Softball player celebrates 90th birthday at his field of dreams

·3 min read
Dave Wulfsohn, 90, runs to second base on a base hit during a game at Sarasota Senior Softball Thursday at 17th Street Park. Wulfsohn usually has a pinch runner in for him, but Thursday, none of his teammates were able to step in as pinch runners, so he took care of the base running himself.
Dave Wulfsohn, 90, runs to second base on a base hit during a game at Sarasota Senior Softball Thursday at 17th Street Park. Wulfsohn usually has a pinch runner in for him, but Thursday, none of his teammates were able to step in as pinch runners, so he took care of the base running himself.

SARASOTA — Within Sarasota Senior Softball is the Super-Duper Golden Oldie division. Occupied neither by teams, nor even team, its sole participant stood on first base Thursday via a four-pitch walk.

Those watching the game at the 17th Street Softball Fields hoped for the best. Normally, 90-year-old feet are found comfortably in slippers, support stockings, or both. Not in position to move, not-so catlike, in the direction of second base, risking the serving of an unexpected on-the-house, open-faced clay sandwich.

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Birthday boy Dave Wulfsohn made it there before the third out ended the inning. After the game, son Bill and daughter Leslie had set up a feast of Dave’s favs — bagels and doughnuts. The centerpiece was a chocolate birthday cake celebrating 90 years of life, the last 24 playing softball — even now, in leagues on Tuesday and Thursday — at SSS.

To 90-year-old Wulfsohn, the oldest senior player among more than 300, there was no better place than a picnic table at 17th Street Softball to have his party.

“I still love it as much as ever,” he said. “Every year is different; every team is different.”

“I know he’s very proud to be the oldest player in the league,” Bill said. “This has been a really big part of his life.”

“We have several guys who are in there 80s,” SSS president Ken Shepard said, “but no one in the 90s.”

Dave Wulfsohn, 90, reacts after friends sang "Happy Birthday" following a game at Sarasota Senior Softball Thursday at 17th Street Park. Wulfson's daughter Leslie Loftus Wulfsohn, right, cuts the birthday cake.
Dave Wulfsohn, 90, reacts after friends sang "Happy Birthday" following a game at Sarasota Senior Softball Thursday at 17th Street Park. Wulfson's daughter Leslie Loftus Wulfsohn, right, cuts the birthday cake.

Twenty-five years ago, after working in sales for a children’s book company, the native of Highland Park, Illinois, retired to Sarasota. Wulfsohn, an avid swimmer, attended the University of Michigan, once running onto the field at Michigan Stadium before a football game with his fraternity dog, and loved following the Chicago White Sox, often attending games at old Comiskey Park.

But Wulfsohn had played little of the sport when, at a luncheon for new people to the area, he was approached by someone asking if he had played much baseball. After telling the guy he had, mostly with his kids, Wulfsohn was told SSS needed more players.

“I went out the next week,” he said, “and I tried it and I’ve been playing ever since.”

On Thursday, Dave played for Roberts Realty in a game against Rudd International. SSS has three levels, A to C, and these teams play in C. But every league season starts with a draft. Next one, Dave might end up on Rudd.

And there will be a next one. “My attitude is, I want to continue playing because I can and I will,” he said. “If I’m eligible, I will be there to play.”

Dave Wulfsohn, 90, throws the ball to the pitcher during a game at Sarasota Senior Softball Thursday at 17th Street Park.
Dave Wulfsohn, 90, throws the ball to the pitcher during a game at Sarasota Senior Softball Thursday at 17th Street Park.

As a catcher, Dave never had a foul tip hit him in his face, one not protected by a mask. “I get (them) all over my body.” Two years ago, tracking a pop up behind home plate, he fell on his right shoulder. Nothing was broken, “but I can’t throw with the strength I had in it.”

At the plate, Wulfsohn isn’t much of a threat. If he comes up with men on base, he’d prefer striking out to hitting a sure double-play ground ball “because I’m a slow runner.”

At 90, not much of anything remains fast, except this: Dave Wulfsohn arriving at 17th St. every Tuesday and Thursday for three hours of life-sustaining softball.

His son thinks so.

“There’s no question.”

This article originally appeared on Sarasota Herald-Tribune: Softball player celebrates 90th birthday at his field of dreams