The Rhode Island Softball Hall of Fame recently inducted its 2019 class, and a handful of local players made the cut.
Here is a look at some of the local honorees, with excerpts from the evenings program.
To say John was born into the game of softball is an understatement.
He began at 6 years old as a bat boy for his father’s teams at 12 he moved to the teams scorekeeper and finally playing at 18. John began the Players Corner Pub team in 1981 and for 35 years. He remained at the helm of Players throughout all their phases, from a young up and coming team to one of the state’s most dominating teams in the 1990’s before calling it quits in 2016. He served the team in every capacity, as a player, a coach, then sponsor.
Under his leadership Players won 20 state championships in all affiliations ASA, NSA, USSSA and ISA, Players was the first team to hold all four affiliations’ state titles for two years 2001 and 2002. His teams played all over the country, as they competed for regional and national championships.
All the teams were asked to do was just go and play. In addition to Players, John played for several teams along the way. He was Rhode Island’s first USSSA Masters Director from 1994-97, Warwick’s ASA Men’s Commissioner from 1992 to 1994. He began the Fielders Choice Softball Magazine in 1994 and for 10 years it was the leading source of all things softball related in Rhode Island. The publication won several regional and national awards. John wrote an article in 1997 outlining the creation of a statewide softball hall of fame, that dream never died it just took 20 years to become a reality.
His career has come full circle, he currently umpires in the leagues in Warwick and is the current President of the Rhode Island Slow Pitch Softball Hall of Fame. His dream is almost fulfilled. But for the Hall of Fame he still has work to do – so stay tuned. Lee Wilber
To say Lee Wilber has devoted his life to softball would be an understatement.
Lee has virtually put RI women’s softball on the map. He began his softball career in 1984 as head softball coach at the St. Xavier Academy, then moving after 9 years at the helm to Roger Williams University, then going onto create Lee’s Gals women’s team from 1981 to 1993, as well as starting up Lee’s Gals youth program in 1983. Lee finished up his coaching career back where he started, at the high school level from 1998 to 2004.
Lee’s career as a member of the Cranston Fire Department began in 1969, he moved to the Fire Prevention and inspector of public buildings, and in 1992 he went to work for the State of RI as a fire inspector for DCYF inspecting homes. But his true love was coaching women and girls softball. Lee’s women’s teams won 14 state championships, six regionals and appeared in six nationals. His girls team won 10 state titles and four regionals and appeared in three national tournaments.
Lee’s softball resume goes beyond coaching teams, he has won the New England Directors’ Award in 1990 & 1991, he was the ASA Deputy State Fastpitch Commissioner from 1990-91, the NSA State youth director from 1992-97. He served as the USSSA RI Youth Director from 1984-94 and served as President of the CLCF softball program. He founded the RI Women and Youth Fastpitch Softball Association in 1991, and served as President from 1991-97. Lee was the fastpitch instructor at the RI Baseball Institute. Lee was elected into the USSSA New England Softball Hall of Fame in 1993.
Lee is happily retired and living in Davenport, Florida with his family.
Craig “Chic” Palermo
Playing softball for the last 30 years has truly been my passion.
The game has given me the opportunity to travel to many places and meet many great people, most of whom turned into lifelong friends. I was fortunate to play against and along side some of the best players and teams in the country.
I have many incredible memories throughout the years playing softball, but one memory that stands out was being inducted into the New England USSSA Hall of Fame in 2015. Other great memories include playing in the USSSA Conference and the LePif Classic in Sherbrooke, Canada. Winning the ISA World Series in Alabama in 2000. In 2002 finishing 5th in the ASA Nationals, when I batted .913.
My best memory of all was winning the USSSA Master’s Over 35 World Series in 2010 in my hometown of Warwick, RI in front of my family and friends. An original player for National Gold, I have had the pleasure of not only winning several national and world championships, I have been named tournament Most Valuable Player 12 times, defensive MVP twice and offensive MVP twice as well. I have been named to 45 All-Tournament teams, nine have been in either the National or World Championships.
I am just thank to have been put into a position to succeed, I give full credit to my teammates, coaches and sponsors that supported me all the way. I live in Cranston, RI and am the proud father of two wonderful daughters, Gianna and Alex, who both recently graduated from College and are living in Florida. When I am not on the field playing softball, I am the manager of Harvey Building products, where I have been for 27 years. David Marland
David Marland began his softball coaching career in 1986 when a group of
Friends from high school put together their very first competitive team. Since
then David’s career and passion for softball has taken off, and what a career it has been.
In the early 1960’s, when slow-pitch softball was starting to become a game being played in RI. David has been the Head coach of several different teams that included: the West View Inn, Stravarto’s, Elmwood Sports and Dan’s Place. In 1995, Dave won his 1st State Championship with his over 35 team.
In 2016 he took home a National Championship with his team Local 51.
Throughout his softball career, he has lead his team to 5 State Championships,
2 over 50 Major Northeast championships, 8 NSA NIT and super NIT championships, 2 national runner up’s, and six-time ASA and NSA runner up's. During the course of his career, he and his teams have traveled to over 20 different states and won over 50 tournaments they had played in.
David has invested so much time and heart into the game of softball and whenever he was on the field or coaching from the sidelines, his love for the game and respect for the players and opponents, has brought him and his teams to over 30 years of success in the sport. Bob Mernick
A recreation supervisor for the City of Warwick for 27 years, retiring in December 1999, Bob was a former State Director of the National Softball Association (NSA) and a Deputy Commissioner of the Amateur Association (ASA).
Bob was a former Board member of the Warwick PAL and honorary member of the Warwick Figure Skaters. Under Bob’s direction, the Warwick Leagues grew to include a Twilight division, Sunday morning and a Sunday night co-ed divisions and a Fall League. While playing under the lights at Clegg Field, under the lights were highpoints for Warwick teams, Bob oversaw the development of other fields to accommodate the growth of softball in Warwick.
You could often catch Bob at any one of the many fields checking on their maintenance. Often he would drag and line the fields and jumping in as needed to keep the fields in top shape. Bob worked closely with the Warwick Umpires Association and made sure that all teams treated the umpires with respect, including his wife Mary who was the first woman umpire to work statewide in men’s leagues. Under Bob, Warwick softball became one of the state’s best leagues.
Many of Warwick’s teams became state champions and went on to compete in World and National tournaments. Bob was great friends with and well-respected by other directors in the state in those towns that were fortunate enough to have the financial backing, player talent and facilities to support men’s softball including Johnston, Cranston and Providence. When Bob retired in 1999 men’s softball throughout the state lost an enthusiastic supervisor and a fan of the sport of softball. Bob passed at the age of 75 leaving behind his wife Mary, his 9 children Paula, Ellen, Susan, John, Paul, James, Robert, Peter, Liz his late daughter Jane and 13 grandchildren and 8 great grandchildren.
When Tom was a boy, he did the typical stuff all young kids did at the time, he played every sport that he could with his friends. Baseball was THE sport, the era of Joe D and Teddy Ballgame.
Tom served in the Army in the Korean War, and when he came back home Tom graduated from Providence College with a career in education on his mind. He became a History teacher and ended up at Warwick Vets in Warwick, RI. He went from the class room to become the schools long-time Athletic Director.
Tom was born to coach and he soon became the baseball coach at Vets, but he still had the desire to play, he played some fast pitch softball but soon he tried slow pitch softball when in 1965 he played for Morrison Lumber in Warwick his journey had begun.
Two years later Tom started playing in Warwick’s competitive division when he went to the long time softball sponsor the Greenwood Inn after a single season he was approached by Dave Kenney who coached Taylor Construction and for the next 42 years Tom Delaney played, coached, managed and General Managed the Taylor Construction or the merged Taylor Brothers teams. He was there throughout the 1968-69-70 when Taylor won three “AAA”/Major State Championships in a row.
To the merge and becoming Taylor Brothers to the National stage when Taylor became part of several of Major travel teams that played a National schedule. The TPS/Taylor Brothers included RISPSHOF member John Mello, won National Championships along the way with Tom in the dugout. As a player, Tom knew his role on the team and that was to set the table for the “big” hitters or to drive in runs with his opposite field hitting. By doing the small, basic things, this earned him being named to many All-Tournament teams serving is years as a player.
Tom’s teams always represented Rhode Island when they traveled to places like Texas, Las Vegas, Minnesota, California, Oregon, to name a few in their pursuit of a National or World Championship.
Al Rivera grew up in the southern part of the state, playing baseball and named First Team All-State in 1977 and wrestling for the Chariho Chargers Al excelled at both sports, a state championship contender in his weight class.
Al’s speed and strength combination often would leave opponents exhausted and defeated on the mat. His speed and agility were a big factor and the Chargers became contenders on the High School baseball field as well. He was an outfielder when Al’s Chargers went up against the emerging baseball powerhouse Bishop Hendricken. His talent and easy-going personality made Al a team favorite and his determination made him a natural leader among his teammates.
This held true when Al went onto begin his softball career. Like most baseball players Al wasn’t totally sold on the slow pitch game and didn’t jump fully into the sport. He went back and forth from semi fast pitch to slow pitch for a couple of years, it was when Al began working at Electric Boat in Quonset he joined the company team. When Al began playing for EB, this one addition made EB a serious contender for the State of Rhode Island Industrial Softball ASA title.
With Al on the roster EB won six State Industrial Championships and played all over the country. Al’s playing career wasn’t restricted just playing for EB, players who played for their company team were also allowed to play with an “open” team, so Al played with the Rebels, Pollock Law and several other softball teams. But it was with Electric Boat that Al’s Hall of Fame career was made, beginning as a outfielder with EB, injuries brought Al into the infield alternating from first base and third base, Al’s defensive performance was equal to his impressive offensive production.
Al was named to All-American teams as well as All- Tournament teams and several MVP’s throughout his career on a local, regional and national level. Al was highly regarded by both his teammates and opponents alike, he played the game hard and clean and when the game was over Al was always smiling and having a good time just playing the game.
Anthony started out not liking softball, he was a hardcore baseball player. It wasn’t until the late 1960”s that he was asked to play in a neighborhood softball beer game and he reluctantly agreed to play, that spark begun. Playing on the fenceless Button Hole field, Cal as he was known, kept hitting the ball further and further over the railroad ties, Cal became hooked.
Cal’s career began with his friends playing for the Manton A.C. which later became Sports Tap. In 1973 he was playing for the Carpenters (the team not the band), Cal caught the eye of the Conti Brothers team and in 1974 he joined them. Conti went to the Class “A” Worlds in 1974, but Cal left for Barney’s Shoe Shine after the season was done.
Cal was always a strong man, in his conviction as well as his physical strength (he was once competed in competitive arm wrestling when ABC aired the sport on the Wide World of Sports). Cal joined John Thell builders in 1979, Taylor Brothers in 1983 and Parasault Builders in 1985. All of these teams competed in the New England Travel league which played every weekend in different locations throughout the New England region. When his team played at home at Neutakonicut field in Providence, it wasn’t uncommon to see several hundred people in the stands watching games.
Cal’s team won the RI State Championship in 1974– Class “A”. In 1975, 1983 and 1985 his team won the RI “Majors” state title. His teams won the Regionals and competed in the ASA Worlds several times at either the “A” or “Major” level. Cal was named to countless All-Tournament teams and won MVP awards. Cal slowly began to give up the game in the 1980’s and ended his career playing for Beer Hill Pub. Cal enjoys retirement (from softball) with his wife Linda and watching his grandchildren play sports. He will be adding another title to his resume, board member of the RISPSHOF, and the organization’s official historian.
Other nominees included Robert Hoxsie, Michelle Rawcliffe, Kathy Pinto, Paula Locke, Nancy Santropadre, Ray Buonfiglio, Laura Nesteriak, Jim Tucker, Bill Taylor, Norman Reels, Al Bodington, Tom Cabral, Chucky Manz, and Norman Levesque,