Manchester Review clocks up 400th issue

Thu 25 May 2017

The week beginning 22 May offered a major milestone in the history of Manchester Softball – the publication of the 400th issue of the Manchester Softball League Review, now known as Bases Loaded.

If you’re interested to see what a piece of softball history looks like, you can download the issue here: http://manchester-softball.co.uk/wpcontent/uploads/2016/02/23.4.pdf.

Starting out​

The Review began life in 1995, with former Manchester Softball League Head and 2015 Glover Cup winner Harry Somers as editor, and Harry reckons he has been the editor for about half the issues and a contributor to maybe 75% of them. 

Lisa Mayhew, Richard Selfridge, Dan Lord and another former Manchester Softball League Head, Tony La Fave, have also occupied the editor’s chair, but Harry Somers returned to the role in 2008 and has been doing it ever since.

The very first edition was just a a single sheet showing results and standings, but on 24 May 1995 a short round-up of results was added, and the Review was born (reproduced on the right). The lead story was a 37-37 tie (still a record) between the Bats and M16s in which Bats were trailing by 17 runs going into the final inning.

Twenty-two years and 399 issues later, the publication is still going strong.

Growing up​

A further 12 issues were published during the summer of 1995, each week on different-coloured paper.  The first match report was written by Jerry Seabridge for Issue 2, and a total of 17 different people wrote for the Review that season.

Over the next two years the Review appeared regularly, but in modest proportions, often just two pages.  Then Volume 4 (1998) gained a new co-editor in Lisa Mayhew, and the magazine expanded to four, sometimes six pages.  There was a weekly editorial, sometimes controversial (“How many women does it take to play a softball game?”) and match reports included box scores for the first time.

In the years that followed, the Review grew from its original two-page format to typically 12 pages, with contributions from many regulars and other occasional writers. Most match reports were witty and irreverent.  Articles were likewise, or quite often controversial—sometimes both – as the publication thrived under the editorial control of Lisa Mayhew and then Richard Selfridge.

Contributions have appeared as poems, revised song lyrics, and in various languages, including a haiku translated into Japanese, a match report in Dutch, bits of French and Greek, and an explanation of the rostering rules addressed to Latin American players in Spanish.

Tony La Fave took over in 2003 and changed the look of the Review, printing it in A4 size with a more striking layout, printing softball-related cartoons, and encouraging and facilitating more match reports as part of post-match paperwork. 

Issues appeared in colour (not just on coloured paper!), sometimes with action photographs. Other innovations, perhaps fueled by easy access to web resources, included illuminating quotes from books and magazines.  Tony was not afraid of controversy, and reading and discussing the Review became an essential part of the Tuesday or Wednesday ritual.

Dan Lord continued in much the same vein for two years, with regular contributions from former editors, and then Harry Somers took over the reins again in 2008, with a return to a more retro look (A5 with one- or two-column pages).

Another of Harry’s contributions has been to change the look of the Review every year – masthead, colour and font – as you can see on the right.

However, in 2008, with printing costs soaring and with a lot of readers accessing the Review, now rebranded as Bases Loaded, online, the decision was taken to stop providing hard copies.  But since the middle of last season, thanks to sponsors Midshire Business Systems, hard copies are once again available in after-match venues in Manchester on playing nights each week.


Content​

The Review has always had a strange semi-official status.  Its nominal independence has always been asserted, but for most of its life the editor has been an Executive member -- and even when not, the Executive has reserved the right to use the magazine to publish its announcements.  When the editor was also the League Head, that nominal independence may have been even harder to discern.  But the Review has never refused to publish any contribution as long as it was legal and decent (though the latter criterion, Harry Somers asserts, may sometimes have been overstepped).

In the magazine’s 400th issue, Harry Somers wrote:

“In some respects, the content of the Review has remained steady.  Its primary purpose is still to be the journal of record for results and standings, home runs, and other details of games, and the archive to consult when there’s a question of a new MSL record.  The review maintains its semi-official status vis-à-vis the League Executive, promoting our own tournaments, congratulating successes at other peoples’ and, increasingly often, praising MSL players who have gained national recognition with call-ups to GB squads or acknowledgment at the BSF annual awards.  The Exec still uses the Review to make official announcements when it comes to disciplinary or other decisions.  But its pages are freely available to all comers to express their opinions, supportive or otherwise, with no constraints other than the refusal of anonymity and the avoidance of libel."

In additional to Manchester Softball League readers, Bases Loaded now has a list of 151 on-line subscribers who receive a weekly prompt with download details for the latest issue, and Harry Somers has welcomed this.  And since the review is available online, he would also welcome contributions from anyone anywhere: Manchester connection not required!

Harry concluded: “As we head for issue #500 (by my calculations, somewhere around the end of the 2022 season) let’s drink a toast to Bases Loaded -- long may it continue!”

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