They were like a band of brothers, more of a family than a softball team.
Back in the early 1980s a group of Goshen area men joined together on a fastpitch softball team sponsored by Everett’s Supermarket and the venture culminated in a Class A Indiana state championship in 1983 and a share of ninth place in the national tournament in Bloomington, Illinois.
The bonds of friendship formed during that magical season are as strong today as they were 30 years ago.
Nine players from the squad got together to share stories and relive those glory days that produced one of the last great fastpitch softball memories in Goshen history.
Dewayne Yoder was responsible for the gathering and hosted it at his house on C.R. 34 across from the Elkhart County Fairgrounds.
“We played 92 games (65-27 record) that summer and we traveled all over,” Yoder said. “We really became a family. I have a lot of fond memories of the season. Fastptich softball was really popular then. Looking back now one thing that amazes me is we were playing a game that we enjoyed and we were having fun doing it. We were playing for trophies and patches on our jackets.”
Another player, Tim Torrance, echoed Yoder’s thoughts about the atmosphere.
“I remember how close we became. We were playing for fun. It didn’t seem to matter whether we won or lost, but we won more often than not.”
Randy Brandt, another member of the team,, agreed.
“We were buddies off the field. It was a very special group. It was not unusual for parents of players to travel with us. We always had a cheering section. The 30 years seem like yesterday.”
Bob Henke was another player that enjoyed the family feeling.
“In my whole life I don’t think I ever connected to a group like I did with this team,” he said. “We had common goals and this season was clearly the highlight of my career. We all came from different backgrounds yet we seemed to blend together. We were a bunch of guys doing what we did best.”
The Goshen All-Stars led by standout pitchers Brice McCann and Wendell Whitehead won a state championship in 1945. Paul’s Mobile Homes captured a state title in 1977 behind the hurling of Canadian left-hander Pete Froese and Gonderman Coin turned the trick in 1980 aided by the pitching of Darrell Bender.
That era was one of the highlights of fastptich softball in Goshen, a sport that has pretty much gone by the wayside in the local area now.
One of the top players to come out of the Goshen area was Steve Fisher who was both an excellent pitcher and power hitter.
Fisher played on Everett’s and along with catcher Steve Swihart were named to the Amateur Softball Association of America All-American team in 1983.
“I don’t miss playing, but I sure wish there would be a place to go watch games,” Fisher said. “I’m not really sure why it died out. I just wish my boys would have had the chance to play.”
Another player Mike Stark offered his opinion on the demise of the sport.
“Part of the problem was rule changes that made it tougher on the pitchers,” he said. “Another thing was slowpitch softball came along and that was easier to play. Guys didn’t have to worry about facing tough pitchers. But you can’t beat fastptich softball.”
Fisher and Harold Yoder were the two main arms for Everett’s. Yoder hurled an impressive 327 innings with a miniscule 1.01 earned run average and a noteworthy 36-10 record. Fisher was also outstanding with 288 innings pitched, a 1.48 ERA and a 29-14 record.
“We had a lot of fun that year,” Harold Yoder said. “We really were like a family. My kids still talk about those days.”
“Steve (Fisher) was a good mentor for us,” Dwayne Yoder said. “The rest of us were age 25 or 26. He kept us in line.”
Fisher started playing softball when he was 17.
“I was the younger guy on teams when I started and then in 1983 I’m the older guy,” he said.
Fisher got involved with the team based on a friendship he developed with team manager Steve Ellis and his wife Donna.
“Steve and his wife started coming over to our house to play cards and we became pretty good friends,’ Fisher said.
The team also had a pretty potent offense. Swihart had a .384 batting average, Stark .313, Dewayne Yoder .304, Randy Brandt .301, Larry Keil .294 and Fisher .288. Fisher and Swihart shared the lead with 13 home runs apiece. Swihart drove in 92 runs with a noteworthy 19 game-winning RBI. Brandt topped the team with 33 stolen bases followed by Keil with 25.
“I played on Trans Aire with Pete Meredith, but this group was the best team I ever played on,” Mike Miller said. “We were good together and knew if one of us was in a slump someone else would pick them up. The team had more speed than any other team I ever played on. ”
For three of the players the bonds of friendship went back further than the 1983 season. Brandt, Keil and Dewayne Yoder played baseball together at Goshen High School before graduating in 1975.
“The three of us started playing baseball together in the F.O.P. League,” Brandt said. “We went to junior high together and played high school ball together.”
“Playing for Everett’s with Randy and Dewayne was like an extension of high school,” Keil said. “It was a good time and it doesn’t seem like it has been 30 years.”
It was great getting the opportunity to talk to the players many of whom I watched play when fastptich softball was the thing to do on weeknights of weekends in Goshen.
The last thing I can say is well done guys. It’s a shame the sport isn’t still at the height of its glory so younger generations could share the bonds of friendship like your team formed back in 1983.
They were like a band of brothers, more of a family than a softball team.
- Kulp is new Goshen softball coach Brent Kulp was hired as the new Goshen High School softball coach at Monday night’s school board meeting. He was a physical education and health teacher in the Baugo Community Schools for 18 years and head softball coach at Jimtown High School for 15 seasons. Under his direction, Jimtown earned five Northern State Conference championships, five sectional titles and two regional titles and his teams compiled an overall record of 285-133-1.
- GOLF: Strong front nine leads Toner to Goshen City Championship Sugg hed: Toner cruises to City Championship victory GOSHEN — Through the first eight holes, Scott Toner dominated the competition at the Goshen Men’s City Golf Championship at Black Squirrel Golf Club. He was already two-under, and had already gaine
- Greg Maddux, Big Hurt inducted into Baseball Hall of Fame COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. — Frank Thomas choked back tears, Joe Torre apologized for leaving people out of his speech and Tony La Russa said he felt uneasy. Being enshrined in the Hall of Fame can have those effects, even on the greats. Thomas, pitchers Tom
- NASCAR: Gordon wins his fifth Brickyard 400 INDIANAPOLIS — With a fifth Brickyard 400 victory on the line Sunday, Jeff Gordon looked like the driver he was 20 years ago. Gordon nailed the final restart of the race — no given because restarts have been Gordon's Achilles heel — to pass Hendrick
- Langer wins Senior British Open by record 13 shots BRIDGEND, Wales — Bernhard Langer won his second Senior British Open championship on Sunday, finishing a record 13 strokes clear of Colin Montgomerie of Scotland. The German added a closing 4-under 67 Sunday at sunny Royal Porthcawl to his earlier r
- Miller takes lead after 18 holes at City Championship GOSHEN — The rumors started flying around in the mid-afternoon that Scott Toner’s 74 might not be the best score Saturday at the first round of the Goshen Men’s City Golf Championship at Black Squirrel Golf Club.Word spread that apparently someone ha
- KEIM'S KORNER: Memories of the Elkhart County 4-H Fair meaningful It’s finished.By the time you are reading this column, the 2014 version of the Elkhart County 4-H Fair will have concluded with yet another successful nine-day run.The fair is an economic boom for the area as more than 200,000 people attend what is g
- Nibali set to win Tour, with 2 Frenchmen on podium PERIGUEUX, France — Finally cracking broad smiles after weeks of no-nonsense racing, Vincenzo Nibali confirmed he will win the Tour de France after another impressive ride in a dramatic penultimate stage on Saturday. Nibali all but ensured he will be crowned Tour champion for the first time thanks to winning the last mountain stage on Thursday. But a desire to leave nothing to chance, even with the biggest overall lead in 17 years, saw him push himself in the individual time trial for fourth place behind winner and German speedster Tony Martin. In doing so, the rider they call "The Shark" padded his overall lead on Stage 20 by more than 40 seconds to nearly eight minutes.|PERIGUEUX, France — Finally cracking broad smiles after weeks of no-nonsense racing, Vincenzo Nibali confirmed he will win the Tour de France after another impressive ride in a dramatic penultimate stage on Saturday.Nibali all but ensured he will be
- Langer takes 8-shot lead at Senior British Open BRIDGEND, Wales — Bernhard Langer stretched his lead to eight strokes Saturday in the Senior British Open, shooting a 3-under 68 at Royal Porthcawl to reach 14-under 199. The 56-year-old German matched the Champions Tour record for the largest 54-hole lead in a 72-hole event set by Jack Nicklaus in the 1991 Senior PGA. At 14 under, Langer also tied the tournament 54-hole record set by Carl Mason at 14-under 196 in 2003 at Turnberry. After opening with rounds of 65 and 66 to open a seven-stroke lead, Langer had four birdies and a bogey in the round. He settled for a birdie on the par-5 18th after missing an eagle chance from 10 feet. He dropped his only shot on the par-4 10th.|BRIDGEND, Wales — Bernhard Langer stretched his lead to eight strokes Saturday in the Senior British Open, shooting a 3-under 68 at Royal Porthcawl to reach 14-under 199.The 56-year-old German matched the Champions Tour record for the largest 54-hole
- Harvick grabs yet another pole with big run at IMS INDIANAPOLIS — The season-long rivalry between Hendrick Motorsports and Team Penske heads into the Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, where Kevin Harvick will try to crash their party. Harvick, Jeff Gordon and Brad Keselowski swept the top three spots in qualifying, setting up what could be a showdown between the most dominant teams so far this season.
- More Sports Headlines