Category Archives: History

IHSBCA Hall of Fame inductee Johnston was in professional baseball for six decades

By STEVE KRAH
http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Lenny “Lefty” Johnston was part of the professional baseball for six decades.
Born in Pontiac, Mich. on March 15, 1928, and graduated as a football, basketball and baseball standout from Arthur Hill High School (Saginaw, Mich.) and football and baseball star at Western Michigan University (Kalamazoo), Johnston was signed by the Chicago White Sox by Johnny Mostil and Doug Minor in 1952.
Johnston stole 325 bases and led his league in stolen bags for six consecutive seasons (1953-58).
He was The Sporting News Minor League Rookie of the Year for the Colorado Springs Sky Sox of the Western League in 1953.
In 1956 — his second of 12 Triple-A seasons — Johnston led the International League with 182 hits for the Richmond Virginians.
The last seven of his 15 minor league campaigns as a player was spent with the Indianapolis Indians (1960-66). The Indians won championships in 1961 (American Association), 1962 (American Association) and 1963 (International League South). Johnston was a player-coach in his last two seasons.
At 35, hit .316 and finished second in batting in 1964. He smacked four home run and drove in 67 runs in 127 games.
A lefty swinging and throwing outfielder, Johnston hit .304 in 76 games with the 1960 Indianapolis team managed by Johnny Hutchings and Ted Beard. The Indians were then a Philadelphia Phillies farm team.
He hit .297 in 113 games for the Cot Deal-managed 1961 Indians (then a Cincinnati Reds affiliate).
In 1962, Indianapolis was part of the Chicago White Sox system and the ties remained through Johnston’s career in Indy. He hit .270 with 45 runs batted in over 113 games for a ’62 team managed by Luke Appling (who went into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1964).
Rollie Hemsley skippered the 1963 Indians and Johnston hit .262 with four home runs and 30 RBIs in 115 games.
Les Moss managed the 1964 Indians to a second place finish in the Pacific Coast League East.
Johnston hit .206 in 81 games for the 1965 Indians (fourth in the PCL East). George Noga was the manager.
Moss was back as manager in 1966. Johnston hit .251 in 94 games and the Tribe placed third in the PCL East.
Among his other managers are Hobart, Ind., native Everett Robinson plus Don Gutteridge, Danny Murtaugh, Eddie Lopat and Rube Walker.
Johnston will be enshrined in the Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame during the IHSBCA State Clinic Jan. 12-14 at Sheraton at Keystone Crossing in Indianapolis. The Hall of Fame and awards banquet is slated for 7 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 13 at the Sheraton. Other inductees will be Kelby Weybright, Drew Storen, Jeff Samardzija and the late Wayne Johnson.
For questions about banquet reservations, program advertisements or events leading up to the ceremony, contact Hall of Fame chairman Jeff McKeon at 317-445-9899.
Banquet tickets can be purchased at https://www.cognitoforms.com/Baseball3%20_2023IHSBCAStateClinic and can be picked up from Jeff on the night of the banquet at the registration table. Tickets must be purchased in advance.
“Lefty” Johnston married for the second time in Indianapolis and had two sons — David and Danny (who is now caregiver for his 93-year-old father in Nashville, Tenn.).
Johnston had three children from a previous marriage in Michigan and had three older children — Tommy, Janie and Kim. In total, he has five children, 12 grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.
According to Danny Johnston, his father “loves Florida and loved coaching there.
“He also loved Bluefield, Va., where he spent part of three decades with the Bluefield Orioles coaching, mentoring and coordinating.”
As a national cross-checker scout “Lefty” was responsible for Tito Landrum coming to the Orioles.
Landrum hit the homer that gave Baltimore the lead in Game 4 of the 1983 ALCS and the O’s eventually made it to the World Series. 
“He was proud to have been a part of that,” says Danny Johnston.
He resided in Indianapolis for 50 years during the winters and helped sell season tickets for the Indians and was a substitute teacher and sold insurance for Lincoln National Life.
Johnston has been inducted into both Western Michigan’s Football Hall of Fame and Baseball Hall of Fame.
In 2010, “Lefty” received the Herb Armstrong Award for his contributions to baseball and the organization, and he was inducted into the Orioles Hall of Fame.
Johnston went into the Appalachian League Hall of Fame in 2020.

Lenny “Lefty” Johnston. (Baltimore Orioles Photo)

Gries cherishes memories of coaching at Evansville Central, Tri-State Hot Stove League

By STEVE KRAH
http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Paul Gries has been a very active member of the Evansville, Ind., athletic community.
The Pocket City native taught for 34 years in the Evansville Vanderburgh School Corporation — 10 at Plaza Park (K-8) and the rest at Central High School. His main subjects were Physical Education and Health.
Whatever the season, Gries was organizing and coaching youngsters in flag football, softball, baseball, soccer, basketball and more.
In 1978, he accepted an invitation to join John Wessel’s Central boys basketball coaching staff.
In 1980, he was asked to be a Bears baseball assistant.
“We hardly had a program at all,” says Gries, who took over as head coach in 1981 and began working in earnest on Central’s field.
“If you want to call it a field,” says Gries. “It was nothing. But I had dreams of what I wanted the baseball field to look like.”
With the help of players, coaches and parents, a diamond which was named in honor of Gries in 2016 (Paul Gries Field was dedicated in 2017 a few days after Gries underwent heart surgery) was steadily-crafted.
Gries, 79, was head baseball coach at Central for 21 seasons (1981-2001) before retiring at 58 and going into the Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 2002.
His teams went 408-196 and earned the first seven sectional titles in program history (1981, 1984, 1987, 1990, 1996, 1997 and 1998) plus the first two regional championships (1981 and 1987) and only semistate crown (1987). Central lost 4-1 to the LaPorte’s mythical national champions in the ’87 state championship game at Bush Stadium in Indianapolis.
Gries coached in the IHSBCA North/South All-Star Series in 1987 and was named National Coach of the Year in 2000.
“I had some good players (including 1985 graduate and future big league pitcher Andy Benes) and tied to get the most out of every player,” says Gries. “I was spending 14-hour days at Central High School. I was putting every ounce into it.
“It just wore me out.”
It was in 1987 that Gries was approached by longtime professional baseball man and Evansville resident “Singing” Ed Nottle, who had a daughter who was taught by Gries.
Nottle wanted to help Gries and other coaches raise money for their programs.
“We had car washes, candy sales and whatever you can image, but we were making making peanuts until Ed came along,” says Gries, who gathered all the high school and college coaches in town at the EVSC office and what came from planning sessions was the Friends of Bosse Field “Night of Memories.”
What began as a group of former baseball professionals who wanted to ensure that the history of Bosse Field would not be forgotten while fundraising turned into the Tri-State Hot Stove League. Gries served with that organization for 31 years, including stints as vice president and president, and is still involved.
One of the first “Night of Memories” guests was National Baseball Hall of Famer Yogi Berra. Gries flew to New Jersey to bring Yogi to town.
Over the years, Evansville native and Indiana Baseball Hall of Famer Don Mattingly aka “Donnie Baseball” was at the first special night and has only missed it on a few occasions.
Gries coached Taylor Mattingly (Don’s oldest son) at Central. When Don was playing for the New York Yankees, he would get in the batting cage take swings after winter workouts by the Bears.
“He’d say, ‘Paul, give me some situations.’ I’d, ‘man on third, tie game, one out in the eighth or ninth inning’ and Mattingly just hit those fly balls,” says Griese. “It was unbelievable how Mattingly prepared himself.”
The next Tri-State Hot Stove League “Night of Memories” is scheduled for Saturday, Jan. 21, 2023 at Meeks Family Fieldhouse in the Carson Center at the University of Evansville. A paid autograph session is slated from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. Central Time followed by a chat and live/silent auction at 6.
Featured guests include Don Mattingly, Jamey Carroll, Jerad Eickhoff, Aaron Barrett, Colson Montgomery, Elijah Dunham, Cameron Decker, Wayne Hagin, Denny McLain, Darrell Evans and Graig Nettles.
“He’s unbelievable,” says Gries of emcee Hagin, who has been a play-by-play man for the Oakland Athletics, San Francisco Giants, Chicago White Sox, Colorado Rockies, St. Louis Cardinals and New York Mets. “People love listening to the stories.”
Among past guests: Mattingly, Carroll, Eickhoff, Barrett, Hagin, Gabby Allison, Rick Ankiel, Clint Barmes, Andy Benes, Yogi Berra, Raymond Berry, Lou Brock, Don Buse, Steve Carlton, Jack Clark, Roger Clemens, Danny Cox, Andre Dawson, Jim Edmonds, George Foster, Kyle Freeland, Steve Garvey, Bob Gibson, Goose Gossage, Mark Grace, Bob Griese, Kevin Hardy, Keith Hernandez, Whitey Herzog, Paul Hornung, Al Hrabosky, Andruw Jones, Tommy John, Jim Kiick, Harmon Killebrew, Lily King, Ray Lankford, Tony LaRussa, Johnny Latner, Larry Little, Gaylord Perry, Bobby Plump, Ozzie Smith, Bob Feller, Brooks Robinson, Scott Rolen, Enos Slaughter, Frank Robinson, Andy Van Slyke, Lee Smith and Brad Wilkerson.
“They come from all over when they know Don Mattingly is here,” says Gries. “They can get close to him. People in New York can’t do that.”
College/Pro Football Hall of Famer Griese (Rex Mundi High School Class of 1963 and Purdue University Class of 1967) has been to many “Night of Memories.”
“We do this for the kids,” says Gries, who notes that the a non-profit group has raised close to $2 million for youth athletics and youth-focused organizations in Indiana, Illinois and Kentucky in three decades.
Gries says the event at its peak netted up to $90,000 in one day.
Some of the money has been given to Habitat for Humanity. Gries says Mattingly, Bob Griese, Brian Griese (Bob’s son who now coaches with the San Francisco 49ers), Calbert Cheaney (a 1989 Evansville Harrison High School graduate who played at Indiana University, the National Basketball Association and now coaches with the Indiana Pacers) and Naismith Basketball Hall of Famer Jerry Sloan (who played at Evansville College and the NBA and was a longtime NBA coach) all
gave large sums to sponsor homes.
A 1961 graduate of Evansville Mater Dei High School, Gries’ prep baseball coach was Len Will (an Indiana Football Hall of Famer).
“He was the gentlest man that I know,” says Gries. “That was the example he shared with us (athletes).”
On the basketball court, Gries eclipsed the 40-point mark three times including a single-game record of 44. That was long before the 3-point arc was put in place. Mater Dei was led on the hardwood by Ed Schultheis in Gries’ freshman and sophomore years and Tom Gore in his junior and senior seasons.
Gries went to Indiana State College (now Indiana State University) for basketball and baseball during an era when freshmen were not allowed to play on the varsity.
The injury bug kept biting him on the hardwood. He suffered torn cartilage working out early in his freshman year then experienced ankle and groin ailments as a sophomore and decided not to stick with the Duane Klueh-coached Sycamores.
On the diamond, Gries earned three letters (1963-65, helping the Sycamores go a combined 37-24-2) playing for Paul Wolf (who wound up as a member of both the IHSBCA Hall of Fame and ISU Athletics Hall of Fame).
One of his fond memories is playing catch with future IHSBCA Hall of Famer Tommy John and having John feed the pitching machine for him during preseason workouts before the 1961 Terre Haute Gerstmeyer High School valedictorian reported to spring training.
Gries paced Indiana State in batting average, hits and runs as a junior in 1964 (.357, 25 and 20 ) and senior in 1965 (.413, 26 and 13). He hit .439 in conference games and was Indiana Collegiate Conference co-MVP with Ball State’s Merv Rettenmund (who went on to play 13 in the majors with the Baltimore Orioles, Cincinnati Reds, San Diego Padres and California Angels and coached for the Texas Rangers, Oakland Athletics, San Diego Padres twice, Atlanta Braves and Detroit Tigers).
“The great thing about Paul Wolf is that he was old school,” says Gries.
Wolf was a minor league middle infielder 1926-33, including time with the Indianapolis Indians in 1930-31. He was able to pass on wisdom to Gries, who was a switch-hitting shortstop at Indiana State and moved to second base in his second of two pro seasons in the Washington Senators organization (1965-66).
“Pee Wee” (he was 5-foot-9 and 157pounds) spent much of the 1965 Appalachian League season on the disabled list with a sprained ankle after a collision at home plate.
It was during the Vietnam War era and Gries left baseball to joined the U.S. Army Reserves and got married for the first time.
“I got to see the difference between high school and college and college and pro,” says Gries. “What a big step it is.”
Divorced in 1989, Gries was single for 14 years and has been married to Mary, a fellow Catholic who moved to Evansville from Auburn, Ind., for 19 years.
Gries has five children, 10 grandchildren and one great-grandchild.
“They are the joy of my life,” says Gries. “I’m going to spend as much time with my kids as I can.”

Paul Gries.
Paul Gries at the Tri-State Hot Stove League “Night of Memories.”

Hall of Famer Sherman offers diamond wisdom

By STEVE KRAH
http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Don Sherman won more than 600 high school baseball games during his 38 seasons as a head coach, beginning with Tipton and Hamilton Heights.
In 23 seasons at Huntington (Ind.) North, Sherman’s Vikings went 441-211 with 15 sectional championships, three regionals, one semistate and one state runner-up (1993).
His final season was 2001.
“I’m so proud of this,” says Sherman. “It didn’t end. The people are following me. They’re doing the same things.
“We have a community here.”
Sherman still finds himself serving as a substitute teacher nearly every school day and is a regular at Vikings practices and games and often talks baseball with current Huntington North head coach Jarod Hammel.
He even goes to the field solo and plays “fungo golf.”
Sherman, whose 23 is the only number retired for the Huntington North Athletics/Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer and a former Tampa Bay associate scout for, loves to share his wisdom about the game.
A few years ago, he crafted a list of “Things kids need to know in order to give them the best chance to make their high school baseball team.”

  • Respect the game.
  • Practice hard because you play the way you practice.
  • It doesn’t take any talent to hustle.
  • Be a student of the game of baseball. Study the history of baseball.
  • Help your team win … whether you play or not.
  • Don’t tell people how good you are, show them.
  • Your parents love you; but, they don’t more than your coach loves baseball.
  • Body language screams. It never whispers.
  • Defense wins more games than offense.
  • Work on your game every day: throwing, hitting, fielding.
  • You don’t have to be a great athlete to be a good baseball player.
  • When you jog to warm up, finish first.
  • When you do a drill, do it perfect every time.
  • Never walk on the baseball field.
  • Maintain the grades that keep you eligible.

Sherman was kind enough to expound on some of these points.
“Respecting the game — that goes back a long way,” says Sherman. “It’s just playing the right way. It’s just how you put your suit on; how you take your infield drills; how you act after your strike out with the bases loaded; how you act after a game you lost versus when you won the game; how you act when you’re 0-for-3 versus 3-for-3 at the plate.
“You put all that together and it’s called respect for the game that was set up by a lot of people in front of us that played it and coached it.
“I can spot disrespect for the game. A kid might not run out a ball or throws hit glove or his bat. Or he gives the third base coach flak who puts on a bunt when he wanted to hit away when the bunt was in-order.”
And there’s more.
“It’s when the game finishes to put away equipment. It’s how you ride the bus. How do you go to South Bend to play a game and what’s your conduct?”
Sherman grew up in central Pennsylvania as a catcher.
“My coach stood right behind me,” says Sherman. “I heard everything he said when he hit infield. I heard every detail, every comment he made.”
After two years of junior college ball in California, Sherman earned two letters (1962 and 1963) at Ball State Teachers College (now Ball State University) in Muncie, Ind., for head coach Ray Louthen.
Sherman talks about “Helping the team win … whether you play or not.”
He recalls a coach telling him how he was impressed with his second- and third-string catchers (Sherman had a starter and two other receivers).
“They accepted their roles,” says Sherman of the backups. “They weren’t going to get in the game, but they did the important part of getting my starters ready.”
Starters — plural — because Sherman took the advice of Ken Schreiber (winner of 1,010 games and seven state titles) about warming up two pitchers before a championship game in case the starter doesn’t have it that day and could lose the contest in the first inning.
“The hardest part of coaching today from what I hear from younger coaches is parents complaining about their kids not playing,” says Sherman. “That’s why it’s important for the kids to buy in early and accept their role. It might be as a late-inning pinch hitter. It might be as a pinch-runner. It might be as a relief pitcher. You might be playing third base when you came up as a right fielder or something like that.
“I’ve found that kids accept their roles better than their parents do. I cut a senior one time. He wasn’t going to get to play. I told him practice was going to be his gameday. We parted amicably. I was honest with him.”
Sherman had some players tell him they came out every year because they “liked being a Viking and being part of the team.”
These kind of players never gave the gave any problems. He never kept a “clubhouse lawyer.”
“The season’s long and those kids in the dugout while you’re coaching third (base) are politicking about ‘why am I not playing’ and that spreads. I could always spot them and I would have a sit-down and ask ‘can you accept your role?’”
Sherman contends “You don’t have to be a great athlete to be a good baseball player.”
“You can have a kid that’s 5-foot-6 who can run a little bit and put him at second base,” says Sherman. “He might lay down that bunt that gets the winning run moved over.
“In so many other sports you’ve got to be a physical specimen. You don’t in baseball.”
While conducting tryout camps for Tampa Bay, Sherman saw a sorts of body types. Oftentimes the best players did not have the best bodies.
Sherman explains where he came up with “When you do a drill, do it perfect every time.”
“You never know who’s watching,” says Sherman. “The pros time you when you come out of the (batter’s) box during batting practice.
“I thought pregame was so important. I copied (Mississippi State coach) Ron Polk’s pregame and had two balls moving at the same time. We’re just getting after it. We go around the horn and turn double plays.”
Sherman had what he called “negatives” more muffs and missed cut-off men.
If there was less than perfection during the drill, the whole team might have a do push-ups or some extra running.
“It’s the old military way,” says Sherman, who saw players begin to hold each other accountable. “They coached each other.”
It’s also on Sherman’s checklist to “Never walk on the baseball field.”
“Kids know that when they get inside that gate, inside that foul line they know to hustle,” says Sherman. “That’s when practice starts.
“You’re going to practice now and the purpose is to get better.”
There also the principle of “Don’t tell people how good you are, show them.”
“Show me with your effort and your skill set rather than what somebody else said about you (in a showcase setting),” says Sherman. “It’s humble being humble. If you wear your emotions on your sleeve, scouts and college coaches will look at that and say you’re a ‘front-runner.’”
To Sherman, “Body language screams. It never whispers.”
“It’s how you conduct yourself,” says Sherman.
There was one game when his best player struck out and threw his bat. The umpire did not eject the player, but Sherman took him out of the game.
“I’ll leave games today if I see that kind of stuff (including a lack of hustle),” says Sherman. “I hate bad baseball.”
The IHSBCA long ago began a tradition of giving on “Dinosaur” T-shirts to those hitting the 20-year mark. Sherman says he has worn out a few of his.
He is proud that he got to coach against and serve with Hall of Famers Dave Alexander, Bill Jones, Jack Massucci, Bill Nixon, Jim Reinebold, Chris Rood, Ken Schreiber, Dick Siler, Chris Stavreti and Jim Turner Sr., and so many others who have made the game what it is today.

Don Sherman. (Steve Krah Photo)
Huntington North was IHSAA baseball state runner-up in 1993.
Huntington North Vikings.

IHSBCA Hall of Famers Calloway, Phares reflect, share views

By STEVE KRAH
http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Ty Calloway and George Phares were on opposite sides as coaches of baseball and basketball in Indiana’s Howard County.
Calloway, a 1968 graduate of Western High School in Russiaville was at his alma mater and 1965 Shelbyville Senior High School grad Phares at Taylor High School on the side side of Kokomo.
Success came to both men and Phares (656-412 in seven seasons at Morristown and 31 at Taylor with an IHSAA Class 2A state championship for the Titans in 2000) was inducted into the Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 2004. Calloway (662-310 with a 3A state title in 2012) joined his friend in the Hall in 2012 and retired after the 2013 season.
Taylor’s diamond was renamed Phares Field in 2006. After retiring from the classroom, he helped out at Indiana Wesleyan University in Marion on the staffs of Mark DeMichael and Chad Newhard for seven or eight years.
Phares says he enjoyed his interactions with former Bethel University assistant and fellow IHSBCA Hall of Famer Dick Siler.
Future major league pitcher Brandon Beachy went Northwestern High School in Howard County to IWU.
Phares also volunteered at Taylor and Kokomo and could be seen in recent years helping each January with registration at the IHSBCA State Clinic in Indianapolis. He is also on Hall of Fame selection committees.
As retirees, Calloway and Phares share a log cabin on Dewart Lake near Leesburg in Kosciusko County. They often spend New Year’s Eve there with wives Dallas Calloway and Martha Phares.
Ty and Dallas are the parents of Wendy and Betsy. George and Martha have Jennifer, Tim and Susan.
“We are the second-most famous George and Martha in the United States,” says Phares with a nod to the Washington’s.
Recently, Calloway and Phares offered their views on a variety of topics related to baseball and education.
Calloway was in the last eighth grade class that went through in Taylor Township prior to the completion of the high school.
Ty’s two younger brothers — two and three years behind him — both went to Taylor.
“My parents had to split time going to my games and their games,” says Ty, who got to compete against middle brother Mike on both the diamond and the basketball court.
Mike’s class played a junior varsity schedule as freshmen then a varsity schedule as sophomores.
There was one baseball game between the two schools where Ty was on second base and one of his teammates hit a deep fly to center field.
“We didn’t have fences back then at Western,” says Ty. “Mike took off and I thought for sure it was over his head and I came all the way and stepped on home plate. All of a sudden, he did one of those ‘Willie Mays’ over-the-back catches. I had to retreat back. He threw (me) out at second.
“I was at shortstop when we picked Mike off second base. That was an interesting game.”
Ty and Mike guarded each other on the hardwood.
There was one season of baseball for Ty at Ball State University in Muncie and summers with the Kokomo Highlanders. He went on to earn a bachelors and a masters degree at BSU. He applied in several places but was offered a chance to teach and coach at Western by Norm Llewellyn and took it.
Calloway taught middle school Health and Physical Education.
Beginning in the spring of 1974, he was JV baseball coach for four years. He was also a varsity assistant or JV boys basketball coach for about 20 years.
Phares played baseball at Seymour High School as a freshman and the next three at Shelbyville. He went to Indiana State University and was cut from the team.
He graduated with a degree in Mathematics and Physical Education and went to Morristown in 1969-70.
“I had played (American) Legion baseball at Morristown and knew a lot of people there,” says Phares. “They hired me as a junior high baseball coach. I graduated from college on Sunday and Monday I started working. I was made head coach at the end of the first year.
“Throughout my high school career I was always the head baseball coach.”
Phares was also a varsity assistant in basketball at the beginning of his time at Taylor.
Calloway says it was his raising with his brothers and sister that led to his philosophy as a coach.
“My dad taught self-discipline and being responsible,” says Ty. “No matter whatever did give 100 percent effort and that’s what I told (our players) we’re gonna get.”
At tryout time when it came down to cutting down the roster and Calloway had two players of equal ability, character would be the tiebreaker.
Students and athletes on Calloway’s watch were expected to behave.
“You can’t win with kids who have bad character,” says Calloway. “You’ve got to have good kids.
“As much as you can you’ve got to be a good role model for those kids.”
Between the lines, Calloway stressed fundamentals and saw to it that those were being taught at Russiaville Little League.
Among those fundamentals was the proper throwing mechanics.
“The teams that win games are the teams that play the best pitch and catch,” says Calloway. “That’s a fact.”
Calloway organized practices where his player got plenty of repetitions and got better.
“In high school baseball, reps is the key to winning,” says Calloway. “Sometimes I said we play too many games. We need a couple more practice in-between.”
Calloway says games are where skills are showcased. Practices are where they are built.
One Western player who got better even after being cut multiple times was Steve Bagby. He started as a senior then played in the outfield at Coastal Carolina University.
“He was one of those kids who just kept getting better and better and better,” says Calloway of Bagby. “He matured and he worked on a skill.”
Both former coaches talked about dealing with parents.
“I was blessed,” says Phares. “I really didn’t have problems mount. I had parents who were unhappy. I tried to explain things to them and — for the most part — it worked out OK.
“You try to be fair.”
Calloway says he had few problems with parents during his lengthy career.
“You went to be straight up with them,” says Calloway. “You want the administration to back you.”
Phares, who later coached in the college ranks, made a point of being a straight shooter when a college coach came to evaluate of one of his players or even others in the area.
“I was always honest with him,” says Phares. “High school coaches can’t lie to those college coaches. You gotta tell the truth.
“Most parents would rank their kid better in their skill level than where they’re at. It’s just nature.”
Calloway was the same way. He’d know an athlete’s potential and his maturity level and would share that with recruiters.
“You’ve got to have the skill,” says Calloway. “And you have to have the strength and the speed. I’ve had a kid who had the skill and strength but was slower than molasses and couldn’t play at the (NCAA) Division I level.”
Many parents and players don’t realize that a “full-ride” scholarship is a rare thing in college baseball with rosters of 30-plus and 13.7 scholarships at the D-I level (and less at D-II, NAIA etc.).
Phares became a Brooklyn Dodgers fan in 1955 the year the team won the World Series and his home is full of Dodgers memorabilia.
Through his relationship with Dodgers scout Dale McReynolds (who signed Bob Welch, Jeff Hamilton and Steve Howe), there is a photo of Hall of Famer Tommy Lasorda standing with Phares and Calloway.
It was the New York Yankees — who won plenty and were on the “Game of the Week” on TV with Dizzy Dean and Peewee Reese at the mic as Calloway was growing up that became his team.
The coaching veterans are not fans of some of baseball’s changes reflected in Major League Baseball and moving down.
“It’s changed for the worse,” says Phares. “Now the baseball game has become kind of a side show and all the antics of the players.
“They all have to flip their bats, stare down and do this and do that. I just don’t like it. It’s television. That’s what they want. I can’t stand to watch the Little League World Series anymore. They’re encouraging those kids to act like (the bat-flipping big leaguers).
“When they get to high school they’re got a bad attitude.”
Calloway sees a lot of self-centered behavior.
“The the Little League to the high school you’re starting to see kids where it’s about ‘me’ instead of ‘we.’”
He sees it reflected in Kokomo shrinking at the neighborhood park level. Many are leaving for travel ball and the youth leagues have shut down leaving them to play at Championship Park.
“We had a park in about every little area of town — UCT, Southside, Indian Heights, Northside,” says Calloway. “Local teams now are dwindling.”
When Calloway was coaching he would often have his top players on a travel or American Legion team and then there was a focus on the others.
“If I could devote time and make my 6 through 9 players better than your 6 through 9 players I’m going to beat you because baseball is consistently up and down the lineup,” says Calloway. “We would work in the off-season to develop these kids.”
Phares always enjoyed going to clinics and attended about four every year. He went with a purpose.
“My goal is to find one thing that we can use that will fit the Taylor Titan program that we can use to make us better,” says Phares. “I don’t think most coaches have a program. They play their games and they spend all winter going to these (showcase) camps and saying this kid throws 95 mph.”
The way Phares sees it, a testament to a program is one that can do well with multi-sport athletes who have chosen not to specialize in one area.
“(Taylor) didn’t have enough athletes and had to pass them around,” says Phares.

George Phares (left) and Ty Calloway. (Steve Krah Photo)

Foundry Field project using baseball to build community in South Bend’s urban core, tell hidden histories

By STEVE KRAH
http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Enriching the community through baseball and telling the stories of underrepresented groups is the aim of bringing Foundry Field to South Bend’s Southeast Neighborhood Park.
A vision meeting attended by 10 people happened in the fall of 2018. The project was launched in 2019.
“We’re passionate about it,” says Matthew Insley, project chairman and Sappy Moffitt Field Foundation president. “We’re all committed to South Bend.
“We were slowed by COVID-19. But that presented an opportunity to dig in with partnerships.”
Community partners include Boys & Girls Club of St. Joseph County, Center for Social Concerns at the University of Notre Dame, Civil Rights Heritage Center at Indiana University South Bend, South Bend Community School Corporation, South Bend Venues, Parks & Arts, Southeast Organized Area Residents (SOAR) and The History Museum.
As part of Phase One, Nov. 5 is the deadline for a crowdfunding campaign, featuring a $50,000 matching grant from the Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority’s CreatINg Places program.
Construction is to begin in 2023 with play starting in 2024.
Phase Two includes public and private funding for historical research and public art. Phase Three is centered on community space.
With the help of our donors and collaborators, the Sappy Moffitt Field Foundation has the goal of placing a diamond and showcase public art and historical markers that pay tribute to undervalued legends of the past near downtown. Southeast Neighborhood Park is located at Fellows and Wenger streets.
Among the hidden histories to be highlighted are those of the Foundry Giants (an African-American baseball team that played in South Bend’s Studebaker Industrial League in the 1930’s) and Uncle Bill’s All Colored Girls Softball Team that excelled in the region in the ’30s and ‘40s).
“We want to tell these stories about baseball history,” says Insley. “I’d like to see the game return to the day when it had a lot more diversity. Baseball has become an elite, exclusive game. It was never that.
“Are we going to change the world? No. But we’re going to do our part.”
Insley and Mike Hebbeler (who is program director at the Center for Social Concerns) founded the Sappy Moffitt Baseball League in 2013.
The league — named for former South Bend Green Stockings pitcher Elmer “Sappy” Moffitt, who was born in nearby New Carlisle and is the all-time leader in innings pitched, strikeouts and wins in South Bend professional baseball history — features more than 120 adults playing recreational games on Sunday afternoons at Boland Park.
Team names are a nod to the heritage and places in South Bend. There’s the Du Lac Rockets, Ironhides, Monroe Park Millracers, Oliver Chill, Ottawa Arrowheads, Porters, River Park LongNecks, South Shore Liners and Studebaker Larks.
“We want to play in the urban core,” says Insley, who sees Foundry Field as a place not only for the adult league but for youths in organized or pick-up baseball.
“It’s been near to see guys playing with their kids in (the Sappy Moffitt League). There’s something powerful about kids watching adults play.”
A train wall will double as an outfield barrier and a location for murals and markers.
“It becomes more than a baseball field,” says Insley. “It’s a broadly-utilized space — an impactful space.”
Clinton Carlson, an associate professor for Visual Communication in Notre Dame’s Department of Art, Art History & Design and a Sappy Moffitt League player, has lent his expertise to the group for the past year.
“I’m a designer,” says Carlson. “I use my skills to help share the vision of Foundry Field.
“Let’s get more baseball being played by adults and kids. We want to drive more kids to play. We don’t want to replace rec leagues or Little Leagues that might be struggling.”
Milt Lee, the Director of Community Programs and K-12 Athletics for South Bend Community School Corporation, got to know project originators as a player with the Studebaker Larks.
“I discovered that these are really sincere guys — not just in everyday life but when it came to being responsible community people,” says Lee. “When they brought the idea of creating a field where people can mentor young people, come and play pick-up baseball, learn how to become good teammates and learn life lessons you certainly can’t pass it up. It means everything to South Bend Schools.”
Lee says the aim of the corporation is aligned with the Foundry Field project.
“A major strategic priority of ours is to introduce non-traditional Olympic sports to kids in underserved communities throughout the corporation,” says Lee. “One of those sports happens to be baseball.
“The number of kids in South Bend — particularly black kids — has dramatically decreased since the 1970s.
“We’ve determined to create equitable access to those types of sports in those areas. That’s a major priority of ours. One is the reasons is that the more kids are exposed to games at an early age the more they’ll play multiple sports and play sports for a lifetime so they’ll have better mental and physical health. We’re trying to change health outcomes in underserved communities through recreation and athletics.”
Lee says the area around Southeast Neighborhood Park has a reputation of being a tough place to live.
“I can’t think of a better area and neighborhood to have a beautiful space and place that would make people feel proud and be a place where kids and families could gather to have unbelievable experiences,” says Lee.
South Bend Community Schools — where there is open enrollment and magnet schools — is taking a neighborhood approach with its students. Lee sees programs like those at Foundry Field and nearby facilities like the Boys & Girls Club will get as many as possible to go to Riley High School.
“We want to make sure all the coaches, athletic directors and families
gather as a neighborhood and begin to build relationships that would encourage them to stay together,” says Lee. “If we can keep these kids connected early in their neighborhoods, the better chance we have to keep those kids in our high school system.
“We can stave off some of that migration (to corporations outside South Bend).”
As Lee sees it, high schools ADs — Dawn Huff at Adams, Al Hartman at Clay, Seabe Gavin at Riley and Garland Hudson at Washington among them — should be be seen as the neighborhood CEO for sports and athletics and invite young kids to campus for camps and competitions etc.
Lee says there is some baseball for SBCSC middle schoolers.
“We’ve been losing student-athletes left and right in our middle school program because of the whole travel baseball phenomenon. The more we have kids playing the game at age 5, 6, 7, 8 and working with our Little Leagues, I think we can create some type of base training and feeder program to our high schools.
“The sooner we can get kids playing the game and make they fall in love with it and get them connected to really good coaches, we hope to have them playing the game for a lifetime.”
A diversity of interests and talents are going into the project. Some are focused on the baseball side. Others on fundraising, grant writing, design or historical research.
Greg Bond, Sports Archivist for Hesburgh Libraries and the Curator of the Joyce Sports Research Collection at Notre Dame, is affiliated with the school’s Sport, Media and Culture Minor.
He is helping with research and notes that the stories will be told through a variety of media and does not need to be constrained to a physical location such as the location of Foundry Field.
“It will be accessible to people in other ways to be determined,” says Bond. “We want to make this a sustainable project (for future researchers). One big push is to make it not dependent on people involved right now. That’s very important.
“It’s heartening to see how many people are passionate about this project.”
Katherine Walden, an Assistant Teaching Professor of American Studies at Notre Dame, is also part of the Foundry Field project along with her students.
Among courses regularly taught by Walden is “Baseball and America.”

Foundry Field is coming to the urban core in South Bend, Ind.
Foundry Field drawing. (Sappy Moffitt Field Foundation Image)
Foundry Field drawing. (Sappy Moffitt Field Foundation Image)
Foundry Field drawing. (Sappy Moffitt Field Foundation Image)
Foundry Field drawing. (Sappy Moffitt Field Foundation Image)
One of the hidden histories to be told at Foundry Field is that of Uncle Bill’s All Colored Girls Softball Team. (Northern Indiana Center for History Photo)
Elmer “Sappy” Moffitt.

The Sappy Moffitt Baseball League was founded in South Bend, Ind., in 2013.

‘The Best We’ve Got: The Carl Erskine Story’ makes Indianapolis premier

By STEVE KRAH
http://www.IndianaRBI.com

“The Best We’ve Got: The Carl Erskine Story” — a film by Ted Green — made its Indianapolis debut Thursday, Aug. 18 at the Tobias Theater aka The Toby.
After the screening presented by Heartland Film, Green told why he chose the documentary subject.
“I like to do films that celebrate the triumph of the human spirit,” said Green, a producer, director, writer and researcher who partnered with Indiana Historical Society and created a cinematic portrayal of the man who has impacted the baseball world and so much more. “I just found myself drawn to this 95-year old guy up in Anderson, Ind., who was able to sort of move social mountains — not through bombast, not through money, but through grace, through humility, through servant leadership — and I will tell you that the last two years spent during production were the greatest two years of education of my life.
“Maybe just maybe niceness and decency can win in the end.”
Esteemed broadcaster Bob Costas summed it up in his on-screen introduction: “It was a story told softly as you’re about to see and hear about a story that cumulatively speaks to a person who’s deeply admirable.”
Erskine, who became known as “The Gentleman from Indiana,” was born Dec. 13, 1926 in Anderson, won 122 games as a right-handed pitcher for the Brooklyn/Los Angeles Dodgers.
Throwing an overhand curveball that Hall of Fame announcer Vin Scully said could be seen in a snowstorm, Erskine struck out a then-record 14 batters in the 1953 World Series.
“Oisk” — as Brooklyn fans called him — is the last living member of the 1955 team that won the World Series. That group is part of Roger Kahn’s celebrated book, “The Boys of Summer.” Hall of Famer and Indiana native Gil Hodges was also on that team.
Erskine threw two no-hitters and the was the starting pitcher in the Dodgers’ first game in LA.
But that’s just a part of Erskine’s tale.
“When I was a little boy I had this feeling in my soul: Something good is going to happen to you,” said Erskine early in the film. I just had this feeling,”
Carl and Betty Erskine will celebrate 75 years of marriage on Oct. 5. They raised four children — Danny, Gary, Susan and Jimmy.
The latter was born in 1960 — less than a year after Carl retired from baseball — with Down syndrome. Rather than put Jimmy away in an institution, the Erskine showered him with love and treated him like the rest of the children.
“We were an active family,” said Gary Erskine. “Jimmy was not left behind.”
Jimmy got on to a school bus for the first time in 1972 and has gone on to lead an independent life.
When Carl and Betty’s fourth child came along, Indiana had long took a dim view of the “feeble-minded” and in 1907 was the nation’s first state to enact compulsory sterilization to “prevent procreation of confirmed criminals, idiots, imbeciles and rapists.”
Expected to live to around 35, Jimmy Erskine turned 62 this year. He worked at Applebee’s in Anderson for two decades and competed in Special Olympics for 50 (starting with the Indiana State Special Olympic Games in Terre Haute in 1970).
The Carl and Betty Erskine Society raises money for the Special Olympics.
The Erskine Personal Impact Curriculum (EPIC) is a set of materials for elementary, middle and high school students that uses stories from Carl’s life to “create lessons and activities with themes including empowerment, friendship, inclusion and leadership.”
Thursday’s event was also a celebration of the Erskine connection to Special Olympics Indiana and helping to promote grace, humility, diversity, inclusion and servant leadership.
When Carl was 10 and playing basketball in the alley with friends, 9-year-old Johnny Wilson wandered in.
Carl’s question to the boy who happen to be black was, “Do you want to play?”
It was the start of long friendship that lasted more than eight decades — one that will be commemorated with a mural in downtown Anderson in 2023.
The boy who went on to be known as “Jumpin’” Johnny Wilson came from a family on welfare so he often ate at the Erskine house.
Blacks were not welcome in some Anderson restaurants. They could not join the YMCA. They were restricted to the balcony of the movie theater.
The Ted Green film made its world premier Aug. 11 at Anderson’s Paramount Theatre with an encore on Aug. 13.
“Blacks were expected to be where they were supposed to be and the whites on the other side,” said Erskine.
Carl’s parents — Matt and Berths — did not show that prejudice.
General Motors Delco Remy inspector Matt Erskine “walked as easily among blacks as whites.”
Bertha Erskine “was known for seeing the best in everyone and everything.”
Said Carl, “She gave me the feeling that beauty is all around us. Don’t forget to look at it.”
Carl went to the blacks-only swimming pool with Johnny Wilson. He didn’t go to places Johnny couldn’t and he sat in the balcony with his pal.
They later played together on the Anderson High School basketball team. Wilson was chosen as Indiana Mr. Basketball in 1946 and went on to play for the Harlem Globetrotters and is in the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame. He competed in baseball, basketball, football and track and field at Anderson College (now Anderson University) and is in that school’s athletic hall of fame.
Erskine, who was later head baseball coach at Anderson College for 12 years and is also in the Ravens Hall of Fame, shined on the diamond for Anderson High and Anderson American Legion Post 127.
Throwing a tennis ball against a barn with a strike zone marked in chalk, Carl continually fanned his hero.
Said Erskine, “I can’t count how many times I struck out Babe Ruth.”
First discovered by Indianapolis scout Stan Feezle, Carl landed with the Dodgers after a stint in the U.S. Navy.
The Dodgers were run by Branch Rickey, who signed the Hoosier hurler for $5,000.
“I think there was an esteem there,” said Branch Rickey III of the relationship between his grandfather and Erskine. “He just had a deep, deep appreciation for what character could do individually. We loved what character could do for teams.”
As a minor leaguer pitching against the big club, Erskine first met Jackie Robinson, who made a point of encouraging him his outing.
Erskine made his Dodgers debut in 1948 and went on to toe the rubber for the franchise 335 times.
Two Erskine-penned books are “Tales from the Dodgers Dugout” and “What I Learned from Jackie Robinson” and has been involved with Jackie Robinson Day activities with The Base Indy.
One day after Erskine had shown kindness to wife and son — Rachel Robinson and Jackie Jr. — Robinson expressed his appreciation.
“‘Come on, Jackie, it’s as natural to me as breathing,’” said Erskine of his response. But Jackie was always kind of surprised. He said to me, ‘this black and white thing doesn’t seem to bother you.’ I told him about Johnny my buddy. He said, ‘Carl, I see life divided. You seem to see life connected.’”
When Dodgers catcher Roy Campanella was paralyzed in an auto accident in 1958, the first teammate to visit him in the hospital was Erskine.
A man of faith who met Dr. Norman Vincent Peale, Erskine was there at the start of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes.
Erskine lent his talent to Dale McMillen aka “Mr. Mac” with the Wildcat League for youth in Fort Wayne, Ind.
An insurance salesman and a bank president in his hometown, Carl has been a civic leader along with Betty.
Anderson has Erskine Elementary School (a video message from Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda at the dedication appears in the film).
There’s also was is now known as Anderson Youth Baseball & Softball at Erskine Park.
The broadcast premier of “The Best We’ve Got: The Carl Erskine Story” is slated for 9 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 22 on WFYI in Indianapolis with PBS stations around Indiana expected to follow.
As well as being part of the Heartland International Film Festival Oct. 6-16 in Indianapolis, screenings are planned for Sept. 29 at Eagles Theater in Wabash, Ind., Oct. 13 at Muncie Civic Center with dates to be determined at Artcraft Theater in Franklin, Ind., and Gainbridge Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.

The Indianapolis premier of the Ted Green film “The Best We’ve Got: The Carl Erskine Story” was Thursday, Aug. 18 at the Tobias Theater aka The Toby. (Steve Krah Photo)
A memento from the Indianapolis premier of the Ted Green film “The Best We’ve Got: The Carl Erskine Story.” (Steve Krah Photo)

Reunion gives Jasper Reds chance to reminisce about the past, get excited for 2022 season

By STEVE KRAH
http://www.IndianaRBI.com

There was plenty of remembering going on April 30 as the Jasper (Ind.) Reds hosted their semipro baseball reunion after two years off because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Former players — including the Alles brothers (Bob, Tom, Bill and Jerry) — and many others gathered at the Jaycee Clubhouse in Jasper to tell stories and pour over table after table of memorabilia. There was also some talk about the 2022 season.
The Jasper Reds have fielded a team in Dubois County for all but a handful of summers dating back to 1893, making them one of the nation’s oldest active amateur teams.
The latest reunion was the 28th. The first was held in 1993, which was also the first year the Reds (29-11) qualified for the National Baseball Congress World Series in Wichita, Kan. The most-recent of seven visits was in 2019.
The 2018 Reds went to Louisville for the Bluegrass World Series, an event that featured several former big leaguers.
The 1893 team was called the Acmes. The next year the name was changed to Red Jackets and was eventually shortened to Reds (they were known as Jasper K of C when the Knights of Columbus sponsored the team in the early 1920’s).
Five Alles boys were represented at the 2022 reunion, including Joe. They are the sons of the late Jerome “Chick” Alles and wife Annie Alles.
Chick played for the Jasper Reds 1950-63 and was later served three terms as the town’s mayor. He died in 2016 at 90 — two years after the passing of his wife at 88. Chick and Annie also had two daughters — Bev and Eve.
Bob, Tom, Bill and Jerry were Reds teammates and in the lineup together, which a caption under a photo from 1978 proclaims.
Bob Alles managed 20 straight seasons (1974-93) and came back for one (1996). He now serves as the business manager/general manager. He makes out the schedule, recruits the players and hires the umpires can usually be found in the dugout on gameday.
According to a profile in the book, “Baseball Play America” by Don Weisskopf, the Jasper Reds were close to folding in 1974. College sophomore Bob Alles took on manager duties and recording many winning seasons.
Tom Alles, who recently turned 65, played until he was 37. He serves as team historian (he wrote a 10-part series as the team approached its centennial in 1993 in which he noted that organized baseball came to Jasper in 1868; he also located a clip where the Hodges brothers — Gil and Bob — played for the Reds in 1942 with their last name lacking a “s” in the newspaper account) and has chased his share of foul balls. Gil Hodges grew up nearby in Princeton and Petersburg. He is going into the National Baseball Hall of Fame this summer.
“I played 20 years and I loved every minute of it,” says Tom Alles. “I don’t mind saying I cried like a baby when i knew I couldn’t play anymore.”
Bill Alles took over as Jasper Reds manager in the late 1990’s. In the history of the Jasper Reds, only two men — Bob and Bill Alles — have managed for more than three consecutive seasons. Some of them had multiple short stints.
“We try to combine winning with fun,” says Bill Alles. “Nobody’s going to be running laps after a game.”
Jerry Alles was a Jasper Reds batboy at a young age played for the team from the late ’70s to the mid ’90s. He played at Jasper High for Ray Howard, who went on to enter the Indiana Baseball Hall of Fame and is the director of the hall’s collection on display at Vincennes University-Jasper. He also provides color on Jasper baseball broadcasts on WITZ AM/FM. Walt Ferber is the play-by-play man.
“I was very fortunate (to play for Howard),” says Jerry Alles. “We practiced long and hard. He would never dress you down on the field.”
Building the roster starts with the previous year’s team.
“They are always welcome back and long as they are reliable,” says Bob Alles. “It didn’t matter if they were not the best player in the world if they were reliable and would show up.”
Alles also reaches out to some of his coaching contacts, including at the junior college level.
“I always stress that it has to be the player (making the decision to join the Reds),” says Bob Alles. “It can’t be his dad. It can’t be his coach. It can’t be us because it’s going to be hot, it’s going to take some time — we played doubleheaders — and there’s been a lot of people in the stands.”
Other than an out-of-town tournament, most of the Reds games — about 20 in June and July — are played in Jasper.
“We have a good field. We pay the umpires and we buy good baseballs (and the price has risen about $12 to $15 a dozen in the past year). A lot of teams will come in for that.”
Bob Alles has been a stickler for quality baseballs for a long time now and will take them to road games, offering them if the home team is using an inferior sphere.
In a baseball-crazy community, Alles sees the Reds continue to receive support.
“It takes a lot to people, donating money and doing a lot of little things.”
There’s purchasing uniforms and liability insurance.
Terry Gobert, who coached Jasper High to the 2021 IHSAA Class 4A state championship and is an Indiana High School Baseball Hall of Famer and Jasper American Legion Post 147 manager, has been known to cut the field on an early weekend morning before the Reds play.
The Jasper Reds have been in various leagues or their lengthy history, but now they play an independent schedule. There’s no league pennant to play for, but the teams wants to — and does — consistently win.
The last regular-season loss came in 2017 against the St. Louis Pros in Jasper.
Recently, most Jasper Reds players have been 22 or younger with many in college or coming off their high school seasons.
“We love it when some guys beyond college stay,” says Tom Alles. “There’s still that thing of experience and having somebody older around that’s been through a little bit more and can be a good influence on the younger players.”
Since 1942, the Jasper Reds have shared Recreation Field — given that name because of the recreation program ran on those grounds by Cabby O’Neill — with Jasper High School teams.
It’s been known as Alvin C. Ruxer Field since 1991. Local businessman and one-time Jasper Reds pitcher Ruxer was a baseball benefactor.
According to “Baseball Play America,” Ruxer The one-time Jasper Reds pitcher set up two $10,000 trust funds for the team in 1981.
The 2022 Jasper Reds season is to open the first weekend in June with early games on the junior varsity diamond at Jasper High since Ruxer Field will be used for IHSAA regional and semistate play.
A year ago, the Reds played in the College Division (22U) of the National Amateur Baseball Federation tournament and will return in 2022. The regional is to be staged in Fort Wayne.
The NABF World Series July 28-31 in Sandusky, Ohio. But going to that would be a considerable expense.
“I did some computing and it would be over $6,000 just for hotels,” says Bob Alles. “That’s a lot of money and I don’t know if we can justify that.”
The team will wear a memorial patch to honor Jacob Crabtree, who was killed in a automobile accident in November 2021 at 19.
The graduate of Daviess County High School in Owensboro, Ky., was a sophomore at Brescia University in Owensboro, where he was on the baseball team and studying to be a physical therapist. He hit .314 for the 2021 Jasper Reds.

A 2022 Jasper (Ind.) Reds cap (Steve Krah Photo)
The Alles brothers at the 2022 Jasper (Ind.) Reds semipro baseball reunion on April 30 (from left): Joe, Tom, Jerry, Bill and Bob. (Steve Krah Photo)
Four of the Alles boys from 1978. All played in the same lineup for the Jasper (Ind.) Reds.
The Jasper (Ind.) Reds held their first semipro baseball reunion and marked the team’s 100th year in 1993.

Jasper (Ind.) Reds of 1953, featuring Jerome “Chick” Alles. Four of his sons went on to play for the team.
Jasper (Ind.) Reds of 1948.
Jasper (Ind.) Reds of 1939.
Jasper (Ind.) Reds of 1937.
Jasper (Ind.) Reds of 1936.
Jasper (Ind.) Reds of 1903.
Jasper (Ind.) Red Jackets of 1897. The name was later shortened to Reds.Jas
Jasper (Ind.) Red Jackets of 1894. The name was later shortened to Reds.
Jasper (Ind.) Acmes (Reds) of 1893.
A collection of uniform tops on display at the 2022 Jasper (Ind.) Reds semipro baseball reunion April 30. (Steve Krah Photo)

Hall of Famer Hodges may have I-69 bridge named in his honor

BY STEVE KRAH
http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Indiana native Gil Hodges has been elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y., and he may be getting another posthumous honor.
Hodges was born in Princeton in 1924 and grew in Petersburg in southern Indiana. He attended Saint Joseph’s College in Rensselaer, Ind., and Bronze Star recipient as a part of the U.S. Marine Corps in World War II. He was involved in the Battle of Okinawa in 1945.
He was a slugging first baseman for the Brooklyn/Los Angeles Dodgers before managing the “Miracle Mets” to the World Series title in 1969 and dying of a heart attack in 1972.
In his 35 looks on a Hall of Fame ballot, Hodges obtained the necessary 75 percent of the vote from the Golden Days Period committee for enshrinement in Cooperstown. The induction ceremony is slated for July 24.
Hodges was in the inaugural class of Indiana Baseball Hall of Fame inductees in 1979.
A water-crossing structure in Columbus, Ind., might be among his next recognition.
A resolution passed through both chambers of the Indiana House to ask the Indiana Department of Transportation to ponder renaming the passageway on I-69 over the East Fork of the White River the “Gil Hodges Memorial Bridge.” The bridge section is in Columbus.
The resolution was co-sponsored by State Representatives Cindy Ledbetter (R-Newburgh) and Shane Lindauer (R-Jasper).
“Resolutions don’t need to be signed by the governor,” says Adam Aasen, press secretary for Indiana House Republicans. “The bridge isn’t automatically renamed yet, although INDOT often takes these resolutions into strong consideration.”
The famed son of Indiana already has several places bearing his name:
• A bridge spanning the East Fork of the White River in northern Pike County on S.R. 57 is named for Hodges.
• Princeton Community High School plays on Gil Hodges Field.
• The diamond at Saint Joseph’s College, which closed in 2017, is also named for Hodges.
• A large mural of Hodges stands at the corner of S.R. 57 and S.R. 61 in Petersburg.
• There already is a Marine Parkway Gil Hodges Memorial Bridge and Gil Hodges Way in New York.
• Randy’s Americana Cafe’ in Petersburg has a huge Hodges memorabilia display. A baseball-style lunch is planned in Gil’s honor on April, which would have been his 98th birthday.
• Hodges wore 14. Both the Mets and Dodgers have retired that number.

Indiana native Gil Hodges has been elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame and will be inducted posthumously in 2022.
Both chambers of the Indiana House have passed a resolution asking the Indiana Department of Transportation to name a span on the I-69 bridge the “Gil Hodges Memorial Bridge.”
Gil Hodges Field in Princeton, Ind.
Gil Hodges Field at Saint Joseph’s College in Rensselaer, Ind. SJC closed in 2017.
The Marine Parkway Gil Hodges Memorial Bridge in New York.
A New York street honoring Indiana native Gil Hodges.
A mural in Petersburg, Ind., for Gil Hodges.

Tri-State Hot Stove Baseball League ‘Night of Memories’ to return in January

By STEVE KRAH
http://www.IndianaRBI.com

After a one-year hiatus, Tri-State Hot Stove Baseball League’s premier event is scheduled to return in 2022.
A non-profit organization organized in 1993 with more than 200 members, including Don Mattingly, Bob Griese, Andy Benes, Jamey Carroll, Clint Barmes, Marty Amsler, Evansville area high school and college baseball and softball coaches, area businessmen and community leaders, Tri-State Hot Stove Baseball League provides financial assistance to youth organizations in baseball, softball, soccer, football, wrestling, basketball and youth ministry athletics.
Tri-State Hot Stove Baseball League has distributed more than $2 million to over 100 youth organizations and a partial four-year college scholarship has been given for at least one area high school senior who has shown himself to be an outstanding athlete, student and citizen.
The primary fundraiser is the “Night of Memories.” It is scheduled for Saturday, Jan. 15, 2022 at the Carson Center on the campus of the University of Evansville.
Featured guests include National Baseball Hall of Famer Rich “Goose” Gossage, former big league outfielder Andruw Jones, hometown favorites Benes, Aaron Barrett and Jerad Eickhoff, Evansville Reitz graduate and New York Yankees prospect Elijah Dunham and 2021 Southridge High School graduate and Chicago White Sox draft selection Colson Montgomery. Wayne Hagin will serve as emcee.
Former University of Evansville head baseball coach Jim Brownlee will receive a Legend Award.
An autograph session is from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. Central Time and open to all ages. Children 12-and-under are admitted free but must be accompanied by an adult with a paid admission and autograph purchase.
All items to be signed require autograph ticket (not available online, only sold at the door). Pricing per autograph varies by guest and will be posted at hotstoveleague.org when available.
A separate chat session and auction for guests 21-and-older is slated in the Meeks Family Fieldhouse.
Doors open at 5 with welcome/introductions at 6:15, presentation of awards at 6:30, chat session at 6:45 and live auction at 7:45. Admission to the main event is $25 per person. Admission tickets purchased for the autograph session will also grant entry into the main event as long as the guest is 21 or older.
A golf outing was held in September at Cambridge Golf Club in Evansville which funds the Bob Coleman-Joe Unfried Scholarship Award. Recent winners include Henry Brown (Evansville Central High School and Indiana State University) in 2021, Adam Euler (Evansville Reitz High School and University of Evansville) in 2020, Cory Bosecker (Evansville Central High School and Butler University) in 2019 and Zach Messinger (Castle High School and University of Virginia) in 2018.
Tri-State Hot Stove Baseball League officers are president Ryan Berger, vice presidents Eric Millay, Tracy Archuleta and Cory Edwards, treasurer Steve Millay, historian Dave Johnson and secretary Steve Johnston.

Rich “Goose” Gossage (National Baseball Hall of Fame Photo)

Mannan out to change lives with Fort Wayne North Side Legends

By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Austin Mannan has found his “why” and he pursues it on a daily basis as an educator and coach.

“I felt like I’ve had so many people pour their time and effort into me,” says Mannan, a special education teacher at Lane Middle School in Fort Wayne, Ind., and the head baseball coach at Fort Wayne North Side High School. “I have a duty to give that back to kids.

“I want to change somebody’s life. At the end of the day I don’t care what kind of baseball player you are, I want you to be a better person than when you got to me.

“I want them to look back and say he really cared about me. He really went the extra mile.”

Mannan has embraced his mindset and takes a cue from motivational speaker Eric Thomas, who asks “What’s Your Why?”

“Everybody has a reason to get out of bed everyday,” says Mannan. “You have to decide what that motivation is and what you can do to get there.

“(North Side) is an inner-city school. These kids have challenging backgrounds. We want to help them to be a better person.”

North Side (enrollment around 1,600) is a member of the Summit Athletic Conference (with Fort Wayne Bishop Dwenger, Fort Wayne Bishop Luers, Fort Wayne Concordia Lutheran, Fort Wayne Northrop, Fort Wayne Snider, Fort Wayne South Side and Fort Wayne Wayne).

The Legends are part of an IHSAA Class 4A sectional grouping with Columbia City, Fort Wayne South Side, Fort Wayne Wayne, Homestead and Huntington North. North Side is seeking its first sectional title.

Zach McKinstry is a 2014 North Side graduate. The middle infielder made his Major League Baseball debut for the eventual World Series-winning Los Angeles Dodgers Sept. 16, 2020.

North Side plays its home games at Carrington Field, located in Daryl B. Cobin Memorial Park on Coliseum Boulevard and about five miles from the school. 

With high schools in Fort Wayne Community Schools going from 9:10 a.m. to 4:10 p.m., games generally do not start before 5. 

Also the home of the Fort Wayne Baseball Federation‘s Jackers, Carrington Field underwent renovations that the Legends did not get to enjoy in 2020 with the prep season being wiped out by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It’s pretty nice,” says Mannan, who notes that many previous games at Carrington were wiped out when it rained. 

Eight seniors were on the 2020 roster, including college recruits in left-handed pitcher Max Meisner (Huntington University), shortstop Cameron Woehnker (Grace College) and hurler Taegan Armey (Indiana Tech).

Mannan’s 2021 assistants are Jordan Young, Toni Georgi and Armey, who developed an arm injury that caused him to shut it down rather than play college ball.

North Side junior right-hander Nate Spurlock has been getting attention from college programs.

Mannan, who was born and raised in Putnam County, Ind., and played at Cloverdale (Ind.) High School before Lincoln Trail College (Robinson, Ill.), Spoon River College (Canton, Ill.) and the University of Saint Francis (Fort Wayne). Until middle school, he split his time between third base and catcher. From high school on, he was a catcher.

Bryan Archer was Mannan’s high school head coach.

“I owe a lot to the person and player I am to him,” says Mannan, a 2013 Cloverdale graduate. “He never let feel sorry for myself. He just pushed, pushed, pushed.”

Spoon River head coach Ron Clark, who died in 2016, was an old school coach who embraced the fundamentals.

“By doing the little things right all the time that would lead to big things,” says Mannan. “My coaches were all fundamental guys. You can’t over-due fundamentals.

“I’ve broken down every aspect to try to give (North Side players) a solid foundation.”

A relationship built with Manny Lopez, owner of The Diamond Baseball and Softball Academy in Fort Wayne, Mannan has been able to get indoor reps for his North Side players.

“We made huge strides,” says Mannan. “Last year was going to be a our ‘back on the map year.’”

Mannan appreciates the way Lopez deals with the North Side kids.

“Manny tells them you can thank me when you make it,” says Mannan. “He understands what my kids go through on a day-to-day basis.

“I’ve never forgotten that.”

Besides being an assistant at Woodlan Junior/Senior High School (Woodburn, Ind.) while doing his student teaching, Mannan has coached the Northern Indiana Elite, Chicago 29ers and Fort Wayne Diamondbacks in summer ball. He is currently a 16U coach for the Diamondbacks.

As a player, Mannan got to know the junior college baseball grind from two head coaches — Kevin Bowers at Lincoln Trail and Clark at Spoon River.

“As a JuCo Bandit you’re a grinder,” says Mannan. “You’re putting in the work and getting after it.

“The grind of being a junior college player is incredible. You become so tough playing at that level.”

A typical schedule began with conditioning at 5 a.m., followed by classes, practice, study table and more practice with it all winding up about 10 p.m. Then the same thing the next day.

To get in games against top early-season competition, the team would cram 10 players each in three vans and drive 14 hours to Texas. Meal money was capped at $5 a day.

Junior college baseball is full of potential professional players and they are all MLB First Year Player Draft-eligible.

Two of Mannan’s Lincoln Trail teammates — Damon Olds (Kansas City Royals out of Indiana State University) and Justin Watts (Toronto Blue Jays out of the University of Southern Indiana) — were drafted in 2017.

In Mannan’s LTC recruiting class, 10 of 13 went on to NCAA Division I programs. Two went to NCAA Division II.

After a year at Spoon River (2014-15), Mannan landed at NAIA Saint Francis for two years (2015-16 and 2016-17). Greg Roberts was the Cougars head coach and his successor, Dustin Butcher, was an assistant.

Mannan, who also played summer ball for the Danville (Va.) Marlins in 2015 and Laramie (Wyo.) Colts in 2016, was honorable mention all-Crossroads League in the spring of 2016. 

At Saint Francis, Mannan earned a Secondary Education degree in 2018 and a Masters in Special Education in 2020. 

It was by coming to Fort Wayne that Mannan met an Indiana Purdue Fort Wayne student from Crown Point, Ind., named Adalyn. 

Austin and Adalyn Mannan were married in September 2020. She is a manager at Planet Fitness.

“We were supposed to go on our honeymoon during Christmas break,” says Mannan. Instead, the couple had a bout with COVID. Austin spent a week in the hospital. Except for occasional shortness of breath, he says that has recovered.

Austin Mannan was catcher with the Laramie (Wyo.) Colts in the summer of 2016.
Austin Mannan, who played at the University of Saint Francis in 2016 and 2017 and hold two degrees from the school in Fort Wayne, Ind., is the head baseball coach at Fort Wayne North Side High School. (University of Saint Francis Photo)