Madison Sports Club history is a collection of various events and ideas that were carried out over a forty year period by ordinary people. . . ordinary people that had a dream, or had a talent that they could put to use helping the youth of Madison Township.
In the winter of 1971, a group of men and women met to bring knothole ball to Madison Township. Under the auspices of the Madison Lions, led by Norman Sampson, our first president, and ably assisted by many . . . Hugh Palmer, Dick Ruscin, Gene Simpkins, Connie Back, Lois Rusk, and others, they began the effort to bring a knothole program here to Madison Township. They founded Madison Sports Club, elected officers, and began the plans for the first season of ball. The following summer (1972) was the initial knothole season in the Madison program. We have just concluded the fortieth season of knothole ball at Madison.
The founding fathers insisted on a unique system of drafting knothole players unto teams that differed from practices of that day. In simplistic terms, they essentially established a blind draft. Very conscious of manipulation by sponsors and coaches to create super teams (including the use of scouting), the Madison organizers opted instead for a system where the chances were equal for all sponsors and all coaches of having a good team. Manipulation of the player draft was passed from control by coaches and sponsors to control by the knothole board. The board’s goal has been to make both coach and the sponsor’s opportunity for a winning team as equal as possible. Coaches who sit on the board understand that this represents a conflict with their own desire to have the strongest team possible. In every challenge to change the method of conducting the draft, the decision has been to keep the playing field as level as possible! Perhaps this is one reason the knothole program continues to attract a very high proportion of eligible children into the program . . . there is a feeling that the system is a basically a fair one.
The second tier of people who were asked to lead the infant organization after its initial year(s) included the Stampers, the Wesselmans, the Hickmans and Dave Thaeler. Those were years when enrollment in the knothole program increased dramatically, and the club had to reorganize its structure, so as to be able to deal with these needs.
Years of growth followed. The number of leagues was expanded to include a wider age span. Rag ball, now called Mini Tee, was initiated. Diamonds were added, moved, and removed. The constitution was revised. The “Red Books”, policy manuals, were issued to board members. More sophisticated control over financial income and expenditures was incorporated. A girls’ all-star tournament was added. The first girls’ tournament ended about 1:30 am at Smith Park under the lights! We knew little about scheduling a tournament, but we learned quickly! Ask Ruth Cassidy, our first tournament director, about that one!
Team (roster) tournaments, and a boys’ all-star tournament came into being shortly thereafter. All these tournaments are now annual events. Madison tournaments are well planned and run events . . . part of our “tradition”.
Much planning and effort went into the establishment of a fall soccer program. The soccer program run by the Madison SAY Soccer Association and a pee-wee football program run by the M. Y. A. A. offer a choice of activity to our youth during the fall months. Both deserve community support.
In 1978, assisted by coaches and volunteers, the restrooms and concession stand were built with the school board providing some financial assistance. That was a team effort. Free refreshments were given to all volunteers who helped erect the building. A lasting memory of the occasion was when those present at the construction decided to fill the hollow concrete block walls of the concession stand with all the discarded cans of free drink that had been provided. (That was prior to the days of recycling!) There are hundreds and hundreds of cans in those walls! And much to our embarrassment, one of the decorative concrete blocks used in building the wall of the rest rooms, was placed upside down! By the time it was discovered, it was too late to change. It remains “upside down” today.
There were other ‘fun’ activities. When a little girl was hit by a foul ball that had ricocheted off the ‘old concession stand’ (located where the north side football stand now stands), the club held a famous benefit ball tournament to raise funds to cover her high medical expenses. This ‘Mad-Madison Tournament’ had unique teams composed of knothole players, their parents and their coaches. Teams had colorful names such as The Middletown Evening Pessimists, Sagging Oldsters Requiring Geritol (SORG), Middletown Sportsmen’s Clay Pigeons, Marathon Oil Slicks, Meeker Plungers, and the Mecco Blockheads. During tournament games, players and spectators bribed the umpire, cheated, and interfered in the play of the game. Participants dressed up in wild clothing and did anything for a laugh . . . and a dollar fine! Winning teams were given leftover trophies from previous tournaments. Over four thousand dollars in bribes, entry fees, and gifts were generated in that tournament.
But best of all . . . the little girl recovered fully after a serious brain operation.
There was the well remembered tenth anniversary awards program held at the D.A.V. hall. George Foster, a popular Red’s player of that time, was present in uniform to hand out the trophies to the championship teams. Displays and mementos from the first ten years of club history were on hand for all to see.
People who gave countless hours during these middle years include the Barkers, the Walters, the Lees, Roger Callahan, Ruth Cassidy, and Floyd Parker. Old timers will remember them fondly.
The club continues to help in the funding of requests from the school for improvements to the facilities. A $500 scholarship, the Vicki VanDeventer Scholarship, continues to be given each year to a deserving senior.
Board members, active today, under whose leadership these improvements were made, will be listed in this history at our next milestone. Perhaps members of our present board will have given years of service to this organization by that time when we republish “our history”.
The future holds more changes. Nothing stays the same. Just look at the many physical changes that have occurred in the last five years! Our new schools have forced us to adapt to the changing “space” all around us. Our “campus” continues to evolve. And we have more ideas of what needs to be done. The club will respond to those challenges.
We continue to raise the question, “What is best for our children?” It is a difficult issue. Is it important that your child learns to play ball with ‘the average’ (or perhaps below average), as well as the very skilled player? Knothole schoolmates come with all different skill levels; they are still a community of friends and pals. As coaches we certainly must encourage physical skill development. Perhaps we don’t do enough in this area. How we pursue this . . . and keep the “fun and enjoyment in it “always has. . . and always will be . . . our challenge.
Madison Sports Club has had a good relationship with the school administration during these thirty years. The athletic school facilities are in use all year round. There is an agreement between both parties that is reviewed periodically. The school provides water, electric, garbage collection, and the use of facilities. The sports club maintains the playing fields (mowing) in season and stocks and maintains the restrooms for all school outdoor events. The sports club lines out the initial lines on soccer, band, and football fields for both school and sports club use. From time to time the sports club contributes to the cost of repairs to the facilities. The school and the sports club “scratch each others back”. We borrow and lend equipment to each other. We assist each other. Both institutions belong to the people of Madison Township. As tax-payers, the community benefits from this mutual relationship.
Individuals and companies have donated many items to our program. They donated landscaping, fencing materials, sand, top soil, paint, welding expertise, carpentry skills (our new “shaded” dug-outs this year!), printing, and paper supplies! That aid comes to us . . . when we need it. We are good beggars!
Madison Sports Club has had team sponsors who have supported us year after year. We hope some are here today. Middletown Sportsmen’s Club has been helping us for all forty years! Other sponsors have done so for twenty-five and more years; many sponsors have helped us and also our sister organizations working in football and soccer. We thank them all, including our “first year” sponsors for this loyal support.
Most important of all, we have had hundreds and hundreds of coaches. . . moms and dads, willing to help you and your friends enjoy baseball, softball, and soccer here at Madison. Some of them have coached for years. Tony Murphy, Jimmy Gross, Steve Bolen . . .just how long have you all coached ?
Three officers of the Madison Sports Club governing board were lost to us along the path that brings us to the present. Floyd Parker, Mike Hill, and Dave Crowe passed away while serving on our board. They were quiet and observant men. They cared more about how one played the game than if one won or lost the game. They did much "behind the scenes". They moved almost silently around us. We remember them all.
And in 2003 we lost one of our grounds crew, Darren Lewis, in a tragic car accident. Seniors, whose class he would have been in and graduating this year from Madison High School, celebrated his life and memory in their graduation exercises.
Madison Sports Club has a proud history. But in reality, it is a only a history of people interacting with youth. There are very few hard assets . . . little tangible property. Madison Sports Club has been and will always be run by parents who volunteer to coach youth. . . and those that may not coach . . . but support their effort.
In 2009 MSC added ball fields at the Madison Township Park.
Our sports club legacy is always in fragile hands. Next year others will be the officers; they will make the program better. The legacy will be in their hands. When your knothole playing days are over, think about returning to help coach or umpire. Many here today have done just that! A future generation waits to enjoy the game; they will need your help!
2013 Fields Dedicated as “A. David Thaelar Ball Diamonds”, commemorating Dave’s retirement from recruiting sponsors, a job he held from the inception of the MSC.
Through the years many have devoted their time to ensuring youth sports thrived in Madison Township. Notably, Dave Thaeler made a huge contribution to the program. His devotion to the club and the kids shines through today. In 2013 the Madison Community dedicated the current ball fields to Dave Thaeler by naming the fields "A. David Thaeler Ball Diamonds". This event commemorated Dave’s retirement from recruiting sponsors, a job he held from the inception of the MSC.
Sponsorships support the day-to-day operations at the ball park and also allow us to plan and fund improvements to the fields and facilities. Without this generous support, we would not be able to provide much of what we do today. Madison Sports Club is forever grateful for the follow long pledged sponsors:
Sponsors with 20+ years sponsoring and still sponsor:
Lamb and Webb Carpenters, 20 years
Fraley Excavating, 20 years
Mohawk Friends, which was previously Clark, Schaffer, and Hackett, 36 years
Steve’s Trophies, 36 years
Flowers by Nancy, 37 years
Madison Lions Club, 45 years
Middletown Sportsmen’s Club, All 50 years!!!
Thank you Sponsors!
In 2014 Rosie Red threw out the first pitch of the season.
Thank you to the many sponsors, parents, coaches, and kids that have made Madison Sports Club what it is today!
I N M E M O R I A M
Officers who passed away while active on the MSC Board
1982 – Floyd Parker
1990 – Mike Hill
1995 – David Crowe
“ . . . we will remember, we will smile . . .then we will cry.” (R.C. - 1982)