“When will softball ever help you get a job and earn a living?” Dean’s mother asked in exasperation.
Underhand fast-pitch softball was big in the communities before World War II, and Dean was a crazy fast pitcher at it, with an emphasis on crazy. His pitches were incredibly fast, but they were also all over the place. He and some of his brothers would play every chance they could, even when they should be home working.
Dean’s mother had grown weary of it all. More than once she had to dispatch one of her daughters to fetch Dean and his brothers from the ball diamond long after they were supposed to be home. She had learned it did no good to send another brother because they would just end up playing, too.
Then the war came, and Dean and his brothers were drafted into the army. Dean soon found himself in Europe. When there were breaks in fighting and all the other things that went along with war, the men would organize softball teams. Dean had a lot of chances to play, and he enhanced his control, and his skill became well known.
Once he came home from the war, there wasn’t a lot of time to play ball. It was time to find work and get on with life. He still played when he could, but the work that was to be had with farm labor skills was not necessarily high paying and meant lots of extra hours to make a living.
Some big construction jobs started, and the jobs paid well, but the competition was fierce. One big construction firm was building a large commercial lodge at Jackson Lake. They decided that it would be good promotion for the company and the lodge to form a fast-pitch softball team among their workers. But in their first game, they were trounced soundly by a local team.
Those managing the construction crew didn’t feel it looked good for their team to be beaten, and especially not as badly as they were. They started searching around for better players, and Dean’s name came up. A company representative traveled over one-hundred miles from the construction site to St. Anthony, Idaho. When Dean was offered a construction job at a much higher wage than what he received where he was currently working, he jumped at the chance.
In the next game, Dean, pitching for the construction crew team, struck out many of their opponents, but there were still holes in his team. In the times the ball was hit, Dean watched too many misses by the shortstop. Dean went to the office to see the construction foreman.
“We needed a good shortstop if we are going to have a really good team.”
“Do you know one?” the foreman asked.
“My brother, Glen.”
“Has he worked construction before?” the foreman asked.
“Not any more than I have,” Dean answered.
The foreman turned to the administrative person in the office. “Hire his brother.”
Glen was hired, and the team did well. Dean and Glen were also learning construction. But the catcher couldn’t hold on to some of the pitches that Dean threw at him.
The foreman pulled Glen aside. “Can you catch the pitches your brother throws?”
“I can if I am the one that tells him what to throw,” Glen answered.
“You work that out with him, then,” the foreman said.
The team started doing better, but they came close to losing a couple of times. They were coming up against some even tougher teams, and a competitor company sponsored one of them. The foreman watched the team and realized that some of his players were good at construction, but they were only mediocre at softball. This time he went to Dean.
“Do you know any others that are good at softball?” he asked.
“I have other brothers and cousins,” Dean replied.
And that’s how Dean’s mother came to admit that softball might have a place after all.
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