By Steve LaMontia, Director of Communications
No 35th anniversary of the Men’s Senior Baseball League would be complete without a re-visit with the managing editor of the beloved Hardball Magazine, a staple in the MSBL environment from the spring of 1991 through 2012. The inception of the immediacy of websites and social media necessitated a change in direction in 2012, so MSBL discontinued the quarterly lifeline to all things going on within the MSBL world and addressed different communication needs.
MSBL World Series Tournament Director Tom Prendergast recently asked previous Hardball Magazine managing editor and 2012 MSBL Hall of Fame inductee, Jackie Piro Huyck, to outline for us the inception and journey of Hardball Magazine, up until the final edition in 2012. Jackie was nice enough to supply us with a history lesson, which includes some of her personal images from years past. Enjoy the trip down memory lane!
HardBall Magazine…by Jackie Piro Huyck
It was in the early 1990s, when my late husband Dan Piro* informed me that we were going to be in the magazine business. This came as a bit of a shock to me since we had only been doing 12-page banking newsletters up until that time. We were transplanted New Yorkers living in California when Dan heard about the MSBL from my brother-in-law Lee DeMeo who was a member of Steve Sigler’s Long Island league. So, Dan found out there was a Southern California MSBL and he joined it, thrilled to be able to play baseball again. He also got involved in running the local league and he made it a point to visit Steve Sigler during our visits back east.
Dan told Steve he thought the organization needed a newsletter; Steve said “Why not a magazine?” and that was that! It was quite a leap of faith for Steve, as printing and mailing a magazine is very expensive. But it was a great decision. Remember, the internet was in its infancy, no one had websites, so mailing to all the MSBL members throughout the country was the only way to communicate to the entire organization. Our job was to report on all the national and regional tournaments plus have baseball training articles and spotlight various leagues and people in the organization. HardBall Magazine served to legitimize and elevate the National organization and unify the affiliated leagues. It added a lot of value to MSBL membership, in my extremely biased opinion.
We started out with just me as Managing Editor, Dan as Publisher, and David Krival** as Editor (David was also an MSBL member). David came up with the “HardBall” name. What we lacked in experience we made up for in enthusiasm and hard work. We were on a shoestring budget and produced two issues a year. We worked out of our house in Oceanside, California. David would come down on weekends from his home in Rancho Palos Verdes.
The first issue as I recall covered the MSBL World Series which at that time had maybe two divisions. Dan and David found various subcontractors to help, like Denevi & Jones, two women who loved baseball and were professional photographers, and their friends to shoot and caption photos of the Championship Games. Then when the Fall Classic in Florida was born, we found Jerry Esposito, an MSBL member from Rochester who took great photos for us there. Of course, Steve Sigler would write his “Letter from the President” for each issue and suggest topics for us to cover, and he would get a final review before we sent it to the printer. Later, when we needed a new Editor, Jeff McGaw from the Harrisburg MSBL stepped up and did a great job for us, especially after my husband Dan got sick.
As we approached the end of HardBall’s 20-year tenure, we were producing four issues per year and covering every championship game in the MSBL World Series and Fall Classic, plus a slew of regionals and the Vegas and Palm Springs tournaments. And the Yearbook issue! It was an all-consuming job for us, requiring many late nights, a rigorous production schedule, and a slew of subcontracted reporters and photographers, mostly members of the MSBL, to send us content.
We all wore multiple hats; writing, editing, designing, formatting, selling ads, answering phone calls and emails from members, etc. No sooner was one issue off to the printer than we started on the next. Dan and I and our son Danny made that trip to the Arizona World Series each year and I remember running from one Tempe Diablo field to another to take photos and do interviews. I even learned to score games. Ditto for other tournaments like Palm Springs and Las Vegas. The Arizona tournament was fun for me because it was like an annual family reunion where I got to see Steve, Tom (tournament director Prendergast), and all the people, league presidents, players, etc. that I talked to on the phone in person for a change.
The technology to produce the magazine changed drastically over the 20 years we published. In the early 1990s, I had to send the ﬁles on disk to a local output house and the photos to another place to be halftoned. I pasted the halftoned photos onto the pages on my dining room table with something called a waxer, then drove the ﬁnished pages back to the output house to have them shot to ﬁlm negatives, which then had to be picked up the next day, examined on a light table, and FedExed to the printer.
Up to a week later I would get a proof back from the printer and only after I reviewed and Fed-Exed back the approved pages would they proceed with the actual printing. In contrast, 2011’s final issue was formatted on my laptop computer and then uploaded to our printer’s FTP site. I was able to proof and approve each page online almost immediately. So much faster!
These days the MSBL website and social media pages fulfill the unifying and communicative purpose, making a printed magazine superfluous. I’m happily retired and remarried, and no longer involved in baseball now that my son is a working man (he played college baseball until he graduated), but I confess to sneaking a peak at Tom Prendergast’s World Series Daily News and the articles on the MSBL website occasionally when I’m feeling nostalgic!
Below is a link to the final edition of Hardball Magazine from 2012:
—Jackie Piro Huyck
*Dan Piro passed away on January 27, 2010 in Oceanside, California of Pancreatic Cancer at age 61.
**Dave Krival passed away on July 23rd, 2020 in Oxnard, California at age 72.