‘Shady Bradshaw is your Dad?’

Published 11:24 pm Saturday, September 15, 2012

Church league legend casts a long shadow in Suffolk

The late and well-known Suffolk softball pitcher Harold “Shady” Bradshaw will be inducted into the Tidewater Virginia Amateur Softball Association Hall of Fame next month.

The late fastpitch softball pitcher Harold “Shady” Bradshaw of Suffolk will be inducted into the Tidewater Virginia Amateur Softball Association Hall of Fame on Oct. 13 in Norfolk.

While discussing his father with a friend, Bill Bradshaw, 55, learned that there was a softball hall of fame in the area. Eventually, he decided to look into this possibility of honoring his dad, who had died in 1982 of a heart attack at the age of 58.

Bradshaw learned the local organization had a legends category that could include people who played before 1968, when the softball association was formed.

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Harold Bradshaw was born in Victoria, and while he hailed most of his life from Suffolk, it was a Suffolk of a much different time.

“Years and years and years ago, back in the ‘50s and ‘60s, softball was a big deal in Suffolk,” Bill Bradshaw explained. “Fastpitch church league ball was a big deal.”

One could stroll down Pender Street toward Wellons Park and see it lined with cars. In the summer, people could even be spotted sitting on the hoods of their cars, because the bleachers were full. Seemingly every night, a game was in progress.

“The Suffolk News-Herald always had a reporter at the ballgames, and the guy’s name was Willard Freeman,” Bradshaw said.

A while back, Bradshaw went to Morgan Memorial Library and found microfilm records of more than 100 articles chronicling his father’s career.

“I put all of that stuff together with some of the pictures that I had, and I sent it to the hall of fame,” he said. “And they called me back and said that they weren’t aware of it, but had he been alive, he would have certainly been inducted back then (after their founding). And they were glad that I brought it to light now, and they were going to induct him under the legends category.”

He remembers his father getting his first softball experience while in the U.S. Navy. After he got out, he played for some local teams and was picked up by a nearby commercial league.

“He lived here in Suffolk, but somehow or another, they realized how good he was,” Bradshaw said. “And my mom said that they would come pick him up and take him to the games that (the) Ford (team) was playing over in Portsmouth.”

Later, in the mid ‘50s, Harold Bradshaw got started with the church league here in Suffolk, playing for the Bethlehem Christian, Oxford United Methodist, and Suffolk Christian teams.

While Bradshaw did not have stats compiled from his dad’s career, he has memories supported by a brief survey of the old articles documenting that “Shady” was a dominant force on the mound. One excerpt read: “He retired 12 batters in succession and struck out 12.”

“I do know that he struck out a lot of guys,” Bradshaw said. “My dad, he was a big guy. He was probably about 6’1, probably weighed about 230, big arms, big chest. Tough guy, construction worker guy, and he could throw really hard.”

He stopped playing in the late 1960s after suffering a heart attack.

Bradshaw says he has no idea why his father was called “Shady.” To this day, though, he can strike up a conversation with longtime Suffolk residents, and when he mentions that “Shady” was his dad, the impact his father had on the community becomes obvious.

“They’ll look at me and then they’ll go, ‘Shady Bradshaw is your dad? Shady Bradshaw the softball pitcher?’ And I say, ‘Yes, sir,’ and they’ll have a Shady story.”

The induction ceremony and dinner will take place at the Lake Wright Resort and Convention Center in Norfolk on Oct. 13.