Submitted by Aurora Protestant Church League
Memories, memorabilia and fellowship highlighted the 80th anniversary celebration of the Aurora Protestant Church League at Pierce Field June 29.
After current and former softball players registered and reviewed displays, Dave Carpenter of Aurora, league president, presided at a two-hour program behind the field's bleachers. During his remarks, a former player called Carpenter's mobile phone.
Other speakers were Ken Reed, league secretary, and former players Stan McGraw and Jerry Chase, all Aurorans.
The Rev. Deborah Tinsley Taylor, pastor of Aurora's Fourth Street United Methodist Church, gave the invocation and benediction. More than 50 current and former players, family members and guests attended the program that concluded with refreshments.
Carpenter, who called himself " … a product of this league," said, "When I think about Pierce Field and the Protestant Church League, I think of a big family that has many brothers and sisters, branching out in many walks of life.
"We all have family trees that began with Adam and Eve in the garden. I'd like to tell you about mine."
"Like yours, my family started on two different branches. One branch consisted of my grandmother who was born in 1900 and her baby brother who was born in 1910."
"I knew him as my great Uncle Lawrence Chase. As a young adult and beginning his career, he and his friend, Jay McGraw, along Rev. Gerald Richardson, Stan Forbes, and Joe Darfler, formed a softball league for men to have a place to play and fellowship together."
"Church attendance was a vital part of the league which was an avenue to expose men to the values and love of Christ, setting the ministry aspect of this league apart from other already established leagues in the city."
Carpenter said the second branch of his family tree produced his great uncle Roy Stearns, who played in the league and was treasurer.
Carpenter recalled that he debuted in the league's junior division with Claim St. Baptist in the summer of 1979. Returning from military service, he found the league had changed by attrition and slowpitch had been added.
"I joined the slowpitch team and played under coaches Mac McConnaughay and Bob Fox, who became a Christian because of this league and sports ministry at First Presbyterian," Carpenter said.
"On Bob's retirement from softball, Mac asked me to take over as coach of the team. I have been doing that now for 18 years," Carpenter said.
He added that a current opponent on the field is John Walbaum from First Presbyterian, the grandson of Rev. Gerald Richardson, one of the founders of the league.
"John's grandfather, his father John, his sons and his grandnephew have played, making five generations in the league!
Other speakers were Auroran Stan McGraw, son of Jay McGraw; Jerry Chase, Carpenter's second cousin; and Ken Reed, league treasurer, also spoke.
In closing, Carpenter gave a roll call of players from the past and present. Most came from a 1981 Fox Valley Sports Journal article written by Bill Rees, a Fourth Street UMC player.
Carpenter concluded, "Thank you for coming and for the part you and your families have played in the rich heritage of this league.
"Dozens of churches have participated in the league throughout the years. My prayer is that it continues for many generations to come."