The wonderful world of fast-pitch softball was remembered at the Casey Popcorn Festival over Labor Day weekend,
Fast-pitch softball was my favorite during 40 years of sports reporting. I was hooked as a skinny lad of 10 while chasing foul balls at the airport diamond in Dixon, my hometown. I received 10 cents for outmaneuvering several other boys to corral the foul ball and return it.
This was while my uncle was playing in a league game. He was a big guy, a catcher. They called him Fatty.
A few years later, I was the official scorekeeper three nights a week during Dixon league games. Then I moved to the Herald & Review and began to write about Jim Nicol, Dutch Seybert, the Tom's Grill team and, later, teams sponsored by Doc Sensibaugh, Riley Dunn and Carl Thacker.
I was in on the transformation of Decatur softball to world-class status at Borg Warner Field, fueled by Archer Daniels Midland Co. sponsorship. I followed ADM to national Amateur Softball Association tournament success and to National Sports Festival tournament success in Colorado Springs, Indianapolis and Salt Lake City.
One of the main Decatur softball antagonists was the Casey Truckers from southeast Illinois, about 85 miles from Decatur. Casey teams played in 11 national or state tournaments and won seven times.
I've been out of sports for 22 years, so it was nice to be remembered during the grand reopening of the Casey Softball Museum and Hall of Honor.
The white museum building behind the right field fence of the now-gone Casey Stadium opened in 1976, thanks to the efforts of Ted Anderson.
The Truckers disbanded in the 1980s. The museum was deteriorating. About a year ago, a committee was formed to refurbish it, "The city pitched in $1,500, and we succeeded in raising $37,000," said Joe Snedeker, secretary-treasurer of the committee led by Leroy Staley, "enough to do first-rate renovations." Steve Voris and Lloyd Athey also are on the board of directors.
The museum certainly is first-rate. The many trophies collected by the Casey teams are on display, along with photos, newspaper stories and historical mementoes. There's a section, too, on the highly successful Casey-Westfield High School girls state championship teams. And there is a list of the Hall of Honor members. I'm the newest, No. 99.
Wayne Myers of Terre Haute, the Indiana state commissioner and former national president, was on hand. Truckers I shook hands with were Voris and Bob Simpson. Snedeker and I talked about the good old days.
Myers pointed out that Casey was the softball capital of East-Central Illinois. Decatur, Bloomington, Aurora and Peoria were the Illinois headliners years ago. Casey has them all beat now with a spiffy museum.
Casey state champions
Casey Truckers, Class A, 1971, 1973
Casey Stingers, women's major, 1980
Casey Bombers, women's Class A, 1982; also won Midwest regional
Casey Commotion, women's Class A, 1996
Casey Elite, age 10 and under girls, 2002.
Illinois Hall of Fame
Joe Snedeker, 1979
Moe Ashley, 1982
Bob Simpson, 1982
Frank Winnett, 1995
Walt Scott, 1996
Denny Throneburg, 2000
Phil Sherwood, 2000
Steve Voris, 2006