2010 Hall of Fame Inductees
Female Player Category
When Wendy was asked, "What was your funniest softball experience?" she answered, "There are too many to write about." That provides the answer of why Wendy spent so many years playing a game she loves and a game that has seen her provide unending leadership on and off the field.
Her player bio has her beginning playing USSSA in 1976 with the Rockford Comets, which expanded to individual accolades with a National Invitational All-Tournament selection with the Class B Rochelle Bank team in 1978. The following year, she began play with her most favorite team, The Prairie Moon Saloon in 1979 through 1982. The "Moon" captured 2nd place in the A State Tournament and 5th in the World Tournament at Hutchinson, Kansas. In 1983 through 2000, Wendy provided countless hits and RBIs for the Improv Press, King Potter and Blackhawk Athletic squads, while winning the National Co/Rec Tournament at Rockford with Diamond Dave's and being selected to the All-Tournament Team.
Wendy credits her success as a player to several coaches that motivated and taught her how to do it the right way. They include Dick Hahn, Ken Paulson, Al Dahlmeier and Jess Fudge. She also recognizes several players that were outstanding players and teammates that made her better in Sheila Rheinhold Eversole, Vicki Brown, Mary Gifford, Denice Moss, Maureen Mosstocci, Mary Ann Englehardt and Pam Nichols.
Wendy also states that the USSSA was not only fun to play, but the friendships made participating along the way are priceless. When you meet someone 30 years ago while playing ball and they are still your friend, that's what it is all about. This outstanding 2nd and 3rd baseman had been named to All National and NIT teams 4 or 5 times, but nothing can compare to her selection and induction into the Illinois USSSA Hall of Fame.
Female Player Category
Denise "Toodie" Moss
With six National Invitational All-Tournament team selections and five State All-Tournament team selections, Toodie undoubtedly ranks as one of the finest women outfielders ever to participate in the Illinois USSSA organization. With a career batting average of .825, her speedy left field performances provided Jaeger Saw, Box's BBQ Kinney Shoes, 3-Hammer Construction, King Potter, Improv Press and Prairie Moon Saloon teams quality all around team player. During her participation, her competing teams compiled top four placements in two state tournaments and six NITs while placing 5th in a World Tournament.
Toodie chose Box's BBQ as her most favorite team, as they could hit the ball well and had unlimited speed at all positions in the batting order.
She also selected her most memorable softball experience, as being while playing against a team in a Joliet Tournament, as she was 5 for 5 prior to her hitting an inside-the-park grand slam in the bottom of the 7th inning to win the game.
She also realizes the opportunities that the Illinois USSSA has provided has allowed her to compete against some of the finest players in the game.
She hopes to be remembered as a player that participated well during her 15 years of competitive participation, despite having limitations. She also wishes to be remembered for playing hard every game because of her love of the game.
Male Player Category
If the next time you go to your favorite OTB facility and you see Jim Rumple on the race card, bet $20 on him to win. This is what his teammates did as they stopped traffic in Clinton, Iowa as his teammates matched him up against every other fast guy in the tournament. Those that bet on Jim were not disappointed, as he was the only undefeated barefoot sprinter in the tournament field.
Speed however, was not Jim's only prowess to fame, as he was a complete player playing flawless defense in the outfield, at shortstop, at second base and at pitcher positions during an abbreviated competitive 18-year career, which has seen him swat 350 career home runs. He achieved All-State honors twice and played on the 1976 USSSA Class B World Championship Forest Hills Lanes team.
Jim believes that the Forest Hills team chemistry was the best he had ever played with as he states, "It was a great group of guys to play with."
Jim's softball playing career began in 1971 when he began playing with the Rockford Rams, followed by Club 51, the State Champion RMA squad and highlighted with a stint with the professional Chicago Storm team in 1977. From 1980 to 1984, Jim participated with RMA/Rockford Stars, which did not finish out of the top 10 every year in world tournament play.
Jim says, "The slowpitch game was made for me. I never played it for any accolades, I just played because I loved the game."
Male Player Category
As a player (first baseman, pitcher and catcher), Dave was known as not only one of the finest in the state of Illinois, but one of the finest nationally. He played for some of the best teams ever assembled in the state, with The Boyz of Plano, The Kings of Bensonville, Sports Page of Arlington Heights and Joe Blacks of Highland Park topping the list of A and AA quality squads.
Dave also played for a number of teams over his 30-year playing span in the St. Charles league. His lifetime .615 batting average and over 1,600 homeruns helped identify him as one of the best.
Dave began his playing career at the B level, but quickly moved up to the A and AA levels, while qualifying and playing in two Men's Major World Series. He also was chosen to a number of All-State tournament teams, while playing for several state championship teams.
Dave's best memories occurred while playing for the Joe Black's team that beat Steele's Sporting Goods out of Ohio, when they were ranked #1 in the country.
Another great memory occurred when he hit 3 homeruns in a Major NIT to help his team in acquiring a berth in the Men's Major World Series in Daytona Beach, Florida.
Of all his accomplishments, Dave says he is most grateful for the opportunities to play against the best players ever to play the game.
Male Player Category
For 20 years, every weekend during the summer was tournament time for Steve Walker as he and his teams competed to qualify for USSSA State, Divisional or World Tournament Berths around the country. This was the norm for this outstanding lead-off batter, which led teams like Brauns or Annie's Army to 8 world tournament berths in 12 seasons. He also helped teams like Parksite, Sparta Merchants and Busch to World tournament play.
This fleet-a-foot right center fielder, with a lifetime batting average of .650 credits Roger Waldron for leading him to the slowpitch game and his favorite team Braun's, where he played the majority of his career for his best coach, Annie Braun. With most league locations in Southern Illinois playing without fencing during his younger stages of his playing career, Steve sped to over 200 homeruns with the majority being of the inside-the-park variety, while being selected as an All Star 12 times and a 3 time Most Valuable Player.
Steve's most memorable softball experience occurred in 1995 with the Busch team, which took 2nd place in the State Tournament, while being the oldest player on the team and playing with his son-in-law Tony Dugan.
Steve was an all-around high school athlete, as he played football, basketball and baseball all four years at the varsity level and was awarded the Joe Garagiola Award following his senior baseball season. That competitive spirit and continued commitment to his teams, teammates and the sport of softball over his 27-year playing span has now led him to Rockford and the Illinois USSSA Hall of Fame.
With a .850 coaching win percentage (952-168), Al established himself in 16 years of managing as one of the best on field leaders in Illinois, after beginning his coaching career in 1972. That is when he formed the Bee-Hive team of Waterloo. During the following 10 years, he led Mike's Tavern of Waterloo and B-Street Blues of Belleville to winning seasons, which prepared him to form and lead one of the finest teams in Southern Illinois history, the Belleville Budweiser squad.
This team captured the 1984 Class B State title and went on to finish 2nd in the Class B World Tournament. In 1986 and 1987 the team finished 2nd in the Class A State Tournament and went on to six Top 8 World Tournament finishes in 10 years. During this span, the team also captured a 2nd and a 3rd place in 5 National Invitational Tournament appearances.
Al realizes that to create a winner, you have to have winners and he had plenty of talented individuals to go around with the likes of Dirk Androff, Danny Albert, Mike O'Connor, Leon Kreher, Larry Malone and hopefully more future hall of famers. Al also acknowledges that the USSSA provided opportunities for his teams to play in some great sports complexes across the country, while also competing against some of the best teams.
Al recalls that perhaps his biggest thrill was playing against Elite Coatings when they reached #1 at the men's major level and the Bud team was tied with them in the last inning, even thought they wound up losing by 3 runs. He also is thrilled that he got to see Dirk Androff succeed to the top level of the softball game, while playing for Steele's and Richie's Superior in the Men's Major program.
Al's most memorable experiences were capturing the Class B State Tournament in Peoria and being the last undefeated team in the Great Lakes Class B Divisional Tournament in Rockford. Any good manager takes care of his players, which Al was trying to do with the sun shining in outfielder, Danny Albert's eyes, but when Al asked him if he needed a pair of sun glasses, Albert replied, "No, I am fine!" Soon afterward, Albert lost a ball in the sun and got hit on top of the "noggin!"
Tonight, Albert again might again need sunglasses, as his shining star manager is welcomed into the Illinois Hall of Fame.
Vernon began his umpiring career as a IHSA baseball official in the mid-1950s after playing both baseball and fastpitch softball at many Southern Illinois communities. Vernon recalls that his umpiring opportunities increased significantly after USSSA Director, Orvel Cox asked him to not only umpire, but to be the umpire-in-chief of the USSSA sanctioned slowpitch softball league in Red Bud. This not only jump started his umpiring career as one of the finest officials in Southern Illinois, but one of the most respected.
Vernon spent 15 years as a USSSA umpire, officiating numerous state level tournaments, which provided him his biggest umpiring honor as he umpired a National Tournament in Bridgeton, MO. At the tournament, Vernon recalls when the very first batter in the first game swung at the ball and his back swing struck the catcher in the back of the head. it made him realize that he needed to keep his distance as well.
Vernon also was involved in an incident during his umpiring career during a tournament at Red Bud, when a player slid into home plate and swallowed his tongue. With some medical knowledge and a quick response, Vernon suppressed the tongue enough with his indicator to open the player's airway, allowing emergency workers to get the player to the hospital. Later, Vernon learned that the player had returned to the ball diamond after his release to thank him for his quick actions, even though he had already departed.
Tonight, the Illinois USSSA thanks Vernon for his many years of umpiring excellence and in making the USSSA a leader of fair play.
Pioneer Player Category
Kent's outstanding career began back in 1996, when a team made up of teachers from Naperville needed a pitcher for their recreational league team. During the years following, Kent continued to play in the rec league with Ray's Liquors, Feldotts and Moser Lumber, prior to joining "The Lantern" squad with Ron Brown as their coach. This was a new experience for Kent as the team switched from playing 16" softball to playing 12" and became one of the best.
In 1977, he became a member of "The Storm," a Chicago-based Semi-Pro team, prior to moving to Arkansas, where he played 9 years on a team called "The Flames." It was the #1 team in Northwest Arkansas for many years and was the state champion in their class in 1988.
A few years later, he moved to Germany and played on the Pirmasen's Army Base team for 3 years, prior to becoming the Girls Fastpitch coach at Ramstein High School on Ramstein Air Base, which has won 7 of 11 European Championships.
Kent's coach, Ron Brown of "The Lantern," credits a lot of the team's success to Kent's quality pitching and cat-like reflexes on the mound. In regards to Kent's qualifications for the Hall of Fame, Brown says, "During his time with us, there was no finer pitcher in the state and he was as good a hitter as he was a pitcher."
Forest Hills Diamonds
What began as an idea and creativity of Dewey Everts and Mitch Sommers, quickly became reality as one of the finest softball complexes opened its gates to the softball enthusiasts around the Midwest in 1976.
Owned by John Sommers, the complex was located next to Forest Hills bowling alley and operated by Dewey Everts during its first year of infancy. Bruce Schlichting who had excavated the diamonds ran the complex in 1977 and Dewey Everts ran the leagues in 1978. Ken Franzen took over the grounds operation in 1978, the league and tournament operations in 1979 and the entire operation, with the addition of the concessions in 1980. Franzen did this for twenty-five years, prior to retiring in 2003.
With immaculate groomed diamonds, Forest Hills played host to its first National Tournament in the Rockford area, with the Class B Women's Divisional in 1981 and several Divisional, National and National Invitational Tournaments that followed. In 1981, the two diamond complex expanded, as a third diamond was built with lights and 250 foot fencing. For 20 High School softball seasons, Forest Hills was home to the two-time State Champions, Harlem High School and was also the home field for Rock Valley College.
The well-known diamonds in 1982 and 1983 hosted the National Junior College World Series and the USSSA Men's & Women's 16" World Tournaments before adding a fourth diamond in 1991. In 1993, Forest Hills hosted the Women's Class A World Tournament and the Women's World Series.
This is where Chuck Fischer and Jeff Browen were first introduced to Mr. Al Ramsey, CEO of the USSSA, for their excellent speaking voice. Chuck became the Master of Ceremonies for the USSSA National Hall of Fame banquet and Jeff became the "voice" of the Men's Major World Series. With a continued operation that was flawless for over 20 seasons, the Forest Hills Diamond was recognized as the USSSA Complex of the Year in 1999.
It is likely that anyone that played competitive softball during the 1970s and 90s, they played at Forest Hills, as the diamonds have been mentioned very often in many Hall of Fame speeches at the State and National levels. Forest Hills has left a lasting impression of quality and enjoyment for thousands over the years, as it has crowned hundreds of Champions locally, statewide and nationally, while leaving a lasting memory for everyone that had the opportunity to play at the ivy laced diamonds. John, Mitch, Kevin and Brad Sommers and Dewey Everts, thanks for your vision and Forest Hills Diamonds. Thanks for the memories!