-game schedule, which consisted of 15 home doubleheaders and 15 road doubleheaders.  The team finished the season with 4 wins and 52 losses.

The Salts’ lineup included outfielder Ed Ricks, who was a 6th round draft pick of the New York Yankees as a pitcher in 1972 and actually made it onto the Yankees Major League roster in September 1977 but never appeared in a Major League game.  Ricks would later pitch in the Senior Professional Baseball Association for retired ballplayers in 1989-90.

Home games were played at Hopkins Road Field in Liverpool, New York.

The Salts had a cheerleading squad known as the “Saltshakers”.

The club mercifully folded at the end of the 1981 season.  The United Professional Softball League followed Syracuse into oblivion one year later.

 

==Syracuse Salts Games on Fun While It Lasted==

Date Opponent Score Program Other

1981

May 24 1981 vs. Cincinnati Suds L 6-2 & L 12-2 Program

 

==Downloads==

1981 Syracuse Salts Roster as of May 24, 1981

 

==Links==

Men’s Professional Softball Media Guides

Men’s Professional Softball Programs

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1977-1982 Cincinnati Suds

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American Professional Slo-Pitch League (1977-1980)
United Professional Softball League (1981-1982)

Born: 1977 – APSPL founding franchise.
Died: Postseason 1982 – The Suds cease operations.

Stadiums:

Team Colors:

Owners:

 

The Cincinnati Suds softball team played in various locales in Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky from 1977 until 1982.  Slo-Pitch softball had a brief moment in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s when a group of enthusiasts and pro sports speculators attempted to establish a marketplace for men’s softball as a nationwide professional sport.  Three league different leagues came and went during this time, with most of the clubs being clustered in softball’s Rust Belt strongholds in the Northeast and upper Midwestern states.  Investors included Mike Ilitch, future owner of the Detroit Red Wings and Detroit Tigers, and Ted Stepien, the future owner the NBA’s Cleveland Cavaliers, along with a considerable number of mom & pop types.

 

Of the several dozen teams formed during Slo-Pitch softball’s brief pro moment, the Cincinnati Suds were one of only two clubs (along with Kentucky Bourbons) who played for all six seasons from 1977 to 1982.  The Suds were a founding member of the first league out of the gates, the American Professional Slo-Pitch League.  After the APSPL folded in 1980, the Suds joined the United Professional Softball League and played two more seasons before that league went out of business at the end of the 1982 season.

There has been no professional softball league for men in the U.S. since 1982.

The Suds played their games at several locations, including Trechter Field on the campus of Cincinnati Technical College.

 

==Downloads==

1977 Cincinnati Suds Ticket Brochure

1979 American Professional Slo-Pitch League Franchise Sales Brochure

 

==Links==

Men’s Professional Softball Media Guides

Men’s Professional Softball Programs

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1978-1981 New England Pilgrims

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New England PilgrimsAmerican Professional Slo-Pitch League (1978-1980)
United Professional Softball League (1981)

Born: 1978 – APSPL expansion franchise
Folded: Postseason 1981

Stadium: Blake Field

Team Colors:

Owner: Carl Grande

 

Obscure men’s professional Slo-Pitch franchise that operated for four seasons out of New Haven, Connecticut.  The New England Pilgrims softball team spent their first three seasons in the American Professional Slo-Pitch League (APSPL).  In 1979, the Pilgrims earned a few wire service mentions around the country for signing 39-year old former Detroit Tigers All-Star infielder Dick McAuliffe.

In 1981 the Pilgrims joined the United Professional Softball League, a successor league to the by-then defunct APSPL.  Despite having one of the worst records (23-35) in the eight-team UPSL, the Pilgrims advanced through the playoffs to the league championship series, where they lost to the Kentucky Bourbons.

The Pilgrims went out of business after the 1981 season and the UPSL followed suit a year later.  There has been no men’s professional softball in the United States since 1982.

 

==Downloads==

1979 American Professional Slo-Pitch League Franchise Sales Brochure

 

==Links==

Men’s Professional Softball Media Guides

Men’s Professional Softball Programs

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1977-1982 Kentucky Bourbons

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Kentucky Bourbons SoftballAmerican Professional Slo-Pitch League (1977-1980)
United Professional Softball League (1981-1982)

Born: 1977 – APSPL founding franchise.
Died: 1982

Stadium: Bishop David Stadium

Team Colors:

Owners: Lawrence Gatti, Al Gatti, Mel Launius

 

From 1977 to 1982, men’s slo-pitch softball was a professional sport in the United States.  The first pro league was the American Professional Slo-Pitch League (APSPL) which launched with 12 clubs in the summer of 1977.  The Louisville-based Kentucky Bourbons were one of the founding franchises and one of the just three to persist through all six seasons of the professional era.  Their home field was Bishop David Stadium.

The Bourbons played in the APSPL from 1977 to 1980 and perennially fielded one of the top clubs in the league, with the exception of 1978, when the Bourbons had their only losing season.  In the 1979 and again 1980 the Bourbons posted the best regular season record in the league, only to find disappointment in the playoffs.  They lost the softball “World Series” to Milwaukee Schlitz in 1979 and were upset by the Pittsburgh Hardhats in the semi-finals in 1980.

After the 1980 season, the APSPL merged with a short-lived rival league to form the United Professional Softball League (UPSL).  The Bourbons joined the UPSL in 1981 and finally got their championship, defeating the New England Pilgrims 5 games to 3 in a best-of-nine World Series.

Kentucky Bourbons Softball The Bourbons played one final season in 1982, but the UPSL folded after the season, ending the professional era for the sport of men’s Slo-Pitch.  There has been no attempt to form a new professional league in the ensuing three decades.

The great star of the Bourbons was gargantuan catcher Bill Gatti. Gatti was a two-sport star in baseball and football at the University of Louisville from 1969 to 1971.  He became an All-American amateur softball player for Louisville-based Jiffy Club upon graduation in 1971.  In 1974, he temporarily gave up softball to try his hand at professional football for the Florida Blazers of the World Football League.  As a bruising fullback, he played regularly for the Blazers and appeared in the league’s World Bowl championship game in 1974.  In 1975 Gatti played for the World Football League’s San Antonio Wings, but his pro football career ended when the WFL folded in mid-season in October of that year.

Returning to softball in time for the professional era, Gatti played at catcher for the Bourbons for all six seasons of the club’s existence from 1977 to 1982.  The prodigious slugger his 1,937 in his two decade career, according to the Amateur Softball Association of America, which inducted Gatti into its Hall of Fame in 2000.   Gatti was the Most Valuable Player of the APSPL in 1980 and the UPSL in 1981.  During the 1981 season, he won the league’s Triple Crown, batting .662 with 38 home runs and 99 RBIs during a 60-game season.

 

==Downloads==

1979 American Professional Slo-Pitch League Franchise Sales Brochure

 

==Links==

Men’s Pro Softball Media Guides

Men’s Pro Softball Programs

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