Keeping the softball flame alive
Physically, about all that’s left of men’s fastpitch softball’s heyday in Hanford is the old concession stand near a renovated softball field near Second Street and Harris Avenue in south Hanford.
The location of home plate remains intact, as do the stories, which were told once again last week at a reunion of the Dinuba Condors, which included several member of the Hanford Kings.
And what a team those Condors were, finishing second three times in the International Softball Congress world championships, in 1953, 1954 and 1958.
Three prominent Hanford players back in softball’s heyday – Joe Avila, Al Cutruzulla (aka Al Cotti) and Butch Cardoza – gathered before the reunion to share memories with The Sentinel.
Cardoza and Avila played on both the Kings and Condors. Avila was named to the ISC Hall of Fame in 1972 and was a three-time All-American, while Cardoza was named the most promising young player during the 1957 world tourney, held in Taft.
Cotti, also a Hall of Famer, played with the Kings as well as the Fresno Hoak Packers.
Cotti had an additional brush with fame while playing at what’s now know as Naval Air Station Lemoore, where one of his teammates was the late Bobby Thomson, whose home run in the 1951 National League playoffs let “The Giants win the pennant!”
During the meeting, he recalled earning enough money over one summer umpiring – $250 – to pay for his son’s birth.
The trio also recalled several other players on both clubs, such as Bob Toombs, Bobby Oliver, Alan Avina and Al Porto, whose wife, the late Ramona Porter, was a pitcher for the Hanford Queens women’s softball team and whose name is on one of the softball fields at Woodrow Wilson Junior High, as well as one-time Sentinel sports editor Joe Buchanan.
No mention of local standouts of days gone by would be complete without talking about pitcher Herman Duinkerken and center fielder Lou Ferrero.
Duinkerken, Avila recalled, had an all-strikeout perfect game in the 1972 world championships.
He also remembered playing a home-and-home series where he batted against Duinkerken’s Dinuba team and got both his team’s hits in both games.
After that, he was recruited to join the Dinuba squad.
Ferrero played in nine world tournaments, winning the title four times, finishing second four times and third once.
He was a two-time All-American and a four-time state batting champ. He will be inducted into the ISC Hall of Fame in August 2014 in Kitchner, Ontario, with Avila presenting him.
From the comments section:
Very nice article. My dad, Al “Cotti” Cutruzzula, loves sharing his softball stories. I have heard many over the years but I was unaware of the one that he made enough money umpiring to pay for my oldest brother’s birth!! There is nothing more rewarding than to pursue a passion; my dad exemplified that having made sports an integral part of his life! Thank you for profiling our softball pros of the past.
Editor’s Note: I was honored to present Joe Avila for his induction in 2010 to the ISC Hall of Fame.