2004 Meritorious: Dennis Muth

Dennis Muth

Over the years of softball at every level from Class C to Major, Janeville’s Dennis Muth has played on some of the best teams around the Rockford area, including Jumbo’s Pub, Legends, Back Bar, Chipper’s Pub and Shockers.

Over that time, he has played in 27 State Championships in two states, 35 NITs, two World Titles and finished in the top ten in many other World events. Along the way, he’s been named All-Tournament more than 30 times and has earned six Most Valuable Player awards. His most recent MVP was at the USSSA 35 & Over World in 2003.

Asked to give his overall won-lost record, Muth can only say thousands of wins and hundreds of losses.

Muth retired three years ago, but it didn’t last.

“He was going to semi-retire,” USSSA State Director Brenda Paulson said. “But he couldn’t stand it. It was too much for him.”

So Muth continues to play highly competitive softball despite turning 50-years-old this past spring (as of fall 2003). The last two seasons, he has sponsored and pitched for the Shockers, a competitive B team.

It’s good that the Illinois USSSA Hall of Fame does not require people to retire before they’re eligible for induction because it’s unclear whether Muth will ever truly hang up his softball spikes. What is clear is that he is one of those people who is most happy with those spikes on his feet, most alive on a softball field.

“We need more people like Dennis Muth who really love the game of softball,” Paulson said.

We honor Dennis Muth’s long career in softball by welcoming him into the Illinois USSSA Hall of Fame.

2004 Meritorious: Ken Franzen

Ken Franzen

Meritorious 2004_Ken Franzen.jpeg

It is all but impossible to have played serious softball in Illinois for any period of time and not have crossed paths with Ken Franzen. It’s nearly as difficult to pick a category in which to place Ken for induction into the Illinois USSSA Hall of Fame.

As a player, coach, umpire, USSSA official, tournament director and facility director, Franzen has played most every role you can play in softball over the past 30 years, and played them all exceptionally well with dedication and attention to detail.

A star athlete in high school, Ken was a guard on an Elite Eight basketball team. He took that drive and athleticism into the USSSA slow pitch game, helping to bring back a Divisional championship to Rockford.

As a facility director, he managed a wide range of leagues and tournaments over the years, in the process creating one of the most special places anywhere to play and watch softball –Forest Hills Diamonds.

“During his long tenure at Forest Hills, he would spend countless hours grooming his fields,” Illinois USSSA Hall of Fame inductee Bob Papich said. “The outfield was mowed to perfection. The infield was smooth and flat.”

A die-hard Cubs fan, Franzen also graced the outfield fences of Forest Hills Diamonds with Wrigley Field-like ivy.

“What Ken has done for over 30 years is create a garden spot where men and women could play softball,” Papich said.

As an umpire, Franzen has served as State Umpire in Chief, and has conducted numerous innovative and informative clinics that have helped bolster the professionalism of USSSA umpiring.

“He approached his umpire clinics the same way he approached sports, with knowledge and ahrd work,” Papich said. “His knowledge of the rules and how to apply them will always stand out in my mind. If you had a rules question, you went to Ken.”

Finally, as a USSSA official, Franzen has consistently been the type of go-to guy that makes organizations run well. He has been a fixture at USSSA National meetings, bringing his exceptional grasp of the game to the rules committee. In addition, he continues to provide statistical services for the Men’s Major World Series.

Rockford is a much better softball town, and the USSSA a much better softball organization thanks to the love of the game, the hard work and the dedication of Ken Franzen. We formally recognize that hard work and dedication as we welcome Ken into the Illinois USSSA Hall of Fame.