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Hannibal Courier - Post - Hannibal, MO
  • Special Championship: 50 years past since St. John's won city trophy

  • They didn’t have uniforms. They were just a group of small-town players.

    But in the summer of 1962 fate selected them to be the Hannibal fast-pitch softball champions.

    They were the St. John’s Lutheran Church fast-pitch softball team.


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  • They didn’t have uniforms. They were just a group of small-town players.
    But in the summer of 1962 fate selected them to be the Hannibal fast-pitch softball champions.
    They were the St. John’s Lutheran Church fast-pitch softball team.
    “At the time, church league was a pretty strong league, and we won the city championship in the church league,” remembers the team’s first baseman John Niehoff. “The commercial league wasn’t a real strong league, they didn’t have enough members, enough teams to fill out a tournament to name the city champion. According to the ASA rules, they had to have so many teams to have the tournament, to have a team sent to the state tournament. That’s how we got in and we won the whole thing.”
    With the combination of church teams and commercial teams, the summer fast-pitch softball league turned out to be very competitive. And the historic backdrop of Hannibal’s Clemens Field was the setting for the games.
    “There wasn’t any of this slow-pitch stuff, it was all fast-pitch,” Niehoff said. “We played on the field closer to the Armory. The northeast corner (of Clemens Field) was a long field.”
    Earning the city championship sent the men, who were in their 20s and 30s, to the state tournament in Springfield, Mo. Because they had no matching uniforms, American Legion Post 55 donated their baseball uniforms to the team for the state competition.
    “It was over Labor Day weekend,” Niehoff, who was 25 and is now 75, said. “We borrowed those uniforms to go to state.”
    The teams time in Springfield wasn’t long, they lost two games and were sent home. They finished in the bottom ranks of the tournament.
    But none of that really seemed to matter, being the Hannibal city champions was what made the summer of ‘62 so memorable.
    “We were elated,” Niehoff said. “My wife was pregnant with our first child. That’s how I remember it was ‘62. After we won we were like, ‘What do we do now,’ because we were kind of a rag-tag team.”
    Today the championship trophy is on display at St. John’s Lutheran Church.
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