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﹣Tommy Lasorda

History

Welcome to Rochester, NY, the Softball Capital of the USA. For the past 50+ years, Rochester has bore some of the nation’s finest fastpitch and slow-pitch softball players to ever play the game.

With hundreds of players still dedicated to the game in our region, playing in various softball leagues for adults throughout the region, the Rochester Softball Hall of Fame honors those individuals whose legacies are still felt in the world of softball today.

Softball History - Rochester, New York

The Beginning…

Softball has always held a special place in the hearts of Rochesterians. Back in a time when you could grab a hot dog and a Coca-Cola for less than fifty cents, it was easy to catch a softball game in and around the Flower City almost any night of the week. Crowds of spectators, young and old, would gather in city parks and watch factory teams duel it out on the diamond. On weekends, a player and his or her family and friends would pack up the station wagon and hightail it to other towns for double-headers and tournaments. Meanwhile, back in Rochester, local teams would mingle and socialize with one another after the game, week after week, year after year.

 Softball was a beloved and defining pastime in our community when the Rochester economy bustled and thrived. Most factories in the area had a team, often made up of both employees and local ballplayers who grew up playing the game.

After World War II, men would gather on Saturday or Sunday to play ball and have a beer.  This was a prelude to the Sunday morning tavern league in the early 50s. At fields all over the city, men played slow-pitch because everyone could hit successfully and there was far more action than fastpitch. As the game’s popularity rose, men would play after dinner at local Recreation Centers. Then, with the entry of the Amateur Softball Association (ASA) into slow-pitch, softball became a sport, and a business.

In the early 60s, there were leagues Monday through Friday, sponsored mostly, but not entirely by restaurants and bars. Local tournaments were played on the weekends. And travel tournaments began to spring up as more and more enjoyed the competition. By the mid-60s, another organization, the United States Slow-pitch Softball Association, emerged to rival the existing ASA.

Kodak, especially, dominated the local softball scene. Kodak Park was not only home to the successful Kodak teams, but long served as a welcoming mainstay for youth softball. Area squads, like Mazzola-Castle, Al’s Green Tavern, Pace Electronics and Gage Reality, claimed national and world titles.

By the late 1970s, Rochester had its very own professional slo-pitch softball team: the Rochester Zeniths/Express. Though the team’s run only lasted for a few years, the golden age of Rochester softball stayed alive and well throughout the ’80s and ’90s.    

Today, many of the players who shaped Rochester softball continue their love of the sport and play in adult and senior softball leagues. The Rochester Softball Hall of Fame honors these players and celebrates their enduring legacies.

At various times, different towns ruled the local softball landscape with robust leagues. McAvoy Park, Kent Park, Davis Park, Harris Whalen Park, Chili Town Park, Gary Biekirch Park in Greece, Gates Town Hall, and other town leagues, plus the City of Rochester with Cobbs Hill, Norton Village, and Edgerton, to name a few.

Other parks where Rochester’s rich softball history was written over the years, include Bayview, Ronnie’s Ball Park, Ridgewood, Amateur Sports Park and Forks Park.

Fast Pitch was played at Kodak Park, Gears Park and Weiland Road, while the Industrial leagues played at Wegmans, RG&E, Wieland Rd and KAD. 

There were many tournaments in the Rochester area through the years. Many were sponsored by local sporting goods stores Ruby’s, Gauss and Petersen’s. The ASA, USSSA and City Rec also ran tournaments. Pittsford Woods, the Xerox Umpires Tournament, the Sea Serpent Classic in Perry, Big Daddy’s in Batavia, The Daniel Wheat in Brockport and Cordero’s in Ontario, are some other tournaments that dotted the local landscape.

Rochester Softball Association and the Hall of Fame

In late 2001 and early 2002, Bob (Thunder) Thornton and Denny (Bucket) Warren broached the idea of forming the Rochester Senior Slo-Pitch Softball Association, which later spawned the Rochester Softball Hall of Fame. The original purpose was to honor local players who represented the Rochester area on the national stage.

 In the spring of 2003, the first class was inducted. The criteria for election was simple: Honor, respect, ambassadorship. The four inductees shared another characteristic – they all played for Mazzola Castle, the first Rochester team to win a World Series.  The initial categories were few: Player, Sponsor, Contributor and Media.

The class was small, but it was the start of something big.

The original Board of Directors were co-chairs Thornton and Warren, sargent-at-arms Frank Taccone, and treasurer Dan Guilfoyle.  The consultants were Don Trimaldi and Jim Debuo. 

Over the years, more award categories were added (Johnny Warren, umpires, managers, senior players, etc.). Then fast pitch and women’s players were added. The Art Held Award was established. And in 2019 the first annual HOF softball game was played.

 The Hall’s induction ceremony has grown in stature and popularity each year since its inception in 2003. It has brought together the softball community for a festive night of recognition, reminiscing and revelry.  

A Look Back…

Previous Board Members

  • Adrian Twist
  • Dave Maddalena
  • John Demagistris
  • Duane McCoy

Previous Consultants

  • Scott Pitoniak
  • Rich Held
  • Phil Argento
  • Don Morgan
  • Paul Curran
  • Joey Mondo

The Current Rochester Softball Association Board

  • Denny Warren – President
  • Tony Fedor – Vice President
  • Curt Kirchmaier – Treasurer
  • Kathy Warren – Secretary

 

  • Bill Conge – Historian

The Hall of Fame Consultants

  • Sam Gallo
  • Carl Masters
  • Mike Allen
  • Rich Rago
  • Dave Eike
  • Jim DeVinney
  • Phil Krasnoff
Rochester Softball Hall of Fame - Rochester, New York

Rochester Softball Association

Rochester, New York