A group photo as the Montclair softball league celebrates its 50th season, Saturday, April 22, at Montclair Park. Photo: D. Ross Cameron

By Lewis Dolinsky

A fast-pitch pick-up softball game that began at UC Berkeley celebrated its 50th year on Saturday. It has survived through ten presidents and at least ten locales while hundreds of players, ages 12 to 70s, have come, gone and sometimes returned years later.

Memorable characters include the first World Frisbee Champion, a soap opera star, a porn actor, a plumber with guns, a Communist woman second baseman, a longtime mayor of Berkeley, pitchers from Guatemala and Colombia, and the Statman, who kept records of every at bat until the responsibility overwhelmed him and he burned all the pages.

The founders were four members of Occident, the Cal campus literary magazine: Gary Robinson, Bruce Hawkins, Steve Kellman, and me. The first fields were upper Barrows, then lower Barrows, which became the site of the Pacific Film Archive before it moved to Center Street. We played doubleheaders on Saturdays and Sundays, triple headers on holidays. Now it’s one game on Saturdays, April through November at Oakland’s Montclair Park, where good young players mix in with the veterans.

Some veterans remember checking out Bushrod field in Oakland in the 1970s. There, practicing, were former minor league baseball players in their 60s and 70s, skills diminished but passion intact. That’s how we want to be, we said. And in a way, we became what we beheld.

Casey Hellman connects for an extra base hit as the Montclair softball league celebrates its 50th season. Photo: D. Ross Cameron
Gerry Thrash looks askance after being called out on strikes as the Montclair softball league celebrates its 50th season. Photo: D. Ross Cameron
Players watch the action from the backstop, as the Montclair softball league celebrates its 50th season with a game at Montclair Park in Oakland, Calif.  Photo: D. Ross Cameron
Lewis Dolinsky, right, reads out the team rosters — Gary Robinson is on the left. Photo: D. Ross Cameron
Lyla Weinstein delivers the pitch in the first inning. Photo: D. Ross Cameron
David Ross, left, puts the tag on Ian Acredolo. Photo: D. Ross Cameron
A cake marks the occasion as the Montclair softball league celebrates its 50th season with a game at Montclair Park. Photo: D. Ross Cameron

Journalist Lewis Dolinsky spent 26 years at the San Francisco Chronicle as an editor and foreign affairs columnist.

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