Ty Stofflet is a man of many talents, not least of which, bowling. He also loves playing guitar, a devotion he carried over from his younger days playing in a band with his brother Larry.
But these are surface pleasures. His heart belongs to softball.
As a kid in the 70s I had the pleasure of watching Ty pitch softball when he played for the Reading Sunners. He pitched against his former team, the Allentown Patriots, at Patriots Park at 10th and Wyoming streets. I went to the games with my dad who then worked with Ty at Mack Trucks.
Calling Ty Stofflet a great softball pitcher is about the equivalent of saying Michael Jordan played basketball. It’s not wrong, but it ain’t right. Ty Stofflet is the greatest fastpitch softball pitcher ever to grace the game.
But don’t take my word for it. Ask anyone who was around at the time who saw the lefty’s windmill arm in action; they’ll tell you the same. And if they don’t, they’re lying.
So how fast of a pitcher was Stofflet?
In 1979, at Veterans Stadium in Philadelphia, the 37-year-old hurler was clocked at 104.7 mph, a feat that remains in the record books as the fastest softball pitch ever thrown. It caught the attention of Sports Illustrated. That same year the magazine featured an 11-page article on Stofflet titled, “This Guy Can Rise It, Drop It and Pop It at 104 MPH.”
The August 11, 1985 issue of The New York Times Magazine featured an article declaring him, “The Fastest Pitcher in America.”
Here are the numbers: Over 1500 victories; 650 shutouts; 172 no-hitters; 58 perfect games. He could also hit the ball: Throughout 30-plus years of playing competitive softball he maintained a career batting average of .300.
Now here’s the man behind the numbers. I caught up with Ty last week at his home in Pennsylvania. We talked on the phone for almost two hours. At 69 years old he’s retired from both softball and Mack Trucks. He worked at Mack for 30 years. Eleven years ago, in Texas, he threw his last pitch in a 40-and-over tournament.
“I’ll never forget it,” he said. “When I walked off in the seventh inning it was all over.” He struck out 14, earning a 1-0 win. “That was it.”
He enjoys talking about the glory days, his “prime years” between 1970 to 1979. Sure, there is sadness in his voice as he remembers all that went before, but there’s no mistaking the pride he takes in knowing he was better than the rest.
“For about seven years I was the best pitcher in the world,” he says, quickly adding, “I do miss it, pitching, no doubt about it. But most of all I miss not seeing the people I used to see. The other players, the fans. Ninety percent of them I’ll never see again. It’s sad, but what are you gonna to do?”
He still gets a charge when someone recognizes him from his pitching days. “People will come up to me and say, ‘Hey, aren’t you Ty Stofflet?’ That makes me feel good. I gave a lot of enjoyment to the people who saw me pitch.”
To think he almost gave it up for rock n’ roll.
In their teens and early 20s, the Stofflet brothers played in a band. Calling themselves The Koachmen, they played as much as four nights a week in clubs in and around Allentown. Ty played guitar, Larry played bass; both of them sang.
“We’d sing a lot of Everly Brothers, Righteous Brothers. We did a lot of harmony together,” said Larry, who lives in Whitehall. “We used to play the Italian Club in Allentown. It’s still there.”
After 13 years of harmonizing with his brother, all the while playing softball, Ty says he was faced with the decision of choosing one or the other. In 1970, he quit the band and joined the Allentown Patriots.
“I even thought of quitting pitching and going back to the band,” Ty said. “I really love music. I hated quitting the band. We had a really great sound.”
Larry, a year younger than Ty, is protective of his brother, as well as proud. Himself a lefty pitcher and a first baseman, Larry played for a while on the same Patriots team as Ty.
“He used his body like a bullwhip,” he said of Ty’s pitching style. “The better you move it, the better it cracks.”
But speed alone won’t do it, Ty says. “You gotta have something on the ball.”
Growing up in Coplay, Pa., the brothers learned to throw left-handed from their father Harold, a softball pitcher in his own right. “He was not a windmill pitcher like I am, he was a figure eight pitcher,” Ty said.
He credits his father for molding him into a formidable left-handed pitcher. “He was in the yard with me six, seven days, teaching me to throw. He would drive me to all my games. I wanted to be the best, nobody better than me. Guess it paid off.”
In 1976 it paid off, in Lower Hutt, New Zealand. The Reading Sunners were there to represent the United States in an International Softball Federation Tournament. Playing against New Zealand and their star right-hander Kevin Herlihy, Ty says he pitched the best game of his life.
The numbers are staggering.
Ty pitched a 20 inning no-hitter including a perfect game for 18 2/3 innings. “I hit a guy on the wrist,” he recalls. “It looked like he leaned into it, but what are you gonna do?” Then, in the bottom of the 20th, Ty drove in the winning run “God that was a great game.” He was voted Most Valuable Pitcher and Most Valuable Player in the tournament.
Today, he lives in a rural part of the state where he prefers his privacy. Still, there are people in the area who hear his name and think to ask, “Aren’t you Ty Stofflet?” He likes to show them the roughly 128 trophies he keeps on display. And why not? His name’s on all of them. A few years ago he put his name on a book about his life, “Softball’s Lefty Legend, Ty Stofflet,” which he co-authored with Steven Clarfield.
“Softball was my life,” he says. “I really loved it. It gave me so much.”
Jim Brackin says
Great article. I had the pleasure (?) of facing Ty several times from 1979 thru 1982, then I joined with Ty and the Sunners 1983-1986. Also played with Ty on the Pan American Games team in 1979 and 1983. Not only was he awesome in the circle, off the field he is one of the greatest guys I ever met.
In the mid-80s, the Sunners toured Canada for a week or so. We played in Winnipeg, then took off on an 8 lor 9 hour bus trip to Saskatoon ….. basically farmland the whole way, with a house or two periodically …. half way there, we stopped to eat at a truck stop. As we walked to our table, a guy comes up …. excuse me, but aren’t you Ty Stofflet? And he proceeded to tell Ty that he was a “fastball” fan who had seen him pitch several times. That was amazing to me …. in the middle of miles and miles of Canadian farmland, a Canadian truck driver recognized the quiet Pennsylvania Dutchman from Coplay, PA.
Luke Edwards says
I was on that Saskatoon team 3-2 us I think hahaha old Geno out did himself that day
Ron Trede says
I never faced Ty but I faced some outstanding pitchers in California in the 70’s like Rich Balswick, Chuck D’arcy, Guy French, Bill Simoni, Roy Burleson and I could go on and on. I did see Ty pitch at the Open Nationals at Hayward, Ca. I believe it 1974. He pitched for a team from Reading, Pa. And, like I said I’ve seen and played against great pitchers, but I would honestly say Ty was the best. I believe he was pitching against Atlanta, Ga. And until the 4th inning, he had struck out every batter. No batter had even fouled one off. A batter finally fouled off a rise ball and believe it or not the crowd gave the batter a standing ovation. His team obviously went on to win the tournament with Ty as MVP. Never have I seen any pitcher throw that hard with so much movement of the ball. But what he had that is very seldom mentioned is an awesome change-up. By far I really doubt anyone was ever as good as Ty Stofflet.
Rick Banas II says
Ron Trede knows what he is talking about as he is a former teammate of mine as well as an opposing player on several teams I competed against. Trede is a Greater San Joaquin Metro ASA Hall of Fame player himself and I have faced many of the same pitchers he speaks of, including D’Arcy, Balswick and Simoni as well as Forney Bassham. Yet none of those guys can touch Stofflet, who was indeed the fastest pitcher I ever personally saw. The only hit I ever witnessed off Stofflet was when one batter unintentionally singled to right field…while attempting a bunt!
Doug Noble says
Do you remember Hal Skinner?
Don Copple says
I will echo Mr. Trede’s comments. I have seen most of the greats from late 50’s on, and he was clearly the greatest. His riseball started low and came up like a rocket. Best riseball of all time as well as best change-up. It was devastating. Nothing wrong with his drop ball either. He could have been best fielding pitcher of all time. I have never seen any pitcher rifle the ball overhanded to second like he could. Of course he was an excellent hitter as well. Fine man also.
Pete D'Amour says
I played against Ty in the ’86 men’s major Regional tournament in Wheaton Md. We lost the Championship game but I got a hit off him for our only run getting beat 2-1. Never forget the pitch I got my hit , a changeup. Took a picture of Ty and my son Pete ( Mizzou softball pitching coach) when Pete was just 6 years old, great memories of 2 great softball players.
Joe Tucker says
Unhittable is the word that best discribes Ty. I will never forget facing Ty for the first time in ’81. I stepped in the batter’s box knowing he wasn’t going to throw it by me. When he unleashed that rise ball it came by me like a comet with a two foot tail on it. After his 3 pitch strike out I came back to the dugout and told my brother that I will not live long enough to hit Ty so I better start to learn how to pitch. After pitching in over 20 world and national championships I have to say thanks and you were the best I ever saw. Also too, it was an honor to pitch with and against him in my career.
Billy Pennington says
Had the great pleasure of facing ty had a few hits against his defense only one off him it barely left the infield. the next time up tried to bunt he through me out by 1/2 step after the game he said to me he had lost a step.But I had lost a step and a 1/2 . Great wit Really great pitcher and great competitive spirit.
steve witthuhn says
Saw Ty pitch in World Tour. in the early 70’s in Kimberly-Never saw a player so intense with every pitch-He put 100% into every pitch-Never In my 50 years of watching fastpitch have I seen such a competitor-Also had an opportunity to talk to him-to sum it up he was a nice guy and truly a legend
Pierre Clavet says
Long time ago, I saw him on TV pitching against 3 L.A. Dodgers as you can see here : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UWK_AnfuYYM
Pierre Clavet says
Watch him pitch against 3 L.A. Dodgers
Mike Goodridge says
I have watched many ISC”s and many Canadian fastpitch championships. The two best I have seen areDarren Zack and Brad Underwood. Undy was probably the best fastball player because he was such a tremendous hitter.
Joe Lopez says
I watch Ty Stofflet pitch in Rock Island,Il. For Sal’s Lunch of Pa. but, by that time Mr. Dick Brubaker was the dominate pitcher at the time. No doubt Ty was the best over the long haul worldwide.
Donna Lang Picariello says
I remember watching Ty pitch for Sal’s Lunch not realizing that at the time I was watching a legend. My father, Ed Lang played third base for Sal’s Lunch when they won the Championship in Illinois. He too , agrees that Ty was one of the greats.
Rich Beaver says
I played with Phidelphia Hobos touring team in 1969 – 1970 . Sal’s Lunch Home base . Herman Skea & Bob Smith ran team .
Rich Beaver says
Donna : did you know Herman Skea or Bob Smith of the Philly Hobos?
Rich Beaver says
Did you know Herman Skea of Sals Lunch
Rich Beaver says
Donna Lang Picariello ; did you see Herman Skea pitch for Sals Lunch . He was my friend from Philaldelphia Hobos . Thank you. .
John Simpers says
I had the pleasure of umpiring Ty in Baltimore at the end of his career. It was one of the best games I ever had. He won the game and his inspiration led me to 3 National Tournaments. He was the best pitcher I had the pleasure of working.
Daniel Shepler says
My dad used to take me to the Reading Ballpark where the Reading Phillies play everytime they had a softball tournament. I remember a guy facing him and this is a true story the first two pitches from Stofflet he never took his bat off his shoulder. He simply walked away to the dugout I heard the umpire say said hey buddy it’s only the second strike he turned around and said to the ump he can try to hit the next one cause I never seen the first two pitches.
Dennis Turnage says
i faces Ty in the mid 80s in PA. I can say i never saw any of the 3 pitches. i swear the catcher just kept the ball and slapped it into the mitt. being a catcher, i would have loved to had the chance to catch Ty just once.
Daniel Ramirez says
I played fast pitch softball from 1957 to 1970 and saw or played with and against many great pitchers. Determining who the best or greatest is subjective. In talking to many players of that era in central California, one name is consistently mentioned as the best. It is a pitcher who won nine ISC world championships, mostly with the Long Beach Nitehawks. His name is Leroy Zimmerman. I saw him pitch and he threw a rise and a drop ball, threw it very fast and most of all with pin point accuracy. The drop was thrown at or below the knees and the rise high on the strike zone, and with his speed and accuracy was extremely difficult to hit. But most of all his record speaks for itself.
His record and bio is shown on the International Softball Congress website.
Dinuba (California) Condors 1963 to 1970
l.m. kaplan says
what about metrozoric nurenberg and cal miller
mark dangelo says
not only was ty stofflet the greatest fast pitch pitcher in the world but ty and his wife Kathy are two of the greatest people in the world they are the best mark dangelo and family
James (Marty) Mayes says
Mr. Dangelo, you could not have put it any better but I must add his parents also!! I had the opportunity to be with a team that played a double header on a Sat&Sun against The Rising Sun . Out of the four games (Ty pitched) Larry was hurt, we managed one (1) foul tip???? / Ty Stofflet was the Jack Nickalus of fast pitch . Once he took the mound the blue Angles could fly over and his eye was on the batter. I have seen a lot of the socalled best,Clearwaters Herb Duddley, Mitch Harter, Bobby Quinn, SonnyHornbeck, Tampas Darin Zack, Northrupp Tool&Dies Jhonson,AuroraSavings&Loan Brubacker,Raybestos Carl Lewis and others I cannot recall , but none had the talent that Stofflett possessed or his off the ball field attitude. I had the pleasure of (with the team) to be invited to his house in Pa. and met his dad&mom This was my greatest experience envolving fast pitch softball,bar none. They where fine fine people. In closing ,I must say that any of you fast pitch fans or high scholl coaches need to get a copy of Softball’s Lefty Legend— Ty Stofflet
Rich Beaver says
Did you ever see Herman Skea of Rising Sun pitch? I played on his Hobo team of Sals Lunch in 1969-1970
I have no doubt that Ty was the greatest ever, BUT I will forever downplay the notion that he or anyone has ever been capable of throwing a softball at over 100 MPH. I have watched “today’s greatest pitcher” Adam Folkard more times than I can count and have never seen him clocked higher than 87. I also grew up watching Pete Meredith throw and he was also in the mid to upper 80’s. There is no way one person was throwing 15-20 MPH harder than those guys
Norm Chadwick says
Rocky Santilli who was I believe was manager of the team at the time also supports what you say. According to Rocky the figure of 104 MPH was a calculation to compare the speed of a baseball thrown from 60 feet versus a softball from 46 feet. Having said that Ty was the greatest I ever saw or played against. I was fortunate to pitch against the man when he was past his prime (1991) in Allentown. it was the greatest thrill I enjoyed playing this great game. He still was one great competitor and very nice man. He invited us over to the house one night, I got to see those trophies and have a few beers with him sitting at his bar downstairs.
Joe Follo says
Hi Norm. Did you beat Ty in that game? I guess you were still with PBC at the time, before you came with us. Joe F.
Dick Harkins says
During my Navy softball years, I had the pleasure of catching several pitchers that achieved top-of class honors, including: Joe Lynch, Ted brown, Jim Chessman, Roy Burlison, Bill Smith and Steve Nielson. I also got to hit against opposing pitchers who pitched in the WSC and several Men’s ASA National Tournaments that my teams participated in.
Fast is fast. Either Lynch or Burlison were the fastest I played with or saw. My last year in softball was 1970 so I never encountered Ty. However, from what I have read here, he would stack up with the best I encountered.
Like a lot of things in sports, it’s impossible to stack up players from several generations and come up with the best. Let’s take our hats off to all those mentioned herein as members of the “bets of class” in a sport that sadly has all but faded off the scene.
Dick Harkins Catcher Sub Flot 1 USA Navy 1962-1970
Joe Muehleisen says
Played against Ty while with Collex in Philly. Weekend league. Reading barbell at the time, i think.
Thomas E. (Eddie) Connor says
Played against Ty at 78 ASA National Tournament in Springfield, MO. Reading vs Texas (San Antonio) Batted three times that night and have yet to see the ball. Man could he bring it. Became his team mate (second base) at 79 Pan American games in San Juan. Enjoyed that experience a little more. Topic of softball comes up Ty is at top of conversation. Glad I met him and hope he has great retirement years. I too am retired in my childhood state of South Carolina. GO GAMECOCKS!!!
Jim Dahlke says
Mound rules were significantly different at the beginning of Stofflet’s career. Two feet on the rubber, one in the hole when you released. No rocker step off the mound backwards and you would not see two feet in the air. Those rules allowed slingshot and figure eight pitchers to compete at least at a state level and occasionally in a national here and there. Not saying anything was better or worse… just different Just something to keep in mind
Jerry Olds Jr . says
I was born and raised in Rock Island Illinois … and cut my teeth and lost a few on the back stops of Stevens Park in Moline and Douglas Field in Rock Island …. My dad pitched in the 50,60,70’s…. with various teams …. I’d just like to say guys like Stofflet , Brubaker , Stevens , Pobanz and the list goes on …. these guys were diamond gods …. we as kids idolized them … and I was there to see it all …. 3-4 nights a week and tournaments on the weekends …. some of the best ball players of all times …. what a thrill … I miss those days … the best came through the Quad Cities
Mike Crider says
I had the privilege of playing against the Sunners in a tournament back in the mid 80s. Ty did not pitch, and didn’t even attend the tournament, however, one of their Canadian pitchers (who was about 6′ 18″) was on the mound. When he delivered the pitch, he pretty much just handed it to the catcher. I hit a triple, which was a ‘close your eyes and swing’ hit. I was far enough behind the ball to have it hit the right field line, and spin out. On third is where I stayed. We only lost 5-0. That was a victory in my book.