Hall of Fame

Hall of Fame - 2007 Hall of Fame Banquet

Illinois USSSA Hall of Fame Class of 2007

by Irv Porter, www.ilsoftballreport.com

ROCKFORD: The Illinois USSSA held its 13th annual Hall of Fame Induction Banquet on November 3rd, 2007 at the Radisson Hotel & Conference Center in Rockford with twenty-four former inductees in attendance among the crowd of nearly one hundred ninety people coming to honor the six individuals plus added two teams being added to it 'Hall of Honor'. To date eight-seven individuals, three teams, and four 'Lifetime Achievement award winner had been honored as they opened the door to welcome in this years class to their prestigious club.

This years inductees include Cheryl Snyder from Springfield in the Women's Player category, Male players, Bernie Carroll from Elmhurst, Ken Dohm from Grayslake and Leon Kreher New Athens, umpire Marc Musser from Joliet and John 'Smiley' Sturgill from Joliet in the Meritorious Service Category. Two teams were also inducted into the Hall of Honor. Lily Air Systems from Chicago a ball club that played at six USSSA Major World Series in the 1980's and also being recognized was the 2007 USSSA Men's Class C World Champions Shockers / Paul Davis Restoration from Rockford for becoming the second Illinois team to win a USSSA World Title. The only other team from Illinois to win a USSSA World Tournament was the Forest Hills Diamonds ball club in 1976 winning the Men's Class B World Tournament.

After dinner had been served and deserts consumed Co-Master of Ceremonies Chuck Fischer opened the evening program by saying, "Ladies and gentleman the ultimate honor that can be bestowed upon a player, coach, manager, director, umpire, sponsor, or anyone involved in the game of softball in the State of Illinois is be nominated, elected and inducted into the Illinois USSSA Hall of Fame. The first Illinois USSSA Hall of Fame induction ceremony was conducted on March the 23rd 1996. And as of this date eight-seven individuals have received this special honor."

Jeff Brown, Co-Master of Ceremonies introduced the twenty-four 'Hall of Famers' who were attending the evenings festivities they stood as their names were announced and they were recognized by the crowed with cheers.

Fischer introduced umpire Marc Musser from Joliet the evenings first inductee. Marc 'Muss' Musser umpired USSSA softball for seventeen years working the USSSA Women's Class A World Tournament plus many National Invitational Tournaments and numerous Illinois USSSA State Tournaments along the way. Muss was known for his quite way of keeping control in a pressure packed game that made observes mention how he 'made it look like a walk in the park'. He stated that as a player in the early 1970's he played in another softball associations tournament program and came away disappointed in their tournaments but he always enjoyed coming to Rockford to play and later to umpire.

Accepting his place in the 'Hall of Fame' Musser said, "We (umpires) are there to mediate. The best feeling I ever got as an umpire after a game was to actually leave the field and no one said a word, I just walk to my car to drive home and I would say to myself, 'I must of had a great game, no one said a word'. As an umpire that is the greatest thing that could happen to me."

Illinois USSSA Executive State Director Brenda Paulson read his certificate honoring Musser accomplishments of being inducted into the Illinois USSSA Hall of Fame plus awarded him a crystal softball trophy. Paulson said, "Thank you Marc, we've really missed you. You were one of our best umpires ever."

Brown read the highlights from John 'Smiley' Sturgill career as a manager, umpire and director before introducing Scott Hill (Illinois USSSA Hall of Fame Class of 2002) a player on many of Sturgill' s team. John 'Smiley' Sturgill softball career covered over 40 years as a player, manager, umpire and director coaching for twenty-seven years such teams as The Boyz of Hayden Sports, Illusions and Sands Motel.

His teams won nine Illinois USSSA state championships. Sturgill was also Illinois USSSA Director for twenty years and was instrumental in bring the Illinois USSSA into many new areas earning him the 1990 Illinois USSSA Directors Award and he also umpired for twenty-four season and in 1992 he earned the Illinois USSSA Umpire Award.

Hill covered the highlights of their years together on the softball field before adding, "I don't remember agreeing with all of his coaching decisions. In 1984 in Michigan at the Divisional Tournament he sat me on the bench. It's not that I hold a grudge but I think there are a few other people around here that Smiley sat down too. In fact I think he might have the career record for sitting down the most 'Hall of Famers'.

Sturgill while accepting his award spoke about the two years that he served as the Illinois USSSA State director saying, "I did it for two years and that was the end of my career and that is the toughest job in the world, Mrs. Paulson, I love you, I respect you, but I would never to that again." He closed by saying this about softball, "I gave my heart to it."

Brown read the impressive highlights from the Lilly Air Systems ball club remarkable run of a team that many believe to be the best softball team ever from the state Illinois earning a ASA National Championship and earning the right to play at six USSSA Men's Major World Series. Lilly Air Systems from Chicago became the fourth team to be inducted into the Illinois USSSA Hall of Fame. This ball club at the USSSA Major World Tournaments finished with two eighth place finishes and two ninth place finishes from the USSSA Major World Tournament. They earned a national ranking of fifth in in the nation after the 1985 season finishing with a 76-17 record. Seven members of this ball club have been inducted into the Illinois USSSA Hall of Fame including player / sponsor John Lilly, manager Pete Williams and players; Ken Dohm, Al VanGampler, Ron Olesiak, Benny Holt, Tom Spahn and Kurt Steger. Also playing for the Lilly Air Systems ball club during this remarkable successful run were; Tom Chmela, Phil Higgins (Wisconsin USSSA Hall of Fame inductee), Ken Parker, Ron 'T-Bird' Funderberg, Ron Scillian, Dan Barnett, Jake Jacobi, Jim Reeves, Ron Danoski (Wisconsin USSSA Hall of Fame inductee), George Tankas, Jim Burke, Paul Moore, Jay Graziano Don Snyder, Dave Steffan, Ed Ambacher, Tim Russell, Gary Winemaster and Tom Starck. A plaque was given to each individual honoring them as a member of a team that has received the highest honor the Illinois USSSA Hall of Fame has for a team, membership into the Hall of Honor.

The evening third inductee was outfielder Cheryl Snyder. Fisher introduced Snyder an outfielder who played USSSA Women's Softball for ten years with such teams as the Alleycats and ZZZ Fastner and Coors. She was named to the 1980 Women's Class A All-National Tournament team and was also named to the 1984 Women's USSSA Illinois Class A All-State Tournament team. She recalls her first USSSA World Co-Ed tournament. "It was a thrill to be up against the likes of Howard Furniture and the Virginia Bells but the biggest thrill came from the fact that we could actually compete and win against the best teams in the country." Her ZZZ Fastener's mixed squad finished in fifth place at that USSSA Mixed World Tournament.

Fischer read a letter from Carol Stack (Illinois USSSA Hall of Fame Class of 2006) who stated this about Snyder, "In the 1980's decade that witness women's competitive softball at its highest level. The most highly skilled women's players locally, state wide, regionally and nationally were seeking to play with the very best players at their positions to compete for state & nationally title and Coors was no exception." Her letter went on to say, "Cheryl was the linchpin that brought that team together, kept it together and pushed to be the best team it could be."

Accepting her place in the Illinois USSSA Hall of Fame Snyder spoke of her father who passed away last January, "he knew that I was going to be inducted this year. One of his last comments was 'enjoy that opportunity and moment'." Snyder went on to say, "The support that mom and dad gave me was incredible" she closed by speaking of the lessons she learned in life from softball by saying, "what happens between the lines is the same thing that happens off the field... give everything you got at every moment that you can no matter what is going on."

Brown introduced Shockers / Paul Davis Restoration from Rockford are the reigning 2007 USSSA Men's Class C World Champions going undefeated (8-0) at the Disney Wide World of Sports at Orland Florida complex this past September. They complied a 105 -23 record during the 2007 softball season winning thirteen tournaments including the 2007 Illinois USSSA Men's Class B State title. Players included Illinois USSSA Hall of Famer Dennis Muth plus Danny Jordan, Matthew Rear, Brandon Riese, Travis Clark, Kenny Hopkins, Justin Wicnicki (MVP of 2007 USSSA Men's Class C World Tournament), Dustin Fuller, Drew Anderson (Offensive MVP of the 2007 USSSA Men's Class C World Tournament), John Alonso, Todd Ankeny, Steve Briggs, Jim Duncan, Larry Gowan, Ricky Grimes, Greg Malcomson, Greg Marchini, Shaun Odea and Brian Schoester. All players from this 2007 USSSA Men's Class C World Champions received a plaque that honors each individual as a member of a team that now resides in the Illinois USSSA Hall of Fame's 'Hall of Honor'.

Fischer introduced Ken Dohm by reading from his career highlights stating that Dohm played outfield for such highly regarded teams as Lilly Air Systems, Joker's and Joe Black's batting over .700 for his career and an average of around thirty home runs per season play at the top levels in softball. His pedigree includes two Illinois USSSA All-State Tournament teams, two N.I.T. All-Tournament teams, four time selected to USSSA Divisional All-Tournament teams and a Class AA USSSA All-World Team selection in 1990 at Kalamazoo, Michigan. He remembers playing in his first 'Major World Tournament' with the top twelve ranked teams in the nation also competing there as a chance to play with the best of the best.

Fischer brought Dohm former teammate and later his manager Tom Starck to the podium to introduce Dohm to the audience. Starck said," When Ken Dohm came to his Jokers ball club 1984 his former manager with Lilly Air Systems, Pete Williams (Illinois USSSA Hall of Fame Class of 1996) told me that I was getting one hell of a player. He also told me that Ken went an entire year with never getting less than two hits in a league or tournament game. Never a one for never a oh for, that's amazing!." Starck went onto say this about Dohm, "The man had no ego to get into the way of the teams success, no demands, just a commitment to win. This from a guy who always looked impeccable. K. D. always managed to iron each and every uniform." Starck closed by saying, "K. D. was always a pros, pro."

Accepting his place in the Hall of Fame Dohm said, "I feel the reason I am up here tonight is because I was given the opportunity to play with some of the greatest teams, greatest players, greatest sponsors, Lilly Air, Joe Black. In closing Its great to get an honor like this for something a truly love to do, play softball. Thank you very much."

Brown next read the highlights of Bernie Carroll career that spanned three decades. Bernie Carroll thirty year softball career consisted of twenty one years playing USSSA softball in the state of Illinois for such teams as One Hour Cleaners, Ken Adams Softball, Bank of Westmont, Mid American Concrete and Ken's Beverage. A powerful left-handed hitter with a lifetime batting average of .575 and more than 1,200 home run to his credit Carroll was a versatile player who could pitch, catch, play first baseman or the outfield. Among his three tournament MVP awards included a Class B NIT and a Illinois State Tournament. He has two USSSA All-World Tournament teams honors to his credit and has played on sixteen Illinois USSSA State championship teams during his career.

Brown brought Carroll's long time manager Don Loid (Illinois USSSA Hall of Fame Class of 2003) to the podium to introduced his good friend and teammate. While marking his remarks about Carroll, Loid mentioned that in 1996 they won the USSSA Men's 35 & Over Major World Tournament and in 1997 they were back in the finals of the USSSA 35 & Over Major World Tournament playing Bunca Car Wash from Michigan and were down by almost the run rule when Loid made a pitching chance to bring in Carroll who shut down the Michigan squads attack. Loid aid, "He get a couple of hits including a big home run." He should have been the MVP of that tournament, I'm sure he made the All-World Tournament team but that's the kind of guy he was, he comes in an does what needs to be done. He played a lot of positions for us." Loid closed by saying, "He's a hell of a competitor."

Carroll reach the podium to face a sea of paper faces of himself spoke of his family and what it means to him. Carroll spoke to a table of umpires saying, "I want to apologies now, I should have much earlier, you guys are great. I just have an opinion." Carroll spoke about his family, his children and what they mean to him. He spoke of his great friends he has made from softball. The emotion of the moment got to him and he managed to say, "I'm done" to close his acceptance speech

Fischer now introduced the evenings last inductee Leon Kreher. Kreher patrolled the outfield for Belleville Budweiser while posting a career batting average of over .625 while consistently popping home runs over the fence for his ball club. His ball club qualified and played at the USSSA World Tournaments every year from 1975 through 1992 (two were Class A and the rest were Class B). His 1984 Belleville Budweiser ball club won the Illinois USSSA Men's Class B State title and finished second at the USSSA Great Lakes Divisional Tournament. He was named to numerous 'All-Tournament' teams during his twenty-two year long playing career. Kreher wound up playing with the Bomber's a team that has been in existence for thirty-seven years

Fischer brought Leon brother Mike to the podium to say a few words about his brother. Mike Kreher had this to say about his little brother, "We (Belleville Budweiser) played against the best from St Louis and usually won and we feared playing no team from Illinois." Mike Kreher went on to ask all the Leon's, Bomber's teammates in the audience to stand and give Leon his first standing ovation as a 'Hall of Famer'. They complied followed and were closely by the rest of the crowd on nearly two hundred people.

In accepting his place in the Illinois USSSA Hall of Fame Kreher said, "I used to watch Mike play when I was younger he always hustled a lot like Pete Rose and that inspired me to play and play hard all the time." He added "It is such a great honor to even be mention along with all the great players who are already in the Hall of Fame." Kreher closed by thanking his former teams the Loggers and Belleville Budweiser for giving him the opportunity to play at eight straight USSSA Men's Class A or B World Tournaments over Labor Day Weekend and he gave a special thank you to his current Bombers team which he has played for the past sixteen seasons for supporting him today with over twenty five people making the trek from Southern Illinois to Rockford to be here on this night.

Paulson recognized the Illinois USSSA Hall of Fame Committee one by one as they stood receiving an ovations from the crowd.

The evening last item on the agenda was handled by Brown who made the announcement of who will be inducted next year into the Illinois USSSA Hall of Fame. The Banquet will be held again at the Radisson Hotel & Conference Center in Rockford on Saturday November 8th, 2008.

The Illinois USSSA Hall of Fame Class of 2008 will include; Kathy Philips from Paris (Sponsor of Prime Time); Roy Ambrose from Naperville (Male Player) who played for Thunder, FCA from Aurora, WWJD and The Barn; Vicky Brown from Rockford (Female Player) she played with First National Bank of Rochelle, Prairie Moon Saloon, and King Potter; Mike Kueker- from Red Bud (Male Player) who played for First National Bank of Red Bud; Jeri Siegried-Mueller from Evansville (Female Player) who played for Dashners and Plums/Bud Light; Myron Schroeder from Downs (Meritorious Service); plus two team to be inducted into the 'Hall of Honor' The Chicagoan's from Chicago (Women's Class A); and 1990 Boy's Slow-Pitch World Champions, Team Illinois Foxes from Downs; and last in the Honoree Category, Chuck Fischer from Kentucky the Master of Ceremonies for all twelve Illinois USSSA Hall of Fame Induction Banquets.

Event Photos

click to enlarge