History, as you’ve probably heard ‘is written by the Winners’, so please excuse any chronological innacuracies or inconsistent accreditation…the fun in reading this is to see how many errors you can find!
Please feel free to send in Photo’s or other memorabilia .. David@davidleephoto.co.uk
The BSA began playing Slowpitch Softball on the Downs in 1989, and was started by his royal baldness Ken Warner.
Newly moved here from London, Ken missed playing softball, so managed to enlist enough players from the Ad agency he worked for to form a couple of teams…within months there were teams springing up from many of the biggest local companies such as Inmos, Canon, 3M, and Orange.
Ken is still remembered today as ‘that bloke in glasses’.
The league was up to 12 teams in the following year and Ken’s own team ‘Hit & Run’ were the first winners of the league in 1990 and many of the players from those early days still play today…
10 points for anyone who can name 10 of them!
The league continued to grow at a startling rate and the following year a new team called ‘Nice Beaver’ crushed all before them and won the1991 league unbeaten. This same year saw the institution of the League Cup begin which pitched teams against each other in a one-off knock out competition which ‘Nice Beaver’ also won. The league had settled on an ‘after game beer venue’ by then at the Alma Tavern.
Softball across the country was now recognised as
the fastest growing sport in the UK and leagues were developed in Manchester, Birmingham, Edinburgh, Glasgow and Leeds, to join the existing leagues in Windsor, London and Southampton.
In 1992 the league had grown to 24 teams and we were beginning to outgrow the Downs…
‘Nice Beaver’ again triumphed in the League and cup but new competition from The Barracudas, Redland Raiders and The Thunderbolts made their wins much harder to gain.
1993 saw the move from the Downs to Horfield Common and the development of some major softball competitions across the country. In London the Triple Crown Tournament Series offered prizes for the best players and many Bristol based players won bats, gloves, cleats and other equipment after having their ID tab ‘clipped’ by the Umpire. Rhys Lewis of the Barracudas was most adept at gaining extra ‘clips’ and had collected the entire range of prizes available by the end of the season.
The major tournaments in London, Windsor, Bristol and Birmingham also began to categorise teams into A, B & Recreational teams. Bristol boasted three regular ‘A’ ball teams in The Barracudas, The Raiders and ‘Nice Beaver’. The Raiders achieved the first national tournament win by a Bristol team by taking the Crown at Birmingham after SNOW(?) stopped play.
Across the UK there were still only an estimated 5000+ people playing slowpitch softball in 1994 …. that was soon to change .
By the end of 95′ there were an estimated 15,000 people participating in Softball in the UK with burgeoning leagues in Manchester( now the biggest outside London) Liverpool, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Leeds, Birmingham, Southampton/Portsmouth and even Cheltenham/Gloucester and Teignfor a while. In London there were more Leagues than places to play! and the sport was officially recognised as the fastest growing sport in the UK
The BSA had now moved again to Golden Hill and had managed to squeeze 4 pitches onto a patch of land that meant a lot of lost foul hit balls into Gardens, We had significant sponsorship from the Wellington Pub and they were packed on 3 nights a week.
Over the next few years the BSA grew bigger and better, as many as 5 teams now graced the The very top end of British softball with the Raiders Beavers and Barracudas Joined by the Roosters and the Thunderbolts.
There were a series of national tournaments across the country and The Beavers Raiders and Barracudas all managed to win at least one event during this time .. The top of Division one was hotly contested especially when The Beavers disbanded in 98 Closely followed by the Barracudas and then the Raiders in 2000 . These three had taken all the div 1 titles over the 1st 9 years of the BSA
The BSA by then had finally found what looked like a permanent home at Clifton College grounds where we proceeded to do serious damage to the place over the following few years.. we regularly smashed roof tiles on the club house as the pitches were too close… we dangled from the beams in the main room at Parties and managed to smash the lights in the ‘bubble’ when we attempted to get an indoor winter league going.. we became famous for our brilliant tournaments and even more so for the parties .. The wReck event was born in the early naughties and has been full ever since of teams playing their heart out on Saturday but looking a bit bewildered and slightly Ill on the Sunday … The Bristol Tournament, which everyone now calls the ‘main was always full to busting and saw the best of UK Softball played on the best grounds available .. Sadly that’s no longer the case’ There was always a huge crowd for the final and In 2002 and 2003 the National Championships came to Clifton College grounds… Many remember those event as being some of the most exciting softball they’d ever seen. BT were all conqering up to that point and had a string of National Championships to thier name But Softball was on the change again with the pioneers winning in ’02 and the one year wonders the Stingrays in ’03
Bristol had never managed to get a strong enough team together to challenge at the very top of UK Softball and although The Raiders had managed a Semi Final place in ’99 and the Barracudas and The Beavers had managed a 5th and 6th place respectively, we’d never really had anyone who could unite the best of Bristol .. That was about to change.
Without a determined effort on the part of Gareth Preece and Lillian Tanner the Best tournament team Bristol ever produced would never have seen the light of day.. in 2004 the Bristol Blue Sox were Born..all the Best players in Bristol featured and managed to get along long enough to play some serious Softball at the very top level. These originally included Kirstie Leach, Hannah King and Laura Parker, although these three had moved on when The Blue Sox experienced their greatest achievement by getting all the way to the final of the National Championships in 2005, beating some formidable teams in the process and engendering a new respect among the uk Softball community for Bristols finest.
In the following years the BSF saw fit to create another Regions National championships called the All Stars and Bristol again achieved some very respectable wins and made 2 Finals in 3 years.
Committee Chair – through the years ( Or Whose fault was it ! ?)
1990 – 1993 – Ken Warner
1994 – Rob Sailsbury
1995 – Mark Strange
1996 – 1998 – Rhian Ashley
1999 – 2002 – Beil Nutterfield
2003 – 2004 – Julie Warner
2005 – 2006 – Kate Mortara (Bob)
2007 – 2009 – Chris Moon
2010 – 2013 – Brett McIntrye
2014 – Amanda (bird) Summers & Hayley Hodges