What is the Torch Classic?

It all started in 1985. Torch Classic founder Cory Webster, then a heavy equipment operator at Amoco’s Whiting refinery in Northwest Indiana, issued a challenge to sister refineries throughout North America to compete in a softball game. The challenge? The losing team would fly the winning team’s state flag over their refinery for a year. A few months later, Webster received a letter. Texas City, Texas, had accepted the challenge.

The next step for Webster was to talk 15 of his fellow employees from Whiting to travel along with him to Texas. Each player would have to pay their own expenses and use vacation time to attend. Despite the cost, a Whiting team was formed, and they immediately went about setting up various fund raisers to help them offset expenses to attend. After about three months of fundraising, tickets were purchased, and Whiting boarded a jet bound for Texas.

Since the Northern boys were traveling all that way, Texas City laid out the red carpet for their guests. A trip to Gilley’s, a refinery picnic, and several ventures out to late night establishments were all planned for the Whiting team. A great time was had by all. Texas City also added a few other sports besides softball into the mix. Points were awarded for 1st and 2nd place, and although the boys from Whiting fought hard, they lost by a score of 70-2.

The Whiting Refinery Team at the first Classic in 1985 in Texas City.

Long after the end of that afternoon of competition, participants thought about the camaraderie and the new friendships they had made. They knew this event was something special, and they also knew the experience was worth repeating. So it began. So it continues. Less than 100 people participated in the event that first year. It didn’t take long for word to spread, however, and in just two short years over 1,200 employees representing 31 Amoco facilities joined in the fun.

Since 1987, the Torch Classic event has drawn between 1,000 and 6,000 employees to the host city to compete in a number of different sporting events. Each year improvements to the event were made by host locations. In 1990, during an event hosted by the Amoco Customer Service Center, a Kiss-a-Pig contest was added to the event. Participating teams were to select candidates from their location that they would most like to see Kiss-a-Pig during the event.

The location who raised the most money got to see their candidate kiss a pig. All proceeds, over $10,000, were donated to the American Diabetes Association. Other fund raising events started to appear, like the “Torch Classic Dream Team” hockey game, benefiting the American Hearing Impaired Hockey Association. It started in 1995 during our Chicago event, and became a Torch Classic tradition. Since 1990, several million dollars has been donated to worthy causes and non-profit organizations by the Torch Classic.

Two years later, in 1993, the Torch Classic hosted its first Volunteer Day in Atlanta, Georgia. Participants arrived a day early to work on a major community project at a housing project for the working poor called Glencastle. Volunteer Day has now become a tradition of the Classic as well. It allows us to make a difference in the communities where employees and retirees live, work, and raise their families. To date, tens of thousands volunteer hours have been spent working in the community by our Torch Classic volunteers. Several of these projects have received national recognition, including coverage in Woman’s Day Magazine and a special segment on “CBS News Sunday Morning.”

Pretty impressive accomplishments for what started out as a bunch of boys and their bats!