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Dec. 1, 2012
Hobo Roy Hobbs Joins Hall of Fame
(EDITOR’S NOTE: Here are exerpts of Terry Hennessy's Induction Speech on behalf of John Meeden, who could not attend the ceremony):
MESQUITE, NEV. – They call him Homeless John, the Hobo Roy Hobbs.
But not today. Not here.
On this last day of November 2012, John Meeden enters an elite category: He is the Senior Softball USA 2012 Player of the Year and inducted into the Senior Softball International Hall of Fame here.
Meeden literally emerged from rags in 2005 to take senior softball by storm. The Los Angeles Times called Meeden “The Unnatural Natural” in a profile featuring the mysterious Meeden in 2005.
John does not look like a superstar anything. Long, stringy wild hair frames a face etched deep with lines carved by many season living out of doors. He is painfully shy and deferential, again undoubtedly the legacy of years living on the streets.
But the minute the game begins, that all fades away.
Here’s how the L.A. Times described John’s performance on the field: “Despite his frail frame, Meeden hit for power, showed wild speed on the bases and played a gorgeous shortstop.”
John’s background is shrouded in mystery: few knew where he came from, though most knew he was homeless for a long time before the US Pallet team in St. Louis and then the Chicago Classics adopted him and helped him find a place to live.
What little is known comes in scarce pieces of information from John himself. He says he grew up in a family of “fire-and-brimstone” preachers, which eventually led to a mental breakdown in his 20s.
John says the breakdown came because he was always afraid he was letting his family down.
Next came shock treatments that skewed time for Meeden. He remembers bits in the downward spiral, a failed marriage, living on the streets and not much about playing ball.
All of this makes his absolute mastery of the game astounding – and ever more mysterious.
Although Meeden never played professional ball, he made defensive plays, which awed all of those in attendance.
Joe Yacono, who would later become John’s manager for the Chicago Classics, recalled first playing against John in their local league in the early 2000s. Joe noted that Meeden, a man of few words, was an exceptional player, with bounding home runs, quick reflexes at shortstop and all-around softball skills.
With the help and support of his new teammates on the Chicago Classics (especially Yacono and Jim Welsh of US Pallet) and with the help of local community business who sponsored him, Meeden was able to turn his life around through softball.
Meeden and the Chicago Classics had an impressive run in his tenure with the team winning the SSUSA World Championships, ISA Worlds and SPA National Championships.
He has been named to 13 All Tournament teams, the pivotal player for his team in most all of their championship runs.
John has proven the true beauty of our game: anyone can succeed in softball: It doesn’t matter where you come from, how much money you have, or what bat you swing.
It comes from someplace deep inside – that place where talent and desire mix to produce a truly magnificent effect.
This is John Meeden’s legacy to softball and a unique legacy it is.