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Siegendorf Behind 1st Senior Nationals
June 1, 2013The sport of Senior Softball is booming now across the United States and into several foreign nations. But that wasn’t always the case.
Like a lot of success stories, Senior Softball evolved rather slowly at first, getting off to something of a ragged start.
Back in 1978, Judge Arden Siegendorf and Dr. Joseph Brownholtz had just played a game softball against much younger and faster foes on a steamy South Florida night.
“Doc was our No. 4 hitter and after the game, he was bemoaning the loss of speed and power which accompanied our 40th birthdays that year,” said Siegendorf. Doc figured it was time to retire and noted that “we lose 2 percent of muscle mass every year after age 30.”
“Then it hit us. What if we only competed against other players our age. After all, both golf and tennis had established Senior or Masters’ Divisions for their tournament play,” Siegendorf recalled.
They put their heads together and drafted letters to the ASA and USSSA, the only national softball sanctioning bodies of that time to request the creation of a senior category within each association.
ASA was first to respond with a “thanks, but no thanks" reply noting that they had multiple programs and another was not warranted back then.
But they struck gold with USSSA, which said they were establishing an Old-Timers’ Committee for their next national convention in San Francisco. Siegendorf and Brownholtz were invited to speak to the committee.
The pair called their sponsor Marty Rubin of Sports Den, but to their chagrin they learned that he would not turn 40 for several years. They then set 35 and older as their goal and decided to bid to host the first age-bracketed national softball tournament ever sanctioned in the country.
With some help from the Dade County Sports Authority, that’s exactly what happened at the USSSA’s 1979 National Convention. The pair convinced USSSA to rename the committee and the program “Masters” or “Seniors” and they prevailed on setting the age minimum at 35 and over, although the following year it became 40 and over.
They managed to outbid several other cities for the right to host the event which took place at Ben Franklin Park in North Miami in the fall of 1980.
“A few years later, others, notably the late Bob Mitchell, made significant contributions to the advancement of Senior Softball nationally,” Siegendorf said. “Mitchell created the Senior Softball World Series with Ken Maas in 1988, beginning at 50 and over. He later established the Senior Softball World Championships that competed with the Senior Softball World Series.”
About 8 organizations offer senior softball programs or tournaments on a national level. The largest is Senior Softball-USA.
Editor’s Note: Arden Siegendorf died April 12, after an extended illness. Siegendorf was an instrumental force in senior softball as an organizer, player and manager for more than 30 years in both the Florida Half Century Club and on the national scene. Cards and remembrances can be sent to Becki Siegendorf, 4941 S. E. Devenwood Wy,, Stuart, FL 34997.