From the July 27, 1982 edition of the Vineyard Gazette by Stan Hart:

Softball may really be the national pastime. People of both sexes and all ages play the game from coast to coast, and it is a game that can be elevated from the level of family outing for a Fourth of July picnic to the rigors of fierce competition in which a softball pitcher with good stuff can dominate game after game.

Indeed, in the rarefied atmosphere of semi-pro softball the game becomes a science and scoreless innings pile up. As such, the outcome is generally decided when a hitter with a slide rule in his head can out-figure his opponent. As they used to say at Folsom Prison where this reporter played on two occasions: “You catch one of them suckers on the rise and it goes cussin’ over the wall to freedom” — the wall being the prison wall that formed the end of left field and left-center field in what is usually the prisoners’ exercise yard.

All of the above is preamble to the game played on Friday night in Oak Bluffs, at the same time that the band was striking up a few dance tunes at the Edgartown Yacht Club and sunburnt yachtsmen from the regatta took their steps to the gaiety of song. And so under the lights of old Petaluma Park (now renamed Veira Park in honor of the late Antone Veira, an ex-baseball player and sports booster) — under those lights the Nine Wonders took on the Sky Hawks.

If Edgartown was busting its seems amid the high times of the regatta, there were but few in the stands in Oak Bluffs, and while the paltry attendance may have been uninspiring to the players, it was comfortable and appealing to settle back and watch a ballgame unjostled by crowds. Young children gamboled about and a few friends of the players drank beer and gossiped under the darkening skies as the game played on.

The Nine Wonders, once the pride of Petaluma, have fallen on sad times. For many years they were the dominant team in the Vineyard Softball League, winning six championships in the 18 years of the league’s existence. “Twice we won the championship and the round robin at the end of the season. No other team has done that once, never mind twice,” said Tony daRosa, “Tony D,” wearing Ted Williams’ number nine and team leader of the Nine Wonders.

But past glories can fade as fast as Sonny Liston and in the past two outings the Nine Wonders have been thumped 15 to 0 by the Question Marks and on Friday they were easily edged 5 to 1 by the Sky Hawks. Not even their skin-tight blue pants with white and red stripes down the legs could intimidate the opposition. The Christian Diors of softball looked like world champions, but by late July the word was out: the Nine Wonders aren’t wonders any more.

At first it was a pitcher’s duel with steady Russ Combra serving up medium-speed fastballs down the middle of the plate. But his counterpart on the Sky Hawks, Elmer Silva, was throwing a variety of pitches, one of which was an outside rise that tailed away from the hitters and rose quickly out of range as it crossed the batter’s box. Mr. Silva also had a fastball that moved and a drop that caused consternation to everyone including the umpire who would yell “Ball” when Mr. Silva was sure that his drop had easily caught the knees of the batter. Mr. Silva managed to pitch a two-hitter but lost his shutout with a wild pitch in the seventh and last inning.

Mr. Combra, however, ran into trouble in the fourth. The first two hitters, Brian Maciel and Phil Reed, slammed doubles and then Joe Andrade lofted a single and the games was broken open. By inning’s end the Sky Hawks had batted around and scored four runs. Mr. Combra’s grooved fastballs were getting plunked with authority. Both Allen Whiting at third and Steve Riviere at shortstop made errors, but they did not determine the outcome. At least two runs had scored and that was all the Sky Hawks would need to beat the perplexed veterans who compose the Nine Wonders.

Brian Maciel and Phil Reed had two hits apiece for the Sky Hawks, but the star of the game was pitcher Elmer Silva, who not only pitched a two-hitter but aided his cause with a leadoff single in the top of the seventh and scored an insurance run on Mr. Maciel’s following hit that sent him flying around the bases like O.J. Simposn running through an airport.

For the Nine Wonders it was a pleasure to see Tony daRosa, Russ Combra, Tom Bennett, Allen Whiting and Bob Tankard among a crew of survivors, playing a game they have played since 1964 when the league was officially formed. They looked like professionals but they lacked the spark of audacious youth. Perhaps some night they will all come to life again and those lucky enough to watch will see the Nine Wonders of old — power and grace on a rampage. But as of last Friday the Nine Wonders were only a few steps away from an old-timer’s game and Elmer Silva’s mastery made the outcome a foretold conclusion.

Compiled by Hilary Wallcox