published Wednesday, July 31st, 2013

Local Legends win Senior Nationals

The Chattanooga Legends lived up to their nickname in the recent National Senior Games at Cleveland, Ohio. They won the 75-plus age division with a 5-0 record and a 90-33 run differential.

The Legends overpowered the New Jersey Roadrunners 22-4 in the gold-medal game.

“We may be old, but we can play ball,” manager Jack Gibson said upon the champions’ return. “This is really a super team. We’re going to try to keep it together and win some more tournaments.”

The next National Senior Games is in 2015 in Minneapolis, at which time Gibson will be 83. He’s the oldest member of the Legends, followed by the inspirational Earl Williams, now 78 and continuing to play despite Parkinson’s disease. He doesn’t play the field but still can hit — and does.

“Everybody really looks up to Earl, because he’s so determined to keep playing,” Gibson said. “He’s very well respected.”

Williams downplays the inspiration factor but acknowledged that he hopes his continued activity can be an example for others.

“It was great,” he said of the national title. “It sure capped a long softball career in a wonderful way — to play some of the best older teams in the country and come out the winner.”

Williams lives in Ooltewah. Gibson and Harold Jennings are Hixson residents. Bill Gallagher is from Signal Mountain, Vernon Waters from Ringgold and coaches Shag Phelps and Ken Griffith from Tunnel Hill and Dalton. The Legends also included Bo Deaton from Jackson, Tenn., Ray Kent from Fairfield Glade, Ken Crowell from Shelbyville and Tom Sells, Don Doerun and Billy Whiddle from the Tri-Cities area along with Farrell Sparks from Woodstock, Ga., and Ron Phieffer, Jake Wood, Don Bush and pitcher Mike Desorba from Pensacola, Fla., and nearby Gulf Breeze.

“We put this team together for the national senior tournament,” Gibson said, “and we hit .696 as a team in our five games.”

The nationals included seven 75-plus teams: two from New Jersey and one each from Maryland, Delaware, Iowa and South Carolina in addition to Chattanooga’s powerhouse. Gibson said the entry fee was “over $1,200,” and he said several local businesses greatly helped in that area.

Nearly 11,000 athletes took part in the many sports of the Games in Cleveland.

Contact Ron Bush at rbush@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6291.

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