It’s been well documented that in the world of softball, Tirabassi is a bona fide dynasty. Since the early 1960s, this team has been the softball equivalent of the New York Yankees, Boston Celtics, Montreal Canadiens and Green Bay Packers all rolled into one. For over forty-five years, the Tirabassi Excavators have been the benchmark for slow-pitch softball in Kenosha. They have been that good for that long.
During the 1980s my 400 Club team had several classic match-ups with the Tirabassi juggernaut. Unfortunately, we were always on the short end of the score in every one of those games. Not once during my storied career as manger of the legendary 400 Club did we defeat Tirabassi.
Never. Not once. Not in a tournament. Not in a city league game. Not even in a beer game. Never.
As hard as it is to do, I must admit that they were simply a better team then we were. There is no getting around it. Tirabassi always attracted the top athletes in town. They had no problem “luring” the best players away from other teams. This became painfully evident to me when they later “acquired” two of the best players I ever had play for me, Matt Montemurro and Bruce “Hollywood” Meyers.
That is why it aggravated me greatly whenever we had the chance to beat Tirabassi and let it slip through our fingers. However, it was even worse when it wasn’t our doing that cost us the chance of defeating Rocky Tirabassi and his gang of sluggers. And that is exactly what happened to us one muggy June night at Lincoln Park.
We was robbed!
There is no other way to put. The umpire that evening, Dave Richards, robbed us of having any hope of a victory in the very first inning of the game. He let us know right then and there that we were NOT going to beat Tirabassi in that particular game. Let me explain.
The 400 Club was playing Tirabassi in a city league game. We played in the top division, the Tuesday National, and it was early enough in the season to still have dreams of dethroning them and finishing in first place.
In order to accomplish this considerable feat we needed to be on top of our game and get a few breaks along the way. With that in mind, I immediately lost the coin toss, giving Tirabassi the home team advantage, forcing us to bat first. So much for getting a break. Regrettably it wouldn’t be the only break that we did not receive.
With one out in the top of the first inning, Bruce Edmark stepped to the plate. With Meyers and Montemurro set to follow, I knew that it was crucial that Edmark got on base. We needed some early momentum if we were to knock off our nemesis.
An anxious Edmark jumped on the first offering from Rocky Tirabassi, sending it right back at the pitcher on one sharp hop. DAMN!
But wait, the ball dribbled away from the usually sure-handed Tirabassi and he scrambled to pick it up as the speedy Edmark raced down the first base line.
When I saw Rocky finally secure the ball, I knew it would be a bang-bang play at first base. The ball and Edmark arrived at the bag at nearly the same instant. As the dust settled I heard umpire Richards call out, “Safe!”
Yes! There was the break we needed. We had a man on with the heart of the order coming up. Just then an angry Rocky Tirabassi began shouting, “I want an appeal!” and interrupted my short-lived jubilation.
I paused for a second before smiling because I realized that there could be no appeal because Richards was the only umpire that night. His partner had not shown up, so all decisions were his and were final. There was no one to overturn the call, no one to appeal the play to.
Or so I thought.
Realizing whom he had just ruled against, Richards immediately lost his spine and a few other male body parts and reversed his decision. He now decided that Edmark was not safe but was out. So much for any momentum for the 400 Club.
I was furious and demanded to know why he changed the original call. Richards meekly told me that Rocky had appealed it. I instantly shouted, “To who? There is no other ump to appeal it to!” he stared at me with a blank look on his face and said nothing.
When it became increasingly obvious that Richards had no intention of seeing the error of his way, I returned to the bench and proceeded to hurl insults at the weak-willed umpire. No cursing mind you, just stuff like, “You’re terrible” and “That was horrible”. But I was loud. Very loud. Extremely loud. You might even say vociferous. Ralph Kramden would have been proud.
As I watched the smug Rocky Tirabassi standing on the mound grinning from ear to ear, I suddenly became aware of two things. One, Richards was not going to eject me from the contest - he lacked the intestinal fortitude to do that. Secondly, I knew that we were going to lose to Tirabassi. Again.
And we did.
On that particular evening, with a line-up comprised of softball studs like Bill Johnson, Mark Hackbarth, Chuck Lange, Larry Carbone and Carmen Pillizzi; Rocky Tirabassi needed Dave Richards, to impersonate an umpire and give his powerhouse team an edge over my 400 Club team.
And he got it. I said it before and I will say it again. We was robbed.
Until next time…from the booth.