I played many games against Tom Beth and his Legends Sports Bar teammates….many. We played in the top league at Cenni’s/Bullpen for a lot of years. I was too young to play against him in the mid-to-late 70s, I came along to compete against him in the early to mid-80s. Truth be told, I personally played as many league games against that team as almost anyone in my 30 plus years of softball. Kemen, Klappa, Stewie, Bads, and that cast of characters were fun to go against. And at that time, Stewie was probably a bit more of a long ball threat but facing Tom Beth was absolutely no walk in the park at any point in his career. I did not really know the man…just some mutual respect and some softball small talk at first base when occasionally he’d grunt something at me and I’d respond, trying not to sound too stupid.
Fast forward to 25 years past those Cenni’s days and a few of us were in the old Legends where Jeff Kemen and Orphan were playing. It was a very intimate crowd (which is polite for saying it was a very small crowd) and Bads and two women were there enjoying the show. We crossed paths a couple of times and I think once I uttered something about every guy in the place being a former softball player and did he think we could get a game going. His grunt of approval and half chuckle seemed to indicate he was amused by my story. Jeff Kemen made a VERY telling statement that night. “When did we get old”? said Kemen, “this wasn’t supposed to happen”. And then he dedicated the next song to his friend and teammate and broke into Behind Blue Eyes by The Who. “No one knows what it’s like to be the Bad Man”. You can’t fake the smile that was on the big man’s face.
It was not long after that I had heard Tom had passed. Me and Big Daddy Wood were doing the radio show on a Wednesday night and I decided to tell some stories about the man and opened up the phone lines which is something I rarely do. The phones literally blew up. The highlight of those calls was the thankful message from a young lady who was obviously touched that we were discussing someone she was already missing. You could hear the hurt and the joy in her voice. And then she asked if we had the song Show Me the Way to Go Home which is the song Quint, Brodie, and Hooper sing in Jaws right before the shark starts bashing the boat. I’ve been doing radio for my whole adult life but I’m a technological toddler so I mentioned that I’m sure it existed at the radio station but I was clueless about how to get it on. And then I thought “F it, we’ll just sing it for you”. We sang a horrible rendition including the table slap with “boom boom boom” included. I could tell it made her night as she sang right along with us.
So a big congratulation to Kenosha’s Bad Man of Softball on this well-deserved honor. To his family and friends that miss him, hopefully, his induction into the Kenosha Softball Hall of Fame helps further the legacy of a true Kenosha softball personality and helps ease the pain of their loss. If you left one up and in on that dude, he would absolutely make you pay and he sure seemed like the center of the party after the game was over. Congrats and RIP Tom “Bads” Beth.