Springfield world champion softball team celebrates 50th anniversary

SPRINGFIELD — A world title-winning slow-pitch softball team celebrated the 50th anniversary of its championship season last month.

Eight of the nine remaining members of the Pabst-International Harvester Corporation team — which won the World Industrial softball championship in 1973 — held a team reunion on Saturday, Aug. 19, in Springfield.

“We thought we would pull everybody together and share some stories,” said Larry Spahr, the team’s right fielder.

The team won the world championship in 1964 and finished runner-up multiple times before claiming the title again on Labor Day weekend in 1973. The squad was made up of employees from International, Spahr said.

“Some of us got our jobs so we could play ball with the team,” he said. “We played in all the big tournaments and held our own. We went back (to the worlds tournament) in ‘73 and were able to bring home all the marbles. It was a pretty exciting thing.”

Eight of the nine remaining members of the team were in attendance — Spahr, Ron White, Bob Reisinger, Larry “Monk” Garrad, Lou Bowman, Wayne Crew and Manager Guy Infante.

“We had some great guys on that team,” Spahr said.

Pabst qualified for the World Industrial Softball tournament eight times in 10 years beginning in 1964. They were runner-up in 1972 and won four games on Labor Day in 1973 to bring home the title. The 50-team tournament had representatives from nearly every state.

Trailing 9-8 in the bottom of the seventh inning, Pabst’s 6-foot-7 power hitter Dave Evilsizer came to the plate with a runner on third base. The Louisville Waco team manager made two trips to the mound before the at-bat and was required to make a change at pitcher. As he threw the first pitch, the pitcher ran backwards expecting Evilsizer to hit the ball back up the middle, Spahr said.

Instead, Evilsizer hit a one-hop dribbler that fell through the pitcher’s legs to tie the game. After holding Waco in the top of the eighth inning, Larry Yoakum doubled in the winning run to give Pabst a 10-9 victory in front of 4,000 fans, according to the Sept. 4, 1973 edition of the Springfield News-Sun.

The reunion also included the team’s manager Infante, who is now 95 years old.

“He remembers so much of what happened,” Spahr said.

Infante still has the game ball from the final at-bat of their championship win.

“It was a great tournament,” said Spahr, who was named tournament MVP after hitting .760 with 10 home runs for the tournament. Reisinger and Bowman joined Spahr on the All-World first team, while Garrard, Crew, Ron Boling and Larry Yoakum earned second team honors. The team finished the season 95-26.

Pabst was one of three teams to win state championships that season, including Stroh’s and the Springfield Robinettes women’s team.

“It was really a great time for softball in Springfield,” Spahr said.

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