In 2013, Akron pitcher Stan Sipka’s pulled off a memorable accomplishment
BY GLENN MILLER
Roy Hobbs Baseball
At the 2013 Roy Hobbs World Series, Akron pitcher Stan Sipka concluded a quest that took months to wrap up but was decades in the making.
At the time, Sipka was a mere lad of 77. His goal that year was to pitch in eight age divisions.
Not only pitch but be the starting pitcher.
The quest began at home by pitching against young whippersnappers in the Akron AA League and concluded in Fort Myers in the fall when he pitched in three age divisions at the Roy Hobbs World Series.
“It was a crazy idea,” Sipka said. “Why not?”
Sipka recently spoke about his 2013 pitching journey. The details have become fuzzy with the passing of years, but he recalls pitching in 65-plus, 70-plus and 75-plus age divisions at the World Series.
Sipka said that was the first year the World Series included a 75-plus age division.
He approached the quest with confidence, from pitching against college players to facing men around his age.
“I could still throw,” Sipka said. “Not fall off the mound.”
By 2013, Sipka was a Roy Hobbs World Series veteran. He believes his first year participating in the Fort Myers event was 2002. The 2013 World Series was a special year for Sipka, because he was joined in Fort Myers by his wife, Joanne, who died in 2019.
He last played in the World Series in 2018.
“I couldn’t have done it without her,” Sipka said of his eight age-divisions quest as well as playing baseball for many years.
But it was in 2013 that he made history of sorts. Although the details have been lost to his memory, he does recall starting one game in Hammond Stadium, the spring training home of the Minnesota Twins.
He still marvels that he was able to play in such a facility. Sipka said he grew up playing baseball on sandlots but at the Roy Hobbs World Series he played on Major League Baseball fields.
He just soaked it all in.
“I didn’t even care if I played sometimes,” Sipka said. “It was just the atmosphere.”
Sipka soaked it all in, from the pristine field to the thousands of seats and pleasant Florida fall weather. It’s not known if anybody else has pitched in eight age divisions in the same calendar year. If Sipka is the only pitcher to do so he doesn’t want to remain alone with this distinction.
“It was so much fun to do that,” Sipka said. “I thought to myself I hope somebody else does it sometime.”
The 2013 pitching quest began when Sipka started a game for the Talmadge Knights in the Akron AA League. His catcher in that game was his grandson, Justin Spicer, who was then 20.
“I was scared,” Sipka said of taking the mound against players more than 50 years younger.
His grandson had wisdom to share with grandpa before the game started.
“Grandpa, throw strikes,” Spicer told his grandfather.
Grandpa listened. He breezed through the inning on 10 pitches, not allowing a hit or run. Sipka walked to the dugout and thanked the Knights manager for the opportunity. He thought his day was done but his young teammates insisted he return to the mound.
“I was working on a no-hitter,” Sipka said.
Alas, the no-hitter didn’t last long. The first batter he faced in the second inning was the clean-up hitter.
“A tall, strong college player,” Sipka said.
The college player singled. But Sipka was far from upset.
“I came out and was a happy 77-year-old guy,” he said.
He recalls the college player’s hit was a clean one, not a swinging bunt or bloop.
“He hit a nice single over shortstop to left center,” Sipka said.
Spicer described the single as a line drive.
Yet, grandpa breezed through the first inning with a perfect game. And on a mere 10 pitches. That inning and one batter in the second inning was special to Spicer’s grandfather,
“He was pumped up about that experience,” Spicer said.
Now, nine years after pitching in eight age divisions, the memory is still special. A lasting moment from that day in Akron where it all started is the advice he received from his grandson about throwing strikes.
“That struck me so hard that I have that engraved on our tombstone,” Sipka said.
By “our tombstone,” Sipka meant the one for he and his late wife, Joanne.