2001 Hall of Honor: Forest Hills Lanes

Forest Hills Lanes

Led by starts like MVP Clancy Horn, Rod Shives, Don Cox and Jim Schleicher, Paul Bell’s Forest Hills Lanes squad ran the table on the 74-team field in Tullahoma, Tennessee, going 7-0 to claim the 1976 World Class B Title.

“I don’t think they players really realize what they’ve done,” manager Bell said in a newspaper interview after that momentous win a quarter century ago. Now, 25 years later, they’ve had time to dwell on their accomplishment, and it’s a safe bet those players fully appreciate their feat.

Throughout their 80-20 season, Forest Hills Lanes benefitted from competing against some excellent competition in the elite Forest Hills Diamonds League and up in Beloit, Wisconsin.

Playing against teams like Diamond Bar, Cypress, Huddle Corner and Thurmers, they went 15-0 in the Forest Hills League and 13-4 in Beloit. In tournament play, Forest Hills was 52-16. Besides the USSSA B World, Forest Hills won tournaments in Milwaukee, Kenosha, Berlin and Rockford, as well as finishing second twice and third three times.

The team believed that defense would take them to the championship. With Cox’s cerebral pitching and workhorse stamina, and Shives’s athleticism at shortstop, Forest Hills often frustrated the best offenses.

They were also mentally tough. In the USSSA Regionals in Red Bud that year, Forest Hills proved their mettle by winning seven straight games over an 11-hour period after falling into the loser’s bracket. They finished second, qualifying for the World Tournament.

Now, as then, the spotlight belongs on Paul Bell, Clancy Horn, Rod Shives, Hank Stenecki, Dan Brown, Don Cox, Jim Schleicher, Jim Rumple, Ken Franzen, Ed Foreman, Randy Torgerson, L.T. Graham, Dough Hansen and Tim Fetters.

Together, they carved out a little piece of history 25 years ago, one that is theirs to keep as evidence of a special accomplishment that can never be taken away from them.

2003 (Fall) Hall of Honor: Fox Valley Lassies

Fox Valley Lassies

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It was inevitable that the Fox Valley/St. Charles Lassies women’s softball team would be honored by the Illinois USSSA Hall of Fame. After all, nearly half their starting lineup is already in the Hall: Helen Biddle, Deb Keller, Mary Stark and Jo Suave (as of November 2003). Any team would have been blessed to have just one of those players. Together in one lineup, the four women made the Lassies a powerhouse.

Writing this August 2003 in the Daily Herald, columnist Dave Heun wrote of Lassie players Biddle, Mary Stark, Nancy Stark, Deb Jurca, Marlyss Runestad, Val Seldon and Marcia Ford, “it was hard to imagine any team topping those grand lassies. And not many did.”

Heun could have also mentioned Sue Pope, Cindy Martin, Laura Bieniak, Colleen Douglas, Re Matalonis, Jackie Crecio, and coaches Walt Owens, Tom Burton and Mike Anderson. All of them had a hand in making the Lassies one of the top women’s slow pitch teams in the country from the late-70s to the mid-80s.

“Just being a part of such a wonderful, successful organization was exciting,” Suave recalled.

The team left an impression on all who played on it.

“They were the greatest bunch of people I’ve ever been around,” Keller said. “We lived and breathed softball.”

So did the Lassies’ fans, who often followed them around to tournaments in a bus.

“We had a bus load of fans who traveled with us,” Suave said.

At times, the Lassies found themselves playing in front of as many as four and five thousand people.

After winning the ASA Major National Title in 1977 behind the MVP play and .680 hitting of tournament batting champ Marlyss Runestad, the Lassies switched to USSSA ball. In 1979, Suave was named MVP of the St. Charles USSSA tournament, MVP of the St. Charles League, All-State and helped lead the Lassies to second place at the USSSA World Tournament behind Little Ceasar’s of Southfield, Michigan.

The team went on to finish fourth at the 125-team USSSA World Tournament in Kingston, North Carolina in 1980 with a 7-2 record, as Keller and battery mate Jo Suave were named to the All-World team. In 1981, with Suave coaching due to a serious leg injury, the Lassies went 6-0 to sweep the winner’s bracket at World, only to lose twice to the Virginia Belles and settle for National runners-up.

This group of women that I played ball with for so many years were the best people that you could ever know; we were like family.
— Deb Keller

Over the next six seasons, the Lassies qualified for World play four more times, as well as won numerous league, State and Open Invitational titles, before finally breaking up after the 1987 season.

Keller, from Aurora, pitched for 26 years with the Fox Valley Lassies, which later became Stroh’s, Lombard’s Big Blue and the Playmates from Elgin, compiling 22 no hitters and 40 one-hit games.

Hall of Fame inductee Helen Biddle introduced her friend and former teammate Keller at her induction in March 2003 saying, “She had one of the meanest knuckleballs that you have ever seen.” She added, “Her never-give-up attitude helped her.”

In accepting her award, Keller said, “This group of women that I played ball with for so many years were the best people that you could ever know; we were like family.”

That family lost Deb August 2, 2003 when she passed away. Perhaps this honor, with several of her Lassies teammates here in attendance, may serve as a fitting farewell for a woman who, with those friends and teammates, wrote a special chapter in the Illinois USSSA’s history book.

2006 Hall of Honor: Park Town Hall

Park Town Hall

(Back L-R) Bob Parvin, Mike Emerson, Larry Hinerichsen, Jerry Fiordelisi, Don Wesling, Gary Miles, Mike Weiskercher, John "Arky" Manis  (Front L-R) Mark Austin, Jim Merchant, Kurt Stellern, Mike Carroll, John Wood, Tom Taylor

(Back L-R) Bob Parvin, Mike Emerson, Larry Hinerichsen, Jerry Fiordelisi, Don Wesling, Gary Miles, Mike Weiskercher, John "Arky" Manis

(Front L-R) Mark Austin, Jim Merchant, Kurt Stellern, Mike Carroll, John Wood, Tom Taylor

In 1981, the Park Town Hall softball team, sponsored by Bob Parvin, had quite a busy, yet magical season. The Loves Park-based team played well over 100 games that summer, ultimately capturing the Central Division Class B Championship in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

“We were in tournaments nearly every weekend,” said Park Town Hall manager Jerry Fiordelisi. “We just had a great season; we had terrific defense, some power hitting and a very smart team. They all gelled together well.”

In the Divisional Tournament, Park Town Hall swept through their first five games to make it to the championship game. In that game, they found themselves down 5-1 through four innings, but it could have been worse if not for a big break in the very first inning. Facing a bases-loaded-no-out situation, a line drive to the shortstop turned into a triple play, thanks in part to some treacherous field conditions that day.

We just had a great season; we had terrific defense, some power hitting and a very smart team. They all gelled together well.
— Jerry Fiordelisi

“It was very muddy because it had rained all morning,” recalled Fiordelisi. “It was so muddy that after the ball was hit and caught, the runners couldn’t get back to the bases right away. Our shortstop threw to second for the second out, then to third for the triple play.”

Park Town Hall strung six straight singles together in their half of the fifth to tie the score, and later scored a pair of runs in the sixth to lead 7-5. In the seventh with the tying runs on base, it was defense that saved the day, like it had all year. A smash up the middle was grabbed by pitcher John Wood, who started a double-play. One run eventually scored, but that was it.

“Defense is what determines whether you win or lose and offense only determines by how much,” said Wood after that game. “Our defense is what got us here, but we also came through on offense.”

One member of Park Town Hall that came through at the plate in the tournament is also one of this year’s inductees, Mark Austin. Austin was named Most Valuable Player of the tournament after hitting .762 with two home runs and 16 runs batted in.

“I’ve been on a lot of teams, but I have never been on a team that keeps coming back like this one does,” said Austin. “[As for the MVP] it wouldn’t have been possible without everyone else.”

Second baseman Tom Taylor felt, as in most championships that are won, it was more than just one or two players playing well.

“It was a total team effort,” said Taylor. “Everything had been building up for us and we peaked at just the right time.”

Twenty-five years later, we honor the members of the 1981 Central Class B Divisional Championship team, the manager and the sponsor. Congratulations and welcome to the Illinois USSSA Hall of Fame.

1981 Central Class B Divisional Championship Team Members:

  • Mark Austin
  • Mike Carroll
  • Mike Emerson
  • Jerry Fiordelisi (manager)
  • Larry Hinerichsen
  • John “Arky” Manis
  • Jim Merchant
  • Gary Miles
  • Kurt Stellern
  • Tom Taylor
  • Mike Weiskercher
  • Don Wesling
  • John Wood

2016 Hall of Honor: Tron Piping

Tron Piping

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Tron Piping Softball of Braidwood, Illinois

Sponsor: Tim Freeman, 2013 Illinois USSSA Hall of Fame Inductee

1996: Men’s 35 & Over World Champions in Daytona Beach, Florida

1997: Men’s 35 & Over World Champions in Laurel, Maryland

1998: 3rd Place Men’s 35 & Over World Series

1998: 2nd Place Men’s 40 & Over World Series

1996 – 2000: Men’s 35 & Over Illinois State Champions (undefeated)

We played all over the country; we had a great sponsor in Tim Freeman and his family. The highlight was in Daytona Beach in 1996 at the 35 & Over World Series where we came out of the loser’s bracket to double dip a very strong Michigan rival team, Mountain Top.

2007 Hall of Honor: Shockers/Paul Davis Restoration

Shockers/Paul Davis Restoration

Shockers/Paul Davis Restoration from Rockford captured the USSSA Class C World Tournament held at Disney Wide World of Sports at Orlando, Florida in September 2006. Led by Most Valuable Player Justin Wicinski (pitcher) and Offensive Most Valuable Player Drew Anderson, Shockers/Paul Davis Restoration ran the table going a perfect 8-0.

Danny Jordan, Matthew Rear, Brandon Riese, Travis Clark, Kenny Hopkins and Dustin Fuller were named to the All-World Team. John Alonso, Todd Ankeny, Steve Briggs, Jim Duncan, Larry Gowan, Ricky Grimes, Greg Malcomson, Greg Marchini, Dennis Muth, Shaun Odea and Brian Schoester defeated the state champions from New York, Connecticut, Ohio, Rhode Island and Missouri on their road to the title. They were victorious over Barille/Scalpers from Ohio by the score of 4-3 in the championship game.

During the 2007 season, Shockers/Paul Davis Restoration posted 1056 wins, 23 losses and won 13 out of 25 tournaments in addition to winning the Class C NIT in Indianapolis. They were also crowned the Class B Illinois State Champions.

Congratulations to all members, coaches and sponsors of Shockers/Paul Davis Restoration for their wonderful season and their USSSA Class C World Championship crown.

2007 Hall of Honor: Lilly Air Systems

Lilly Air Systems

(Back L-R) Kurt Steger, Jim Reeves, Mr. Lilly, Al Vangampler, Ron Olesiak, Bill Scillian, Dan Barnett, John Lilly, Ben Holt, Ron Fundenberg, Ken Parker, Tom Chmela  (Front L-R) Ron Danoski, Phil Higgins, Pete Williams

(Back L-R) Kurt Steger, Jim Reeves, Mr. Lilly, Al Vangampler, Ron Olesiak, Bill Scillian, Dan Barnett, John Lilly, Ben Holt, Ron Fundenberg, Ken Parker, Tom Chmela

(Front L-R) Ron Danoski, Phil Higgins, Pete Williams

Lilly Air Systems out of Chicago competed in six USSSA Major World Tournaments during the 1980s. In both 1982 and 1983, they finished eighth at the World Tournament and were ranked tenth nationally. The 1984 season brought an eleventh-place finish at World’s, an 84-24 record, a national ranking of sixth and a National Major Championship title in another organization. In 1985, Lilly Air Systems compiled an impressive 76-17 record. They again finished eleventh at the Major World Tournament and finished ranked fifth in the nation.

Lilly Air Systems broke up after the 1986 season in which they won the Illinois Class A (open) State Championship. They without a doubt left an unforgettable mark on Illinois and on softball nationwide.

Lilly Air Systems players who reigned during the 1980s included:

  • Ed Ambacher
  • Dan Barnett
  • Jim Burke
  • Tom Chmela
  • Ron Danoski
  • Ken Dohm*
  • Ron “T-Bird” Funderberg
  • Al Van Gampler*
  • Jay Graziano
  • Phil Higgins
  • Benny Holt*
  • Jake Jacobi
  • John Lilly*
  • Paul Moore
  • Ron Olesiak*
  • Ken Parker
  • Jim Reeves
  • Tim Russell
  • Ron Scillian
  • Don Snyder
  • Tom Spahn*
  • Tom Starck
  • Dave Steffan
  • Kurt Steger*
  • George Tankas
  • Pete Williams (manager)*
  • Gary Winemaster

*Those marked had all been inducted into the Illinois USSSA Hall of Fame as of 2007.

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2008 Hall of Honor: Fox Sports/Team Illinois

Fox Sports/Team Illinois

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In the fall of 1989, Coach Myron Schroeder set out to find enough 15-and-under talented pieces to participate in the 1990 USSSA Youth World Tournament. Over the next five-month period, 12 pieces of talent were accumulated from six different central Illinois high school baseball programs. It was his intent to put together a team that just might win a game at the tournament. Not in his wildest dreams did he imagine he was constructing one of the finest boy’s youth softball teams ever to play the game.

With a willing sponsor in Jim Fox of Fox’s Sports, the team had a uniform sponsor and a team name, but little else to support what was on the horizon for these 12 untested softball players. As these dozen players arrived at the World Tournament’s opening ceremonies, one had his leg in a cast and two others were wrapped in bandages and tape, while the entire team noticed they were the smallest team in stature compared to the other 25 competing teams.

Even though outsized, it did not seem to deter the team’s spirit and desire to do their best. Their goal of winning a game remained intact as they took the field for their first World Tournament test, despite hampering injuries to key personnel. Their wish of winning a game was soon answered as they a 15-3 win over the Milwaukee Scrubs. Three hours later, they rolled to their second win of the day with an impressive 13-5 decision over Sheboygan. Even though they had won by wide margins, no one game them much of a chance in their final first-day contest against the number two ranked Eastlake, Ohio squad.

Everyone continued to literally overlook the little team from Illinois, but it only took three innings and a quick 9-0 lead against the highly regarded Ohio team to begin to turn heads in their direction. At the game’s conclusion with a 9-3 Fox’s victory, it was evident there was now a Fox running alongside the tournament’s big dogs.

After the opening day fray, a couple other players got a little dinged up, adding to the count of limping teammates. This, however, did not affect how the team played on day two. They continued three quests through the field of giants with two more impressive wins.

(Back L-R) Jesse Huisinga, Rob Teno, Matt Gregory, Kyle Schroeder, Chris Kirby, Dan Warner  (Front L-R) Dusty Johnson, Roger Freeze, Jason Harden, Billy Dicken, Jonathan Harris, Matt Stiger  (Not Pictured) Coach Don Harden, Coach Myron Schroeder

(Back L-R) Jesse Huisinga, Rob Teno, Matt Gregory, Kyle Schroeder, Chris Kirby, Dan Warner

(Front L-R) Dusty Johnson, Roger Freeze, Jason Harden, Billy Dicken, Jonathan Harris, Matt Stiger

(Not Pictured) Coach Don Harden, Coach Myron Schroeder

On Saturday evening, a Fox’s team every expected to be heading back home following Saturday’s play were forced to find evening shelter at Milwaukee’s famous “Roach Motel.” Their stay at this quarter star lodging facility seemed to toughen the team even more while the majority of the team spent their time pushing their cast-laden teammate up and down Milwaukee Avenue in a grocery cart borrowed from a nearby K-Mart. It was evident the team’s focus remained on having fun together and the pressures of competition seemed non-existent.

Championship Sunday began with a thunderstorm which pushed back tournament play by four hours. When play did resume, the Fox’s responded in the tournament’s winner’s bracket final with a very impressive 19-3 victory over a long ball hitting Minnesota squad. This victory set up a championship match against the favored number one ranked Sylvester, Georgia Flyers, who had won the last six World titles.

By design, knowing the Flyers would have to defeat the Fox’s twice to take the title, Coach Schroeder pulled in his outfield after getting behind early in the contest. This allowed the Flyers to hit the long ball at will and run the bases like it was a track meet. Following their 22-6 (five inning) victory, the Flyers celebrated while the Fox’s strategy of lose-the-battle-win-the-war was only beginning to take shape.

At a quiet team gathering, the Fox’s were informed they had one more chapter to write in their unfinished book. This seemed to provide a new motivation. They jumped on the Flyers early, and after running out to an 8-1 lead after three complete innings. The Georgia quad was not ready to throw in the towel, coming back to within one run after six complete innings. With the Fox’s hanging by a thread, the top of the seventh inning saw the Flyers manufacture three runs to take a 14-12 lead.

The Fox’s came to bat, knowing their dream of becoming World Champions rested upon plating at least two runs. It appeared the Fox’s were not done with Rob Teno leading off the last frame with a triple, but a ground out and a caught infield line drive created a chorus of Georgia faitful to begin singing, “Hey, Hey Good Bye.” Their singing was quickly muffled, however, by a RBI double by Matt Stiger and a tying run single by Matt Gregory sent the game into extra innings.

In the top of the eighth inning, the Flyers threatened to win, but a tremendous throw from left center fielder Dusty Johnson cut down their potential leading run attempting to advance to third base. As the team arrived at the dug out, they realized they were on the verge of something special. When the inning’s leadoff batter, Chris Kirby reached on a base hit over the Flyer shortstop, the team began to believe it was their moment. Roger Freeze quickly rapped a double, moving Kirby to third base. With the winning run only 60 feet away, Jesse Huisinga delivered a game-winning sacrifice fly to left field, scoring Kirby and Illinois’ first youth World title.

At that moment, all the doubters realized they had forgotten to measure this small team’s heart and they celebrated the unexpected championship.

To this day, Coach Schroeder says it was perhaps his most rewarding softball win, emphasizing the Fox’s team was the most coachable team he has ever been around. “They are truly a special group that won a World title together,” he said.

2008 Hall of Honor: The Chicagoans

The Chicagoans

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In the mid-1970s, Gloria Kolbusz, a 2001 Illinois USSSA Hall of Fame inductee, was managing a 16-inch softball team, but they were looking to get into some 12-inch softball. She soon found the Northeastern Illinois Women’s Slow Pitch Softball League, which featured some of the best women’s softball teams in the area.

Wanting to push themselves to the next level and see where they measured up against the best competition available, they were soon looking beyond the Chicagoland area.

“When you’re a big fish in a small pond, you want to see what else is out there,” Kolbusz said.

The Chicagoans began play in ASA softball, but because the tournament set up was not to their liking, they moved to the USSSA. Now they found themselves matched up against powerful national teams such as Little Caesar’s out of Detroit, Michigan and Cincinnati Knights of Columbus, Ohio. They finished as high as eight nationally and were always ranked in the Top 20, mostly due to solid defense and powerful hitting. During the 1980s, the Chicagoans traveled all over the nation, which included many tournament stops in Rockford.

The line up consisted of players like Illinois Hall of Famers Mary Malpede, Karen Foley and Jan Wilson, along with Mary Pat McGuire and Mary Schaeffer.

Malpede, a 1999 Illinois Hall of Fame inductee, won over 500 games from the pitching circle and appeared in ten USSSA Class A World Tournaments. Foley, a 1996 Illinois Hall of Fame inductee, was the first female to hit a home run over the year-old 250’ fence at Forest Hills Diamonds. Wilson, a 1999 Illinois Hall of Fame inductee, was a career .557 hitter with over 200 home runs.

In 1982, the Chicagoans won their first of three Illinois Class A State Championships and pulled the trick two years later by capturing the championship in 1984. In each championship, Foley was named the most valuable player and Wilson was selected to the All-Tournament Team. Although the team changed their name to C.M.C., they were still just as tough and were Class A champs in 1988. During those years, the Chicagoans, along with the Lassies and Coors Light, were always among the favorites.

“Gloria’s teams competed in our program more than any other Class A team,” said Illinois USSSA State Director Brenda Paulson. “They didn’t just play, they were competitive and that had a lot to do with Gloria Kolbusz.”

Tonight, we honor a team that pursued the goal of being the best and playing the best they could. Great teams take more than one great player and have to have a smart and creative manager. The Chicagoans met both those attributes for many years.

“Softball gave me the opportunity to meet and associate with many great people, both here and around the country,” summed up Kolbusz. “There have been so many memories.”

And for that, Chicagoans, the Illinois USSSA thanks you.

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2009 Hall of Honor: The Lantern

The Lantern

(Back L-R) Jim Frederick, unknown, unknown, Jim Swanson, Don Feldott, Terry Mueller, Rick Sweeney, Elmer Stahnke, Ron Brown  (Front L-R) Tom Pynak, Chuck Baumgartner, Jimmie Walsh, Kent Grossheusch, Herb Donkin, Tom Spahn, Shane Baumgartner

(Back L-R) Jim Frederick, unknown, unknown, Jim Swanson, Don Feldott, Terry Mueller, Rick Sweeney, Elmer Stahnke, Ron Brown

(Front L-R) Tom Pynak, Chuck Baumgartner, Jimmie Walsh, Kent Grossheusch, Herb Donkin, Tom Spahn, Shane Baumgartner

What began as a team full of grade school and high school classmates enjoying the game of softball, as Wilifred’s in 1966 and Feldott’s in 1967, rapidly grew into a softball giant in Illinois softball. This team was named The Lantern and would become the pilot team in promoting Illinois participation in the USSSA organization as it evolved from the Naperville Softball League in the early 70s. This formed tournament team also became Illinois’ first men’s team to participate in a USSSA National Tournament. This talented group also captured multiple league and tournament titles in St. Charles, Geneva, Joliet, and Naperville, along with additional tournament championships in Ottawa, LaSalle, Kewanee, Waukegan, Elmhurst, Rockford, and highlighted by a state tournament title in Peoria.

The team enjoyed success, especially in the Rockford and Joliet tournaments as they found they could defeat nationally ranked teams. The team found early on the best tournaments were hosted by the USSSA because they attracted the nation’s top teams to their events. This attraction to competition led The Lantern to places like Milwaukee, Ft. Wayne, St. Louis and Cincinnati.

In the team’s first season, they registered a perfect 35-0 record mostly against Illinois competition. In their second season, they accumulated a 73-and-9 mark and were recognized as one of the finest slow pitch teams in Illinois when the team finished in third place at the USSSA National Tournament in Louisville, Kentucky.

Due to this success, several Lantern members were quickly swept up by the newly formed Chicago Storm, a professional softball team. Due to this change of personnel, The Lantern’s participation in national events became limited, but even shorthanded they continued to dominate and find success at the local and state levels.

(Back L-R) Rick Sweeney, Kent Grossheusch, Terry Mueller, Dan Vrbanic, Tucker Thompson, Jim Swanson  (Front L-R) Chuck Baumgartner, Ken Brown, Neal Mueller, Bill Kruzan, Herb Donkin, Tom Spahn, Shane Baumgartner

(Back L-R) Rick Sweeney, Kent Grossheusch, Terry Mueller, Dan Vrbanic, Tucker Thompson, Jim Swanson

(Front L-R) Chuck Baumgartner, Ken Brown, Neal Mueller, Bill Kruzan, Herb Donkin, Tom Spahn, Shane Baumgartner

The story of The Lantern is one of outstanding accomplishments, which started as a local power and rose to the top in several short seasons. There is little doubt, The Lantern had very few weaknesses, as they were loaded with not only talented softball players, but athletes that knew how to compete. Some became national long ball driving champions in golf, some threw the javelin in world competition, while others became MVPs of the professional softball league and national tournaments in Louisville.

There is no doubt that the success provided by The Lantern created a relationship that still thrives today within the history of Illinois USSSA softball, as they perhaps had the largest impact than any other team in the growth of the Illinois USSSA program.

The list of Lantern players, that includes seven Illinois USSSA Hall of Fame inductees (as of 2009), reads like a Who’s Who of Illinois softball: Tom Spahn, Terry Mueller, Rick Sweeney, Bill Kruzan, Chuck Baumgartner, Benny Holt, Ron Brown, Dennis Sullivan, Herbie Donkin, Jim Walsh, Dick Walsh, Jim Swanson, Neal Mueller, Kenny Brown, Jim Fredericks, Tom Pniak, Irv Porter, Dan Vrbancik, Tom Pegranoff, Gary Girard and Jim Vermaat.

Thank you to The Lantern for lighting the Illinois USSSA pathway so many others could follow in your footsteps toward softball success.

(Back L-R) Dave Shortz, Dennis Sullivan, Butch Steib, Rick Sweeney, Dave Coppert, Terry Mueller, Jim Swanson, Kent Grossheusch, Don Feldott  (Front L-R) Ron Brown, Irv Porter, Herb Donkin, Chuck Baumgartner, Neal Mueller, Gary Girard, Tom Spahn

(Back L-R) Dave Shortz, Dennis Sullivan, Butch Steib, Rick Sweeney, Dave Coppert, Terry Mueller, Jim Swanson, Kent Grossheusch, Don Feldott

(Front L-R) Ron Brown, Irv Porter, Herb Donkin, Chuck Baumgartner, Neal Mueller, Gary Girard, Tom Spahn

2010 Hall of Honor: Kelley's RMA

Kelley’s RMA

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In 1985, team managers Bob Shuga and Dan Britton took Kelley’s RMA team to Brookfield/Milwaukee, Wisconsin and captured and unexpected Class B Divisional Championship.

This Rockford squad, sponsored by Jim Kelley, overcame player losses during the season to come together for one weekend to provide a total team effort. Tournament MVP, Brian Benning, became the team’s offensive leader with seven home runs in nine games. Additional All-Tournament selections included: Kevin Mattson (left field), Randy Torgerson (right center field; 2009 Illinois Hall of Fame inductee), Barry Kramer (first base) and Steve Hutson (second base).

Kelley's RMA copy.jpeg

The other team members of the championship team included: Brand Lindmark (third base; 2003 Illinois Hall of Fame inductee), Ron Shuga (pitcher/third base), Dave Carroll (shortstop), Herb Healy (catcher), Mark Erickson (catcher), Pete Todd (right field) and Dan Britton (pitcher/outfield).

During this Divisional contest, Jim Kelley was so proud that the players from other Rockford-area teams would stay to cheer for his team even though their teams had been eliminated from the tournament already. Jim was so happy for this additional fan support that he invited all of them to stay overnight at his expense to help cheer them on in the finals the next day. To show his pleasure with all those that accepted his offer, Jim bought them all dinner as his “thank you.” This is another talented team sponsored by a long-time softball sponsor.

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Playing in numerous USSSA sponsored events soon developed this team into a fraternity of lifelong friendships and a gathering of successful teammates.

Jim Kelley will always be remembered as one of the best sponsors in the Rockford area. His love of the game and his generosity is unmatched for the number of years he sponsored many competitive Kelley or RMA teams. Jim’s interest in another night to play was also instrumental in the early stages of the eventual development of Forest Hills Diamonds. Jim was inducted into the Illinois USSSA Hall of Fame posthumously in 1998.

2012 Hall of Honor: Belleville Budweiser

Belleville Budweiser

Belleville Budweiser.jpeg

For a 12-year period from 1982 through 1993, one of the better teams to grace the softball fields of Southern Illinois and the Greater St. Louis area was the team of Belleville Budweiser.
Without doubt, they were perhaps one of the finest Class B teams in all of Illinois as they finished in the top ten rankings of the Great Lakes Division seven times.

In 1984, the Belleville team was the last undefeated team in the divisional tournament held at Rockford, before falling to Powers of Michigan to capture 2nd. In Class B divisional tournament play, the Bud squad finished 6th, in 1989, 5th in 1990, 8th in 1991, 4th in 1992, and 6th in 1993. In 1984, the team won the Class B state tournament at Peoria-Pekin, prior to capturing 2nd at the Class A State Tournament at Rockford. In 1987 and 1990 the talented Belleville squad finished 2nd both years at the Class B State tournaments.

This team was loaded with talent, as they presently have six of its members in the Illinois USSSA Hall of Fame. Congratulations to all the members of this fine team.

The following are the members of Belleville Budweiser with Hall of Famers denoted by *.

  • Dennis Albert *
  • Dirk Androff (deceased)*
  • Rick Beatty
  • Jeff Davenport
  • Mark Elbe (deceased)
  • Kevin Elbe
  • Greg Knolhoff
  • Leon Kreher *
  • Mike Kreher *
  • Kevin Mantz
  • Larry Mohme
  • Joe O’Connor
  • Mike O’Connor*
  • Kenny Pour
  • Kevin Pour
  • Ray Pour
  • Al Studt*
  • Mike Werle*

2017 Hall of Honor: Windy City Softball

Windy City Softball

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At the end of the 2006 softball season, the Chicago Classics Red team decided to break apart for numerous reasons. The success of that team made a few players like Roy Ambrose, Bob Kolvitz and Pat Heraty realize that a new team needed to be formed. In 2007, Windy City Softball was formed and was ready to play. The team started playing in many local senior tournaments with much success, and the team ended up the season by winning the prestigious SSUSA 50 and Over Championship in Phoenix, Arizona with a 9-1 record.

In 2008, Windy City continued its winning ways by also winning a USSSA World Championship in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The team went a perfect 6-0 on the way to the championship. All Tournament selections for the tournament included Hall of Famers Jim Cushing, Roy Ambrose, Dennis Muth, Tom Cahill and Denis Goulding.

In 2010, Windy City had one of their most successful years. They first won the ISA 50 and Over World Championship in Nashville, Tennessee in July. In August, they entered the USSSA 50 and Over World Championship in Maumee, Ohio. Playing through some very tough competition, Windy City prevailed as champion with a 5-1 record for the weekend. Roy Ambrose was awarded the MVP of the tournament. Windy City ended the year with another world championship in Las Vegas, Nevada in September with a record of 8-1.

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In 2011 and 2012, Windy City had some more success. In 2011, they won the SSUSA Eastern National Championship in Raleigh, North Carolina. In 2012, they won the ISA World Championship in Columbus, Indiana.

The year 2013 brought a new sponsor, Old Style Beer, and another USSSA World Championship to the team. Playing in St. Louis in the rain, the team went a perfect 4-0 on Saturday including the winner’s bracket championship game. The rain continued all night and play was suspended for Sunday.

The core of this team included Roy Ambrose, Tom Cahill, Brian Campbell, Jim Cushing, Rex Danley, Denis Goulding, Pat Heraty, Bob Kolvitz, Mike McCall, Mike Peura, Jim Phad, Steve Misewicz and Jim Waller have made this team a great team to play for during the years. The team is still playing in the 60 and Over Division today.

2015 Hall of Honor: Indiana Slammers

Indiana Slammers

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To say the Indiana Slammers Women’s Fast Pitch was an accomplished team would be an understatement. Representing 46 universities/colleges with player accolades to include: All American Awards, various College Awards, Cowles Cup and numerous USSSA All State Tournament Team, All World Team, MVP’s, Best Offensive, Best Defensive and Out-Standing Pitchers in State and World Series competition.

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7 Players have played in the National Professional Fast pitch (NPF) program and 5 are currently participating to include: Shanna Diller and Jamie Davison retired from the Rockford Thunder. Whitney Arion is currently playing for PA Rebellion and Kelsi Jones, Kirsten Verdun, Natalie Hernandez and Sammy Marshall currently playing for the Chicago Bandits.

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In 1985 Bob Zivic, Dick Wilson, Dave Safstrom and Dave Zagorski brought this self-sponsored team together after a very successful 16U Youth team finished 5th in a 234 team National Tournament. Girls that started with the 12U, 14U & 16U Slammer teams that went on to play on the Women’s teams include: Angela Grabczak, Kelli Zivic, Danielle Zagorski, Abby Wilhelmi, Mandy Wilhelmi, Jessica Wilson, Cassie Dixon, Amy Atteberry, Sarah Ward and Jeanette Piehl. A total of 13 coaches gave their knowledge and skills to establish this team as a dominant force in all Women’s Fast Pitch in the Midwest. Unfortunately, Coach Dave Zagorski and Coach Jim Kresl have passed away. In addition to Bob Zivic, current coaches include Kirk Piehl since 2000 and Dave Wilson joined the team in 2003.

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Having no Women’s Program in Indiana and 80% of their players living in Illinois, the Slammers started playing most of their tournaments in Illinois. The Indiana Slammers won the Illinois Women’s State Championships (an unprecedented 6 times) in 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2014.  And were crowned USSSA World Series Champions in 2008, 2009 and 2011 and were Runners-up in 2012, 2014 and 2015. The Slammers finished 3rd in 2010 and in 2013. When Coach Zivic was asked his biggest win as a coach he replied, “In Women’s Ball, winning our first USSSA World Series in 2008”.

The Indiana Slammers not only play teams in the Midwest but have also played the Chinese Taipei National Team in 2004 and lost by a 2-0 decision. At the time Chinese Taipei was ranked 3rd in the World.

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In USSSA Women’s tournament play since 2008 the Slammers have a very impressive 123-20 record. And they are still self-sponsored!

To sum up the Indiana Slammers (by former State Director, Brenda Paulson), “They’re a first class organization! Obviously very competitive but their players, coaches and fans are one the most professional groups I have dealt with over my many years in Fast Pitch or Slow Pitch. It gives me great pleasure that this is the very first Fast Pitch team to be honored by the Illinois USSSA selection committee and elected into the IL USSSA Hall of Honor." Thirty-two past and current players, 13 current and former coaches are represented and approximately 65 additional family members are here tonight to support this great organization!"

Good Luck Indiana Slammers in all future endeavors and welcome into the IL USSSA Hall of Honor, all of your members are most deserving of this honor!

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