OTTO - Remembering Ty Stofflet

June 6, 2009

Yucaipa, CA

Remembering the great Ty Stofflet
By Bob Otto / Freelance Writer
YUCAIPA, CA - In 1983 I pitched for the Bronze fastpitch softball team that won the Southern California ASA Class A tournament. And that qualified us to play in the ASA Class A National Tournament in Bloomington, Illinois.
Granted, we didn’t play very well and finished 1-2. But getting knocked out early had a huge upside for me.
Because just 50 miles down the road in Decatur, the ASA Open National was being played. And the immortal Ty Stofflet, possibly the best left-hander to ever twirl a softball was pitching for the Reading, Pennsylvania Sunners.
And I was not going to miss perhaps my one and only chance to see him pitch.
So me and my pitching buddy Ronnie Quinn grabbed the keys for one of the rented cars and set out to see Ty pitch. Because of extra innings, the games got set way behind. But finally about 11:30 p.m., Ty and his Sunners' teammates came trotting into the ballpark from down the left-field line.
Ty had a big game ahead of him facing the late Peter Brown, who was pitching for the Santa Rosa Guanella Brothers, I believe.
Now for most pitchers, their focus would be entirely on the game. But not Ty. Autograph hounds beseeched him, calling out, "Ty can I have your autograph!" His fans leaned over the railings handing down tournament programs for him to sign. And Ty obliged everybody until a couple of players came over and steered him away to begin warming up.
What I remember most was his warm smile and friendly unassuming nature - just like regular folk taking time to stop and chat with friends.
I didn't get Ty's autograph and I could kick myself for that. But Ronnie and me didn't care about his autograph. We came for one reason: To see the great one pitch.
I had read the 1979 Sports Illustrated article about Ty telling of his exploits. I had listened to Craig Brown (lefty who pitched for the great Mankato teams) tell me of his incredibly sharp breaking rise, plunging drop, and change up that froze or screwed batters into the ground.
So Ronnie and I parked ourselves a couple rows up along the first base side of the infield near the dugout. We had to settle for decent seats, because the prime seating had long been taken behind home plate. Even though it was late about 1,500 fans stayed just to see Ty pitch.
At first glance, I wondered how a short man - I'm guessing maybe 5-foot-9 and maybe 170 pounds - could generate such speed and movement on the ball.
Ty's explosive rise ball sped toward the plate just above the belt and then shot upwards at an incredibly sharp arc. And the change up. Every batter seemed to get one - or they feared they would get one. And sometimes he frustrated them with two in a row.
The fans adored Ty and cheered him on as if he were their favorite son. But Peter Brown was in his prime and on this night he beat Ty something like 3-1, or there abouts.
That was 1983. Then in 1994 while pitching for the Southern California Masters in the ASA 45-Over Nationals in Las Vegas, I once again had my chance to see the great one pitch.
And I just happened to have my camera along. I looked at the schedule, drove to his game, but this time I was able to stand behind the backstop and take pictures of him in action.
After the game, I nervously walked up to him and said, "Ty would you mind if I take a picture of you?" He smiled and said sure. "Where do you want me to stand?" he asked.
I clicked the shutter, shook his hand, and thanked him for what have become some of the most memorable fastpitch pictures I have ever taken.
A great pitcher? One of the greatest of all time. But if you could turn back time and ask those fans hounding him for autographs what they think of Ty Stofflet.
They'd probably say, "he's certainly a great pitcher, but he's even a greater man."
(Check out a photo of Ty Stofflet at www.ottoinfocus.com)
Have a suggestion for a feature story? Email Bob Otto at botto3@verison.net and we can talk.

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