It was the summer of 1988 when People Magazine had asked to do a story on me.
I was quite excited about the whole

thing. So I thought that I would put the story on line for people to read..


Mighty Mike Macenko knows better than anybody how the Bambino felt. Oh, sure, Jose Canseco and Darryl Strawberry have won the year's home-run titles in hardball, and this weekend the World Series may make some other minor slugger loom major. But all these Gullivers, whether they know it or not, stand as Lilliputians in the shadow of Mike Macenko, the nonpareil. As second baseman for the Steele's Silver Bullets, a touring slow-pitch softball team, Mike is paid to homer, and even the legendary Babe would envy his stats. This year Mike belted 830 home runs-- 14 shy of his record 844 last year--and batted in 1,667 runs. Last month, to cap his season, Macenko led the Silver Bullets to the slow-pitch championship of the world.
Fine.

But let him hit a pop fly or even a puny two-bagger--- the man has never struck out---and invariably the cat calls begin. Mike finds this somewhat disheartening. Ask him about his prodigous number of round-trippers, dingers, four-baggers, what have you, and his eyes glaze over.  He prefers to talk about his batting average, which admittedly is worthy of note.

"Last year I hit .744," says Mike, 32.

"This year my average was .745. To hit over .700 at this level is great.
Of course, when a team wins more than 300 games a season, its level may seem a bit suspect. The Silver Bullets, who are based in Grafton, Ohio, and whose record this year was 365 - 19, spend February to September pummeling one local "all-star" team after another and traveling some 75,000 miles each season.

Last April the Silver Bullets faced an especially hapeless squad in El Paso and ran up their highest score of the season, 109 - 7. Things don't usually go that  far. "If we're beaten em  by 25 runs, the umpires might stop the game after 5 innings," says Macenko.  The Bullets are challenged only during tournaments or such post season series as the recent U.S.Slo-Pitch Softball Association World Series in Long Beach, Calif. "That's where I get pumped up and what I live for," says Mike, who stands 6'3" and weighs 265 lbs. "I don't get off on beating an exhibition team 109 - 7. What's fun is playing the best teams and whipping their butts.


Slow-pitch fans are aware that a close game for the Bullets is nearly as rare as Macenko strikeout, but they seem less put off by the one-sidedness than Mike is. The team averages 34 runs and 17 homers a game, and that is what the fans pay to see. "We played in Springfield, Ill. , after a minor league game," says Dave Neale, the teams manager,  "and there had been a downpour between the minor league game and ours. So the fans had been drinking all night, waiting for us. When we went down one, two, three in the first three innings, the beer cups came flying." Macenko himself rarely lets a crowd down like that, and when he's hot he's hot. This year he sent 10 softballs over the fence in one 5 inning game, propelling his team to an 89 - 22 win. "I will take him to the park he performs," says Neale. "He gives 110 percent 90 percent of the time, and I yell at him the other 10 percent." Yogi Berra couldn't have said it better. When he really tags one, Mike says, "It's almost
like not striking the ball at all. The smoothest ones
are the ones that go the farthest.

The son of a coal minor who later worked on a Ford assembly line, Macenko got hooked on softball at the age of 16 when he played in a league in his hometown of Brook Park, Ohio. A year later, the Mayor of Brook Park organized a team, and the husky teenager gave imitations of the mightiness to come when he went four for four in his first game, smashing a homer everytime up. Macenko didn't finish high school(although he eventually passed an equivalency test) and began making his living by pouring 270 yards of concrete a day as a construction worker. Then in 1975 Neale saw Mike swinging the lumber at a home-run derby in Lakewood, Ohio, and asked him to play for a team he was managing in Cleveland. They both switched to the Silver Bullets in 1983, and since that magic moment the team has lost an average of 15 games a year.


"I never expected to make a living playing softball," says Mike, who earns at least $30,000 a year from Steele's Sports Company for both his on-field heroics and his work in the company's warehouse and promotion department. When he isn't attending to these various chores, Mighty Mike spends his time with his wife, Antoinette, 25, whom he met while putting on a hitting exhibition, and their 10 month old daughter, Amanda. Antoinette, a 5' 3" former high school basketball and volleyball player, rarely joins him on the road  anymore, but that doesn't mean she doesn't offer encouragement. "I'll get in the doldrums about all the travelin," Mike admits, "and she will say, 'Quit your whinin' and get out there and play.

If the nearly 400-game -a-year schedule doesn't wear him first, Mighty Mike expects to keep on playing another five years. That would enable him to break Hank Aaron's career baseball home-run recordof 755  by about 13,000, give or take a few, but Mike isn't really concerned about that. After all, the orange, brown and white jersey he wore on his way to becoming a legend already hangs in the National Softball Hall Of Fame in Oklahoma City.

Yet there is one feat- apart from his extraordinary batting average-that brings a dreamy smile  to his lips. That was the time, in Las Vegas, when he hit his longest softball home run ever, a wallop of 508 feet. "I hit an American Softball Association commissioners car in the parking lot with that ball." Mighty Mike recounts with pride. "He wasn't even mad. In fact he got out to measure it......   -By Andrew Abrahams

I hope you enjoy the story.
Mighty Mike Macenko

 



 

 

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