Monday, September 8, 2014

Happy 30th Anniversary Play Ball

This summer marked the thirtieth anniversary of the Play Ball newspaper. The eight-page tabloid was the effort of publishers Glen Marescalco and Jack Ostrowski. During the first two weeks of the free publication’s short existence, Don Cox and John Rampart assisted them. The paper was published bi-monthly beginning May 29, 1984, with the last issue coming out August 21 that same year. As you might have guessed, the paper was devoted to all levels of Kenosha softball and baseball. Although it only survived the one-year, it was a must-read periodical.

The cover of the inaugural issue featured team pictures of both the 12” men and women Kenosha City champions from the previous (1983) season. Current Kenosha Mayor, Keith Bosman penned an article about the upcoming city tournaments. A regular feature, the “May Beverage Player of the Week”, debuted in this issue. Larry Keating garnered the honor, winning an Old Style cap and t-shirt along with a case of Old Style beer. Other regular features were the standings from The Bullpen and Finney’s West.

The second issue not only spotlighted the local softball scene, but also concentrated heavily on hardball. Tremper High School’s baseball team made the cover, celebrating their trip to the state tournament. Play Ball also featured two regular columnists, Dudley Blue and Xavier B. Harding. These pen names were used by a couple of softball “heavyweights” who liked to offer their spin on Kenosha’s favorite sport.

As could be expected, getting team and managers to contribute information and results was Marescalco and Ostrowski’s biggest obstacle. So much so, they put themselves on the cover of the June 26th cover pleading for contributions. Mayor Bosman added a second article, this one concerning the upcoming 14” tourney. Tournament results were peppered with the usual array of pictures featuring Kenosha’s men and women in action.

The July 12th issue of Play Ball ran a column by Xavier B. Harding that pondered the future of softball in Kenosha. It was interesting to go back and read the column and see how Harding’s opinions have played out, as softball progressed. Maybe, if there is enough interest, I can “reprint” that 1984 column in the Daily Kenoshan. I found it very interesting. That was the beauty of Play Ball. It was about people and things that you knew and cared about. Heck, it was about you!

The cover of the next issue of Play Ball had 1984 women Rotary champs Pasquali’s on it. A comprehensive article was featured along with an ad congratulating them on their back-to-back Rotary titles. Speaking of ads, they were another great part of the paper. Not only do they bring back wonderful memories, like The Ranch, Uncle Munchies and Hoff’s Players; but also the paper had coupons! The Times, Video Unlimited and The Fon Tan Blu were just a few that offered great deals when you patronized their establishments. Many a Thursday night, my team made the short trek across 22nd avenue from Hoff’s to The Times to use the free drink coupon we had tore out of the latest copy of Play Ball.

The final issue had the 14” City Tournament champions, The 5th Amendment, on the cover. The 5th’s pitcher, Rick “Cardo” Bloomquist, was honored as the last  “May Beverage Player of the Week”. The tabloid was fortunate enough to have Kenosha softball luminary Al Gajdos author an article about the legendary Strang Siding’s women’s team. Jon Naumann, Steve Spizziri, Tom Jaehne, Tammy Nelson and umpire George Becker had the privilege of having their pictures grace the back page of that last issue.

In that last issue of Play Ball, Jack Ostrowski and Glen Marescalco wrote, “We hope you enjoyed each and every issue of Play Ball. We’ll be back next year – bigger and better!” Unfortunately, they weren’t back the next year. But please rest assured that I, along with countless others, did indeed enjoy each and every issue of Play Ball. Until next time…from the booth.

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