In the 18-year history of the Payson 4th of July Firecracker Slow Pitch Softball Tournament on only one Independence Day the fray has not gone as scheduled.
Trivia buffs might guess that the sole respite might have occurred in July of 1990, when the infamous Dude Fire raged out of control near Payson, sapping the town's resources. But, not even that inferno could put the skids on the softball tournament it was played as planned under choking, smoke-filled skies.
So, if the Dude couldn't put the clamps on the celebrated fray, what did it take for the tournament to be canceled?
As unlikely as it seems, it was a fishing trip.
Turn back to the summer of 1998, when longtime tournament director Teddy Pettet opted to take his family to Alaska for a long-awaited salmon fishing outing.
Before leaving, Pettet turned the tournament directorship reins over to Payson High School girls' softball coaches who wanted to use the event as a fund-raiser.
When not enough teams entered for a variety of reasons, the tournament was canceled.
This year, Pettet said he expects the tournament to be contested without a hitch but maybe only in the men's and coed divisions.
The women's division has not yet drawn good response and its future could be in doubt, depending upon how many teams show interest this week.
If the women's shoot-out does take place, it will be played July 1 and 2 along with the men's tournament which will include Class C and D division.
The coed tournament, which will feature upper and lower divisions, will be played July 4.
All games will be contested at Rumsey II and the high school fields.
If the tournaments draw 16 teams each, awards will be given to first- through fourth-place finishers. Individual prizes will also be given out to players on those squads.
The only local team entered thus far is State Farm Insurance. However, the tournament has drawn several from Yuma and Phoenix. Pettet said he expects to attract more entries as the tournament date draws nearer.
In past years, state of the art, double-walled bats which cost upwards of $500 were the rage of the softball set. The newly designed bats didn't turn the average softball Joe into Sammy Sosa, but many agreed they did improve a player's hitting prowess.
Even Pettet once used one of the titanium bats and came away convinced it added yards to his hitting power.
Softball officials have begun to crack down on the lightweight bats and Pettet is following that lead by outlawing all titanium bats for the tournament. With everyone using similar bats, the playing field is leveled for all, he said.
Also not allowed in the tournament will be steel cleats, which have caused serious injuries to players inadvertently stepped on or struck by them.
Also in the tournament rules will be a provision to equalize the home run power among the contending teams.
According to the regulations, a running tally of home runs by team and inning will be kept. No team may hit more than two home runs more than their opponent. Any round trip ticket that increases the team's HR lead by more than two will go down as an out.
The entry fee for the tournament is $165 for ASA registered teams. Those not registered with ASA must pay a $20 fee to do so.
Along with USSSA, the ASA is one of the state's most popular softball organizations which annually host state, regional and national tournaments.
Entry deadline to the Firecracker bang is 5 p.m. Wednesday.
Call Pettet at 474-5242, ext. 260 for more information.