By Tom Prendergast, MSBL World Series Tournament Director and Kansas City MSBL League President
Steve Sigler started the concept of the Men’s Senior Baseball League World Series in the fall of 1988.That first year 38 teams participated in a week long tournament, held in November. The Kansas City MSBL sent a team and when the guys returned to KC, that’s all they could talk about.
After hearing these glowing reviews, I decided that I wanted to attend the 1989 MSBL World Series. I started recruiting players to be on my 30+ team and in no time at all, I had put together a 20 man All Star caliber team. I was pretty sure we were going to win a championship based on the talent level of the guys I had on my roster.
Sixty-nine teams participated that year in four separate divisions. 30+ National and American and 40+ National and American. My team was in the 30+ American Division. I arrived in Phoenix on Sunday morning and at 3:00 pm that afternoon we had a team practice at Scottsdale Community College, which at the time was the Spring training home of the Oakland A’s.
At 7:00pm that night, I attended the MSBL WS manager meeting, held in one of the conference meeting rooms at the Buttes Hotel, located right next to Tempe Diablo Stadium. The room was packed and the atmosphere was electric. Steve Sigler addressed the managers and for the next two hours went over the tournament rules and answered questions.
Our schedule was perfect. We had a Double Header on Monday and Wednesday, with single games on Tuesday and Thursday. I set up our pitching to make sure that two of our best pitchers would be able to throw on Friday and saved our ace for the championship game on Saturday. Our lineup was set, as I would play second base and bat leadoff.
The Kansas City league was wood bat only, so when we got to use aluminum bats in the tournament my batting
average went up about 200 points! I was a punch and Judy hitter, but I got on base a ton and had some speed, so I stole a lot of bases. The highlight of that tournament for me was batting .600 with an on base percentage of around 70%.
Unfortunately, my managing debut in Arizona didn’t go so well. It can be tough to be a player/manager with lots to think about and so my team ended up 0-6.
Despite that, everybody on the team had a great time and we committed to returning the next year. And why not! We were playing baseball on incredibly manicured fields, relaxing in the sun and having the time of our lives. This was like spring break for grown-ups!
The next year (1990) I was determined not to repeat the same mistakes I made the previous year and so I doubled down on our pitching staff and increased our roster to 25 players, which included 10 pitchers! This year there was no doubt we were going to win the championship. And as a bonus, the 30+ National Championship game was going to be televised on Sports Channel America. Well that was so cool we could hardly stand it. Not only were we going to be playing baseball in Arizona while there was a foot of snow back in Kansas City, but we were going to be on TV to boot! That was just icing on the cake.
Needless to say, things didn’t quite work out like I had planned. Once again, we had a great schedule 2-1-2-1 and our lineup was stacked. As a player I had an even better tournament this year, with a batting average of around .650, 12 runs scored and 10 stolen bases. But my managerial record remained the same. Once again, the team went 0-6 and instead of playing in the championship game, we were sitting in the stands at Tempe Diablo Stadium, watching it.
While we got to play on a lot of great fields, my favorite was Apache Junction High School. At the time this was considered the #1 high school field in the nation. The grass was incredibly lush and there wasn’t a bad hop in the
entire infield. The Superstition Mountains provided the backdrop and the setting was just fantastic.
This was my ‘Field of Dreams’. When Friday rolled around, my team was on the golf course and I was a volunteer field monitor at Scottsdale Community College, calling the playoff game scores into the World Series office.
Good news – bad news. First of all, I hold, or share, an MSBL World Series record for a manager, as my record is 0-12. That’s the bad news. If my teams had won, I would never have had the chance to join the MSBL WS staff. In 1991, Steve Sigler offered me the opportunity to be the World Series Umpire-In-Chief.
We had formed our own umpire association in Kansas City and so I was a logical choice. It was during this time that I had the good fortune to meet one of the nicest guys, who would later become one of my closest friends, Lou Myers. Without a doubt, Lou had a huge impact on improving our World Series umpires. He was a larger than life presence and not just because he towered over everybody else at 6’6”, he was our John Wayne. When Lou spoke, people listened.