Remembering the York Barbelletts, and the softball manager who helped make them great
- The York Barbelletts were a standout softball team in the 1970s and 1980s.
- The Barbelletts competed in numerous national events and attracted big crowds.
- The manager of that team, Gerald R. "Cork" Corcoran Sr., died recently.
“No one wanted to mess with the Barbell girls.”
In nine words, that comment from Jane (Knott) Concino sums up a long-gone era in York softball.
For the younger folks, it may be hard to believe, but there was a time, in the 1970s and 1980s, when slow-pitch softball was huge in these parts.
On a given evening, nearly every available field was packed with players and teams of varying talent levels.
That included a number of women’s teams.
One of those women’s teams was the York Barbelletts — a trailblazing outfit that was sponsored York Barbell owner Bob Hoffman.
Hoffman got into softball in a big way back in the 1970s, sponsoring highly successful men’s and women’s teams.
Concino was one of the Barbelletts, and as she said, it wasn’t a team to be trifled with. They were a national powerhouse and they drew lots of very sizable crowds during their heyday.
Manager helped them excel: One of the folks who helped make the Barbelletts so good was Gerald R. Corcoran Sr. — better known as “Cork.”
Corcoran was the Barbelletts’ manager and he was a big reason they excelled on the field.
Corcoran died in late February at age 91, but his impact on the York softball community will live on through the lives he touched, and the championships he won.
“He afforded many women the opportunity to play a game they loved, back when there were not a lot of options for women in sports,” Concino said. “Title IX was in its infancy and because of coaches like Cork, we were able to play competitive softball. And not only play it, but because of his knowledge of the game, he taught us how to be successful.”
Daughter was a star on the team: One of the other players that Corcoran managed was his own daughter, Sue (Corcoran Bupp) Ilyes.
According to Concino, Ilyes was “one of the best slow-pitch softball players ever” in the area. Ilyes’ exploits eventually earned her induction into the York Area Sports Hall of Fame in 2009.
Ilyes credits her father and the other Barbelletts’ coaches for much of the team’s success.
“Our coaches were some of the best,” Ilyes said. “Coach Joe Chiodi said that Cork had the smartest softball mind that he ever saw.”
Corcoran had one special quality that he often used to communicate with his players.
“We always knew when Cork wanted to get our attention — he had a very distinct whistle,” Concino said. “I’m always appreciative of the coaches who gave their time so we had an opportunity to play the sports we love.”
A major part of his life: Softball was a major part of Cocoran’s life for more than three decades, first as a standout player and later as a manager.
He first started playing in Chester before moving York in 1969 to work, and play, for AMF.
He later went into managing, first with the Graham Engineering men’s team before getting an offer to coach the York Barbell women’s team, which later became the Barbelletts.
Playing in nationals: In their first season, the Barbell women participated in the major national tournament, finishing in the top 15 of the country.
That was the first in a series of appearances in the national tournament for the Barbelletts, who traveled to nearly every corner of the nation to compete.
In 1980, the major nationals were held in York at the Bob Hoffman Complex. The team came in second after playing a whopping eight games on the last day.
“They drew the largest opening- and closing-day (crowds) in all the nationals to that date,” Ilyes said. “The York community really supported this team especially since they were all local athletes — people that played high school sports, were coaches, school teachers and other professionals.”
After York Barbell got out of the softball business, the Barbellets stayed together for a bit and played for Mr. Dario’s and the Pacers. They went to two more nationals.
The All-Army days: Corcoran then got an offer to coach the All-Army women's team out of Indiantown Gap.
Those players came from all over the country to play for him and they won three national titles under his guidance.
Ilyes said playing for her father was “the greatest experience of my life. I have so many fond memories and friendships that I will cherish forever.”
The apex days of York softball may be over, but the memories remain fresh, thanks to the efforts of “Cork” Corcoran and the many women he coached.
Reach Steve Heiser at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @ydsports.