Looking back, sure, Marionville native Janice Crumpley-Bluebaum wonders what might have been had high schools of the late 1960s offered softball for girls.
However, in what’s a terrific reminder about the value of fighting through roadblocks, Crumpley-Bluebaum still found a way to enjoy the sport she loved.
The southwest Missouri farm girl became a fixture in fast-pitch and slow-pitch, enjoying a career that spanned 32 years and reached national recognition, before she retired in the mid-1990s.
Fortunately, her efforts have not been forgotten. The Missouri Sports Hall of Fame will soon recognize Crumpley-Bluebaum among its next Diamond 9, a group of former high school and college standouts. The ceremony is part of the Baseball Sports Enthusiasts Luncheon presented by Ozarks Coca-Cola/Dr Pepper on May 27 in Springfield.
“Looking back at getting this award, it is very humbling because I didn’t have anything but summer sports,” said Crumpley-Bluebaum, a 1968 Marionville High School graduate. “So for me to be chosen is even more of an honor.”
Crumpley-Bluebaum, a first baseman after playing multiple positions, played in 21 state championship tournaments, eight regionals and 13 national tournaments. She began playing fast-pitch softball at age 10 in 1960 in Crane.
After high school, she played with Hiland Dairy of Monett and Ozark Transfer and Foremost Dairy in Springfield before switching to slow-pitch in 1974. She was a 1981 national tournament All-American and inducted into both the Springfield America Softball Association Hall of Fame and the Missouri Softball Hall of Fame.
It all started on her parents’ farm outside Marionville. That’s where she played catch with her brother Bill before her dad began readying her for league teams. Those days soon led to a spot on a travel team out of Monett, with the family driving to Joplin for games.
“I loved sports,” Crumpley-Bluebaum said. “I don’t know what I would have done if I had played sports in high school. But I loved it. I absolutely loved it.”
The Monett team, a group of area standouts, placed second in a state tournament when she was about 14.
“That was quite a deal for my mom and dad to drive me once a week to Joplin,” said Crumpley-Bluebaum, the daughter of the late John and Carmine Crumpley. “I didn’t realize there were teams like that out there until I got to playing outside of Monett.”
In those early years, the team’s coach was Kay Hunter, the longtime softball coach at Missouri State University.
The Foremost team lost its pitcher and catcher to a professional team in 1974 and decided to disband. At that point, Crumpley-Bluebaum shifted her focus to slow-pitch, albeit reluctantly.
“I had said, ‘I’m never playing slow pitch. I just never could imagine,’” Crumpley-Bluebaum said. “But it’s like golf and trying to hit that little ball. It’s a lot harder than it looks. I sat out a half a season before I finally went out. After that, you found it could be competitive.”
Crumpley played her final five years with teams out of Kansas City and Wichita. She still cherishes those days back on the farm, given they developed her love for the game.
“It was a funny thing. I didn’t have anyone to play with other than my brother. And he loved to play baseball,” Crumpley-Bluebaum said. “Once he went off to college, my dad and I turned our attention to softball.”
WANT TO GO?
The ceremony: The Baseball Sports Enthusiasts Luncheon presented by Ozarks Coca Cola/Dr Pepper at is 11 a.m. Wednesday, May 27 at the University Plaza Hotel and Convention Center in Springfield.
Tickets & sponsorships: $40, or $100 for a head table ticket. Numerous sponsorships are available, including a table of eight for $400, which includes associate sponsorship recognition in the printed program.
For Janice Crumpley-Bluebaum tickets & sponsorships: Call Kari Crawford at 417-889-3100.
St. Louis Cardinals manager Tony La Russa will be honored as a Missouri Sports Legend, in which a specially commissioned sculpture, cast in bronze, will line the Legends Walkway.
Byron Hagler, who won almost 600 baseball games and reached nine state final fours as the head coach of Licking and Hillcrest high schools. His 1988 and 1989 Licking teams won Class 2 state championships.
Diane Juergensmeyer, the former St. Elizabeth High School softball coach who won more than 400 games and three state championships in 1992, 1994 and 2002.
Roy Burlison, a former fast-pitch softball standout who played on teams in St. Louis and Springfield.
John Schaefer, CEO of Ozarks Coca-Cola/Dr Pepper, is the recipient of the President’s Award.
Diamond 9: baseball standouts Jack Burrell of Humansville and Southwest Baptist; Brad Simmons of Glendale High School and the Kansas City Royals; Kelly Snider of Hillcrest High School the Oklahoma Sooners and the Los Angeles Dodgers; Barry Short of Mansfield High School, Three Rivers Community College and the New York Mets; Jim Lumpe of Glendale High School, the Mizzou Tigers and Montreal Expos; and former American Softball Association or college/high school softball standouts in Marionville’s Janice Crumpley Bluebaum, Hillcrest graduate Tim Blasi, Caitlin Chapin of Ozark High School and Missouri State; and Missouri Southern graduate Diane Miller.