Thomas Bahan named to Hall of Fame |

Thomas Bahan named to Hall of Fame

Tommy Bahan recalls his time spent as a catcher on the softball field on Monday afternoon as he goes through a scrapbook of his memorabilia. Christopher Reeves/The Park Record

There is a noticeable lack of memorabilia, photos and keepsakes in 86-year-old Thomas Bahan’s house at the base of Canyons Resort in Park City, where he has lived since 1978.

Despite being recently inducted into the Utah Fastpitch Softball Hall of Fame, Bahan has long since given most of his gear and pictures to family members (mainly his grandkids) who have put them to use.

He does, however, still have the plaque given to him by the Hall of Fame, an award he just received earlier this month.

Though Bahan had a storied career, winning Utah State Tournaments and traveling the country playing with some of the best teams around, he waited nearly 44 years to receive the phone call congratulating him on making it to the Hall of Fame.

But that’s not important to him what he holds dear are the memories made playing the game he loved.

"We had a sandlot team just a neighborhood team," he said. "We used to play across from the temple (in Salt Lake City). We lived in the neighborhood and were called the Main Street Alley Cats. And we were tough."

From the humble beginnings, Bahan and his teammates were discovered by a man named Homer Coleman.

"He saw us playing one particular day and asked us if we’d be interested in getting in a league," he said. "We used to go down and watch (the teams in the league) play, and in order to get in, we’d have to wait for a foul ball to come over the fence. Then they’d give us a ticket to bring it back."

Once Bahan and his team were in the league, they experienced some growing pains.

"We developed from that watching them play," he said. "They were really competitive teams. The first league we got in, we didn’t win a single game."

Things quickly changed, however.

"About three years later, we were kicking everybody’s butt," he said.

The rest, as they say, is history. Hall of Fame-level history.

Bahan, a catcher, caught pitches from six different Hall-of-Fame pitchers in his 26-year career. For 16 of those 26 years, he played on teams that finished either first, second or third in the city tournament. He also was a member of four Utah State Championship-winning squads.

"We were always on teams playing for the championship or on the final night," he said. "When we’d go to a tournament, they’d pay attention because we’d play really well."

Nationals were a different story, however.

"The best we ever placed in nationals was fourth," he said. "When you get up to that level, you’re playing the big leagues. It’s a different setup."

Bahan’s career lasted from 1943 to 1969, with countless games and tournaments on his resume.

"We’d play everywhere," he said. "I was playing four or five nights a week in different leagues."

But when he injured his hand midway through the 1969 season, he decided to hang up his cleats for good.

"The game became work," he said. "I put 26 years into it I was in the trenches long enough."

Then it was on to the waiting. Finally, on July 12, he received his Hall of Fame plaque. Now, he’s enshrined alongside long-time battery mates like George Bacca, Bill Duke, Val Peterson, Paul Kingdon, Bob Ward and Gary Ernest.

Though the plaque is currently sitting on his kitchen counter, perhaps it will someday find its way to the wall.

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