Friday, Feb. 22, 2013
Was there really a 27-inning softball game in Los Banos?
By Chester Amaral
The 1973 men's softball tournament produced two of the most exciting games ever played during the heyday of men's fast-pitch softball in Los Banos. One was a perfect game. But the most memorable was a 27 inning, 1-0 marathon that ended at 2 a.m. That is the equivalent of almost four regular fast-pitch games.
As losing pitcher Cecil Parker recalled in a newspaper article a few years after the event, the game went on too long: "I remember around the 13th or 14th inning someone from Stefani's ripped one over our center fielder's head. It would have ended the game, but he made a great over-the-shoulder catch and ended the inning. When he came into the dugout, our guys almost killed him!"
Neither of the two Los Banos teams made it to the finals. A&A Transport was eliminated early on, and the Los Banos Merchants also lost early but made their way back through the losers bracket for a respectable showing. They were finally eliminated by the Dana Exom-led Bull Frog team from Merced, which eventually won the 16-team tournament.
To this day, players from Los Banos have vivid memories of the games on Aug. 3. The game between the Gustine Merchants and the Salinas Merchants was the first. Gustine Merchants pitcher Richie Ferreira, brother of Los Banos local Mel Ferreira, did something no one in this tournament had previously done. He threw a perfect game.
Dennis Falaschi of the Los Banos Merchants, who had previously faced Richie Ferreira and was also in attendance at the perfect game, described Ferreira's performance as "unhittable. The other team was off balance the entire time, and had absolutely no chance."
"Richie's drop ball couldn't be hit, and if you did, it was going to be a routine groundout. He just got better and better as the game went on," Falaschi recalled.
Even with Richie Ferreira's perfect game, the best was yet to come. Cecil Parker from Fresno's Cunning and Cunnings' Furniture and Stefani's Harold Benoy locked up in an unforgettable pitchers duel that was the talk of the town for weeks. Stefani's eventually won the game 1-0 when the team finally scored what proved to be the winning run in the top of the 27th.
Bill Morgan of Stefani's led off with a walk. Benoy then bunted for a base hit. Morgan moved to second and advanced to third on a wild pitch. Vern Williams then beat out an infield hit with Morgan scoring from third. In the bottom of the 27th, Benoy retired Cunning and Cunnings' Furniture in order to win the game.
Los Banos resident Rene Eratchu was the base umpire for the game. "It was an unbelievable game between the hard throwing youngster, Parker (Cecil Parker was 19 at the time), and the wiley veteran Benoy," he said.
Home plate umpire Gil Mendivil quipped to tourney officials that he should be paid for at least three games!
One of the players from Fresno was a newlywed who joked that he didn't think his wife was ever going to believe he was really playing softball when he got home at 4 a.m.
Surprisingly, Benoy said in a Merced Sun-Star news account of the marathon game that his arm wasn't sore after the long game, but his legs were.
"My arm is fine. Just the legs are bothering me a bit," he said.
Despite their battle, neither of these two teams made it to the finals. In the finals, the Bull Frog of Merced came all the way back from the losers bracket to defeat the Gustine Merchants by scores of 4-1 and 8-0 behind the outstanding pitching of Dana Exom. As exciting as it was, it was almost an afterthought after the two previous performances.