Friday Flashback: American Professional Slow Pitch League (APSPL)

softball

In a sport where you have more people who play it than actually watch it, there was actually an attempt in the late 1970s and early 1980s to make it into a professional sports league.  The APSPL began play in 1977 with 12 teams divided into three divisions.  The Detroit Caesars posted the best record in the league (42-14) and won the APSPL World Series by sweeping the Baltimore Monuments 4-0.

The league signed a few retired Major League Baseball (MLB) players such as Norm Cash and Joe Pepitone.  Even former NFL player, Billy “White Shoes” Johnson appeared in 25 games for the Philadelphia Athletics in 1980.

Most games opened the inaugural season with scores in the 10-8 range but Detroit won its first game over Chicago 28-21. The Storm then gained a split of the first-day doubleheader 27-25. Former Major League player Cash hit a home run the next day, but it was practically forgotten in the face of what his less famous teammates did to Chicago pitching. In the first game of another doubleheader Bert Smith blasted four homers in four at bats to lead the Caesars to a 31-17 win. In the finale of the series Ronnie Ford hit four home runs and knocked in nine runs as Detroit won 46-24. Cash’s blow was merely one of 16 Detroit home runs in that game, and during the weekend the two teams hit a total of 84.

By the end of the weekend Ford had league-high totals of 15 hits, nine homers and 20 RBIs, while Smith went 8 for 11 with six home runs and 12 RBIs. The first-day attendance of 2,100 was encouraging—and right around the league average—but only 600 turned out to see the second-day slugfest.

Ford (Detroit) led the league in home runs and RBIs with 80 HR/201 RBI in 1978 and 43 HR/122 RBI in 1979.

The teams had some rather interesting nicknames such as the Kentucky Bourbons, Cincinnati Suds, Minnesota Goofys and Milwaukee Copper Hearth.

The league lasted longer than expected but eventually ran out of fan and financial support.  The APSPL merged with the North American Softball League (NASL) to become the United Professional Softball League (USPL) in 1981 but only last two seasons before men’s professional slo-pitch softball drifted into extinction.

Championship Game Results:

  • 1977 (APSPL) Detroit Caesars 4, Baltimore Monuments 0
  • 1978 (APSPL) Detroit Caesars 4, Minnesota Norsemen 0
  • 1979 (APSPL) Milwaukee Schlitz 5, Kentucky Bourbons 3
  • 1980 (APSPL) Rochester Express 5, Pittsburgh Hardhats 4
  • 1980 (NASL) Milwaukee Schlitz 5, Detroit Auto Kings 2
  • 1981 (UPSL) Kentucky Bourbons 5, New England Pilgrims 3
  • 1982 (UPSL) Milwaukee Schlitz 5, Detroit Softball City 1

Currently, only the women’s National Professional Fastpitch (NPF) is the only professional softball league.  The league has five teams entering into the 2017 season (Akron Racers, Chicago Bandits, Scrap Yard Dawgs (Houston, TX), Texas Charge (San Marcos, TX) and USSSA Pride (Kissimmee, FL).

 

 

 

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