Class of 2023 Nominees
Alfred “Babe” Harnish
Alfred “Babe” Harnish was born in La Crosse on September 15, 1923. He graduated from Logan High School in 1941 where he helped lead Logan to both the intra-city and South Central Conference baseball championships, pitching a no-hitter against Sparta along the way. He spent three summers pitching in the Junior Legion League. During this time he threw a no-hitter and several one and two-hitters and was a member of the Junior League All-Stars in 1939 and 1940.
After high school Babe served in the army during WWII. Upon his return, he renewed his baseball career by signing up to play of the American Legion in the La Crosse City Baseball League. During his three seasons (1947-49) he was named to the La Crosse All-Star team three times He also pitched for South Ridge, Bangor and Coon Valley. One of his catchers on the Bangor team was future Yankee Elston Howard, who caught for Bangor while stationed at Fort McCoy, Camp McCoy.
He pitched for Mabel and Houston teams in Minnesota, winning 13 of his team’s 17 games one season. IN a game against Rushford in the early 1950s he pitched a no-hitter, striking out 13 and homering for good measure.
In 1952 Babe signed on with the newly formed semi-pro La Crosse Peerless Mohawks. He led the team with a 15-3 record in 1952, strkiking out 10 or more in eight of his starts. He started 16 completing 14.
Babe played both fast pitch and 16-inch softball during and after his baseball days. He continued to compete for local softball teams into his late 60s.
Harnish He worked for at the La Crosse Allis-Chalmers plant for 28 years and then moved to Continental Can for 17. He was involved in local labor circeles, and was honored one year as the Labor Day Parade Marshal.
Babe passed away at his home on August 19, 1998.
Merlin Nehring was born in 1931. He earned the nickname “Hambone” for his tall lanky frame. Hambone graduated from Logan High School, where he played baseball and basketball. He also played baseball for the American Legion La Crosse Stars in 1947 and 1948. A talented pitcher, Nehring signed with the Yankees in 1950, playing four seasons in their organization before retiring due to a shoulder injury.
Nehring started his career by going 13-6 with a 3.49 ERA at class D Fond du Lac in the Wisconsin State League. He was promoted to Joplin the following year where he compiled a 20-4 record with 161 strikeouts in 196 innings, earning him league MVP honors over his teammate, Mickey Mantle. He opened the 1952 season at class A Binghamton but suffered a shoulder injury and was sent down to Quincy at the end of the season to recover. He sat out the 1953 season and attempted a comeback with Binghamton in 1954, but retired after only five games and a 1-1 record.
He returned to La Crosse, where he played semipro ball for several teams in the area, including the La Crosse Mohawks, for whom he was the highest paid player on the team. In 1953 he was named to the Wisconsin State Semi-Pro all tournament team.
Bill Skemp was born in La Crosse in 1934. He played football, basketball, and baseball at Aquinas High School, graduating in 1952. He took his talents up the river to St. Mary’s College in Winona, where he continued to set scoring records on the court and excelled in baseball. From 1948-50 he was a standout outfielder for the La Crosse Stars American Legion team.
In 1955 he was signed by the St. Louis Cardinals and assigned to their Class D Decatur farm team. Vision problems short-circuited his career. He finished his lone professional season with .215 batting average but a healthy .364 OBP in 107 games, hitting seven homeruns and compiling 43 RBIs. One of his teammates at Decatur was his Aquinas High School teammate Dick Ghelfi.
Skemp died in La Crosse on February 17, 2017.