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By John Cardullo, sportswriter
The Rhode Island Slow Pitch Softball Hall of Fame released the Class of 2023 Hall of Famers who will be inducted on Saturday, November 18th at a dinner ceremony at the Crown Plaza in Warwick, Rhode Island.
The organization which was founded in 2018 and has currently inducted 123 members every year since. Members include Men and Women players, Sponsors, Directors, Coaches and Umpires who have, over the years, helped the slow pitch game grow in popularity.
Slow pitch softball has been extremely popular in Rhode Island since the late 1950s when formal leagues were first created, to now, when hundreds of men, women and children take to the fields every day. “Softball, today, is one of the most popular participation sports, not only in this state but across the country,” said RISPSHOF Vice President and Co-founder Bob Berard. “In creating the Hall of Fame, we have been able to acknowledge those who helped this sport grow over the years. Softball in Rhode Island is embedded in our patriation sports culture.” Berard should know, because he has been running the Warwick leagues for 20 years, and playing in the leagues 20 years before that.
Currently, Berard is the State Director for the Southern based “Freedom” softball organization. He hasn’t seen the sport slowing down, if anything he is fielding more calls from teams interested in playing organized softball in his leagues.
So, let’s introduce the Class of 2023 Hall of Famers:
In the Sponsors category, there will be three inductees all of which have had a profound impact on the sport, primarily thanks to them and their teams. Jim McCarthy guided his team, Floor Concepts, for 22 years. Playing out of Johnston’s Mazzulla Field, they won the 1995 & 1996 ASA Class C State Championship and the 1995 & 1999 Class D USSSA State Championship. His teams represented Rhode Island in the ASA National tournament in 1995 in Georgia, and in 1996 in New Mexico. His teams won 14 league titles, 9 tournament titles, and 2 Mayor’s Cups (which is the city championship). From 1988 to 2011 Stravarto’s, out of Cranston, won multiple league championships, 30 tournament champions, and played in 6 State championship title games, winning 3 ASA crowns. Along the way the team played in 20 different states playing in Super N.I.T.’s, New England Regionals, where in 2000 they were runners up. Representing Rhode Island 20 times in National Tournaments, Mike and Tom Casali sponsored their team Casali Liquors for 20 years winning the Atwood Ave league. Winning the ASA Class E National tournament in 2112, moving to the class D level they were state runners up before winning the championship back to back in 2014 and 2015. They won 10 consecutive league championship in Cranston before disbanding the team.
The Umpires will be inducting two new members, George Moyle, who spent his career playing in the Warwick softball leagues, he decided to become an Umpire in 1994. Rising from a general umpire to the Umpire in Chief in Warwick for 10 years in the ASA and another 15 years in the NSA. During his career he worked in the NSA Men’s Class “C” in 2002 and Class “D” in 2004’s national tournaments. He also worked in the 191 ASA Women’s Class “B” Regional tournament. He was named the 2003 Softball Person of the Year by the Fielder’s Choice magazine and was named in 2005 the WUA Umpire of the Year. During his career he umpired in many state and regional tournaments. Paul Pereira began umpiring in 1991 and is still umpiring today. 32 years have been spent working the USSSA program and he has umpired in the SSUSA (Senior Softball pro-gram). A member of the East Providence umpires association, he has worked a Major Women’s World Series tournament in 1995 as well as many Regional, State and N.I.T. events, often being selected to work the finals.
The Women players that will be inducted in November will be Brenna Elliott who has been playing the game of softball for over 40 years. Playing both for women’s and co-ed teams, she played in 10 National and World Championship tournaments as well as N.I.T.’s and state tournaments. Her accomplishments include being named tournament MVP 7 times, National All Tournament teams 3 times, and in 2017 she was inducted into the New England USSSA Hall of Fame and was named twice into the USSSA Team of Distinction, in 2008 while playing for Fairwarning, and again in 2023 while with Twisted Sistahs.
Joining Elliott will be Lori Franchina from West Warwick. Her career has spanned 40 years as well. She was named MVP of qualifying tournaments twice. She was named on the 2008 Team of Distinction while playing for Fairwarning in 2008 and in 2018 she was inducted into the New England USSSA Hall of Fame. She continues to play on a competitive level today. Jeannine “JJ” Fritsche began playing right out of high school where, in 2001, she was named to the interscholastic team, playing for Warwick Vets. In her 20-year career, she had played for 11 teams, all of which played at the top level of women’s softball the state had to offer. Named to 13 All Tournament teams including the 2010 “D” Nationals, 2013 “C” Worlds, 2016 “C” Nationals and the 2019 “C” Nationals. She continues to play slow pitch, and Co-ed today.
The Men’s class of Hall of Famers begins with Bill Labrie; he began his career in 1974 in Pawtucket and ended his career in 1998. Blarney Stone Pub, Brown Brothers, Beer Hill Pub, Elmwood Sports, and Action Auto were among the teams he played for during his career. Winning the “B” states while with Blarney Stone and the “C” States with Benefit Street Pub. While playing with Elmwood Sports, his team finished third in the National 35 and over tournament. Over his twenty four year career he was named to several All tournament teams and often led his teams in batting average, runs batted in and home runs. Jim Hopkins’ first year in softball was 1967, and he soon landed on one of the state’s top teams, Taylor Brothers in 1971, 72 and in 80. He went to play for Conti Brothers from1973 to 79. In his 15-year career his teams won State championships in 1971, 74,77 & 78. They played in the National Championship tournament 5 times and several tournament All-tournament teams and MVP awards. Anthony “Tony” Lato played from 1965 to 1983. He played for NASSA Flooring/Pariseault Construction from 1969-73. Playing for Conti Brothers 1974-1976 winning the AA State Championship and played in the National Championship tournament. Wrapping up his Rhode Island career playing for Earl’s Tap winning Providence Major league championships, playing in State Major and New England and National Championships. Mark Moniz career is 30 years and counting. Fortunate to play for many of the State’s top teams including New England Lift Truck, National Gold, Pollock Law, Players Corner Pub/Players Softball Club, Harkin, Valley Motors, Bishop Electric and Action Auto Parts 50 teams to name a few. The 60-year old is still playing and winning. Currently his teams have won 3 55-and-over National championships, he has been on 16 State championship teams throughout his career and has been named to several All Tournament teams.
Richard Falcone began his career in 1960 and played until 1984. Playing most of his career with Barney’s Shoeshine, John Thell Builders and Johnny’s Tavern. The 3 time State Champions and was named 5 times to All Tournament teams. While he was still playing, he became an umpire for 36 years, spanning all of the active affiliations. Mario “Mac” Pagano played softball for 25 years, after a career in baseball which brought him up to the major league level with the Boston Red Sox. Playing softball at the states’ Major level he was considered one of the best softball players ever to step onto a softball field. He will join his brother, John, who was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2022. From 1990 to 2012 Stanley “Ski” Zab was one the state’s best all-around players ever to take the field. Playing at the highest level of softball that the state had to offer at the time he was playing, which was often at the “B” or “C” level for National Gold, Pollock Law, All State, Softball Supplements, Jerky’s, Calvino Law and Beloli to name a few, “Ski” and his teams won State Championships, Regional championships, National and World Series championships. He was named to All-World teams or the tournament MVP on the National level several times in his career. His competitive playing days are long behind him, he will occasionally play in a recreation game or two.
Brad Yankee’s induction will be the first father and son combination to be inducted into the RISPSHOF, his father, Steve, was inducted in 2018. Playing for Players Corner Pub/Players, National Gold, Magic/National Gold, Dirt Dogs, Valley Motors, OSS Apparel and currently with Smash it Sports/Roosters 40. His teams won several “C” States, he was part of history when his Players team won the ISA, NSA, USSSA and ASA State championship titles in the same year. He has won 6 40-and-over World championships and has been named to every 40 and over All Tournament team since he began playing at that level. He has played in 2 “A” World tournaments, 10 “B” World tournaments in addition to tournament MVP’s All Tournament teams and a player on several State Championship teams.
Inductees – home town – playing town:
Brad Yankee- Cumberland – Cranston
Stanley “Ski” Zab – Pawtucket – Cranston
Mark Moniz- West Kingston – Cranston
Anthony Lato- Providence – Providence
Bill Labrie- Pawtucket – Providence/Cranston
Mario Pagano- Cranston- Providence/Cranston
Jim Hopkins- Greenville- Providence
Lori Franchina- West Warwick – Warwick
Jeanine Fritsche- Warwick – Warwick
Brenna Elliott- Tiverton – Warwick
Paul Pereira- Riverside – Pawtucket
George Moyle- Warwick – Warwick
Tom Casali- Cranston – Cranston
Mike Casali- Cranston – Cranston
Bob Stravarto- Cranston – Cranston
Jim McCarthy – Smithfield – Johnston
Congratulations to Ski Zabb on his induction. We played together when he was past his prime and he still was the best player in every league well into his 30s. Ski was a fantastic player , friend and most of all teammate. Congrats .
The stats tell just a fraction of Jim McCarthy’s legacy. Caring and respect for his players was always Jimmy’s strong point. I played on Floor Concepts, bowling, and later basketball for close to forty years with Jimmy. I am proud and honored to call him my friend. This induction is well deserved. Love you Jimmy.
Great article. I played on the Floor Concepts team for its entire existence. We also won the men’s B 35+ state title in 2001 for a total of 5.
The team was held together with a nucleus of 5-6 childhood friends from the North End of Providence which included Jim & my self.
Excellent for jimmy m as his brother in law I am proud to say is a hall of famer!
I remember Rich Falcone playing a lot of years for Hart’s Cafe (open league) and Bowerman Bros (industrial).