It’s been many years since Dean Hoffman played fast pitch softball for the St. James VFW team, but he has his memories and his scrapbook of the wins, the losses, the drama of the sport and the trip to the State Tournament.
Back in the 60s and the 70s men’s fast pitch softball was a serious sport in these parts and Dean and his teammates were serious players.
For more years than not over those decades, there was an 11 team league from towns across southern Minnesota.
Dean said, “We were always pretty good. Had good records. We made it to state one year.” Dean played center field most of the time and usually hit over .300 and batted 2,4 or 5 in the order.
Dean suffered a stroke about 30 years ago while driving a bus and that curbed the activities this 1955 graduate of St. James High School could do, but he does remember his days of playing fast pitch softball.
Dean played baseball for the Saints while in high school, and he learned about about fast pitch softball while he was in the military.
It was not the first time military service introduced St. James natives to fast pitch. Many people who served in the military in WW II brought the sport back to St. James in the post war period. Four teams were playing fast pitch at that time. However, that enthusiasm for the sport waned in the 50s and guys stopped playing fast pitch.
Dean was one of the people who helped get fast pitch going in the 60s.
One of the high points for Dean and his VFW teammates was making it to the State Fast Pitch Tournament in September 1966.
Over time the fast pitch league of southern Minnesota and the St. James teams died out.
Fast pitch is kept alive today as a girls sport. The Saints play a pretty mean version of it as a high school team. Dean likes to see the fast pitch tradition being continued as a sport the girls play.
On the boys side summer is a time where the VFW and the American Legion sponsor baseball teams. The St. James youth are pretty good at the American pass time.
Softball that’s played today is mostly slow pitch.