2011 Hall of Fame Inductees
Female Player Category
Mary Gifford's career highlights include several unexpected events, as she was the first Rockford woman softball player to hit a home run over the fence at Forrest Hills Diamonds and the first Rockford player to hit a home run over the fence at a World Tournament contest. She has coached both youth and adult co-rec teams and ran Boone County Fairgrounds Park for 8 years. She was also a USSSA director and was awarded the Illinois State League Director's Award in 1996.
Mary has a list of teams that she has played for as long as her leg and each holds special memories for the 43-year diamond veteran, whether they were competitive or just played the game for fun.
She began playing USSSA softball with the Betty Bremer Realty team from Belvidere in 1976, which launched her to a Class C state championship with the Northern Illinois Stars in 1982. After playing stints with 3C's and Town Hall, she hooked up with Prairie Moon Saloon to finish 2nd in Class A state and 5th in Class A world.
Other outstanding teams on her long term resume include Jerry's Garage, King Potter, Blackhawk Athletic Club, Hulsebus Chiropractic, Carters, Rainbow Separations, Northern Diamonds Concordia Lanes, Freedom Graphics and a present stop with Settimi Fetters with whom she captured a 2010 National Title.
While possessing a lifetime batting average over .600 and a best season mark of .782, she was always a threat at the plate, while being selected to several all-state teams.
Her many memories span from hitting numerous home runs over the fence, to playing in the middle of the night at the Class A World Tournament, to pitching a no-hitter. However, the most memorable was being selected MVP of the 2010 National Tournament, 30 years after capturing her first MVP selection in 1982.
Mary also listed Toodie Moss, Wendy Fudge, Sheila Eversole, Barb Beimal along with numerous others, as the best players she has played with. She credits her father in leading her to the game of softball and teaching her the fundamentals. She thanks Tim Fetters for giving her a chance to continue playing competitively.
As a younger player, Mary had all the softball attributes - speed, power, defense and offensive technique - but as she got older, she provided even more to her team through her knowledge and being a good teammate. That is what she wants to be remembered for when her playing days end.
Mary realizes that many friendships and memories that the game of softball has bestowed upon her over the many years can be traced to the efforts and support of the USSSA, Brenda Paulson, great coaches, fans, tournament directors and most of all her family. She also thanks the Hall of Fame Committee for this tremendous honor.
Female Player Category
Glenda S. Junge
This self-taught softball veteran began playing softball 50 years ago while in grade school when she played against all the boys in the neighborhood. This experience provided her outstanding fundamentals and, most of all, confidence.
It is evident that Glenda has taught herself well, as she has a lofty lifetime .650 batting average and recorded over 1,500 round trippers in her career. She has acquired numerous state tournament accolades as well as NIT and World Tournament team selections.
Her resume of teams that she has played for reads like a book of Who's Who of Southern Illinois softball. She began her competitive career with Fults in 1966. After 9 years of success with Fults, she moved on to participate with the Class B state champion and USSSA World Champion Hecker Miller Lite for 10 seasons. That led her to compete with Dashners from 1986 through 1991, where she captured another state title and 9th and 10th world tournament placements. Following that, she competed with the Co-Ed teams of The Marauders and Miller Lite Misfits before playing with Wells Fargo. She presently participates with two outstanding squads, the Arch Rivals and the 60+ senior team of Sho-Me.
With Sho-Me, Glenda had her most memorable softball experience as she met 4 ladies from "A League of Their Own" in Phoenix, AZ, while participating in the senior world tournament.
Glenda has participated with many great players over the years and mentions Deb German, Cinda Liefer, Linda Byron, Sandy Mason, Jeri Mueller and Judy Kaiser as only a few. Surrounding herself with such talent has allowed her to understand the word team, stating, "We win as a team, we lose as a team. It is always a team effort!"
That has always been her approach to the game, and she wants to be remembered as being a great teammate that gave 100%, got along with everyone and always tried to help others.
The Illinois USSSA Hall of Fame was created for those like Glenda, as after 50 years of softball participation, she still has that burning desire to play the game without regret.
Male Player Category
Ronnie L. Bievenue
Ronnie Bievenue played every game as it was a title game and inspired his teammates to excel above and beyond their capabilities many times. Without a doubt, Ronnie was a dominating force in Southern Illinois USSSA softball for 20 seasons.
Ronnie began playing softball in 1965 with the Bill James Tavern team and continued to do so until joining the competitive Braun's Annie's Army squad in 1974 through 1978. In 1978, Ronnie joined the best team in Southern Illinois, the Southern Illinois Dons, which captured many league and tournament titles. This is where Ronnie gained recognition as a terrific shortstop and second basemen, as he posted personal season high batting marks of .740 and a lifetime BA of .650 with 300+ home runs.
His slick fielding abilities placed him on two all-state teams, while sharing the diamond with many hall of fame greats from the Southern Illinois area.
Among several of Ronnie's most memorable experiences were victories over Forest Hills of Rockford, Jerry's Bigger Jiggers of Centralia and East St. Louis Stars. His funniest experience happened at the 1978 World Tournament in Louisville, KY as he attempted to score from 2nd base on a single. The throw to home was perfect and Ronnie was called out by an exuberant umpire shouting, "You're out of there big man!" The name stuck and forever Ronnie was referred to as "Big Man" on ball diamonds everywhere.
Some of the best players that Ronnie played with were: Dennis Albert, Leon Kreher, Mike Kreher, Matt Myers, Dan Helfrich, Dwayne Laws and Steve Walker. His best coaches included: Bill Regan, Anna Braun, Rich Kaiser and Stan Wallach.
Ronnie's abilities on the diamond were many, his desire to win was unmatched, his enjoyment of sharing victory with family and friends was unbelievable. He was a "Big Man" from a small town that will always be remembered as one of the best!
Male Player Category
Burgess M. Watts
Being recognized as a team player perhaps is Burgess Watt's biggest reward, as this fiercely competitive shortstop/pitcher demands 100% from his teammates and has little interest in individual awards. Even though he has hit over 800 home runs in his 18-year career, he considers his defensive prowess and on-field leadership as his most contributing factors to his team's success stories.
After graduation from Wheaton Central High School, he went to Eastern Illinois University in Charleston, IL to play football, but after just one season, it was clear that his love for baseball was his true passion. This is when he transferred to the College of DuPage and following 2 great seasons with the Chaparrals on the diamond, it resulted in him being drafted in the 19th round of the 1990 MLB draft by the LA Dodgers.
This notoriety resulted in him being asked to begin his slow pitch participation with The Thunder from Aurora in 1993. This team only lost 5 games during the 1994 season that resulted in The Thunder capturing the Class C State Championship and finishing 2nd in the Divisional.
Following this success, Burgess found himself playing major with the Joe Black's team for the next 6 seasons, before stints with Home Run Inn, Ken Adams and Shenanigans. He presently is a member of the Ken Beverage squad that captured the Joliet National Invitational this past season.
Burgess has played with some very outstanding players and names Al Van Gampler, Joe Ambrose, Dan Prater, Scott McDaniel, Larry Sheppard and Brian Schultz as just a few that he has shared the diamoned with. He also thanks Irv Porter, Tom Stark, Ken Adams and Dan Catalcini for being his managers.
Burgess's most memorable experience was participating in the USSSA Men's Major World Series with Joe Blacks, even though they did not play as well as they had hoped. He, however, realizes the USSSA has provided him the ability to travel and meet some of the best players in the game, while also blessing him with many friends that he hopes to keep for along time. In addition, he thanks God for his abilities, his wife (Pamala) and the kids for their understanding why he was gone every weekend during the spring and summer, and his mother and father for introducing him to the game of baseball as a kid and support to this day.
Male Player Category
When Shane was a youngster watching his dad (Jack) playing softball, he never dreamed that he would someday enter the Illinois USSSA Hall of Fame. His impressive 19-year resume proves that he belongs among Illinois' finest.
Being chosen a Most Valuable Player four times of a state tournament is a career highlight in itself, but add three more all-state honors and Best Defensive Player recognition, including a National MVP honor to make his resume truly impressive. Playing on six state championship teams with The Illusions, LT's, Snap-On, Creative Design and Ken's Beverage, along with national champion LT's in 200L, he has had a very rewarding career as not only an outstanding outfielder, but a productive pitcher as well.
Shane began playing softball in 1991 with the Bob Salvage team of Plano. Several years later, he reached the state Class B championship game with Mid-America Concrete in 1994 and with Home Run Inn during the 1995 season. In 1998, Shane experienced his first state championship with the Illusions and followed it up with state titles with LT's in 2000, Snap-On in 2002, Creative Design in2005 and Ken's Beverage in 2007 and 2008.
When Shane was asked who was his best coach, his answer was quick and lengthy as he answered "my dad and all my softball coaches." He also stated that the best players he played with are Scott Hill (#6), Jim Cushing (The Cush), Brian Schultz (Hobbs) and Jim Kersten (Tank).
Shane's most memorable softball experience was winning the 1998 State Championship, winning the 2001 National and playing in the 2007 World Tournament at Disney. At the 2007 World Tournament, he had his funniest experience when the sprinklers came on in the middle of a 1 a.m. game.
Shane's speed was perhaps his greatest overall asset and possesses a lifetime batting average of .585. His best tournament performance came in the 2001 South National Tournament when he batted .857.
Shame hopes to be remembered as a player that gave 100% every game and as a great teammate and friend on and off the field. He thanks all the sponsors and coaches that made it possible for him to play the game he loves, all his teammates, his parents (Jack and Carlene), family (wife- Sarah and children- Ty and Teaghan), and God for giving him the ability. He also thanks the Illinois USSSA for providing the competition that allowed him to make friendships that will last forever, along with all the memories.
Kenneth T. Reimer
In a span of a decade, since 2001, Ken's Beverage teams have captured over 25 tournament titles, while competing in five different classifications. This is due to not only Ken Reimer's generosity, but the assembly of on-field talent that has created highly competitive squads that carry the Ken's Beverage sponsorship logo.
In 2001, Ken's captured the Class B State Tournament. In 2003 and 2004 they won the 40 and over state title. In 2007 Ken's captured the open state title, and in 2008 again took the Class B State Championship. In 2002, Ken's Beverage captured their first world title at Cocoa Beach, Florida, as they won the 40 and over World Tournament.
Two years later, Ken's Beverage finished 2nd at the 45 and over World Tournament at Orlando, Florida, and in 2008 another Ken's Beverage squad finished 5th in the Class C World Series at the Disney complex.
Sponsoring teams for 22 seasons has allowed Ken to put winning into perspective, as he reflects that winning is fine, but if his teams have fun, the losses do not matter. Commenting on how the USSSA has provided opportunities to his teams, Ken says, "They are doing something right to be going this long and strong. It gives me great pleasure that Ken's Beverage is well represented at work and play."
When asked who got him started in sponsoring teams, Ken replied, "Dave Catalani did and is the main reason I continue to do this every year, as he always surrounds himself with quality people making KBI well represented."
with all of the success stories that Ken's Beverage has found over the years, the most memorable remains winning the Joliet City Tournament for the first time. They have captured that prestigious title 9 times.
The Illinois USSSA Hall of Fame recognizes Ken Reimer for not only his years as a team sponsor, but his dedication to providing his best for many years.
Michael J. Mackey
Most everyone has heard the phrase, "I thought I was wrong once, but I was mistaken." It must have been referring to Mike's umpire abilities, when asked if he had ever made a bad call, his response was, "No, never!"
Learning to be an excellent umpire in the Joliet area under the guidance of fellow umpires Mark Hall, Tim Johnson, Jerry Henry and Tom Seddon, led Mike to being chosen to umpire many state and national events at Rockford and Joliet during his 16-year career. His abilities later provided opportunities to umpire at World Series events at Fort Knox, Kentucky and Orlando, Florida.
Mike's strangest situation while umpiring occurred during the Women's Class B World Series, when a batter hit a basses loaded line drive up the middle to short centerfield. The fielder dove for the ball, but the attempt was ruled a trap by Mike's partner, who instantly signaled safe. The runners, however, held on all bases, resulting in the ball being thrown to third, second and first for a triple play!
When asked who some of the best players he had umpired were, he said, "Brian Schultz, Jim Cushing, Al Van Gampler and Dan Prater top his list."
Mike also acknowledges that his involvement with the USSSA has allowed him to travel around the country, have a lot of fun and meet many new friends. Tonight, it has allowed him to enter the Illinois USSSA Hall of Fame as one of its finest umpires.
Today, Mike Peura becomes a member of a very select group, as he enters the Illinois USSSA Hall of Fame for his numerous contributions to not only the organization but the entire softball community.
He has done so through 35 years as a player, 15 seasons as an umpire, 20 years directing over 100 USSSA tournaments (50 of them state tournaments) and being selected rookie director of the year in 1994, league director in 1997, state director's award in 2000, distinguished service in 2009, award of merit in 2009 and award of excellence in 2010.
Twenty years of managing teams to numerous success stories, and 20 generous seasons as a team sponsor. Creating a softball resume that perhaps goes unrivaled has allowed Mike to confess, "I just wanted to provide all the teams my best."
His best has included refereeing a fight between two teams resulting in forfeit, while directing the Class B National Invitational, or his best by managing WWJD to the Class C State title or LT's Bar and Grill to the Class C National Championship.
As a player, Mike has a lifetime batting average of over .600 and has swatted 500+ home runs, while playing 3rd base, 1st base and catcher for The Boyz, Bob's Salvage, Erickson Chiropractic, WWJD, The Bar, LT's and Windy City.
He believes the best players that he has shared the diamond with are Bernie Carroll, Brian Schultz, Bromo, Pat Heraty and Jim Cushing, and identifies Jerry Pigotti of Ace Hardware as his best coach.
Mike's most memorable softball moments include winning the 1999 Class C State Tournament and hitting a home run in the 2010 Senior World Tournament.
Just to prove that when Mike directs a tournament, sparks are sure to fly, as his funniest softball situation occurred while directing the Class D State tournament this year. On a bright and sunny day, the lightning warning devices went off, delaying the tournament play.
Mike thanks his wife Lisa for always being there, his martial arts instructor Tom Heriaud for his early years of guidance.
Softball is not the only sport he has excelled in. Under the coaching of Heriaurd, he has won over 300 karate events and holds the rank of 6th degree black belt. To his Dad for creating his softball interest by taking him to watch all those men's fastpitch games down the street at S-A Field in his younger years.