It’s all about family in CCWSL

After an absence of a few years, the Copper Country Women’s Softball League has returned this summer.

The CCWSL was formed originally back in the late 1960s by a small group of women. It’s operating with seven teams this year and is off to a strong start. 

Lois (Larson) Knuutttila recalls those days clearly when she was a young player for the Chassell Standard team.

“I was still in high school when I was recruited by (Chassell Standard) manager Millie Pyorala,” Knuuttila recalled. “We had a pretty good team and did well right right away.”

The Chassell entry, which posted a record of 205-18 up to 1987, captured a state championship in 1973. Knuuttila was the pitching standout, although the late Mary Tuisku, among others, also helped out.

This year has seen Knuuttila join the Superior National Bank team. She’s playing alongside a couple of her granddaughters.

“It’s kind of neat to see them (relatives) out there,” she said. “They can do most of the hard work now.”

On a recent evening, SNB was being opposed by Mattila Rock and Dock — another team with a strong family connection.

No fewer than five members of the Mattila R&D squad are related.

Diane Mattila, the manager of the team, said having relatives on the roster is pretty common in the league.

“I doubt there are many teams that don’t have kin playing,” Mattila noted. “That’s just the way it is.”

All in the family has been a strong theme in the Copper Country for many years in all sports.

The Michaelson brothers of Tapiola had seven brothers who competed in sports. Two of those, Don and George, led all Upper Peninsula basketball scorers in 1958 and 1961.

There’s also the Salani family of Hancock, which has produced many fine athletes in all sports. Richard Salani played football at Michigan State.

The Strong clan of Ontonagon has been active in all sports, but specialized in golf. Ben Strong of Houghton High’s golf team proved that tradition is still intact by winning the U.P. Large School title this past spring.

But perhaps the most striking case was the Sibilsky Brothers baseball team.

Formed in the late 1920s, the Sibilsky team featured nine brothers. Their father, Ted, was the manager of the team.

But more on that particular family will be revealed in a feature story in the near future.

In the meantime, keeping it in the family continues to thrive in our area.