History


THE HISTORY OF THE MAKUA ALl’I SENIOR SLOWPITCH SOFTBALL LEAGUE

The history of the Makua Ali’I Senior Softball League (aka The Honolulu Makua Ali’i Softball League can be divided into two periods: The Honolulu Period: 1975 – 2003 and the Central Oahu Period: Fall -2003 to the Present.

The Beginning:

The Makua Alii’I Senior Softball League originated with a phone call in August, 1975 to a famous radio Honolulu disc jockey, Hal Lewis, known throughout the State of Hawaii as J. Akuhead Pupule, and most commonly known as “Aku.” The caller who was on the air was Harold “Doc” Burkhart who was soliciting interested people in an exercise program for senior citizens. The next day, Bill Whaley, a well-known local baseball star in his younger years, started a light exercise program at Ala Wai Community Park across from the Waikiki area. The program turned into batting practice with 14-inch balls and 12 men. A follow-up call on the air by the same Doctor Burkhart to Aku expanded the light exercise idea to the possibility of a senior citizens’ softball program. It is noted in a copy of the league meeting minutes in April 1992, Dr. Harold Burkhart was considered the principal founder of the league. Throughout the history of the league teams were comprised by mostly men. However, women have played in the league in the past, which only the old-timers will recall their names.

 

The Honolulu Period, 1975 – 2003:

After the radio station calls to Aku and after several subsequent meetings at the Alai Wai Field House, the Honolulu Makule Softball League {the beginning name of the league) was formed with Bill Whaley as manager and later the only person with the title of commissioner. In addition to Whaley, Joe Katsunuma became the secretary, Stanley Dagil of the Department of Park and Recreation, City and County of Honolulu, became the record keeper and liaison to the league. Before this history continues, one must briefly review the sports life of the first league manager, Bill Whaley.

Of Hawaiian – English descent, William Francis Whaley was born in Honolulu, October 13, 1913. He played in the Hawaii Baseball League in the 1930’s and after a brief but significant three-year career in the minor league professional baseball in California, Missouri, and Kansas, returned to Hawaii in 1943. He continued with his baseball playing with the Hawaii Baseball League and became one of its outstanding players; later became manager for one of the league’s baseball teams, the Braves. Bill also knew quite a few of famous major league baseball players who were stationed in Hawaii during World War II and they knew him from his earlier baseball life on the mainland; Joe DiMaggio, Stan Musial, Pee Wee Reese and Johnny Mize to name a few. He got them and others in involved in the baseball life on the island during the war years. Stan Musial was a former minor league roommate of Bill’s on the mainland.

Later in his life, Bill retired from the Honolulu City and County Parks and Recreation Department. He was also the owner of a bar and restaurant in Kalihi Shopping Center called South Pacific Hale Inu Ai. His career in the Makua Ali’/ Senior Softball League other than being the first League Manager/and only named Commissioner included being the original manager of one of the first teams, the Ramblers, later playing for and managing the team Smitty’s Hawaiians.

Bill passed away in January, 1990. {For more details of Bill’s eventful sports life, see the Honolulu Star Bulletin, Sports Section, Wednesday, January 10. 1990).

By October, 1975, the league was comprised of 39 men and three teams. The original teams were the Ramblers (Manager: Bill Whaley), Hustlers: (Manager: Cliff Murray), and the Wildcats (Manager: James Nishi). The league’s name changed to Makua Ali’I (Honolulu) around this time. Eventually, changed again to its current name, Makua Ali’I Senior Softball League.

On October 18 -19, 1975, the league team participated in the Hawaii County Mayor’s Senior Citizens Softball Tournament at Francis Wong Stadium in Hilo, HI. This tournament was sponsored by Hawaii Kupuna Softball League formed in 1974 in the County of Hawaii (Big Island). This tournament was a fastpitch tournament but the Makua Ali’I team entered as an exhibition slow-pitch team. This first Oahu team from the league was comprised of about 11 players (ten men and one woman, not a senior). This tournament became the forerunner to the current annual Hawaii State Senior Softball Tournament that began in 1976 on the Big Island of Hawaii.

In conjunction with expansion in 1976 to four teams, the league received noticeable publicity with stories in the two Honolulu daily newspapers, on television station KGMB with Joe Moore personally involved sportscaster, and stories on KHET Public television. This publicity exposed the interest and. sustainability of a senior slow-pitch softball league on Oahu.

The Makua Ali’i league started with three fields in Honolulu: two at Ala Wai Community Park and the Cartwright Field in Makiki. For special events or tournaments, a third field was made on the baseball field at Ala Wai Park. On June 8, 1980, the league played a Father and Son game at Aloha Stadium, before a scheduled professional Triple AAA Pacific Coast baseball game between the Hawaii Islanders and Portland Beavers. In 1987, the league switched to using the 12-inch softball for a period of time and expanded the age minimum limit to 55 years to be more competitive in tournaments on the mainland …….. however, it returned to using the 14-inch ball later. Before the time of the common use of the internet and cell phones, the League published an informative newsletter on a periodic basis with sponsorship from the City and County of Honolulu.

Eventually, the league reached its limit of ten (10) teams by 2003, before its move to Central Oahu in August/September, 2003. In addition to participating in the annual state tournament, the league provided players for all-star teams to play on the outer-islands for special tournaments or goodwill games (including Molokai) or in tournaments throughout the United States. The league also provided goodwill teams to Japan and Okinawa to play various types of softball games with different types of balls with modified rules accustom to their Japanese hosts. In 1997, under the sponsorship of the old and defunct Hawaii Winter League (associated minor league with Major League Baseball), the Makua Ali’i League had teams play against teams from Japan at the University of Hawaii Rainbow Baseball Stadium at the Manoa campus.

The Honolulu period experienced the beginning of the league as well as growth; teams came and went, reorganized into new teams with new names and sponsors. Some of the old teams of the Honolulu Period to name a few were: Smoke Eaters, T. Matsumoto, Twibbie’s, Island Termite, Hawaiians, Hui Ohana, Honolulu Hawks, Yankees, Braves, Art Avenue, Stickman, Mel Nip Painters, Firefighters, and Fire/Police.

The Central Oahu Period, from Fall – 2003 to the Present:

In June 2002, the City and County of Honolulu opened a four field softball complex at Central Oahu Regional (CORP) also known as the Patsy M. Mink Park in Waipahu, Oahu across from the Waipio industrial area.

However, the league did not move their regular season games from the Honolulu Ala Wai/Cartwright Fields to Waipahu-Waipio until August/September 2003 with at least ten (10) teams.

Due to the benefit of four modern fields with facilities, good car parking, expanded playing time, CORP was an improvement. The growing baby boomer generation reaching their mid-S0’s and 60’s sought activities in their leisure time. The league newly moved to central Oahu quickly expanded to 14 teams in the following years.

With safety as a major concern for the senior players with health issues, in the spring of 2013, the Elks Club in Waikiki donated to the league a defibrillator, a vital piece of medical equipment for heart emergencies. The league always wanted one and the defibrillator was used for the first time in April 2014.

The league expanded to its maximum of 18 teams during the 2016 – 2017 season. Some of the old teams of the Central Oahu period that no longer exist, are Mustangs, Fat Katz II, Kool Katz, and Vikings to name a few. In this league there is always potential for future expansion.

In 2017, the league sponsored the 42nd Hawaii State Tournament on Oahu but with an innovative schedule. The tournament was split in two periods in six days with the lower E-H divisions in the first three days and the upper division A-D divisions in the next three days. Both periods used a 5 -7 game combination round robin/single elimination format. While not agreeable to all participants, the league was the first to use this split format in the State Tournament with the majority of senior teams in Hawaii. However, the effort did spark interest for future state tournaments to expand the amount of games played with an initial round robin schedule format advancing to playoff elimination. This new scheduling from previous state tournaments would give participating teams a second chance to attain divisional championships despite earlier tournament loses.

In preparation of this tournament on Oahu in 2017, the league started its own website in December 2016, called OahuSeniorSoftball.org The website became an informative tool on league news and other softball news from the rest of the State of Hawaii. This was an advancement over the printed newsletter that started in the early days of the league in the Honolulu period before 2000.

The Makua Ali’I Senior Softball League on Oahu with its sister senior leagues on the neighboring islands: the Kauai Senior Citizens Softball Association, Maui Senior Softball League, and the Hawaii Kupuna Softball League, have contributed to the sustainability of slow-pitch softball and its many modified versions.

Hopefully, our league in the future will continue to provide on Oahu, opportunities for the younger generation of participants in softball, in other sports, or the less experienced/active, to play slow-pitch softball in their senior years.

 

This history was compiled and written in 2017 -2018 by Kerry Yen general manager of the team, Oahu Na Kahuna with contrib­­utions from the following people: (To be named in the final version).