2013 Hall of Fame Inductees

Female Player Category

Jackie Fischer

The word destiny would be the best way to describe Jackie Fischer, as she was destined to find success in the sport of softball. With God-given talent and her parents’ support and guidance, she began playing softball in 1976 with the Blue Lick Optimist team from Bullitt County, Kentucky.

This was the beginning of Jackie’s success, which led her to play in the Kentucky High School State Tournament with her North Bullitt High School team from Shepherdsville, Kentucky, which was soon followed by Division II success with Kentucky Wesleyan College, where she was named to All-Great Lakes Valley Conference teams.

After finishing her master’s degree at Indiana State University in Terra Haute, she took a teaching position at St. Mary’s of the Woods College while living in the small community of Kansas, Illinois. This move allowed her to begin playing with such notable adult teams as, Duggan’s Softball of Terre Haute, Indiana (94-98), Prime Time Softball of Paris, Illinois (99-05), Absolut Softball of Decatur, Illinois (06), and Stage II of St. Louis, Missouri (07-11).

Recently, she departed her position at St. Mary’s Of The Woods College and assumed the position as Dean of Student Affairs at Moberly College in Moberly, Missouri. These teams have provided her numerous championships at many National Inv., State Tournaments, and at the 2008 Class B World Tournament, where she was named to the All-World Tournament team.  This Stage II team was by far the most athletic team that she played for in her 40 years of softball participation, as she described it as an amazing degree of camaraderie among its members.

Jackie’s best offensive year at the plate occurred with Stage II in 2007, as she hit .714, while serving as EH and filling in at 1st base. Her countless number of all-tournament selections is highlighted by being named Dudley “Class C” NIT Most Valuable Player in 2002.  Among her most memorable softball experiences she listed winning the 2008 Women’s B World Tournament, winning the 1999 Triple Crown Tournament, winning the 2002 Dudley NIT at Rockford, and traveling to Russia to conduct softball clinics.

She also listed other outstanding players that she has shared the diamond with over the years beginning with Lisa Harvey, Dee Lake, Bobbi Mattingly, Jenn Jackson, Amanda Brown, Diana Chalfant, Sandy Fletcher, and Cindy Johnson. Her favorite coaches as, Chico Embry, Jerry Rhodes, Garvin Fehler, Ken Ayers, Diana Chalfant, Clyde Muncy, and Dee Lake.

Jackie wants to be remembered as a person that always contributed to her team’s success in a positive way, encouraged others to do their best, while showing respect for the game and everyone involved.

In explaining the opportunities that the USSSA has provided her over the years, she reflected on the opportunities that her parents have also provided her over the years, beginning with the 1990 USSSA Tour of Russia, Tallinn, Estonia, and Finland. As an assistant tournament director in Kentucky, she had the opportunity to interact with some great coaches, players, umpires and field personnel over the years. Her most meaningful however has revolved around the relationships that have been built over the years with teammates and opponents, as they reflect on specific tournaments, games, and plays that have made up their history together. The many years of softball travel has created a bond that runs deep among all that have contributed to Jackie being named to the Illinois Softball Hall Of Fame.

Male Player Category

Dan Helfrich

During a 1--year period from 1972 through the 1982 season, Dan participated for two of the finest teams ever to play the game from Southern Illinois. He started playing USSSA softball with the Belleville Shamrocks in 1972, which was the first team to play USSSA ball in Southern Illinois. They were a powerhouse team that went to two "Class B" world tournaments, finishing second in Baltimore in 1973. This is where Dan earned All-World team honors while playing right field.

During world tournament play, he swatted 7 home runs and batted .711. The following year, Dan was the state tournament Most Valuable Player prior to the team folding at 1974’s end.

I think the USSSA was the best thing for slow pitch softball in southern Illinois. It brought uniformity to the game and the different classifications allowed it to be fair for all players.
— Dan Helfrich

This was when Dan began playing for manager Rich Kaiser who was building a team called the Loggers, which became Southern Illinois’ new power team. During his years with The Loggers, Dan made numerous all-tournament teams, while setting a career .610 batting mark, while swatting 560 home runs. He played over 100 games every year for the Logger team, which expected to go to the world tournament each year. And they did.

Dan was an excellent defensive outfielder that possessed a great arm, which allowed him to throw out many unsuspecting runners that tried to take that extra base.
When Dan was asked about the Illinois USSSA organization he said, “I think the USSSA was the best thing for slow pitch softball in southern Illinois. It brought uniformity to the game and the different classifications allowed it to be fair for all players."
The Illinois USSSA welcomes “Mad Dog” to the Hall of Fame.

Male Player Category

L.T. Graham

The initials L. T. must stand for “Long Time,” as longevity best describes L. T. Graham’s 45 years of softball participation. He began playing softball at the age of 22 for Deacon Davis at Booker Washington Center and everything has flourished for him since then.

With tremendous speed, he roamed the outfield for the 1976 Class B World Championship Forrest Hills team, which propelled him to individual notoriety. L.T. over the years has posted a lifetime .650+ batting average, while hitting over 800 homeruns.
In 1973 he earned MVP honors in the City Championship, which started a string of numerousAll-Tournament Team selections.

According to New Milford Tap manager Jerry Fiordelisi, “I had the honor to be his manager, as it was a pleasure to watch him chase down fly balls and surprise opponents with his power.”

Softball is the greatest game of summer. It brings out sportsmanship between teammates and teams, while bringing out competitive spirit. It has allowed me to travel to many different venues and has allowed me to age gracefully, despite the numerous muscle pulls, sprains, and scrapes.
— L.T. Graham

2001 Hall of Fame inductee Kurt Steger reflected on L.T.’s abilities by saying, “I have had the privilege to play against and with him for the past 30 years. In recent years, we have participated in the Senior Olympics in Springfield together. He is a man of great work ethic and is a man of great character and a role model to all of us.”

When L.T. was asked to describe his years of participation he said, “Softball is the greatest game of summer. It brings out sportsmanship between teammates and teams, while bringing out competitive spirit. It has allowed me to travel to many different venues and has allowed me to age gracefully, despite the numerous muscle pulls, sprains, and scrapes.”

L. T. Graham’s initials L. T. G. comes to light again, as he states, “Isn’t softball great, I just (Love The Game.)”

Male Player Category

Scott Klein

Scott Klein has played over 30 years of USSSA softball, while participating on 13 State Championship teams, 10 National Invitational teams, 3 National Championship teams and 1 World Champion.

While playing primarily 3rd base, he has a lifetime batting average of .640 and has smacked over 300 homeruns in his career.

He has earned numerous individual all-state, all national, and all-world honors while participating with Illusions, Snap On/Kluever, Safecar, Precision, Ken Beverage, and K A Softball teams. Scott says, I loved all of our coaches, from Smiley, to Kluever, Dave C, and Ken Adams.

Scott also states, “ I have been lucky to play this game for a long time with guys that respected the game and knew how to play together. I think that is why we have won so much, as we actually care for each other. I have gained some great friendships that will last a lifetime.” He also reflected on how the Illinois USSSA has provided opportunities by saying, “I think the Illinois USSSA has always been great, because the best players play there and it has allowed me to compete against the greatest players across the country.”

Male Player Category

Mike "Oatie" Oates

The Boyzz from Illinois, Stroh’s, The Bank of Westmont, Burla Construction, and Joe Black’s. These are legendary names in Illinois softball filled with Illinois USSSA Hall of Fame inductees and these are the teams that were fortunate enough to have Mike Oates play for them.  Talk about a storybook career …

When his minor league baseball career as a pitcher in the Cincinnati Reds and Montreal Expos organizations came to an end Mike returned home and began his softball career playing in local leagues. In 1978 Mike met Bob Raikovich, became friends, and began playing with teams Bob coached the following year. That friendship lasted 35 years, 19 of which Mike anchored those famous Illinois teams.

Bob and everyone else recognized that the powerful six-foot four Oatie was truly a five tool player, he could run, field, throw, hit for average, and hit for power. He was a star and batted cleanup all through his playing career. His consistency was such that he kept a high career batting average of .620 plus and was top three in batting average and home runs every year on every team he played .  Mike was the consummate player, the steady cleanup hitter always could be counted on in clutch situations

Forever a winner, Mike was on Illinois State Championship teams with Stroh’s, The Bank of Westmont, Burla Construction, and Joe Blacks. He made the State  All Tournament team with both The Bank and Burla. He competed in USSSA tournaments for 17 years. The 1986 Burla team finished fourth in the USSSA “A” World Tournament in Kalamazoo, MI.

Oatie was an original member of Joe Blacks, the team formed in 1988 that competed in USSSA softball until 2002.  In his 5 years with Joe Black’s they won one State title and competed in the prestigious 1989 USSSA Men’s Major World Series at Rosenblatt Stadium in Omaha, Nebraska. . In 1990 they finished fourth in the USSSA Men’s “AA” World Tournament, coincidentally in Kalamazoo again.

Mike took pride in his ability to balance his softball career with both his family life and his successful business career. Mike knew of his induction in the IL USSSA Hall of Fame Class of 2013 and was very pleased. His time on this earth ended May 29, 2013, but his spirit and accomplishments live on.