Jerry Brooks and Don Brazell have been playing baseball and softball with each other for more than 60 years.
And there's sign of them slowing down as indicated by them winning another major title. Brazell and Brooks were members of the Game On softball team who won the 70 and over division at the World Senior Games held last month in St. George, Utah.
Game On consists of players from throughout the Valley. Brazell is from Porterville and Brooks is a former resident of Porterville who now lives in Bakersfield.
Game On defeated teams from New York, Louisiana and won the final game against a team from Michigan to win the title. For Brooks and Brazell it was their eighth gold medal over the last 21 years in the event. They have also won five silver medals and four bronze medals at the event.
The Senior Games is sponsored by Senior Softball USA and is the largest event held by the organization with 43 divisions and more than 12,000 participants.
Senior softball is huge in the U.S. with 1.2 million players competing in SSUSA tournaments. For more information visit www.seniorgames.net
Brazell called his friend Brooks a legend as he's well-known across senior softball for the fact he swings the bat with one arm. “He hits it a ton,” said Brazell, noting Brooks hit 95 home runs one year.
Brooks and Brazell began playing with each other in Babe Ruth baseball and continued by playing with each other in the Connie Mack League, at Porterville High School, at Porterville College and with the semipro team the Porterville Behrs.
The began playing softball with each other in 1980 and joined senior softball in 1995. They now play for Game On based in Fresno.
Since 2005 playing with several teams they have won every major tournament on the West Coast. They won the Tournament of Champions in Florida, beating a team from Chicago and lost the title two years late to a team from New York.
Brazell said he and Brooks have played with some of Porterville's best athletes, including Ken Conklin, Gary Highfill, Allen Pundt, Lefty Phelps, Robert Azevedo, Tony Henriquez, Ron Josu, Dave Winters, Willie Brown, Tom Day, Richard Rankin and Thad Reece.
There are senior leagues in Tulare with a division for 63 and older that plays on Mondays and a division for 55 and older that plays on Thursdays. Locally practices are held at 10 a.m. every Wednesday at Zalud Park for those ages 50-80 and Brazell said he continues to recruit players. He added all levels of play are welcome. “Some guys don't know they can play but they can still play,” Brazell said.
He said the practices consist of younger players Day, Brown, Winters, Rankin and Reece. “We call them the young guys,” Brazell said. “The rookies.”
Older players Conklin, Jessie Sigala, Willie Williams and of course, Brazell come out as well.
Over the last couple of years the local senior softball community has lost Doug Luther, Rusty Jones, Danny Keene, Guy Russo and Ben Powell who all passed away. “Really good ball players,” Brazell said. “Better people.”
In 2022, Brooks and Brazell will move up to the 74 and older division.
Those who have questions about senior softball or the World Senior Games can call Brazell, 361-4393 or Day, 359-1242.