Thursday, April 19, 2012
Kenosha Loses Softball Great
Before embarking on a stellar softball career, Denny was a fine baseball player. At age 18, he was recognized as Kenosha’s finest high school player and was awarded the Silver Slugger Award. In 1959, he had a tryout with the Milwaukee Braves.
After high school, Denny first played softball with Cliff’s Highview and Serafino’s. Around 1964 he joined the legendary Tirabassi’s Excavators, playing both 12” and 16” for the powerhouse team.
In 1973, Denny won the 12” slow-pitch World Championship in Rochester, New York playing outfield for Sports Specialties of Burlington. Seven years later he won the 16” slow-pitch World Championship playing for Beacon’s Tap of Racine.
Besides Tirabassi, Denny also played 12” with Finney’s Lounge and the Kenosha Kings. During his storied career, he won a remarkable 11 City League Tournament Championships.
When I heard that this Kenosha softball great had passed away I contacted two of his former teammates, Gary “Wizard” Petersen and Gene Willems for information. Not only were they able to provide me with details of Denny’s illustrious career, but they also threw in a story or two.
Willems and Denny were playing with Tirabassi in a tournament in Rockford, Illinois. After the team had finished playing on Saturday, they returned to their hotel to cleanup and relax. Willems and Denny’s roommates were Dick Laba and Jack Zimmerman.
Laba, long regarded as one of Kenosha’s finest, played professional softball with Milwaukee Schlitz. Zimmerman was a unique individual. Besides being a talented softball player, he was also a gifted football player, having played at Carthage College.
Once back at the hotel, the talented quartet made their plans for the evening. Willems and Laba decided they would get cleaned up and go out to explore Rockford’s nightlife.
Denny and Zimmerman had other plans.
As Willems and Laba readied themselves to go out, they noticed their teammates were playing dice. To their surprise, Denny and Zimmerman were shooting dice against the hotel room wall in a spirited game of craps.
Legend has it that after a while, Denny told Zimmerman he had enough and was going to take a shower. Undaunted, Zimmerman said, “Okay, do you mind if I shoot for both of us?” Denny chuckled, said, “Sure, knock yourself out” and went to get cleaned up.
When Denny stepped out of the shower fifteen minutes later he was greeted by Zimmerman who promptly handed him a twenty-dollar bill. All he said was, “You won, Denny.” I told you Zimmerman was unique.
Denny was a fierce competitor, but loved to have fun on and off the field. Wizard related a story illustrating that this was true even when Denny was battling cancer.
Last year, Denny was given the prognosis from the doctors that he only had nine more months to live. He never gave up, continuing to fight this insidious disease all nine of those months.
In true Denny DeLoria fashion, the day after the nine months were up, he threw a big party with all of his old teammates and friends. Wizard said it was a who’s who of Kenosha softball greats. And Denny was the host and the guest of honor.
That party took place in early March. Dennis “Denny” DeLoria left us on April 18th. Kenosha lost a great one, both on the field and off.
Rest in peace Denny.
Dear God, please remember Denny and all our brothers and sisters who have gone to their rest in the hope of rising again; may you bring him and all the departed into the light of your presence.
Until next time…from the booth.