Bernie Kampschmidt intimidated opposing teams with a strong arm and a solid bat for the Zollner Pistons softball team.
It's difficult to comprehend now, but Bernie Kampschmidt was once Fort Wayne's enemy.
In 1940, the Zollner Pistons softball team was shut out by the battery of pitcher Leo Luken and catcher Kampschmidt of the Nick Carr Boosters of Covington, Ky. The next year Fred Zollner signed both men to play for his team.
Those signings laid the cornerstone for the Pistons' domination of fast-pitch softball. They won world titles in 1945, 1946 and 1947. Kampschmidt played catcher for the Pistons from 1941 to 1946 and served as catcher and manager from 1946 until the team disbanded in 1954. He was one of three players to play during the entire period Fort Wayne had a team.
During perhaps his best seasons, Kampschmidt hit .242 in 1947 and .226 in 1948, which was excellent in those days.
Before becoming a fast-pitch softball player, Kampschmidt turned down offers from the Cleveland Indians and Cincinnati Reds to play pro baseball.
Kampschmidt had a rocket for an arm and dared runners to try stealing against him. He was inducted into the ASA Hall of Fame in 1959.
"Softball history has to be that in the catching department Bernie was, if not No. 1, one of the two or three top softball catchers in the whole country," former Pistons official Carl Bennett said. "He was a fabulous manager of the pitchers with a great arm and a good hitter. It was a pleasure to watch him."
Kampschmidt worked for Zollner for 42 years as a personnel manager until he retired in 1983. Kampschmidt died Feb. 23, 1996, at age 79.
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