"If you do not know the true meaning of desire,hustle, and playing with your heart, you should have been in Lawrence Kansas on September 16th, 17th and 18th, 1977. You would have seen the second annual National Beep Baseball Tournament for the Blind.
Ten teams qualified for the three day event with the championship game which was held at 1:30 PM on Sunday, September 18, 1977.
This was a double elimination affair with Minneapolis going undefeated 4-0 to win the Championship.
Represented were clubs from:
St. Paul, Minneapolis, 2 teams from Phoenix, Chicago, Sioux Falls South Dakota, 2 teams from San Antonio, Texas and Lawrence, Kansas.
San Francisco had financial problems and failed to appear at a last moment notice.
The two Phoenix teams were sponsored by the telephone Pioneers of America and Lions Clubs. They brought home the third place trophy and three of our players won All Star selections and brought home special awards. They were Lonnie Freeman, Vincent Blaise and Bill Gibney.
The tournament was played on two fields to enable the double elimination event to end on Sunday.
The first day the games were played on very wet fields, as it had rained the night before and a twelve inch flood had hit the Kansas City area only four days earlier. This didn't bother the players, however, as they continued to run hard for the bases and tumble over each other in the field in their desire to pick up the beeping ball before the runner could find the audio activated base. They hit the bases so hard in their haste to score a run before the fielder could find the ball that a player was carried off the field for possible broken ribs.
Yes, I would say they played with their heart.
Mr. Robert Timothy, President of the Telephone Pioneers of America and Canada was present for the championship game and made the presentation of awards to the champions and runners up.
Mr. Timothy stated in his remarks that "it was a great pleasure to watch a game of this caliber and if this is the way the blind wanted to play, the Telephone Pioneers were certainly 100% behind them."
Mr Timothy also remarked to the crowd that he was proud to announce that the 1978 Beep Ball World Series would be held in his Mountain Bell area, Sun City, Arizona and would be co-sponsored by the Telephone Pioneers of America.
"When you see and feel the excitement and thrill this game brings to the players, I am sure all Pioneers throughout the country will know that their efforts have been worthwhile."
"Beepball for the blind is a booming and expanding sport here in Phoenix and throughout the country. Five years ago the Telephone Pioneers, Thunderbird Council, took on the challenge of trying to start beep ball for the blind. This project was assigned to me and in cooperation with Bob Cratty, President of the Mesa Lions Club, we met with the Phoenix Blind Center Director, Allen Woody and the fun began. Since that time we have grown from one team to five teams here in Phoenix."
"In February 1964, the audio ball was developed by Pioneer, Charlie Fairbanks, an engineer in the Colorado Engineering Department. The first ball had several problems, which had to be overcome, durability, proper weight and balance. Many years were spent in the experimenting with the ball and many employees were involved. Vernon Grimes of Colorado Springs came up with using rubber potting compound , inserted with a hypodermic needle to attain durability. His idea, together with all the ideas of the past workers finally became a reality as the ball went on display at the 1969 Telephone Pioneer Assembly in Minneapolis, Minnesota."
The Merrimack Valley Works, Chapter #78 is producing the ball at a cost of $20.00 and these are bought and donated to the game by the Telephone Pioneers.
Every year after our spring schedule has been completed, two teams of All Stars are selected from statistics kept by the official scorekeeper. these statistics include batting average and fielding putouts.
The original game invented by Ralph Rock, San Francisco Pioneers, was played with eight bases, all located thirty six feet behind home plate and twenty one feet apart.
Now the game has become more competitive and more nearly like baseball with its faster pace.
Today the game is played like this:
There are five players to each team.
Five are up to bat and five are out in the field.
There are five segments to the field, numbered one to five. The players are called by their number, or if well known by their name.
Fielders are escorted from the bench to the field and placed in their positions by two field assistants, which are sighted. The field assistants also designate who is to get the ball when it is hit.
Batters are escorted from the bench to the batting base and back to the bench by another sighted assistant.
The bases are set up at first and third and placed eighty feet from home plate.
The pitcher's mound is not elevated and is set twenty one feet from home plate.
All pitches are delivered as slow pitches with the pitcher obligated to give two verbal alerts to the batter. The word "Ready" should be clearly audible to the defensive players in the field. This means the pitch is about to be delivered. The second warning is with the word "Ball". This tells the batter that the pitched ball is leaving the hand of the pitcher at that moment.
Their is a sighted catcher and a sighted umpire. The umpire will make all final determinations concerning outs and runs, keep track of the strikes and balls and be the determining judge.
The umpire will pre-designate by a hand signal which base is to be activated in the event of a hit.
The batter after hitting the ball listens for the sound of the base, which is instantly turned on by the base operator and runs for the base. If the runner reaches the base before the fielder can find the beeping ball the umpire rules it a run. However, if the umpire rules the fielder picked up the ball before the runner reaches the base it is ruled an out.
A batter is allowed nine pitches. Four balls and five strikes and there are three outs to an inning.
A regular game consists of five full innings.
I have now organized two full teams in El Paso, Texas and presently attempting to organize teams in New Mexico. My ultimate goal is to have a Southwest Tournament each year to determine which team will represent the Chapter in the World Series for the Blind.
The bases are made out of foam rubber and are eight inches in diameter and three feet tall.
We sew a canvass cover over the base and insert a scare away buzzer from the old walk in telephone booths in a pocket sewn in at the top of the base.
The Pioneers also purchase the bats and donate to the game.
The 1977 World Series was attended by nine teams. I cannot find any game stats nor scores. I was able to figure out the standings.
The 1977 Series was a double elimination contest with no consolation section.
Minnesota BSF (Braille Sports Foundation) was the Champion winning 4 and losing 0
Sioux Falls was second going 5 and 2 as they had to play their way through the losers bracket.
Third Place was Arizona #1 (Phoenix Thunderbirds) 2 wins and 2 losses.
Fourth was St Paul's Gorillas 1 win and 2 losses.
Fifth was Arizona #2 (Phoenix Firebirds.) 1 win and 2 losses.
Sixth was the San Antonio Jets 1 win and 2 losses.
Seventh was Chicago (Bluffs) 0 and 2
Eight was Lawrence, KS 0 and 2
Ninth was San Antonio All Stars 0 and 2.
The Tournament All Stars in 1977 were:
Dave Miller MVP Sioux Falls
Bill Gibney Phoenix
Lonnie Freeman Phoenix
Vincent Blaise Phoenix
Jim Mastro Minnesota BSF
Denny Huberty St. Paul
In Cora's album there are some pictures of the awards including John Ross receiving the first place trophy from Mr. Timothy.
Vincent Blaise receiving a trophy
A team picture of the Third Place Phoenix Thunderbirds.
Bill Gibney receiving a trophy.
click here to read the Kansas City Star's account of the 1977 World Series