The Kansas City Metropolitan 50+ Softball League
Wes Weddle, along with many other interested individuals founded the league. It was felt that a factual account should be made relating to the history of the league. Otherwise a lot of facts relating to the league might be lost. An attempt was made in preparing this document, to be as factual as possible and record the events as Weddle perceived them or as the facts were presented to him. The names of some participants have been recorded and names of some participants have not been recorded. But facts are facts and this document is as accurate as Weddle and others have been able to present it.
After this process of recording the history began, Weddle read an article written about actor Sidney Poitier. A quote by Poitier about recording facts about his own life stated, “When we die, we are going to be taking with us to the grave an enormous amount of information, experiences, points of view, positions, attitudes. We should leave some of those parts of ourselves behind.” Weddle felt that Poitier’s quote pretty well summarized his own feelings.
The formation of the league began shortly after Weddle read an article in the American Association of Retired Persons publication dated October of 1989, in regard to a Senior Softball USA World Series being held earlier that month in Greensboro, North Carolina. Wes telephoned the local AARP office seeking information about the World Series, but they did not know anything about the event. He then wrote Bob Mitchell of the Senior Softball USA Organization and received a letter from him in regard to senior softball.
Bill Richardson, sports writer for the local Kansas City Star, was contacted and wrote an article which appeared in that newspaper about the desire to form a local senior softball organization.
Two problems developed. 1. Weddle had inadvertently mentioned his wife’s age, to the reporter, and that age appeared in the article. 2. The article appeared in the newspaper three days prior to the Christmas Holiday with many family members visiting the Weddle’s for the holiday season.
About thirty telephone calls from interested softball players were shortly received. Two of these calls were from females who were interested.
1990 – Year One
The middle of March 1990 all interested persons were invited to an enrollment meeting at the Fleming House associated with the Jackson County Parks & Recreation Department.
Scott Raider and Bob McMillan of the Jackson County Parks & Recreation, Kim Johnson of the Johnson County Parks & Recreation and a supervisor of the Raytown Parks & Recreation telephoned and showed interest in assisting the group.
Scott Raider of the J. C. P. & R. Dept. attended as well as William Day, Gerald Isenhower, Jim Melching, Abe Reddekopp, Dale Young, Huffman Walker, Kim Johnson of the Johnson County Parks& Recreation Department and Weddle. Johnson provided the enrollment form. A news release about the proposed league was sent to local newspapers, television and radio station.
In April Weddle and his wife had the privilege of appearing on the television program “55 and Growing” with David Francis on channel 30. A discussion followed about the group’s interest in forming a softball league for mature adults.
The first year three softball teams were organized. A team from Lee’s Summit, Mo., which, was basically intact. A group from north of the Missouri River formed a team which later became the North Star Mobile Village Team. A group composed of persons from Cass, Jackson and Johnson Counties formed a team called the Timeless Ballplayers. These three teams practiced on their own. The Timeless Ballplayers traveled to North Kansas City one Saturday in May for a practice game with the North Team, which Timeless won 19 to 0.
Let the games begin
The league’s first softball games were played on a beautiful Saturday evening June 3rd 1990. These games were played at a softball field at the Aldersgate Methodist Church located in the south part of Lee’s Summit, Mo. Gerald Isenhower was instrumental in setting up these games and paid for the professional umpire.
The Lee’s Summit Team played the Timeless Team in the first game, and after the completion of the game the scorekeepers of both teams claimed the victory for their team by a score of 9 to 8.
What a way to begin!
The score sheet for this softball game is still in the possession of Wes Weddle.
Timeless ball players were catcher William Day, pitcher Dean Eklund, first base Don Hicks, second base Harvey Case (Dale Young replaced Case at second base later in the game), third base Huffman Walker, shortstop Bob Steen, Weddle was placed in left field but manager Chuck Bua showed up late and placed himself in left field and moved Weddle to left center field, right center Ben Flucke, and right field Fred Stein.
Lee’s Summit players were Warren Dew, Denny Masters, Gerald Isenhower, Jim Turrentine, Richard Rowland, George Howard, Joe Smith, Clyde Johnson, Paul Underhill, Mike Hooper and Roger Welty.
The Lee’s Summit team then played the North team and won. No score sheet is available for this game. Players for the North team were Brent Arant, Ed Barnes, C.N. Enderson, Vern Linscott, Roger Mast, Lloyd Roberts, Loris Roberts, Jerry Slack, Andrew Swearingin, Charlie Tucker and Harry Waterhouse. Abe Reddekopp managed the North team. The North Team’s third baseman was injured so Weddle filled in for him at third base.
This was the format used the rest of the season on Saturday evenings with one team playing two games so that all three teams could play at least one game. The Lees Summit team had several members who worked for Blue Springs Ford and were not available to play early so the games did not begin until 6.00 p m.
One day after a softball practice Isenhower, Bua and Weddle met. Isenhower suggested that Weddle be the president, he (Isenhower) be the vice president for rules & regulations and Bua be vice president for publicity. Later Jim Turentine was designated as secretary then moved to Florida. Bob Steen took over the secretary and treasures job.
The league was formed and a system was later developed for meetings of the league members so that these officers and each team manager in attendance would have one vote on league matters.
Much later Manuel Morris was elected a vice president. Years later Steen resigned and Jake Magee took over the secretary’s and treasurer’s job. Jake later resigned and Ken Whisler, took over the membership secretary’s job, Jim Cunningham took over the treasurer’s job. Dick Stine later became the membership secretary.
No more games were played in June as a result of rain. In July the league played on a field north of the river, the Timeless Team was short of players so Ethel Weddle pitched for the Timeless Team.
Weddle had written and sent letters to several newspapers and media organizations in the area publicizing the start of the league. Charles Beneke a photographer with the Wednesday Magazine telephoned Weddle requesting him to schedule some league members so that he could photograph them playing softball. These pictures then appear in the papers publication.
League member Earl Stevenson volunteered and Weddle telephoned league member Santo DiMaggio requesting him to appear with the group. Santo replied “Oh Weddle I don’t have time for stuff like that”. Weddle replied “Santo come on, your picture might appear on the front page of the Wednesday Magazine.” Without hesitating Santo replied, “what time do you want me to be there.” The picture was taken and appeared, on the publications front page showing Santo batting, swinging the bat, Weddle kneeling as a catcher with Earl, acting as an umpire. After the picture appeared, Santo’s wife telephoned Weddle asking him where she could obtain 10 more copies of the paper for their family members.
August 10th players from all three teams, formed one team, journeyed to Topeka, Ks. and participated in the Kansas Senior Olympics. The league’s team won both games 27-0 and 7-2. A lady played for the Topeka team so Ethel Weddle pitched for the league’s team in the second game.
In September the league’s teams plus a team from St. Louis, Mo. competed in the Heart of America Senior Olympics held at the Frank White Sports Complex. The league put together a co-ed team to play a co-ed team from Topeka. Results were Lee’s Summit 2-0, St. Louis 2-1, Timeless 1-2, North 0-2, Topeka co-ed 2-0 and the K. C. co-ed 0-2.
A total of twenty six games were played by the league’s teams that first year. Standings for the league were Lee’s Summit 10-2, Timeless 7-6 and North 0-9.
A collection was taken from the players to pay the qualified umpires. Bob Sutton umpired most all of the games.
A picnic was held on the grounds of South Broadland Presbyterian Church September 23 with 60 persons participating. League members Earl Stephenson and Jack Holt grilled hot dogs for the event.
League member William Day and his wife joined a group of Senior Softball USA players, toured and played softball in Arizona, Hawaii and Australia.
1991 – Year Two
Several meetings were held during the off season and several articles were published in local newspapers about the league. Dave Stewart, a local sportscaster for channel 9 visited one of the Timeless Team’s practice sessions and interviewed four of the team members. The tape of this interview was shown later on channel 9.
The league’s membership fee was established at $25.00.
A schedule was made for the league’s enrolled seven teams to begin play May 4 but the games were rained-out. These teams then played each other one time each. Later an eighth team was added at mid season and the teams again played each other one time each.
Thirty eight of the forty six games played that year, were played at Coleman Park in Raytown, Mo. Because of scheduling problems, games were played at Cooley Park and the Auto Workers Local Union Ball Park north of the river.
In September because of difficulty of finding a place for the teams to play all eight league teams traveled to Harrisonville, Mo. and played scheduled softball games. An umpire at these games was so impressed with the results of these games that he invited the leagues teams to play in a tournament there in the Harrisonville’s Log Cabin Festival Days Event in October. This event basically was a fund raiser for the local Kiwanis Club.
Two teams composed of league members traveled to Oklahoma, City and competed in a national qualifying tournament for the Senior Softball U. S. A. Organization.
Later two of the league’s teams traveled to Topeka, Ks. and competed in the Kansas Senior Olympics.
League member, Paul Underhill age fifty, passed away September 19th.
This second year climaxed with a picnic held at Coleman Park with seventy five persons attending. The league’s teams competed in one hundred and one softball games.
Dale Young and Weddle appeared on David Francis’s “55 and Growing” TV Program.
1992 – Year Three
League member Stan Hudson, age 54, passed away April 27th.
Eleven teams started play in May and played each other one time each. A tournament was scheduled with teams from the league and a team from Warrensburg, Mo. named The Old Crows. The tournament was scheduled over three weekends with two divisions of competitive play. Some of these games were played on a field in Kansas City, Ks. in the league’s attempt to play at different locations in the metropolitan area.
Two teams again traveled to Oklahoma City as well as one team traveled to Lakewood, Co. and competed in tournaments.
Nineteen teams competed in the Heart of America Senior Olympics, thirteen teams competed in the Harrisonville Tournament and four teams traveled to Topeka, Ks. to compete in the Kansas Senior Olympics.
Two of the league’s members and their wives, joined one hundred thirty others persons, involved with the Senior Softball USA Organization, toured and played softball in Italy for thirteen days.
Weddle was sitting watching one of the leagues games one day when a league member sat down beside him and stated “Wes you know that you are responsible for all of this” throwing his arms out indicating the game in progress. Weddle replied “I plead guilty to that charge.” The gentleman then stated “Well you may think that you are dealing with a bunch of grandpas but you are still dealing with a bunch of kids.”
How true this statement became as over the years grandpas in the league have been disciplined for bumping into other member grandpas, sometimes knocking them down, violating the league’s rules and regulations, cursing, swearing and scuffling among themselves. Let it be known however that infractions have been a very small number, as compared to the large number of players who enjoy the camaraderie with members of this organization.
1994 – Year Four
During the off-season, meetings were held with developments and modifications of league’s rules and regulations.
Efforts had been made over the years on several occasions to seek businesses or groups to sponsor the league’s teams or even the league itself. Boatman’s Bank, a locally owned and operated bank, had been sponsoring the local Senior Olympic Events and Weddle became very friendly with a secretary and vice president of the bank. This bank switched their sponsorship from the Senior Olympics to a team in our league and later the league itself. One of our teams was completely outfitted with quality uniforms.
League member Darwin Landers and Weddle spent time selecting these uniforms and making sure that the uniforms satisfied the sponsor. Of course the name of the team was Boatman’s Bank and Landers managed the team for years and the bank continued to sponsor this team for many years and contributed the finances for the league’s picnics etc.
The league’s fourth season opened with fifteen teams competing. Play was started April 17th with some games, being canceled because of rain. Additionally eight of these teams formed a conference and also played games on Wednesday evenings.
John Wright, a member of one of the league’s teams telephoned Wes one Sunday afternoon and stated that he and some other members of the team desired to form their own team and were requesting information about how to proceed. Wes asked if they had said anything to their manager about this and John said no. Wes then suggested that they mention this to their manager and after they did so, proceeded to help enroll the new team Foresters.
Wright later dropped out of the league for a few years. Later the league was sponsoring a pre-season tournament at the Mid-America Sports Complex. Wes was at the entrance gate issuing tickets to members to enter so they would not have to pay an entrance fee. Wright came to the gate to enter saw Weddle and asked, “are you still around?” What a statement to make to a mature gentlemen just doing his job!
The middle of May, league member Eugene Payton and Weddle telephoned league members over the age of sixty and invited them to practice and later play in an over sixty conference.
Eleven players from Kansas and ten players from Missouri formed teams and played games for “The Border War”. Six innings were played with the score ending 15-15. Thirteen of these players were 65 or older. Several games were played by this group.
Weddle received a request from an official with the Columbia, Mo. Parks and Recreation Office asking him to send a team of the league’s players to Columbia as the office was opening their new Rainbow Sports Complex June 12th. Several of the league’s teams were out of town playing in tournaments but 12 players were recruited, went to Columbia and played two softball games with senior softball players in Columbia. Of course our men won and upon their return told Weddle that if he had any more requests like that one to include them in the group. They also stated that they had had, if you will the pardon the expression “A BALL.”
A team known as the Heartland Hitters, age sixty and over, and a team of our members, age fifty five and older, competed in the National Senior Olympics held in Baton Rouge, La. Teams also competed in tournaments in Oklahoma City, Lakewood, Heartland, and Kansas Senior Olympics and The Log Cabin Festival Tournament.
Solicitations were made among league’s members, forty five members responded and a basketball group was formed to play games during the winter months.
550 3 inch softball patches with the league’s logo were purchased and made available for the league’s players to affix to their jerseys. A league telephone number (816-941-3878) was established and a league telephone answering machine was purchased.
1994 – Year Five
After much deliberation about divisions of play within our league the 94 season was started with ten teams in the “C” competitive division and six teams in the “LC” less competitive division. Eight teams continued to compete on Wednesday evenings.
It is believed that this was the year that league member Eugene Payton and Weddle started a program at Coleman Park for mature men to meet and play softball on Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings. Men who showed would form two teams and play a softball game. Sometimes two games would be played.
Jackson County took over the sponsorship of the Senior Olympics.
The league’s teams continued to compete in tournaments mentioned earlier as well as branching out to tournaments in Columbus, OH, Scottsdale, AZ, and Orlando, FL.
Three league members, their wives and two other local residents joined 72 other persons, flew to Australia in mid October to tour the country and play softball. One of these teams played a local women’s team just for the fun of it. These women had a difficult time getting the ball across the plate so Ethel Weddle pitched for their team. The last three days of this trip were spent on the Fiji Islands, swimming, sailing in the Pacific Ocean, lounging on the beach and vacationing. What a FANTASTIC three days this was.
In early November, representatives from Senior Softball USA, visited the area with the anticipation of holding their National AAA and Major Softball Tournament at the Mid-America Sports Complex and other complex’s in Johnson County the following summer.
1995 – Year Six
The year began with the Sun Publications of Overland Park featuring color pictures of five league members, in their uniforms, on the front page of the publication as well as a two page spread about the league in the center of the paper. Enough interest was received from players that a new team was formed. In addition the paper published a follow up article on players of the new team.
During this time Weddle was painting houses. One day he stopped at a paint store to purchase some paint. As he entered the store a young sales lady shouted “Here comes Mr. Centerfold”, referring to the pictures of the article in the center of the paper.
The newly organized team was named the Inland Containers. League member, Leo Riggs and a member of the new team purchased the team’s jerseys. Riggs had lived in Chicago area and played softball there prior to moving to the Kansas City area. Later Riggs purchased two more sets of jerseys for teams in the league. When he was complimented by Weddle, Leo replied “I have to do something in order to play on a team in the league.”
The league advertised in thirteen local newspapers and shopper magazines in an effort to offer more mature adults an opportunity to play softball.
In March the Senior Softball USA held a news conference locally and announced that they would hold their World Championship Tournament at the Mid-America Sports Complex.
Ten teams started play in the league’s “C” division, eight teams in the “LC” division and ten teams played in the Wednesday conference.
Three league’s teams journeyed to San Antonio, TX. during May and competed in the National Senior Olympics held there.
Rollie Baldwin started a 50+ softball session at a field in North K. C. which met from 8:30 to 11:30am each Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. Several of our league members participated. The Northland section of the K. C. Star featured some articles about this group with one of our league member’s pictures appeared in the paper.
The league picnic was held June 17th during the afternoon at Coleman Park sponsored by the Boatman’s Bank.
August 5th, league play was moved to Cottonwood Park in Lenexa, Ks. Three fields were used by out teams as having more of our players together at the same time had been one of our league’s goals for sometime.
August 12th, fourteen of the league’s teams competed in the Muscular Dystrophy’s Association Super Softball Weekend an event to help raise funds for that worthwhile organization.
August 19th, two of the league’s teams journeyed to Little Rock, Ark. and competed in the Softball Players Association Qualifying Tournament. These teams also went to Johnson City, TN. and competed in the National S. P. A. World Championship Tournament.
Over the Labor Day Weekend three of the league’s teams participated in the qualifying tournament in Lakewood, Co. and the 50 + team qualified to compete in the N. A. S. C. S. World Series in Palm Springs, Ca. Their team manager paid the national tournament enrollment fee and then the players backed out of playing and the manager lost the enrollment fee! What a blow it was for this league’s team manager.
It was about 1995 league member Roger Gramly, in a league meeting, proposed that the league authorize a $750.00 honorarium for the president and secretary-treasurer for services rendered. A statement was made that it would be nice if the league could award the president $25,000.00. After deliberation honorarium’s of $590.00 were approved for the president and secretary-treasurer. The president stated that he did not need, nor want, nor would he accept the honorarium as he was having fun is his leadership position.
The secretary-treasurer accepted the honorarium. Two years later a different treasurer was in office and stated that he would not accept the honorarium unless the president accepted his honorarium. Under this situation and the pressure of the president’s wife, the president accepted the honorarium.
Later the league’s board expanded the number of honorariums to include, the president, the secretary, the treasurer, the membership secretary, the tournament director, the chairperson of the competition and scheduling committee and finally the women’s conference coordinator.
It should be noted through all of these distributions, the president kept informing the recipients that they should report this income on their income tax returns.
September 5th, the Senior Softball USA 50+ AAA World Championships were held at the Mid-America Sports Complex, with eighty teams from throughout the United States and Canada competing. Four of the league’s teams competed, with Team 60 and the WOV’s 50+ team placing second.
League members sold tickets to the Royals-Toronto Blue Jays baseball game, played during the event and about 400 members and tournament players attended. One of the league members sang the national anthems for both countries involved and the league’s members were involved in throwing out the first pitch.
Prior to the game a Canadian player telephoned Weddle and stated he had heard that our members were going to present the colors. Weddle replied “that’s right would you like to carry the Canadian flag?” The player replied “yes” so he and four of the league’s members were involved in presenting the colors for the game.
September 12th, the Majors World Championship’s were held with fifty teams competing.
The Senior Sports Classic, sponsored by the Jackson County Parks & Recreation Department was held the weekend of September 16th. Several league’s teams competed with two of these teams winning championships. Teams from Topeka and St. Louis also competed.
League play was completed at Cottonwood Park September 23rd. The C division competed in a two division tournament and the LC teams played each other to finish the season. AAA Linen won the championship of the LC division and team Lawrence won the championship of the C division. These teams were presented a trophy and team members were each given a blue 50+ softball cap.
Several league members 65 years of age and over journeyed to St. George, Utah, joined some men there to form a softball team and competed in the Huntsmen Senior Games.
The Harrisonville Tournament was scheduled, postponed by rain and held October 14th with twelve teams competing. Teams AAA and Lawrence won their respective divisions and were presented trophies. Second place teams were also presented trophies.
October 7 & 8, several teams from our league participated in the Senior Olympics at Topeka, Ks.
1996 – Year Seven
In February officers of the league spoke with Ken Mass of the National Association of Senior Citizens Softball about the possibility of the league hosting a qualifying tournament in our area for their organization the following year. Progress was made and the league hosted the tournament August 15–17, 1997, at the Frank White Sports Complex. This event was a first class affair.
The Wednesday conference began play with eleven teams. After the completion of the first schedule of play, a second schedule of games was held. Team M & V finished in first place in both schedules of play but the Adams Auto Group’s Team won the tournament after the first schedule of play. Team Lawrence came in second the second schedule of play.
The name of Team Inland Containers was changed to Midwest Sales and Team Foresters name was changed to Wringers.
Charter member William Day recruited his son to play on the Cass County Team becoming the first father-son combination in the league.
Saturday conference, play, C1, the most competitive division, was made up pf six teams with team M & V taking first place and team Lawrence placing second. Noreen Maxwell, the league’s first female manager, managed team M & V.
C2, the second most competitive division, was made up of five teams with team Adams Auto Group taking first place and team Sixty KC placing second.
LC, the less competitive division, was made up of four teams with team AAA Linen taking first place and Team Boatman’s Bank placing second.
Several league’s teams competed in qualifying tournaments through the United States and also the NASCS World Series, The Softball Players Association and the Senior Softball USA World Championships. Team 65+ and M & V qualified at the Missouri Senior Olympics in Columbia, MO to participate in the 1997 National Senior Olympics. Seven league’s teams competed in the Kansas Senior Olympics held in Topeka KS and four of these teams qualified to compete in the National Senior Olympics to be held in Tucson, AZ in May 1997.
Two league members and their wives journeyed to British Isles with a group of Senior Softball USA individuals. They toured and played softball in England, Ireland, and Wales. Ethel Weddle again pitched for one of the teams. Another lady player from Texas also played in these games.
The league finished the season with nine teams competing in the Harrisonville Log Cabin Festival Days Tournament. This annual event was delayed one week because of rain.
The league suffered a major loss of one of its finest members. Bob Jackson passed away during the winter. He is remembered and missed by all 225 members of the league.
Bob, we miss seeing you setting up top of Coleman Park scouting all the teams to see if you might be able to pick up a Willie Mays for your team.
1997 – Year Eight
The year brought the resignation of the leagues secretary-treasurer Bob Steen. Members of the league are indebted to Bob for his efforts and work the past six years.
Job descriptions were prepared and approved for all league’s officer and committee chairperson’s positions. Ed Lane was elected chairperson of the Rules & Regulations Committee.
Jake Magee took over the secretary-treasurer’s position, Mike Sharon became the scheduler, Don Hicks became the chairperson of the Awards & Recognition Committee and Chuck Bua became the chairperson of the Publicity & Advertising Committee.
Prior to the opening game a memorial service was conducted for departed member Bob Jackson.
The team name Midwest Sales was replaced by the name Hustlers, Boatman’s Bank name was replaced by the name All Star Auto Sales. Consolidated Services sponsored two teams C. S. Gold and C. S. White and a new team B. O. G. entered the league.
The Wednesday evening conference began play April 16th with fourteen teams divided into two divisions of play. Las Chillis won first place and Lawrence Hawks came in second in the C1 division and C. S. Gold won first place with Super Seniors placing second in the C2 division.
The second schedule of play was won by Lawrence Hawks with Las Chillis coming in second in the C1 division. Team 60 won first place, with Goodtimers coming in second, in the C2 division.
Saturday league play began May 3rd, with six teams making up the C1 division and seven teams making up the C2 division. M & V won first place and Adams Auto Group came in second in the C1 division and AAA Linen winning first place and Ageless Wonders placing second in the C2 division.
Several league’s teams and members also played in a league on Sunday evening at Cottonwood Park in Lenexa, Ks.
The Ageless Wonders, M & V and Team 65 competed in the National Senior Olympics held in Tucson, AZ the later part of May.
The Raytown Dispatch and the Kansas City Star both featured outstanding articles about the league’s activities.