It was 1975 when the La Jolla Bobby Sox All Stars softball team made it to the National Championship Tournament.
Having only established a softball program a few years prior, the La Jolla Bobby Sox were considered the team to disregard, an easy win. So imagine everyone’s surprise when the young team made it all the way to the top — even defeating a cross-town rival along the way.
Forty years later, the team held a reunion Aug. 1 to celebrate the momentous occasion at the home of Bobby Sox coach Wally Doren, and his wife/team parent Barbara Doren. The girls (now women) were eager to reminisce and catch up.
From different corners of the rooms, outbursts of “look at us!” and “I remember that!” and “Can you believe that was 40 years ago?” could be heard as the team members looked over photos.
Whether it was a one-time stroke of luck, expertly-timed trick plays, or their collective will to win, the La Jolla Bobby Sox All Stars had an unforgettable season.
Although they didn’t win the National tournament, getting there created a lifelong bond for the players.
“I love the fact that we were just a bunch of pretty girls, comparatively small in stature, and we were playing against these much more athletic teams. They would take one look at us and think, ‘yeah, right, we got this’ but we took everyone out,” said Kimi Batutis (nee Creamer). At that time in La Jolla, “We didn’t have
an organized girls softball league, we just had the ponytail/sweatshirt league and that morphed into the Bobby Sox,” Batutis said. “So we didn’t have a lot of organization or experience, but we had a lot of grit, will, spirit and spunk.”
Bobby Sox in La Jolla
In 1973, the Bobby Sox program (female softball players ages 12-15) had leagues all over San Diego, but not in La Jolla. That year, after watching their daughters play in informal “sweatshirt leagues,” a group of parents decided to form a league. With a boys team already established at the Northwest YMCA (now Cliffridge YMCA), the parents set up teams to form a Bobby Sox league there.
Sox-er Barbara Doren explained that the La Jolla teams within the league would play against each other throughout the season. At the end of each season, an All Stars team comprised of top members from each team would form to compete in play-off style games against other San Diego teams.
During play-offs, the La Jolla girls played against Bobby Sox teams from Clairemont, Chula Vista, Spring Valley, El Cajon and others. In its banner season in 1975, they won their way through the local and regional tournaments all the way up through the national qualifying tournament.
“No one thought La Jolla would make it,” Doren said. “They looked at (the La Jolla team) as the rich kids ... you could tell some of the players they were up against had been playing since day one.”
Playing in a double-elimination format (if they lost two games, they were sent home) they took one loss against Clairemont, but fought their way back to qualify for Nationals.
The qualifying game
For some, the night they won the game that qualified them to go to Nationals was as exciting as the big game itself. In what is considered a perfectly timed stroke of luck, Amie Rodriguez (nee Johnston) said in the ninth inning, with bases loaded, she was watching her teammate up at bat with nervous anticipation. Leaning against the dugout rail, she reached up into the rafters and felt something under her hand.
“I swear this is true, I found a lucky penny,” she said. “I thought to myself, ‘we’re going to win, I just know it.’ ” Just then, the La Jollan up to bat hit a homerun, and the game was theirs.
Kathe Beardsley (nee Doren), whose father was one of the coaches, said that night, both her parents were supposed to attend the La Patronas Jewel Ball, but her father stayed behind to celebrate with the team.
“We were all on cloud nine, eating pizza at this local pizza parlor, singing our team song, which was ‘Love Will Keep Us Together’ by Captain and Tennille,” she said, laughing. The hit song had been released that spring. “On our way home, we realized my dad didn’t have the house key, sowehadtogototheJewelBallinour uniforms — cleats and all — to get the key from my mom.” Thankfully, her mother shared in their excitement and celebrated briefly at the Ball.
The big games
To get to the Bobby Sox National Tournament, held annually in Buena Park outside of Los Angeles, the team would ride up in a van (listening to “Love Will Keep Us Together” all the while) and stay in hotels nearby.
Beardsley said, “I remember the excitement of staying in a hotel with the girls and playing long games that went into the night. I also remember our managers and chaperones telling us to go to bed early and not eat junk food. There were teams from everywhere, so we got to meet girls from across the country.”
During the tournament, Crista Hubbard (nee Breihan) said the use of trick plays helped them against unfamiliar competition. “We knew a lot of the San Diego teams already, but for the teams we didn’t know, we used some tricks when it really counted,” she said.
For example, during one game, catcher Hubbard said, “Coach Doren told me to act like I can’t throw and misthrow, so when they got on base and would try to steal, I would throw them out.”
During another game, the team relied on the chaperones to keep their spirits up when things weren’t looking good. With an umpire calling plays in favor of the opposition, chaperone Wanda Creamer (wife of Coach Tom Creamer) rallied to the girl’s defense. “I got kicked out of one of the games because the (umpire) was making bad calls and I told him ‘you’ve got a banana in your ear’ and he kicked me out,” she said. “All of the girls were laughing, but they were proud at the same time.”
After some exciting games, day games, night games, extra-inning games and an eventual loss, the girls went home to La Jolla in eighth place at the National level.
“Who could have imagined it would turn into such an experience?” mused Jill Walsh (nee Pflaum). “Getting to be with this awe- some group of girls was remarkable. It was an exciting and awesome adventure. Coach Doren was an amazing coach and mentor. It was such a special time in our lives.”
Many of the La Jolla Bobby Sox All Stars went on to play softball for La Jolla High, some went on to play in college, and Hubbard and Beardsley play on the San Diego Stars senior softball league today. While the Bobby Sox program in La Jolla has since disbanded, the 1975 team still keeps in touch and fondly recalls that one summer season.