TACOMA FIREFIGHTER SLOWPITCH TEAM TOPS IN STATE FROM 1978-1980
Back row l. to r.: Dick Moore, Ken DeForrest, Dave Wilsie, Gary Schiesz, Dave Carr, Jay Hook, and Tim Chandler.
The Tacoma Firefighters slowpitch softball team was the product of a childhood friendship between Ken DeForrest and Dave Wilsie, carried out years later when the duo reunited as members of the Tacoma Fire Department. After growing up playing sports with various boys clubs in Tacoma, both joined the TFD in the mid-1970s and expressed a desire to form a slowpitch team with members of the department.
DeForrest and Wilsie began organizing the team in the fall of 1976, contacting firefighters for the TFD to gauge interest and experience. While they found very few players with any previous baseball or softball experience, they built a team comprised entirely from professional firefighters at TFD and worked quickly to improve and become competitive.
Starting in the spring and summer of 1977, the team played mostly state firefighters tournaments on several weekends, participating in both 12-inch and 14-inch slowpitch. That first year the team sponsored itself, donning a simple "TFD" on its jerseys.
With the rotating schedules of firefighters, the team faced numerous challenges in terms of finding practice times. DeForrest praised the TFD supervisors and officers for offering tremendous help in scheduling to allow the players a chance to practice and travel out of town for weekend games and tournaments.
The team dominated the regional firefighter slowpitch circuit throughout the late 1970s and early '80s, winning state and local tournaments in both 12- and 14-inch slowpitch from 1977-80 and winning berths to the ASA National Tournaments five times between 1977 and 1985. In 1978 the team traveled to the International Firefighters' Tournament in Bowie, Md., and placed fifth out of 49 teams, with two losses to the tournament champions from Detroit, Mich.
The Tacoma Firefighters played in the first slowpitch games ever held at the Tacoma Dome in 1984. Called the "Fireball Classic I," the series pitted TFD against the Seattle Firefighters team in two seven-inning games with a three-inning tiebreaker. The Seattle Firefighters prevailed in the tiebreaker, but TFD returned the favor the following year in "Fireball Classic II," defeating SFD at the Tacoma Dome. In 1986, TFD defeated the Bellevue Firefighters in "Fireball Classic III."
Over the years the team was sponsored by Foss Tire and B&I Sports, and Mac Northwest helped promote the three Fireball Classic series at the Tacoma Dome. Working as professional firefighters and playing sports together as a team helped the players and their families come together as a team family.
Ken DeForrest (coach) was born in Tacoma in 1947 and graduated from Lincoln High School in 1965, where he played baseball and basketball. At age 11, he began playing organized rec baseball, football and basketball for the East Side Boys Club, and he continued playing rec sports until 1991. Ken joined the Tacoma Fire Department in 1976 and retired as a Lieutenant in 1998.
Ken organized the Tacoma Firefighters team in 1977 and was a player/coach throughout the team's existence. He also played in regional, state and national tournaments with other teams in 1982, '85 and '90. In all, he has played in seven national slowpitch tournaments and received all-star and MVP trophies in each decade from the 1960s through the '90s. He and his wife Adele live in Tacoma.
Bob Bender was born in 1947 in Tacoma and graduated from Wilson High School in 1965, where he played football and basketball. He attended Olympic College in Bremerton and joined the Tacoma Fire Department in 1970, working there for more than 28 years.
Bob traveled to four national tournaments with the Tacoma Firefighters and also played in the Fireball Classic games at the Tacoma Dome. He was primarily a pitcher and infielder for the team. He now lives in McCall, Idaho, with his wife Nancy and enjoys golf and snow skiing.
Dave Carr was born in Bellingham in 1948 and graduated from Franklin Pierce High School in 1966, where he played varsity basketball and earned all-conference honors as a senior. He attended Pacific Lutheran University and played basketball for two years at PLU. He joined the Tacoma Fire Department in 1972 and retired from the department in 1995.
Dave played outfield for the Tacoma Firefighters and was selected for the All-World team at the International Firefighter Tournament in 1978, among the numerous honors he received as a member of the team. In addition, he played rec basketball, flag football and golf. Dave lives in the Tacoma area.
Tim Chandler was born in 1947 in Brush, Colo., and graduated from Brush High School in 1965, where he played football, baseball and basketball. In 1965 his basketball team won the Colorado State Championship, and Tim was a first-team all-tournament selection. He went on to attend Pacific Lutheran University in Parkland, playing football and basketball at PLU and graduating in 1970. He was a 1969 all-Northwest Conference performer for the Lute football team, also garnering third-team All-American honors that season.
Tim joined the Tacoma Fire Department in 1974 and retired as a safety officer after 30 years. He was a long-time member of the Tacoma Firefighters slowpitch team, earning numerous individual all-star awards over the years. He and his wife Nancy live in Spanaway.
Dave Deskins was born in 1954 in Tacoma and graduated from Wilson High School in 1972, where he played football and basketball. He attended Pierce College in Lakewood, where he played basketball for two years and served as a team captain in 1974 before graduating that year. He joined the Tacoma Fire Department in February 1978.
Dave earned numerous slowpitch all-star tournament awards and was named MVP of the first Fireball Classic series in 1984. He also participated in numerous rec sports, including basketball and flag football, and he also enjoys running.
Ralph Guelfi was born in Tacoma in 1934 and graduated from Bellarmine High School. After graduation, he served in the Navy before joining the Tacoma Fire Department. He worked for the department for nearly 30 years, retiring as a Lieutenant.
Ralph was a catcher and utility infielder for the Tacoma Firefighters, and as the oldest player on the team he was affectionately referred to as "Pops." As a member of the firefighter's union executive board, he played an instrumental role in helping the team members arrange trading days to allow for tournament travel. He and his wife Nancy hosted many of the team parties over the years.
Jim Hook was born in Bremerton in 1946 and graduated from Lincoln High School in 1965 and was an all-state athlete in basketball and track. He joined the Air Force in 1969 and served four years before returning to college at Pierce Community College. He joined the Tacoma Fire Department in 1974 and retired in 2002.
Jim played for the Tacoma Firefighters throughout the team's existence as a pitcher, catcher and outfielder. He earned several all-star awards during that stretch and was a member of the All-World Team in the 1978 International Firefighter Tournament. He and his wife Judy live in Orting.
Mike Krueger was born in Tacoma in 1950 and graduated from Lincoln High School in 1969, where he ran cross country and track under coach Dan Watson. He joined the Tacoma Fire Department in 1976 and retired as Captain of the Hazardous Materials Unit and Engine 12 after 28 years with the department.
Mike was a longtime third basemen for the Tacoma Firefighters, and his speed on the basepaths allowed him to score from second on fly balls to turn long outs in to run-scoring sacrifice flies. He was named to several tournament all-star teams during his playing career. He and his wife Denice live in Tacoma.
Dick Moore was born in 1947 in Portland, Ore., and moved to Tacoma in 1951. He graduated from Franklin Pierce High School in 1966 and joined the Tacoma Fire Department in June 1966. He retired from the department in February 2000 and became the chief of the Sumner Fire Department until his final retirement in 2003.
Dick spent several years with the Tacoma Firefighters, typically playing as a pitcher and outfielder. He and his wife Robin live in University Place.
Bob Schierman was born in Tacoma in 1951 and graduated from Wilson High School in 1969, where he played football, basketball and baseball. He attended Green River Community College in Auburn and played baseball there for two years. He joined the Tacoma Fire Department in 1973 and retired as a captain in 2003.
Bob had earned all-star honors in baseball as a senior at Wilson H.S., and he pitched the second game of the annual City-County All-Star game that year. As a member of the Tacoma Firefighters team, he earned several tournament all-star honors. He and his wife live in Tacoma.
Gary Shiesz was born in Bremerton in 1953 and graduated from Mount Tahoma High School in 1971, where he played junior varsity baseball and basketball. He joined the Tacoma Fire Deparmtnet in 1976 and retired as Deputy Chief in 2003.
Gary was a member of the Tacoma Firefighters from 1978-80, playing first base for the squad. He stays active hunting and fishing and enjoys traveling with his wife Johnette. The two live in rural Pierce County.
Ron Stephens was born in Port Huron, Mich., in 1953. After high school he enlisted in the Army and served for four years. He joined the Tacoma Fire Department in 1977 and recently retired as the Fire Chief for the City of Tacoma.
Ron joined the Tacoma Firefighters in 1978 and primarily played catcher and outfielder. He and his wife Martha live in Tacoma with their family.
Dave Wilsie was born in 1947 in Tacoma and graduated from Lincoln High School in 1965, where he lettered in basketball and baseball. He served in the Army from 1966-68 and joined the Tacoma Fire Department in January 1973, retiring as a Lieutenant in March 2000.
Dave was a key proponent in the creation of the Tacoma Firefighters team, and in 2001 he was voted into the Tacoma-Pierce County Old Timers Baseball/Softball Hall of Fame. He played many years of rec basketball and flag football and now focuses on golf, where he is a four-handicap, seven-time Senior Club Champion at Meadow Park Golf Course and 12-time Tacoma Firefighters Golf Club Champion.