40th Anniversary Season (2002) Association History

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(From an article by Jack Thomson and inputs from George Smith and TBD others)

In tracking the history of the Goddard Slow-Pitch Softball Association (GSPSA), one must go back to the early 1960’s. Almost from the Center’s inception, Goddard employees were playing softball – finding fields wherever possible within Prince George’s County.

In 1962, a number of former GSFC employees formed a fast-pitch softball team, and played in the D.C. Recreational League on South Dakota Avenue. Some of the fast-pitch players that went on to form and play in the initial GSFC Slo-Pitch Softball League were: George Harris, George Smith, Bill Hall, Bob Synder, John Schiefele, Dick Costa(?) and Bill Fortney.

In the fall of 1962, Bob Synder and George Smith formed a 4-team Slo-Pitch League to start in April of 1963. Initially they used fields at Building 7, DuVal High School and a field they built at the GSFC Recreation Center. The first four teams and their team captains were:

  1. Boosters – Walt Flournoy
  2. T&E Terrors – George Smith
  3. Particles – Sidney Jones
  4. TBD ??? – Dale Fahnestock ???

In the Inside Goddard article from May 27, 1963, Bob Snyder indicates that there are 12-teams playing on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, with about 200 Goddard and Contractor employees participating.

The 12 team captains were:

  1. Walt Nagel
  2. Sid Jones
  3. Gene Humphrey
  4. Norm Goldman
  5. Jim Knapp
  6. Harry Montgomery
  7. Jim Murphy
  8. Walt Clark
  9. Walt Flournoy
  10. Bob Wettingfeld
  11. Lee Eisenhower
  12. Al Newman

In the fall of 1963, after a successful start to their inaugural season, Bob Snyder and George Smith approached the Goddard Welfare Association Recreation Chairman Stuart Snyder and asked if he could find some land that could be used for GSFC softball. Stuart came back a few weeks later and took Bob and George to a place on Beaver Dam Road known as the Antenna Range with two towers and weeds about 2-feet high. Stuart told the fledgling softball league they could use the land, but had to do so on their own with no help from the Center.

In 1964, Walt Flournoy was named the first President of the GSFC Slo-Pitch Softball League. Assisting Walt in tackling the challenges of the rapid growth of the league due to the increasing popularity of slow-pitch softball were George Smith as Vice President and Dale Fahnestock as Secretary/Treasurer. The once 4-team league, now expanded to 12-teams, had quickly outgrown their available 3 fields.

Walt convinced the “establishment” of the importance of this recreational outlet for the Goddard employees and got management buy-in on the need for a Softball Complex.

Walt’s sound judgement and persistence paid off.

The construction of the initial three-field configuration was begun and completed in only 1-year. Initially, only Fields 1, 2 and 3 existed, with all three being aligned as Field 1 is today, with home plate towards the road. This alignment was necessary because initially there were no metal fences, no center road, and no parking between the antenna towers. All players parked on Beaver Dam Road. Reversal of Fields 2 & 3 and construction of Fields 4 & 5 came later, as well as the construction of the “Beer Shed”.

The early years of the new Association were not easy.

There were field maintenance problems, sanitation and safety headaches, league expansion and above all the need for operating revenue.

During the latter 60’s, an additional 10-team league was formed, an Executive Committee created, a formal Constitution with a set of Rules & Regulations adopted, and an Umpire’s Association was created.

Also a small Concession Stand began to operate to help defray costs.

In the beginning, the Concession Stand was essentially Jack and Joy Hoffman selling items out of the back of his pick-up truck. Then later, Frank Greer and Dick Libby selling beer out of “an aluminum shed”, where once the two kegs of cold beer that had been delivered for the day were gone they shut down for the night. This seems to be the source for the original name of the Concession Stand – the “Beer Shed”.

Into the early 70’s, a third Men’s League was added and the introduction of Women’s softball made its debut. To again provide the necessary operating revenue, the concept of team Franchise Fees was adopted and a new larger Concession Stand was constructed by Gary Vincent and Sam Willis.

With the ability to be self-sustaining and make capitol improvements, the Association improved its “sanitation facilities” (can’t imagine what they use to be), hired full-time Field Maintenance, and installed chain-link fences in the outfield - which greatly reduced the risk of injuries.

The Goddard Summer Invitational Tournament became a tremendously successful event in the 1970’s. Each year, teams from the tri-state area and the District of Columbia provided the competition. At one point in time, the tournament became so popular that a 32-team double-elimination format was used to accommodate all the teams that wanted to play.

According to Dale Fahnestock, one of the Associations Founding Fathers, and Past Treasurer (first 4-years) and President(1969), that one of the early tournaments was so successful that the NSA team (NSA Bombers ?) found themselves locked in and decided to “ram the gate” with their car until the gate busted. As Dale explains it from the phone call he got from the Center Director’s Office Monday morning, it almost marked the end of Goddard Softball.

In the mid 1970’s, the Goddard Softball Complex, its five fields, and organization were considered among the area’s finest.

In the late 1970’s, the Association added two more Men’s Leagues – for a total of 5 (we now have 6) and Co-Ed Softball replaced the Women’s League. At its peak in the early 1980’s the Co-Ed leagues “overflowed” their allotted two leagues with 24 teams playing on Tuesday and Wednesday nights at 6:45 pm.

(Mid 80’s to early 90’s – by Bill Guit)

The mid 1980’s saw further expansion of the Men’s Leagues to 6 leagues ( 4 “badge” leagues at 5:30pm Monday – Thursday and 2 “open” leagues at 6:45pm first on Mondays and Thursdays, then Wednesdays and Thursdays). To facilitate this change – the 18 games in 15 weeks format had to be changed to 18 games in 18 weeks to create a new “slot” to accommodate the expansion. First in 1992, this new league played on Mondays at 6:45pm but in 1997 it moved to Wednesdays. This re-alignment had a negative effect on the Co-Ed Leagues which shrank from 24 teams down to ~ 16-18 teams.

The late 1980’s saw Jack Thomson retiring as GSPSA President in 1986 to become GEWA Council Clubs Chairman. Joe Eck took over the helm of the Softball Association for the 1987 and 1988 Seasons.

1986 was also the year that Kendall Mitchell took over as Concession Stand Manager, a position he held until his retirement in 2001.

In 1989, Walt Moleski took over as the GSPSA President, a position he held until 1992. Walt is credited with bringing the Association into the electronic era. He created electronic copies of the Association’s Constitution, Rules and Regulations and first Policy Book. Later Walt created the first web-page for the Association and database of its membership. Walt was also instrumental in initiating re-construction activities associated with improving the overall quality of play.

The late 1980’s and early 1990’s saw steady growth in the number of teams playing “Men’s Softball” (even though women were playing on some teams) until it peaked out in the early 1990’s.

This time frame also saw the Softball Association’s experimentation with grass infields (to keep the dirt from blowing away) and many new capital improvements (lower equipment shed, new tractor,…)

(Early 1990’s to present – by Bill Guit)

When Walt Moleski stepped down from being the GSPSA President, after the 1992 Season, Bill Guit took over on an “acting basis” in 1993. Bill had been the “second-in-command” for 9-years as the V.P. of Scheduling. Of course, after getting voted in, in February 1994, Bill’s still President today, which just goes to confirm what Jack Thomson told Bill in 1984. When after 8 years as a player Bill finally joined the Executive Committee, he asked Jack – “Jack for as long as I can remember you’ve been President – how did you become President” – Jack just said he took over in 1970 and no one else as ever wanted the job. Jack lasted 16 years as President, so it look’s like Bill’s only a little over half-way to retirement. Of course Bill spent 9 years as V.P. of Scheduling, so who knows where that leaves him.

The early to mid 1990’s were marked by constant challenges and major capitol improvements.

In the early 1990’s, major field renovations were undertaken. Between 1992 and 1998, nearly $50,000 worth of improvements were made to the fields. The work included; re-grading Field 3 and installing drain fields, incorporation of “professional quality” infield mix soil for all the infields, installation of “artificial” batters boxes in all home plate areas, installation of pitching area mats, and installing “double” first-bases as a safety feature.

The early 1990’s, brought a challenge to the Softball Association when its management style was brought into question by some of the Association members.

The mid 1990’s, saw a 3-4 year effort to “re-negotiate” the Memorandum of Understanding on the Use of the Antenna Test Range by GSFC Clubs. This agreement, which forms the basis for how the facility is shared between the Goddard Model Airplane Club (GMAC) and the GSPSA, had become out-dated since it was signed in 1978. Needless to say – many “un-official” changes had crept in over the many years the original agreement was in place – longer season, fall softball, and the desire to hold more tournaments to name a few. Finally, in 1999, after many years of hard effort on the part of both clubs, and under the guidance of the GEWA Council a new agreement was signed.

The late 1990’s, saw the initiation of the first all Goddard teams Post Season Invitational Tournament (PSIT) in 1996 and a renewed emphasis placed on creating the safest environment to play and watch softball. In 1999, the new backstop and out-of-play fences were installed on Field 5 and the backstop moved back on Field 1 (the new backstops meet the minimum recommended distance from home plate to the backstop of 25 feet).

The next major safety initiative was the installation of a home run catching net on Field 1 to protect the spectators in the vicinity of the Concession Stand on Field 5 (that are generally not paying attention to what’s happening on Field 1). This was an $18,000 investment on the part of GEWA (1/2) and the GSPSA (1/2) to improve safety at the Goddard Softball Complex.

(40th Anniversary Season – by Bill Guit)

Although only in its early planning stage by the GSPSA, the 40th Anniversary Season, which occurs in 2002, marks a major milestone for the Association and for that matter any GSFC Club.

Some plans being worked on for the 40th Anniversary Season include:

  • Past President’s Plaque
  • Significant Contributor’s Plaque
  • Longevity Awards – Hats for folks with 25+ or 30+ yrs
  • Initiate the GSPSA Hall of Fame (Walt Flournoy’s idea)
  • Selling GSPSA related merchandise – Shirts, Hats,…     

(By Bill Guit)

  • Curving the road – to slow traffic – and allow moving the Backstops back on Fields 2, 3 and 4
  • Installing more “out-of-play” fences – and warning Tracks – and more shade trees
  • Raising the outfield fences to 12 – 18 feet
  • Building a Softball Complex Pavilion (Jack T’s idea)
  • Re-locating the GMAC to open up weekends

GSPSA History
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