august2007

Peterson's Farm Tavern is king

August 22, 2007

Madison, WI


Doug Moe: Peterson's Farm Tavern is king
Doug Moe — 8/21/2007 9:07 am

(Re printed with permission - http://www.madison.com/)

ROD PETERSON says this was going to be the year. He isn't getting any
younger, you know.

Peterson is about to put 70 in his rear view mirror and assembling this
year's edition of his Farm Tavern softball team took a lot out of him. He
sent all the way to Australia for one kid, Jeff Goolagong, who turns out to
be related to Evonne Goolagong Cawley, the tennis star from the 1970s.

The point is, Peterson, a Rio native who came to Madison in 1955, was at
last going to put a wrap on a fast-pitch softball managing career that is
legendary around the world among those in the know. Then a funny thing
happened. Saturday night, in Canada, Peterson's Farm Tavern won another
International Softball Congress (ISC) world title.

"Now" Peterson was saying Monday," "we'll be back to defend."

Among fast-pitch softball players, guys who generally play for love and beer
money, the Farm Tavern franchise resonates like the New York Yankees. Last
weekend's world title was the Farm's third, and there have been multiple
national crowns as well. The numbers can run together for a self-described
farm boy like Peterson, but they appear to indicate the Farm Tavern has
finished in the top four in the world championships 11 of the past 12 years.
Talk about a Murders' Row.

This all started for Peterson, 69, one day in the early 1960s when he was
leaving his job at the Mendota State Hospital on the north side and spotted
a buddy carrying baseball spikes. The friend said he was going to a
fast-pitch softball game. "Want to come?"

Peterson, a lifelong baseball fan who had been thinking about playing Home
Talent League hardball, went along, and he has never looked back. He played
first base and started managing in 1966, skippering a team sponsored by the
Music Box Tavern on Madison 's east side in the city recreation league.

Peterson, whose family has a 650-acre farm south of Rio, bought the Farm
Tavern on Moorland Road, south of South Towne, in 1975, and naturally he
fielded a fast-pitch softball team. Today they play some 55 games a summer,
traveling around the state and beyond. Fast-pitch has become an
international game. This year's Farm team has four players from Wisconsin
(out of 15 on the roster). Peterson pays room, board and a stipend to the
mostly young players who relocate here for the summer. And while the game is
bigger elsewhere than in Madison, every July Peterson hosts a tournament at
the Bowling Green complex in Middleton.

There have been many highlights over the years. In the ISC world tournament
in 1981, held in Saginaw, Mich., the Farm Tavern played a 34-inning game
that took nearly six and one half hours to complete. The Valley Merchants of
Midland, Mich. wound up winning it 2-1 in the bottom of the 34th. The
Michigan pitcher recorded 64 strikeouts.

The result was better in 1997 when the Farm won its first ISC title in
Victoria, British Columbia. Peterson calls it "the greatest thrill I ever
had in my life."

How did they celebrate?

"We drank champagne out of the cup and danced at a club until four in the
morning." The manager chuckled. "It was quite an ordeal."

They won again in 1999, and last week they were up in Canada again, in
Kitchener this time, seeded sixth out of the tournament field of 32. It
hadn't been the greatest season for the Farm, but Peterson says that about a
month ago things started to come together, and in the tournament they
thumped a couple of "really great" teams that had beaten them earlier. The
final was an 8-1 rout of a team from Palm Springs, Calif.

"I'm coming to the end," Peterson said Monday. "I'm getting older and every
year the kids seem younger. It's a tremendous amount of work" But next
year's world tournament is nearby -- in Kimberly. You can bet both the farm
boy and the Farm Tavern will be there.
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