Detroit Auto Kings
The Detroit Auto Kings were a professional softball team that played during the 1980 season in the North American Softball League (NASL), one of three Men's Professional Softball Leagues active in the pro softball era. The Auto Kings played at Memorial Field in Eastpointe, Michigan, (named East Detroit at that time) and took over as the Detroit professional team when the Detroit Caesars disbanded after their 1979 season in the American Professional Slow Pitch League (APSPL). The Auto Kings roster featured five members of Detroit Caesar teams – outfielder Dan Murphy, third-baseman Gary Geister, outfielder Mike Gouin, first-baseman Cal Carmen, and pitcher Tony Mazza. Mike Gouin also served as team manager.
Two teams came to the newly formed NASL from the APSPL – the Cleveland Competitors, owned by Ted Stepien, NASL President and then owner of the Cleveland Cavaliers, along with the APSPL champion Milwaukee Schlitz. Former MLB players Mudcat Grant and Joe Pepitone served as PR officials for the league. Pepitone was a former player for the Trenton franchise in the APSPL. Continuing the Caesars tradition of former Detroit Tigers turning to play professional softball, the Auto Kings featured former Detroit Tigers outfielder Mickey Stanley. The only two Auto Kings to appear in the top-ten categories were Gary Geister, who finished 5th in the NASL with 31 home-runs, while teammate Jerry Gadette finished 10th with 24. 3B/SS Mike Turk was the only Auto King to receive all-league honors in 1980.
The Auto Kings advanced to the playoffs with a 34-23 record, winning the semi-finals 4-1 over Cleveland (6-4, 8-7, 19-4, 5-10, 14-5). Detroit would advance to the NASL World Series and lose to the Milwaukee Schlitz 5-2 (19-11, 10-12, 12-16, 22-13, 13-4, 12-3, 11-9). Ken Parker of Milwaukee would take the World Series MVP trophy while Ron Olesiak of Chicago was the league MVP. The Auto Kings folded after the season and the NASL would merge with the APSPL to form a new unified pro league, the United Professional Softball League (USPL). That league folded in 1982, ending the men's professional softball era.