Saturday, June 10, 2006

Memories of DAPCO Softball

As I was watching the college softball tournament games recently on TV, I enjoyed seeing the talented University of Michigan pitcher Jennie Ritter in action. Since Jennie played her prep softball at Dexter High School, it got me thinking back to the original glory days of Dexter softball in the 1970s.

In 1974 I attended my first high school softball game between my alma mater, Ann Arbor Pioneer and Willow Run High. I went to the game at the urging of one of my sister's friends, Cindy Cabianca who was on Pioneer's team. I loved it and went back to see a few more games that season. At one of the games I began to chat with an older gentleman sitting nearby, and later I found out that he was there scouting for talent for his summer league team. His name was Bob Lambert, and his team was sponsored by a company from Dexter called DAPCO.

A couple of weeks back I did a Google search for "DAPCO softball" and nothing came up. Since anyone who was there in the 70s can tell you, those were great times that should be remembered, and I guess it's up to me to start by sharing my memories.

Bob ended up recruiting a number of Pioneer players for his team, in fact in the early years about half of the roster was made up of former Pioneers. They included Grace Harbison (who would later coach Pioneer's team), Terry Karnatz, Betty Smith, Roberta Zald, Cindy Cabianca, Sue Dye, Jane Anderson and Kathie Vidrih. Other DAPCO players in the first few years included Robin Baun, Liz Hibsky, Ethel Lambert, Betty Nalli, Nancy Pearce, Deni Reid, Kathy Rice, Liz Snyder, Karen Taylor, Marlene Uphaus, Carol Wall, Karen Craig, Kathy "Too tall" Miller, Shirley Bitters, Elizabeth Walli, Dora Huizenga and Tammie Johnson. Later other excellent players joined the team including Skip Horning and Julie Murphy who would later become Brighton High's coach.

In it's first 2 years of existence, DAPCO dominated the Ann Arbor City League. The team also went to the state tournament both years, finishing 3rd in 1974. DAPCO's games were a blast to go to, because the team had a large, vocal contingent of fans led by Kathy Miller's mom. I usually sat with Roger Passon whose daughter served as the team's bat girl. The team had many great moments, but there are 4 in particular that I recall vividly:

1. In 1976 DAPCO moved up from the City League to the Ann Arbor Major League. The doubters were saying that DAPCO would not be very successful against the tougher competition, but those thoughts were dashed in a hurry. Betty Smith was the first DAPCO player to come to the plate in a major league game, and she proceeded to hit an inside-the-park home run!

2. It was hard to believe, but late in the 1976 season DAPCO was on the verge of winning the Major League championship in their rookie year in the league. An overflow crowd at Veterans Park diamond #2 was roaring halfway through the game as DAPCO built a big lead over Gray's Sports Shop. But the veteran Gray's team rallied late in the contest to post the win.

3. A year or two later on that same diamond in the Stein & Goetz Invitational tournament, DAPCO staged a dramatic rally in the bottom of the 7th inning to upset the powerhouse Little Caesar's team from Detroit.

4. After several near-misses, DAPCO finally won the Major League championship in about 1979. The title-clinching game was played at Vets #3, and when it ended the players were so excited that they didn't want to leave the field! They all stood along the 3rd base line as I and the other DAPCO fans in the stands snapped pictures and reveled in the moment.

More than a quarter of a century later, here's to the Orange and Blue - thanks for the memories!


Blogger Softball said...

Another name you can add to list was Pamela Sweet. She join the team with Skipping Horning.

7:50 PM  
Blogger Cindy said...

Dear Jim,
Thank you so much for the wonderful story about DAPCO. It was so nice of you to share this with us. We will always remeber Robert Lambert he was a wonderful man. Thank you so much.

7:30 PM  
Blogger Carolyn said...

Wow, how weird to read your comments and see the names mentioned. I went to Pioneer HS in 74/75 and recognize several of the players. Is anyone in touch
with Grace Harbison still? Would love to communicate with her.


1:06 PM  

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