• Friday, January 27th, 2012


Merle Williams’ name was synonymous with women’s major softball for 18 years. His teams captured two Amateur Softball Association (ASA) National Championships, including 1970 with Rutenschroer Floral, and 1976 with Sorrento’s Pizza.  Over a seventeen year period from 1967 to 1984, Williams’ teams finished among the top 4 teams in the National Tournaments an incredible ten times, making it to the championship game six times.  He organized his first team in 1966 around a young phenom from Milan, In. named Jenny Johnson, who would one day become the most recognized name in women’s softball.  The following year, Williams and Johnson joined defending national champion Dana Gardens, coached by the legendary Commie Currens, to take a shot at a national title.  But Dana fell short, losing to Ridge Maintenance of Cleveland in the finals.  In 1968 Dana split up, and Williams and Currens formed a new team, which evolved into 1970 national champion Rutenschroer Floral.  Like Williams’ Sorrento’s team six years later, Rutenschroer lost their first game of the national tournament, but roared back to win 10 straight games, double-dipping defending champion Miami Dots.  After Rutenschroer failed to repeat in 1971, the team split up and Williams formed Sorrento’s Pizza in 1972.  It took Williams four years to re-tool, but Sorrento’s finally jelled in 1976, and he captured his second ASA National Championship.  Over the next five seasons, Sorrento’s finished second once, third three times and fourth once.  In his final season in 1984, he merged with UPI of Cookville, Tn. and finished second.  Williams was credited with transforming the game of women’s softball.  He was the first coach to implement a four-man outfield.  He stressed fundamentals and discipline, and utilized the skills each of his players brought to the game.  The players were taught to sacrifice.  And batting averages were trumped by teamwork.  He also insisted on mental toughness.  And no one was better at player development.  Local and national hall of famers Jenny Johnson-Kappes, Beverly Beck, Marsha Helton, Sue Malcomb, Marilyn Booher, Martha Kidd, and V. K. Lehmann were just a few of the great players who came under Williams’ tutelage.

Category: 2012, Manager, Members
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