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Softball is a family affair for Plahmer

Former Falls coach leads four sons on same team

April 29, 2011

OK, full, upfront disclosure is required here.

Former Menomonee Falls North High School baseball coach Ron Plahmer and I have a history that goes back a ways.

Way, way back in fact. I was the manager for those Plahmer-coached Falls North teams in 1975 and 1976, in charge of bats, balls and cleaning up the assorted wads of chewing gum, used athletic tape and other effluent (usually too gross to be discussed in public) that found its way to being attached to the floor, benches and walls of the Trenary Park dugout.

I also remember swatting many mosquitoes at the night games held at Rennicke Park in Mequon and at Brown Deer High School.

Plahmer also claims to have saved my life a time or two when I may have (allegedly) stepped in front of a live and working pitching machine during batting practice. He and I still debate the facts of that matter on rare occasions.

Fast forward 35 years.

Plahmer no longer actively coaches on the high school level having been in the private sector for many years, and I no longer clean up other people's gross junk for a living (though I am in charge of laundry and do take out the garbage in my home).

But the 63-year old Plahmer is still involved in managing, and playing for that matter, too, as starting this week, he will enter yet another season of serving as a player/manager for the Sal's Pub and Grill outseam softball team in a league held at Falls Village Park.

Half the team

A squad that includes his sons Todd (39), Chad (37), Joe (30) and Ben (19).

"We've had a couple of practices already," he said. "It's a league for all ages. I've been an infielder for the last 15 years, but they've finally decided to move me over to first base for purposes of safety (laughs)."

The practice of Plahmer family father/son ball has been going on for some time now, Ron said, who was a star athlete in the Falls himself back in the 1960s. He said he started playing on teams with Chad (a Sussex Hamilton graduate) and Joe (a Racine Park alum) at first and when Todd (another Hamilton graduate) moved back to the area several years ago, he joined in on the family fun, too.

The three oldest sons all came together on one team with their dad around 2006 and Ben, who just graduated high school last year from Kettle Moraine Lutheran, joined in 2010.

"I just can't get it out of my blood," Ron said. "I've been doing this (softball) since my sophomore year in high school in the old Teen League (in the Falls), but this has really worked out. We all get along well and as long as I stay healthy, I'd like to keep on doing it."

Plahmer was a fixture among a bright sea of stars in the 1970s-80s heyday of Falls softball along with Johnny Gross, Steve Shiley, Bill Dolphin, Danny Hart, Wayne Franke, Larry Hebbring and many others on teams sponsored by Etzel's, the Honey Bucket and other bygone fixtures of area culture.

In fact, Hebbring is the pitcher for this current team.

Plahmer said his joints are holding up pretty well (they are all still his, no artificial anything yet) and that his health has been good since heart-valve replacement surgery three years ago.

"I've been a bit blessed, charmed, whatever," he said, "to be able to be doing this for so long."

In fact, Ron still plays in a rec basketball league with the three oldest sons in the winter, too.

Family ribbing goes with territory

So, it's obvious that the old man is still having fun. A point, his oldest, Todd, likes to make clear.

"He's been a great dad, really emphasizing God and family and the importance of staying close," Todd said. "As brothers, too, we all have our battles, but we all stay close."

But half the fun, he says, is in the ribbing they all give each other. Todd says he has his dad's intense competitiveness and that occasionally leads to some interesting father/son "discussions" on the field.

"I'll speak my mind to him," Todd said. "Especially if I think he's riding me or my brothers a little too hard, and it's always fun when we see him make a mistake in the field (laughs)."

"I'll admit, I've slowed down a lot," Ron said. "The reflexes aren't nearly as good and, boy, the game has gotten a lot faster. Even with these outseam balls, you're seeing kids hit them out of the park now."

"But it's such an enjoyable time and I know I'm harder on my kids than anyone else," he added. "I guess I'm just an old guy set in my ways (laughs)."

When the family hits the field this week, as noted, Ron is at first, Todd and Chad man two of the outfield slots while Joe (shortstop) and Ben (second base) are on the infield.

"We're looking forward to getting together and playing some ball," said Todd. "It's a good bonding experience for all of us."

Todd also stays active by being a WIAA basketball official and coaching his own three children.

Which leads to Ron's next major goal.

"My oldest grandchild (Todd's eldest) turns 13 this week," he said with a chuckle. "I'd like to see if I could make it long enough until he's 18 and then we'll have three generations on the field."

Knowing Ron as I do, I wouldn't put it past him, even as the occasional groundball does so from time to time this summer.

AT A GLANCE

Ron Plahmer's coaching history:

• head coach of the Falls North baseball team from 1974-84

• won Braveland Conference titles with the Indians in 1979 and 1980 and took an improbable underdog, last-place conference squad in 1977 all the way to the WIAA state championship game, where they lost to Braveland champ Brown Deer

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