AT THE ISF WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS
Represented by the Sealmasters of Aurora, Ill., the United States captured the inaugural ISF Men’s World Championship in Mexico City, Mexico, in 1966 and did so in impressive fashion. The team posted a 12-0 overall record - including eight victories by shutout - en route to the title. Dominating pitching was a huge factor in the championship, as U.S. hurlers threw a total of four one-hitters during the competition. Charlie Richard went 5-0 with a 0.00 ERA and 61 strikeouts, while Harvey Sterkel went 3-0 with 19 strikeouts.
The Sealmasters squad from Aurora, Ill., made its second consecutive appearance as the United States representative in the ISF Men’s World Championship in 1968 in Oklahoma City, and it captured a second consecutive gold medal with a 10-1 record. The U.S. pitchers were again overpowering, with one perfect game, two no-hitters and two one-hit performances from the staff. Charlie Richard’s perfect game, which came against the Philippines, was the first perfect game to be recorded during an ISF Men’s World Championship competition. Harvey Sterkel and Joe Lynch each posted 3-0 records, with Sterkel striking out 48 and giving up just four hits in 21 innings. Lynch finished with 45 strikeouts and three hits allowed in 22 innings of work.
Despite losing twice in the round-robin competition, Welty Way of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, put the U.S. in contention for a third straight gold medal at the III ISF Men’s World Championships in Manila, Philippines, but the team was unable to score in the title game. Canada broke the 0-0 deadlock with a run in the bottom of the 11th inning, snapping the run of U.S. domination. The USA finished with a 9-3 overall record and its first silver medal.
Rising Sun Hotel of Reading, Penn., returned the ISF Men’s World Championship title to the United States in 1976, although it is marked by an asterisk in the record books. Rain canceled a majority of the playoff games in Lower Hutt, New Zealand, so the tournament ended in a three-way tie, with the United States, Canada and New Zealand sharing honors. USA’s Ty Stofflet earned Most Valuable Pitcher and Most Valuable Player accolades after putting on a spectacular overall performance, including a 20-inning no-hitter that included 33 strikeouts. The no-hitter would have been a perfect game, had Stofflet not hit a batter in the 19th inning. Stofflet concluded the tournament with 98 strikeouts, the current World Championship record.
In 1980 in Tacoma, Wash., former New Zealand pitching ace Owen Walford jumped to the U.S. squad - represented by McArdle Pontiac-Cadillac of Midland, Mich., - and promptly went 6-0 inside the circle. His half-a-dozen victory tally helped the United States win its fourth ISF World Championship in five tries. For his efforts, Walford was presented the Outstanding Pitcher Award. The USA posted a 9-0 record and earned eight of the nine wins via shutout.
After winning all seven of its round-robin games, the U.S. squad, represented by the Franklin Cardinals of West Haven, Conn., lost its first two playoff games to walk away with a bronze medal at the VI ISF Men’s World Championship in Midland, Mich. The U.S. finished with a 7-2 overall mark in the championship. Owen Walford and Dennis Amell each went 3-1 for the U.S., with Mickey Herbert the team’s top hitter with a .400 average, two home runs and eight RBI.
Brian Rothrock put some clout back into the U.S. lineup to lead the Red, White and Blue to second gold medal of the decade at the VII ISF Men’s World Championship in Saskatchewan, Canada in 1988. Rothrock set World Championship marks for RBI (23) and tied the standard for home runs (8) total bases (46), while pitcher Peter Meredith tied the tournament record with six victories - including the championship game. Fellow hurler Steve Schultz posted three victories, including two no-hitters. Despite losing 4-3 (8 innings) to New Zealand in the round-robin portion of the tournament and 4-2 in the playoffs, the U.S. battled back in the gold medal game to shutout New Zealand, 4-0, to secure the gold medal.
At the 1992 ISF Men’s World Championship in Manila, Philippines, the U.S. ran into the same problem as its 1984 counterparts. The USA National Team swept through the round-robin portion of the tournament and then dropped its first two playoffs games to finish with a bronze medal. In round-robin play, the U.S. outscored its opponents 76-2 to cruise into the playoffs but had not faced its two arch rivals – Canada or New Zealand. In the opening round of the playoffs, Canada handed the U.S. a 7-2 loss to move into the gold medal game. Needing a win over New Zealand to keep its hopes alive, the U.S. was defeated 4-1 despite out hitting the Kiwis – 7-3.
At the IX ISF Men’s World Championship in Midland, Mich., the USA Softball Men’s National Team was kept off the medal podium for the first time in World Championship competition. Despite an 8-1 mark in the round-robin segment, the U.S. posted a 1-3 mark in the playoffs that included two losses to eventual-champion New Zealand and a 4-2 loss to Japan.
The United States found its way back to the medal stand in 2000 at the X ISF Men’s World Championship in East London, South Africa with a 7-3 record that was good enough for the bronze medal. The U.S. opened round-robin play with a 6-0 mark before being run ruled (10-0) by defending champion New Zealand. A 6-2 win over Venezuela in the opening round of the playoffs guaranteed the U.S. its first medal since 1992. In its second game of the day the U.S. was shutout by Japan, 2-0, to force a must win situation against New Zealand to earn a spot in the gold medal game. A lethargic offense was costly to their efforts as New Zealand pulled away for a 3-1 win.
At the XI ISF Men’s World Championship in Christchurch, New Zealand in 2004, the USA looked to be in position to capture its second consecutive World Championship medal after completing pool play with a perfect 6-0 that included five shutouts and a 7-3 win over world silver medalist Japan but in the playoffs it was a different story. A 9-0 loss to New Zealand in the opening round of the playoffs sent the wave of momentum crashing down but despite the loss the U.S. still had medal aspirations. A 3-2 win over Samoa kept their hopes alive and moved them one step closer to the medal round. In the semi-finals the U.S. battled back and forth with Australia and entered the seventh inning with the score knotted at three apiece. Australia put together a rally in the top half of the seventh that would net two runs for a 5-3 lead. The Red, White and Blue battled back in the bottom of the seventh scoring a run with an RBI single by Ross Dey that plated Chris Miljavac to trim the lead in half. After a walk, a fielder’s choice and an intentional walk to load the bases, Australia got a flyout to centerfield to end the game. The fourth place finish was only the second time in 11 ISF World Championships that the U.S. was not on the medal stand.