Home of softball marks jubilee

AMY JACKMAN
Last updated 05:00 14/11/2012
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The birthplace of softball in New Zealand is about to celebrate 75 years of scoring home runs.

Wellington Softball Association was set up in November 1937 by W H Wilson, the American general works manager of the Lower Hutt-based Ford Motor Company, who taught his New Zealand colleagues to play the game.

Today, the association unites 20 clubs, and had 92 senior and 177 junior teams playing last season.

W H Wilson, general works manager of the Lower Hutt-based Ford Motor Company, taught his colleagues to play softball.

The Wellington Softball Association was then formed in November 1937 and the first organised competitions took place that summer.

New Zealand representative coach Colin Ward, an international hall of fame member, , softball was popular in the 1950s and 1960s. "There were a lot of American ships that came into Wellington. The servicemen played the local teams at the Basin Reserve. There used to be thousands of people watching. It was great."

As a result, Wellington has always been strong at softball, with many representatives in the men's and women's teams. They include Kevin Herlihy, Peter Priddey, Dave McKerchar, Dennis Cheyne, Marilyn Marshall, Gina Weber, Eva Knight, and Marie Ward, nee Knight.

Mr Ward says Herlihy was a memorable player. "He was the best pitcher New Zealand has ever seen and was dominant from 1966 to 1984 and went to six world series."

Herlihy's 82 strikeouts in the 1972 Philippines world series broke the record for a series.

The New Zealand men's team, known as the Black Sox, won five world championships between 1976 and 2004. The women's team won one world title, in 1982.

Wellington has won the men's interprovincial competition 23 times and the women's competition 20 times.

This weekend's jubilee celebrations kick off with a gala dinner on Friday night. The public can watch a full day's softball action at Hataitai Park on Saturday.

ITINERARY

9am: Grade games from teeballers up to under-17s.

1pm: Black Sox Selection v Wellington Selection.

3pm: Cake-cutting, speeches.

3.15pm: Slow pitch celebrity game including former Silver Fern Sandra Edge, Paralympian Kate Horan, former Black Sox captain Mark Sorenson, Wellington city councillor John Morrison, and Central Pulse netballer Te Huinga Reo Selby-Rickit.

There will also be a bouncy castle, sausage sizzle, coffee, donuts, and giveaways.

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- The Dominion Post

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