This Streak just goes on

Monday, September 27, 2010

On a typical Saturday afternoon at James P. Lang Field, you can see players tying up their cleats, slapping their gloves and jogging out to the grassy diamonds. But you’ll notice something different about softball league regulars, the Silver Streak. In addition to well-worn caps and gloves, you’ll see some well-worn faces, the occasional knee brace, and flashes of trademark silver hair. With great enthusiasm but perhaps not as much speed, these weekend warriors are entering their 31st year in San Francisco’s softball league. While other teams and players might have long ago hung up their gloves, the Silver Streak endures despite injuries, advancing years and tests of friendship.

"Some guys go out to the golf course, some have some beers with each other … we play softball," says Steve Cresci, 55, one of the founding members of the team. Cresci, with his fast-talking demeanor and dark eyebrows, resembles an athletic Martin Scorsese. While Cresci works in an insurance office during the week, on the weekends he’s the Streak’s manager and second baseman. Started in 1979 by several regulars in the league, the Silver Streak has endured with a core group of eight players. Pat Largent, the oldest member of the team at 64, joined the Silver Streak in 1983 after playing with a couple of other teams in the league. Another regular, Marc Hogue, 62, a professional contractor and longtime friend of Largent’s, was the one who introduced Largent to the game. Hogue’s son, 22, is by far the youngest member of the Silver Streak, a team whose average age is in the 50s and whose members consider anyone who has joined in the last 15 years "a young punk," Largent says with a laugh.

Why they play is simple: "We love baseball. We love the Giants. We’re living out our fantasy. … We’ll never be major-league players, but when we make a good play, we get a kick out of that," Cresci says. Through this shared love of the game, the Silver Streak has also become a close-knit group. Terry McDevitt, 59, a gardener with San Francisco’s Park and Recreation Department, says the team used to hang together more before they had families, but "we still enjoy each others company." After practice or games, you can often spot the Streak sitting in the bleachers and catching up, sharing beers or smokes, slapping each other’s backs and trading dirty jokes.

Younger men drop out
This year, the team has lost more games than it’s won. But the Silver Streak used to be a formidable team in San Francisco, at one point getting moved up to the "C" league, a more competitive group than the "D" league where it currently competes. Largent places the last time the team made the playoffs as sometime in the late ’90s when it won its division.

While the core group of eight players has remained constant over the past 30 years, several other players have dropped out – surprisingly, rarely for health reasons. "It’s the young guys who leave," Largent says. "That’s the thing about young players. Their lives change. I’ll play until my body gives out."

Though there’s no official "disabled list" in recreational softball, Silver Streak has had more than their share of players who’ve been on the bench due to injuries. McDevitt is out after shoulder surgery and jokes that every season the team competes to see who has had the best medical procedure. Largent used to start at catcher but was moved to first base because the starting first baseman, Mike "Bull" Bilick, had a heart attack and had to retire.

News Source: SF Chronicle