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Art Gillis and Softball
A Combination Still Going Strong After Eight Decades
Art Gillis is born in
Watching countless hours of fastpitch softball as a wide eyed eight year old serves as one of Art’s earliest recollections. The softball diamond was directly across the street from his boyhood home – Art Gillis has never been too far from a ball diamond ever since.
Art begins his playing career as a sixteen year old catcher in
Art moves from the Detroit area back to Saginaw, Michigan. He brings his catcher’s glove with him, playing on top teams in the area, including eleven City, and one State Champion.
After thirty years as a catcher, forty-six year old Art decides to hang up his catcher’s mask. However, he is not done playing. He makes another short walk, this time from behind the plate to the pitching circle. He spends the next decade pitching in various leagues around mid-Michigan.
Art begins sponsoring The Saginaw Bolters softball club.
Art meets ISC founder Carrol Forbes. This meeting is the first of many “firsts” in connection with Art and the ISC.
Art serves as the first ever Michigan ISC Commissioner, exposing the ISC to thousands of fans during the height of softball popularity in
His Saginaw Bolters become the first
The Saginaw Bolters win the ISC World Championship. The Bolters Kevin Herlihy is named Outstanding Pitcher and MVP.
Art wins the bid to host the 1981 World Tournament in
will mark the furthest east the ISC tournament will be held to date, exposing the ISC to a
new (and very large) fan base.
During Art’s tenure as ISC commissioner he spends countless hours at ballparks throughout
In 1979, his ISC World Champion Saginaw Bolters meet the ASA National Champion Midland McArdles (with ex-Bolter pitcher Owen Walford) ten times. The Bolters win seven of the ten games, with each contest played in front of thousands of Mid-Michigan softball fans.
ISC Champion Saginaw wins the very strong Tri-County League Championship with ASA Champion Midland coming in second. The two teams play in one common tournament in 1979, the always tough Midland Invitational. The results are the same, championship won by ISC champ
The Saginaw Bolters participated in seven annual
The defending ISC World Champion Bolters finish 8th at the ISC World Tournament with eighteen year old youngster Michael White filling in for Kevin Herlihy.
Art takes over Saginaw Veterans Stadium, an abandoned run down former minor league ballpark. Art uses his own funds to; skin the infield, sod the outfield, install an outfield fence and foul polls, repair and paint seats, improve the press box, concession stand, PA system, and locker rooms - among numerous other improvements. All in preparation for hosting the ’81 ISC World Tournament as a vacant stadium becomes a world class softball facility.
Art and the Bolters put out a pre-season publication promoting the upcoming season, highlighting the ISC World Tournament coming to
Art arranges a mid-season treat for area softball fans (and fans everywhere) when he brings in Ty Stofflet and his
Art involves mid-Michigan print, radio, and TV media in covering the Bolters and the ISC tournament. Two Billboards along major
A new standard is set for tournament souvenir programs as Art decides the only advertisements will be on the inside and back covers. The rest of the program will feature only softball-related articles and pictures, with each ISC team and/or league being featured.
The ISC world tournament is held in
The ISC’s furthest venture east is deemed a success on all fronts. Softball historian
Roger May writes:
… I doubt whether any tournament will be able to match 1981. What a tournament! ISC
The ’81 ISC tournament is even mentioned on the NBC Today Show.
The host Saginaw Bolters finish 7th.
The Bolters finish 5th in the ISC World Tournament.
In addition to Art’s efforts in his home state, his influence was felt south of the
1983 - 1985
Art brings the ISC to another new region of the country, serving as ISC Commissioner in
1985 – 2005
Art is still a fixture at ballparks around the
include the ISC World Tournament week in August. He always looks forward to the annual games – almost as much as he looks forward to the reconnection with softball buddies from around the world.
The 2006 ISC World Tournament will provide a special treat during Art’s eighth decade of involvement with softball. What started out in 1933 as a short walk across the street to the local ball diamond has developed into quite a trip. The journey has encompassed many towns, tournaments, ballparks and even a World Championship along the way. Next stop - the International Softball Congress Hall of Fame.
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