Hoist your bottles, steins and glasses high for Juneau’s Island Pub softball team.
On Saturday, the Island Pub Pubbers won a gold medal in men’s softball at the 25th Annual Huntsman World Senior Games in St. George, Utah.
The Huntsman Games attracts more than 10,000 senior athletes for three weeks of competition in dozens of sports. While the United States, and Canada are well represented, competitors come from around the world.
“It is basically a kind of senior Olympics,” Island Pub playing manager Dennis Powers said. “It is serious and competitive but also a good playing environment.”
The Pubbers were in a home plate crossing battle in the championship game against Robinson Transport of Salina, Utah. It was Island Pub’s third consecutive must-win game of the day and they captured the gold with what resembled a football score tally of 22-21. In the semifinal game, Island Pub also put up a 22-19 win over Robinson.
Island Pub competed in the youngest division for softball, ages 50-55, and won the D Bracket. With the exception of two players, the Island Pub would qualify as a 55-and-over team. They were the oldest team in the youngest bracket and relied on brains instead of brawn.
“We don’t crush the ball,” Island Pub playing manager Dennis Powers said. “We just hit the ball. We had one home run in the tournament, and every team we played had about five. We are a base-hitting and defensive team. The other teams come out to try to crush home runs.”
Using defensive skills learned on the sandlots of Savikko Park and consistent and timely hitting developed through rainy season games, the Pubbers beat the bigger home-run-hitting Robinson team.
“The fields are so nice that when you get a hit it is just clean,” Powers said. “There are no rocks or pebbles in all that radioactive dirt they have down there.”
The Island Pub played eight games over four days in temperatures that went over the 80-degree mark. This was the Pubbers seventh time at the world games; they won bronze four years ago and gold two years ago.
“This year was probably the most intense and exciting,” Powers said. “We played ourselves into the losers bracket right away and had to beat our way out of it. And we played against teams that play all year, in year-round leagues.”
Added player Bruce Scandling good-naturedly, “It must have been the long hours at Savikko. It had to be our tip-top conditioning.”
Juneau’s Island Pub Pubbers and sluggers included Bill Holbrook, Steve Houlihan, George Crowder, Greg Huebschen, Mike Truax, Delton Cummins, Dave Audet, Paul Dillon, Dean Vandusseldorp, Scandling, Powers, Drew “Cobra” Grant and Vaughn Hagen.
While on the trip the Pubbers also competed in the First Annual Don Ashe and Tom Findley Memorial Golf Tournament, held in honor of their two late teammates and spiritual leaders. Most Island Pub players have played together for more than 30 years.
“We play for our fallen men,” Powers said. “Tom and Paul Dillon started us going to the tournament and we have kept it going. We just have a good time and come back with a tan or a burn and some scrapes on our knees from hard games.”
Also at the games, an Alaska senior basketball team, comprised of former University of Alaska Fairbanks Nanooks, battled and brought home a bronze medal in full-court basketball.
The Nanooks placed third out of 10 teams in the 65-and-older age group. They played six full-court college rules games, going 4-2, in five days from Oct. 10-14, ending with a 65-56 bronze medal victory over Florida’s Clearwater Aces. Their two losses were against gold medalist Mercer Island, Wash., and silver medalist Sag Harbor, NY.
“We were usually outsized on the inside and played against some former professionals,” Juneau’s Eric McDowell said. “But we are pretty fit, ran a motion screening offense and played aggressive man-to-man defense. We try to wear them down a little in the end.”
The team was organized by McDowell and Bill Watterson, former UAF players, and has competed in 11 World Senior Games since 2000. The Nanooks also compete each May in the National Masters Basketball Championships in Coral Springs, Fla.
Their roster included McDowell (Juneau), Watterson, Keith Wiger, Norm Bristow, and Bill Iverson (all Anchorage), Eric Bennett (Seattle/Haines), Pat McBride (Seattle), and Mike Mower (Montana/Anchorage).