Think a softball team made up of 80-year-old players is something to be celebrated? Then take a good look at the Sacramento Gold.
That’s right, 80. Think about that for a moment, and then picture yourself at that age still playing a half-dozen softball games during a single hot summer weekend, as the Sacramento Gold recently did, then playing more during the week. Then repeating, week after week, summer after summer.
One of the most enduring softball teams in the Sacramento region, it is only one of two teams (the Elk Grove Renegades being the other) made up entirely of 80-year-old players. During a couple of weekends a month, the Gold competes as a tournament team across the West, often playing up to six games in a weekend against teams younger than them. Then most of the Gold players also play in additional Golden Seniors Softball Club league games during the week with their regular teams (usually in the 70-and-up division) just for the exercise.
This is a team that when talking about their “glory days,” players were in their 60s. Many have had hip and knee replacements, some have had both, and virtually all of them have pretty much any other ailment that would limit the athletic prowess of a normal 80-year-old man. But they keep playing, their love of the game obvious to anyone watching them.
They keep chasing the dream, even if the dream in reality ended 60 years ago.
“The Gold can still get it done,” said longtime Golden Seniors player Ron Roach, 73, who edits the local organization’s Dugout Chatter newsletter. “They’re technically correct; they don’t give you four or five outs in an inning. They may not have the range they once had, but you hit it at them, and they’ll catch it.”
The Gold, now managed by John Wade, 84, is a wonder. The Gold’s zenith came when the team was in the 65-and-over division, when they won two world titles in the 1990s. They received a Proclamation from the Sacramento City Council after the 1999 title, and several of those players (Mervin Granderson, 82, Bob Rogers, 84, Bill Venable, 81, and Norman Blackwell, 81) still wear the Gold uniform.
The Gold’s appeal starts with a roster that’s filled with players that are a true “Six Degrees of Separation” study for anything baseball in the Sacramento area.
For example, there’s shortstop Guy Anderson, who at 82 still coaches the Cordova High School baseball team, a job he’s held since the school opened in 1970. Anderson has coached 12 players who reached the Major Leagues, including names such as Jerry Manuel, who later managed the Chicago White Sox and New York Mets; pitcher Randy Lerch, outfielder Geoff Jenkins, pitcher Chris Bosio, who’s the current Chicago Cubs pitching coach, and Max Venable.
Speaking of Max Venable, his father Bill is the Gold’s first baseman. And Max is the father of Will Venable, currently an outfielder with the San Diego Padres. See what I mean about everyone on the Gold being connected to the Sacramento baseball universe somehow?
And you can’t talk about the Gold without mentioning Blackwell, who is probably the most decorated softball player in Sacramento history, and the manager during those 90s titles. Blackwell, the proud member of seven Hall of Fames (California Senior Softball Association, NorCal Senior Softball Association, Mexican-American Baseball, LaSalle Club Baseball, etc.) needs two rooms in his Oak Park home to house all of his trophies and memorabilia, which he never tires of proudly showing off to visitors. Blackwell was also a 1996 Olympic torch bearer and remains a good friend to Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson.
Will the Gold continue its trend and play when players turn 90? Considering the team’s history, that wouldn’t be a surprise at all.