It’s 1969, the war in Vietnam is still raging. Woodstock is about to explode onto the news, and the very first Kiracofe Memorial Softball Tournament is kicked off launching the birth of what is now known as the Kalamazoo Amateur Athletic Federation (KAAF). The Kalamazoo Insurance Agents softball team sweeps the tournament making the Federation proud and capturing the attention of athletes across the country. In the first decade of play, the tournament was quickly becoming one of the top amateur events in the country, attracting teams from around the country.
By 1979, the Kiracofe had become a must-play event. An upstart team, from Kalamazoo, called Bunca & Frey stole the title from defending champions and national powerhouse Sackett Brick Company. However, in 1981, Sackett Brick came back strong and became the first team to win two Kiracofe championship titles. During the 80s, the Kiracofe was won by other national powerhouses like Gregg Security out of Pittsburgh in ’85 and North Coast Travelers from Willard, Ohio in ’86. However, in ’88 those upstarts from Bunca, now a national powerhouse themselves, won their second title, starting a run that would earn them five of the next six championships. The second decade of Kiracofe tournament play proved Kalamazoo could not only host top level play, but would be a force to be reckoned with for teams across the country for years to come. The Kiracofe reputation for solid, competitive play was known, and amateur team’s were vying for the chance to claim the title.
From 1988-98 the tournament was dominated by two determined teams, Bunca and Pace. Between the two, nine Kiracofe titles in ten years were won with Bunca winning five and Pace four. In 1990, Pace Electronics out of Sodus, NY defeated the once unstoppable Bunca, preventing Bunca from winning three consecutive titles in a row. Bunca proved themselves a force still by following their loss with three more title wins. Pace would come back and win two Kiracofe championships in a row following Bunca’s three year reign. No team would challenge their rivalry until 2001 when Plumbers and Pipefitters from Lansing, MI made their mark, becoming the second team to win three Kiracofe titles in a row (2001-03), a feat even Pace never managed to accomplish.
While the rivalries were brewing, the Kiracofe was expanding. In 1985, the C division was added, and in ’97 a D division was added. From 1997 to 2003 three Kiracofe champions were crowned each year, one in each division. In 2004, the tournament was reorganized and two men’s divisions were offered replacing the A, B, and C divisions with an Upper and Lower. Then, in 2005. a woman’s division was added. The expansions only drew more positive attention and power house teams. In 2009 Softball Fans.com team won its third consecutive Women’s championship placing themselves in elite company with there male counterparts. SoftballFans.com features several of America’s premier players. The Kiracofe Memorial continues to be a high quality, highly competitive tournament featuring some of the top slow pitch softball players in the country.