What's that, you say? The Boston Red Sox are World Champions? Tell that to the Dan Wiebold Ford 55-plus softball team.
"It was a pretty emotional moment for us," said Rick Carringer. "The trophy was in my hands and I couldn't say much of anything. I've never won anything like this at any level."
The team members--who prefer to be considered "masters" instead of "seniors"--were the cream of the crop at September's AAA World Championships in Las Vegas. Some of the team members have played on local diamonds for more than four decades as part of Boise Parks and Recreation softball leagues.
"There are multiple Idaho MVPs on our team," said Carringer. "I've been trying to win something like this for 40 years."
Over a cold beer, which quickly became two or three more, Boise Weekly sat down with five members of the championship squad--Carringer, 59 years old; Steve Abo, 60; Wayne Darling, 59; Curtis Jackson, 55; and Butch Laliberte, 61.
How did this team come together?
Carringer: We've all known each other in different ways. I played in different leagues with Wayne and Steve, and Butch and Curtis knew each other already.
Darling: Getting ready to put this team together, you start scouting out other guys already playing, about the time they turn 50.
Are we talking about dozens of other teams?
Darling: More like hundreds.
Laliberte: When we travel to tournaments, our team is 55 and older, but at home, we play in all age groups.
Carringer: Between Mountain Home and Caldwell, there are probably 20,000 people who play in softball leagues each summer.
OK, who's the best player here?
[Everyone looked in Jackson's direction]
Carringer: Curtis was the MVP of the tournament. Let's face it, he's got the lineage.
Jackson: My dad was Larry Jackson. His major league baseball career started in 1956. He played with the St. Louis Cardinals, the Chicago Cubs and retired with the Philadelphia Phillies. He was in four All-Star Games.
Carringer: But that's just the beginning of Curtis' own athletic prowess.
Jackson: I was on a full-ride scholarship to play football for the University of Oregon.
So, how does winning the world championship for an over-55 softball team stack up with your other achievements?
Jackson: I've been thinking a lot about that. When I ran track for Boise High School, I won the Idaho state championship in the quarter-mile. When I played football for Oregon, I was able to score touchdowns in some of the greatest stadiums in the country. But winning this championship still probably hasn't sunk in yet. But when I think about it, we're the best team in the nation. We beat teams from Chicago; Kansas City; Lincoln, Neb.; Oklahoma City; San Jose; Tucson; and Houston. And they were all the best from their regions.
How many teams were in the tournament?
Darling: Thirty-two in our bracket. In total, there were 478 teams playing over 10 days.
Who did you beat for the championship?
Carrington: A team from San Diego; they're called the Git 'er Done's. The previous three times we played them, we lost.
Are they your rivals?
Darling: No, our rivals are the Desert Dogs out of Palm Springs. They knocked us out of the world championship last year.
Those teams have great names like Desert Dogs and Git 'er Done's. But you don't have a catchy name.
Carringer: We go by the Dan Wiebold Ford 55-plus. They gave us sponsorship money.
Laliberte: They gave us some cash for uniforms, but we had to pay our own way to Vegas.
Have you figured out why you were so successful?
Carringer: It's truly because we came through the city of Boise softball system. It's an amazing program.
Laliberte: Other teams from all across the country were amazed that Boise had 10 great senior teams. Some cities with a million people or more usually have one.
Jackson: I think that says a lot about little old Boise, Idaho.
What do you think that says about Boise?
Jackson: I think this part of the country has a win-at-all-cost attitude.
Abo: And at the same time, this has been one of the easiest-going teams I've ever played on. Nobody gets anyone else down. It's a wonderful team.
Talk to me about injuries at this age.
Jackson: I'm supposed to have surgery on my knee pretty soon. Plus, I have a bone spur in my ankle.
Darling: A lot of us have back problems.
And you guys are sometimes playing three or more games in a day.
Laliberte: It really kicks in during the drive from the game back to the hotel. When you get back to the parking lot, you're thinking, "Jesus, I have to walk all the way to the elevator? Give me a break."
Carringer: If you're really lucky, the wife will get you some ice.