You know, I've never seen a World Series game rained out one day, without being recheduled. Shoot, I remembered back to the 1989 "Battle of the Bay" World Series--during the great San Francisco Earthquake on October 17. My brother and many fellow sportscasters lived through that quake. Even after the devastating, 6.9 Richter Scale quake, and just a month after Commissioner A. Bartlett Giammatti died suddenly of a heart attack, Major League Baseball resumed the Series at a battered, but intact Candlestick Park just 10 days later, on October 27.
So, I was taken aback when a common, drenching summer rain hit Chicago last weekend, and the"World Series of Softball" at the two-year-old Ballpark at Rosemont wasn't just postponed, it was cancelled.
Just like that, the work of a season was down the drain. Literally.
National Pro Fastpitch Commissioner Cherie Kempf cited the schedules of starters Monica Abbott and others, who were going overseas for the Fall softball season, as the reason for the series cancellation, despite the protestations of the Bandits and their opponents, the USSSA (FL) Pride.
The final insult of the season was dead ahead, as Kempf declined to name a Series winner. Fans--many young families with young girls who idolized Abbott, Amanda Williams, Shannon Doepking, Rachel Folden, and many others they came to see over the four-day series, left drenched, angry and demanding justice.
Two days ago, Chicago Bandits pitcher Monica Abbott took to her website to set the record straight:
"As many of you may know, the Bandits were in a great position to win the entire tournament (Don’t get me wrong we had a battle ahead of us in Game 2 but we were ready!)
On Sunday night, they called the tournament off and declared no winner, to every Bandit player’s shock. WE WANTED TO PLAY!!
Later that evening I was made aware of an article written by Graham Hays (ESPNW), “NPF Season ends without a champion” with a quote from our NPF Commissioner that did not represent me or the athlete that I am.
Do I play softball in Japan because I can’t make enough money in America to live through the pro league? Yes. Will it ever interfere with my commitment that I have made with the Chicago Bandits and owner Bill Sokolis?
No. I will never leave unfinished business."
statement from monicaabbott.com page, 8/28/12
Abbott concluded her statement by adding in a retraction from Kempf:
“The truth is that Monica was never asked to change her ticket by me or by Bandits management, who I was addressing directly," Kempf stated. "Monica Abbott is one of the very best pitcher’s in the world and as long as I have known her has always prioritized the game of softball, her teammates and the fans. There is no doubt in my mind that the competitive spirit which has driven Monica to excellence in competition for her entire career was plenty of motivation for her to make whatever adjustments were in her power, to be able to attain her goal of winning"
Kempf spent Monday apologizing to owners, sponsors, and fans for her decision. And then, she issued two statements late Tuesday night:
To All NPF Fans and Followers...I apologize for the delay in posting a comment. I know there were many concerned fans and followers of NPF that were eager to read or hear an issued statement. As you can imagine, there were many things that begged attention in the last 48 hours and it was my priority to address players and owners before moving forward with additional duties. I deeply regret our inability to complete the Championship Series. Like all of you, I am a softball fan at heart and was eager, after seeing the first 3 days of spectacular competition showcased by our talented players, to see the final day of action unfold. I was also eager to share the experience with a worldwide audience through ESPN2. It is a great loss to our teams, players, owners, and of course all of you, the fans of professional softball, to lose our final day of competition due to rain.
She announced the planned formation of a committee to look at the league’s post-season policies and procedures. The new committee will examine the rules and guidelines in place in other leagues, as well as the unique conditions under which NPF operates. They expect to name the Commission in about a month.
“First and foremost, we want to apologize to all the NPF fans who have supported their teams through the exciting season. We were all deeply disappointed by Sunday’s unfortunate weather-related cancellations of the final game(s) of the league’s three-game championship Final Series,” said Commissioner Kempf. “We want to make sure that this never happens again. Nothing is more important to us than the integrity of the league and its championship and we’ll be working with our owners, board of advisors and outsiders to look at best practices across other professional leagues.”
Enough has been said through various media outlets about the events that unfolded and the reasoning behind the decisions. I do not plan to re-hash all or any of those details. The one thing I want to state clearly is the fact that I have no doubt in my mind that every single player on both teams competing wanted to complete the Championship Series as it was formatted in a best of three series. Any implication or interpretation that I ever thought otherwise is simply untrue. I am constantly inspired by the competitive spirit of our players, among other qualities. Further, as in any business, there is time for disgruntlement and disagreement. In spite of those occurrences, I have the utmost respect for the owners that sacrifice their time, efforts, energy, and money in pursuit of making this League a viable career option for professional softball players for generations to come.
It is important now to move forward and that is what we are doing. We recently released a statement regarding the formation of a committee to review Championship Series policies to avoid any situations similar to this in the future. We have also issued a statement regarding refunds for the Sunday game(s). All of that can be found on our website at http://www.profastpitch.com .
For three days, the Championship Series was an incredible event. Our players, on all four teams, did not disappoint as they displayed their spectacular talents with the passion we are used to seeing from NPF athletes. The outcry of concern for the ending of the Series is a reflection of how dedicated and attached each of you are to professional fastpitch. That speaks well for the NPF. I understand the disappointment of so many, including players, fans, coaches and staff. I assure you we are working on planning that will improve this situation and the outcome in the future. I hope you will join me in looking forward to the 2013 season being bigger and better than ever.
Kempf expects the committee to be in place in the next 30 days and to have findings and recommendations by the end of the year.