< Steele's Silver Bullets

Steele's Silver Bullets

The 1990 Steele's Silver Bullets were managed by Dave Neale and coached by player coach Terry Perryman and Randy Gorrell. Manager and owner Dave Neale had put together some fantastic softball teams from the late 60's and the early 1970's. He either helped put them together or he did it himself.. .. Having the best softball team in the town of Cleveland was such a big deal when I first started playing softball with Mr. Neale. There was the teams that he played for by the names of Swing Inn and Pyramid Cafe and then the Hillcrest Tavern which was a bar that Dave owned and sponsored his softball teams with. As the teams progressed over the years so did his teams and his involvement with the Steele's Sports Company...

It was in 1978 and 1979 when Coach Neale started investing money into the company Steele's Sports. After a few years of having his own team Hillcrest and getting involved with Steele's that he eventually let go of and sold the Hillcrest Tavern and joined up with Ted Stepien, Skip Felice, Buddy Langdon and Dick Koval to form a team called Nationwide Advertising and then the Cleveland Competitors in the last year of the Pro Softball League..

So it took almost 15 years of coaching his own team with his friends Buddy Langdon, Biaggio Schlerro, and Chet O'Block when it all came together for that great year. Something that you will always remember.. That year was 1990 when Dave felt like he had a pretty good squad in the talent that he had kept from the team in 1989. In 1989 we had 20 softball players on the team and it got a little crazy with trying to platoon the players to play on the weekends and then during the week.. He had two sets of players to participate in his ideas for the company. Dave and Denny Helmig the other owner of the company always said that the best way to advertise was to go out and travel all over to promote the best softball product that Steele's used... The Steele's teams over the years were made up of big athletic players and we were walking talking billboards.

In 1988 the team that was called Smythe Sox, who had come back and double dipped our 1987 Steele's team in the USSSA Men's Major World Series folded right before the Smoky Mountain..So naturally some of the players are going to ask if there is a spot on the Steele's roster for them.. Dave was always thinking how to make things better for the game but also for his company that he owned with Denny Helmig... So Dave basically took half the team and we had 20 players on the roster now... So in 1988 we won the USSSA Men's Major World Series that was held in Long Beach, California... In that tournament certain players that Dave picked up could not play because of the rule in the USSSA. You were allowed 3 pickups after you qualified during the season... We had qualified for the season early so Dave was only allowed to use 3 players.

Now it is 1990 and we are starting out with just 13 players.. We start our first tournament in Austin, Texas at the Pleasant Valley Sportsplex... Ritch's is there. Superior Apollo is there also... Well when the dust settles after that first tourney we get beat by Ritch's in the event... Dave was so upset that he decides to have the team sit down on the telephone poles that are laying on the ground.. All the teams and everybody else leaves the ball park. We are just sitting there waiting for Coach Neale to talk to us.. Well, the talk was something that I know the players were not expecting... Coach Neale said he was thoroughly disappointed by the way we played.. He said it looked like none of us had worked on our game over the winter... So he says" I have some good news and some bad news for you... The bad news is we don't play for 2 weeks.. When we meet up again in Houston half of you guys won't be here." Now the players are looking at each other , like is he serious?

He then said something else and said that goes for you too Macenko. So I knew he was not kidding and it opened a lot of eyes... He said the good news is some of you who have worked hard will come back and represent the company in our schedule for the year... Jerome Ernest, our publicist had put together a real nice schedule for us to compete in.. He had knocked the schedule down from what it was in 1989.. Over 300 games we played in all over the country. Playing in 25 states for 1990. That was down from the 31 states the year before... So as we walk away from the park to go catch a plane or drive the Steele's van like Dave and I did everybody went home.. Coach Neale said he would be in touch with everyone...

When I think about it now I have to laugh, because once again he knew what he was doing.. So when we start up again 2 weeks later in Houston at the Softball Country Club everybody that was in Austin was back and you could see where some of the players had taken their swings and worked on their defense... Oh yeah, and worked out at the gym. In other words we were ready for the task at hand.....

So when we start back we doing something that has not been done too many times.. We won 13 tournaments in a row. We lost the first tournament of the year and then we won 142 games in a row, 13 tournaments in a row. We had won the ISA in Columbus, Ohio, the ASA Super in Oklahoma City, and the NSA Major in Brook Park, Ohio.. All we had left to finish a fantastic season was to win the USSSA Men's Major World Series... I won't reflect back on what happened but we did get upset in our quest to win all 4 associations...

No matter what we had ever accomplished as a team before this year was good but it was nothing like the year of 1990...



*Ernie Montgomery was the MVP of the ISA Men's Major/Dirk Androff was the Home Run Champ in the Clipper Stadium where we played the event...

*Monty Tucker and Mike Macenko were Co-MVP's when we won the ASA Men's Super/Doug Roberson was the Home Run Champ

*Mike Macenko was the MVP once again as we won the NSA Major World Series/Craig Elliott was the Home Run Champ

*Scott Virkus was the MVP of the Smoky Mountain Classic/Todd Joerling Defensive Award.


Dave Neale Sr. - Manager
Terry Perryman - Infield
Randy Gorrell - Coach
Mike Macenko - Utility
Billy Blake - Infield
Monty Tucker - Infield
Greg Schulte - Outfield/Infield
Dirk Androff - First Base
Rick Weiterman - Picher
Scott Virkus - Outfield
Larry Fredieu - Outfield
Todd Joerling - Infield
Danny Williams - Outfield
Scott Virkus - Outfield
Mike Macenko - Utility
Randy Gorrell - Coach
Danny Williams - Outfield
Billy Blake - Infield
Dirk Androff - Infield
Greg Schults - Outfield
Dave Neale Sr. - Manager
Billy Blake - Infield
John Grissolm - Outfield
Dan Schuck - Outfield
Monty Tucker - Pitcher
Joe Foley - Outfield
Todd Joerling - Short Stop
Ernie Montgomery - Anywhere


By Tim Povtak and Orlando Sentinel / Chicago Tribune
August 23, 1987

As he waits for the pitch, barrel-chested Mike Macenko waves his bat with the ease of a doctor waving a tongue depressor. It is tiny in his massive hands. It is dwarfed by his sewer-pipe-sized forearms. There is nothing delicate or tactful about him or the way he plays the game. Unleashing his sweeping swing is like putting a bull in a closet-ure fury. He doesn't hit, he attacks. On contact, he grunts, the ball screams, the crushing sound is heard two fields away. And that`s where the ball usually falls.

Macenko is, on a team filled with giants and in a division filled with unbelievable exploits, softball`s undisputed King of Clout. Henry Aaron, the most prolific slugger in the history of baseball, took 23 years to hit his 755 home runs. Macenko, who is 6 feet 3 inches, 250 pounds, may exceed that figure in a single year.

Macenko plays an entirely different game, under entirely different circumstances from Aaron, yet one thing ties the two games and the two men together.
A home run, on any level, causes excitement. After 220 games this season (which started in February) playing for Steele`s Sports from Grafton, Ohio, Macenko has an incredible 526 home runs and 977 runs batted in, the most in the history of softball, even though there still are 115 games left in the season. He averages a home run almost every other at-bat.

Macenko plays for Steele`s Sports, the most chronicled collection of 12-inch slow-pitch softball sluggers ever assembled, a barnstorming group of bruisers who make the average team look as though it plays an entirely different game. And it does.

Steele`s belongs to the elite Super Division, a dozen teams with the very best players who tour the country playing 150-300 games a year, playing softball on a level above everyone else. Steele`s has won every major softball title in recent years, including the Amateur Softball Association, the National Softball Association and the U.S. Slow Pitch Softball Association titles.

This year, the aptly nicknamed Men of Steele are averaging 37 runs and 18 home runs per game, making a travesty of the game the average softball team plays. They are 212-8, a record that includes a 97-game winning streak. In a single game, Steele`s hit 63 home runs in a 108-5 victory over the Wichita Falls All-Stars.

''The thing about it,'' Macenko said, ''is that home runs never get boring, no matter how many or how often you hit them. It`s like catching fish. It doesn't matter how many you catch, every one is a real thrill. And anyway, a home run means you don`t have to run. You can trot around the bases.'' Playing on fields with fences that range from 300 to 325 feet from home plate, the Men of Steele hit home runs with numbing regularity. They have scored more than 10 runs an inning 270 times this season. In one recent game, Macenko, Doug Roberson (6-0, 225) and Mike Bolen (6-2, 260) hit 21 home runs in 36 total at-bats.

In the summer, they often play exhibitions in minor-league baseball stadiums as a preliminary to the regularly scheduled pro baseball game. During their games, the most popular seat at the ballpark is not behind home plate but behind the outfield fences. They homer so often it often looks as though they are playing in someone`s living room. ''If we`re in town, the action is over the other side of the fence,'' Macenko said. ''That`s what the people expect, and that`s what we`re paid for.''

In a Steele`s game, pop fly's often finish on the warning track, and often opposition infielders go an entire game without an assist. The first basemen often fails to record a putout. It`s a wonder the opponents even bother with infielders. The 14-man Steele`s roster includes players from eight states. Although softball still is considered an amateur sport, most of Steele`s players are paid well, ranging from $20,000 to $60,000 per year plus all expenses. They either are employed directly by Steele`s, a sporting-goods manufacturer, or are paid through a personal-services contract that includes lending their name to equipment and signing autographs.

''No question, it`s play for pay,'' said Al Ramsey, executive director of the USSSA. ''Everyone gets around it, and if you start enforcing the rules you`d be opening a Pandora`s box. At this level, believe me, players are well compensated.'' Macenko, although he is the current superstar at age 31, is not the only home-run hitter for hire with Steele`s. Nor is he the biggest player on the roster. Scott Virkus, a 6-6, 295-pound right-fielder from Palo Alto, Calif., was cut by the Buffalo Bills last summer. He has 390 home runs this season.

Craig Elliott, 6-4, 300, was the first player to hit more than 400 home runs in three consecutive seasons. Four of the players weigh more than 275 pounds. Surprisingly, though, most are good athletes, giving Steele`s a respectable defense to accompany its awesome lineup of sluggers. The team was put together by Dennis Helmig, a Cleveland businessman who turned an auto parts store in 1979 into Steele`s Sports, one of the fastest-growing sporting-goods manufacturers in the country. In 1985, revenues totaled $4.5 million. In 1986, they reached $8 million. This year they will exceed $10 million, mostly through sales of softball equipment.

Helmig has $450,000 budgeted for his softball team, which provides him with an advertising, marketing, promotions and research and development branch. ''My guys are walking billboards for the business,'' Helmig said. ''I never believed it would become this big-the company or the team-but it just mushroomed beyond belief. In the early years, the team dictated the business. Now the business dictates the team. It`s a wonderful arrangement.''

Although Steele`s players are flown from various parts of the country to start each road trip, most of the traveling is done in two vans. On the sides of both vans are the boldly painted letters ''National Champions.'' They will travel across 34 states and more than 150,000 miles this summer. Macenko is the only Steele`s player to have more than four years of experience on the tour. Most other players last only a season or two before the travel wears them down.

''I`ll admit I`m a little sick in the head to be doing this,'' Macenko said. ''The traveling gets to be a grind, but I love it. Otherwise I`d probably be working in a factory somewhere. But this is better.



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