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.
Rick Boyer (1952-2021) was Mr. Baseball in La Crescent. He began his baseball career in middle school, played four years at La Crescent High School and then at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, and never stopped. After graduating from UWL he took over the family furniture business and signed on as an assistant coach for his alma mater Lancers. During the summers, he switched from coaching to playing. He remained active for the rest of his life, playing for local teams in Stoddard, La Crosse and La Crescent, moving on to senior league baseball when he reached his 50s. Most recently he was a member of the Minnesota Bandits 65-and-older team that won the 2019 National Division Championship.
Boyer graduated from La Crescent High School in 1970, and later that summer married his high school sweetheart, Susan Czechowicz, who survives him.
Boyer spent 45 years coaching at La Crescent High School, the final 17 as head coach, fashioning a 326-143 record. His teams made five state tournament appearances, winning it all in 2009. That year he was named coach of the year by the Minnesota State High School Baseball Coaches Association.
Boyer also coached the La Crosse Loggers from 2006 to 2007, compiling a 61-75 record. More than his accomplishments on the field as a player or coach, Boyer is best remembered for the positive impact he had on those around him, especially the hundreds of high school athletes he coached in in his nearly half-century affiliation with La Crescent Lancers baseball.
Mike Dee was born in 1953, and grew up in the Chicago area until his family moved to La Crosse before his senior year in high school. He enrolled at Aquinas High School, where he continued his high school baseball career. He played college ball for the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, and was a part of the UWL squad that reached the NAIA World Series in 1979.
He began his coaching career at his alma mater, leading the Aquinas baseball team to four consecutive WISAA state titles from 1982-87. In 1987 he was named Wisconsin State High School Coach of the Year and the Wisconsin Baseball Coaches Association Coach of the Year. In 1996 the WBCA named him their Man of the Year. By then he was the pitching coach for the University of Minnesota, a position he held from 1988-98. During his tenure the Golden Gophers made seven NCAA tournament appearances.
In 1999 Dee took over the head coaching position at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC). He took a team with a losing record in 1998 and turned them into perennial champions, winning 680 games in a 23 year career that featured 12 league championships and six NCAA tournament births.
He is the winningest coach in UIC baseball history, and was named Horizon League coach of the year a conference record 10 times, six times more than the second most honored coach. In 2017 he was league coach of the year and also selected as the American Baseball Coaches Association (ABCA) Mideast Region Coach of the Year.
117 of his players were named first or second team all conference, 17 players were named All-Region honorees, and eight earned All American status. More than 50 of his former players turned professional, most notably three time All Star Curtis Granderson.
In 2013, Dee and Granderson teamed up to raise funds for a new baseball facility at UIC. Granderson Stadium opened on April 17, 2014. Dee also spearheaded the renovation of an old campus gymnasium into a state-of-the-art indoor training facility.
Steve Pavela (1923-2021) was born in La Crosse, and attended Aquinas High School, where he starred in baseball and basketball. He led Aquinas to its first state basketball championship in 1941. He played varsity baseball all four years at Aquinas, which were the first four years the sport was offered by the school. He was among a group of students who lobbied the school to offer the sport. After graduating in 1941, he received scholarships for both basketball and baseball at Notre Dame.
Pavela interrupted his college career to serve three years in the Navy during WWII. He returned to Notre Dame, graduating in 1948. He captained the Fighting Irish baseball team his senior year. After graduating, he moved to Michigan City, Indiana, where he taught and coached basketball and baseball for seven years, before returning to La Crosse to join his father’s construction business.
He did not last long in the construction business. In 1959 he accepted a position as executive secretary of the Wisconsin Catholic Interscholastic Athletic Association (WCIAA), which later became the Wisconsin Independent Schools Athletic Association (WISAA). He remained at the helm for 30 years, overseeing all interscholastic sports for private high schools in Wisconsin. He was instrumental in setting the groundwork for the eventual merger of the WISAA with the public-school Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association in 2000.
Pavela was recognized as a talented ballplayer at a young age. He began playing organized ball as a pitcher and centerfielder for the American Legion Junior All Star team representing La Crosse from 1937-39. His teams played in the Junior American Legions State Championships in 1938 and 1939. After his sophomore year in high school, he was offered professional contracts by both the St. Louis Browns and Cardinals, but turned them down.
After the fighting ended in Europe, Pavela played for US service teams in a highly competitive fastpitch softball league. His stellar play resulted in a lifetime offer to play with a national championship softball team back in the US. He also played semipro ball for the La Crosse American Federation of Labor team, managed by La Crosse Area Baseball Hall of Famer Paul “Pip” Wuest.
He married Marian Dorothy Stellick in 1948, and together they raised four children. They celebrated 71 years of marriage before she preceded him in death by two years. In 1988 Pavela served as Festmaster of the La Crosse Oktoberfest, and in 1990 he was named a Knight of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem. In 2004 Notre Dame honored him with the Harvey G. Foster Distinguished Alumnus Award.
Leonard (Len) Vingers (1934-2021) was born and raised in La Crosse, graduating from Central High School in 1952. He was a multi-sport athlete, but his passion for baseball reigned supreme. Len played first base for Central’s state runner-up squad in 1952. After he graduated, he was a highly sought-after player for regional semi-pro tournaments. Among other teams, he played for the La Crosse Mohawks, the Spring Grove City team (as one of only two paid players) and the La Crescent City team.
He was signed by the St. Louis Cardinals in 1954 and spent the season in their minor league system, batting 489 times for a .254 average, including seven homeruns and 24 doubles. He split the season between Albany in the Georgia-Florida League and Jonson City in the Appalachian League.
He returned to Wisconsin for good after the season and married his high school sweetheart, Donna Johnson. Together they raised two daughters. Len continued to play ball, moving on to a successful career in fast pitch softball. He starred for Quality Lumber & Coal and the Johnson Doughboy Fryers, earning recognition as an All State third baseman in a career that stretched through the 1960s. From there he moved on to slow pitch softball, organizing two different local leagues, earning the Claire Raith 12” Softball Award for his efforts.
Len’s connection to baseball extended beyond his playing career. He umpired for more than twenty years for the Stars of Tomorrow tournaments and the Minnesota State Legion tournament. He also served as a coach for his oldest daughter’s softball team and his grandson’s Boys and Girls club squad.
Dave and Barb Skogen have been married more than fifty years, and have spent much of their working lives as partners in the grocery business. Barb graduated from UW-L with a degree in medical technology, and worked in the medical field in La Crosse before joining Dave in the family grocery business. While she does not have Dave’s baseball background, they are both Cardinals fans, and even spent their honeymoon in St. Louis attending Cardinals games.
Dave’s passion for baseball started in the late 1940s, when his father became a Cardinals fan, and Dave followed suit. He played baseball for Onalaska High School, and then for a regiment team in the Army National Guard at Fort Leonard Wood, MO. He also served as player-manager for the Onalaska Scenics for nearly 20 years, beginning at age 18. During that time he managed several professional players, including La Crosse Area Baseball Hall of Famers Chuck Hockenberry and Everett Johnson. He was employed as a birddog scout for the St. Louis Cardinals for a time beginning in the early 1970s. During his day job overseeing his grocery business, he employed many young ballplayers, among them another La Crosse Area Baseball Hall of Famer, Jerry Augustine.
The demands of the Skogen’s growing grocery business eventually forced Dave out of an active role in baseball, but his love for the sport never faded. In recent years Dave and Barb have found joy in giving. Among their many generous gifts was one made in collaboration with UW-La Crosse and the La Crosse Loggers. The Skogens gifted the artificial turf infield in 2014, which has made it possible to play baseball on a daily basis at Copeland Park. As a result of the turf infield, Copeland Park is able to host more than 200 games each season, including local high schools, UW-L, American Legion, and of course, the Loggers. While one gauge of success is how much wealth one acquires in a lifetime, the more meaningful and lasting measurement is how much one gives away. Dave and Barb Skogen, true friends of baseball, have demonstrated through their actions that the most important requirement to be a philanthropist is a passion for making a difference.
Tony Ghelfi was born in La Crosse in 1961. His baseball career, like many local players, began in Little League, including participation in the Stars of Tomorrow tournament, run by La Crosse Area Hall of Famer Jay Buckley. Ghelfi advanced to the next level as a standout player at Central High School, where he was coached by La Crosse Area Hall of Famers Frank Thornton and Jay Buckley. He also played American Legion ball, and was a member of the 1978 state championship team.
He attended Iowa Western Community College in Council Bluffs, IA on a baseball scholarship and was selected by the Philadelphia Phillies in the first round, the 14th overall selection, in the January 1980 MLB draft.
Ghelfi pitched a total of nine seasons in the minors, compiling a career record of 58-52 with a 3.92 ERA, averaging seven strikeouts per nine innings pitched, and winning ten or more games four times. He advanced quickly through the Phillies system, beginning at Helena in the rookie level Pioneer League in 1980, moving up to A ball in 1981 and 1982. In 1982 he went 12-6 with a sparkling 2.64 ERA and struck out 162 batters in only 160.1 innings while pitching for the Peninsula Pilots in the Carolina League. That performance caught the attention of the major league team. In 1983 he advanced through AA (Reading) and AAA (Portland), before making his major league debut that year with the Phillies.
In his first MLB game, Ghelfi struck out six in five innings of work, picking up the win over the Giants. He pitched in a total of three games that season, finishing with a 1-1 record in 14.1 innings pitched, with an impressive 3.14 ERA and 14 strikeouts.
Ghelfi spent six more years in professional baseball, including stints in the Indians and Padres systems, before retiring in 1989. After retiring, he returned to the La Crosse area, where he lives today.
The 1905 La Crosse Pinks were champions of the six-team class D Wisconsin State League, compiling a gaudy 68-41 record. Other teams in the league were Beloit, Freeport, Green Bay, Oshkosh, and Wausau. The Pinks were managed, and named after, former Major League pitcher Emerson “Pink” Hawley, and featured La Crosse native and future Major Leaguer Ed “The Candy Kid” Konetchy (2015 La Crosse Baseball Area Hall of Fame inductee). Other players of note included veterans John Cahill (who played professionally for 12 years), Lee Hopkins, and Joe Killian (seven years each). Konetchy, who was only 19 and playing in his first professional season, batted .222 in 106 games for the Pinks, scant evidence of the batting prowess that would lead him to a 15 year MLB career. Konetchy was not the only local talent on the team. Manager Hawley hailed from Beaver Dam, Brothers Ben and Willard Dodge were from Cambria, and Ross Jones, while not born in La Crosse, played three years for the Pinks and remained in the area for the rest of his life.
Jay Buckley is Mr. Baseball in La Crosse, having done it all when it comes to the sport that he loves. He has played, coached, umpired, and served as an executive and entrepreneur.
Born in Alma Center and educated at UWL (undergraduate) and Winona State (graduate), Buckley began his professional career as a teacher at La Crosse Lincoln Junior High School. He began his coaching career at Central High School, serving as assistant baseball coach to Frank Thornton (La Crosse Area Baseball Hall of Fame Class of 2015). During Buckley’s 29 years coaching, Central High School won 20 city championships and made 15 trips to the state tournament, winning two state championships. He coached over 125 players who went on to play baseball at the collegiate level, ten of whom signed professional contracts. He also coached the La Crosse Juniors for 22 years, winning a national title in 1986.
Buckley was inducted into the Wisconsin Baseball Coaches Association (WBCA) Hall of Fame in 2006. In 1987 he was the first recipient of the United States Baseball Federation Volunteer Amateur Coach award, and in 2000 he received the WBCA Distinguished Service Award.
Buckley served as Director of the La Crosse Stars of Tomorrow Baseball Tournament for 16 years. The Stars tournament was one of the earliest and most successful national youth baseball tournaments in the country. At its peak, the Stars Tournament drew more than two hundred teams each summer.
In 1982 Buckley began what is perhaps his most famous contribution to local baseball, founding Jay Buckley’s Baseball Tours. What began as an annual car trip to visit baseball stadiums eventually grew into the largest baseball tour company in the United States. Buckley Baseball Tours now sponsors 25-30 multi-city tours each summer, guiding as many as 1500 fans a year to stadiums across the country. The success of Jay Buckley Baseball Tours has attracted competitors, but none has succeeded in dethroning Buckley, which remains the largest, widest ranging, and most successful baseball tour business in the country.
Merv Henley, raised in Coon Valley, was a standout ballplayer, pitching and playing outfield for local semi-pro teams well into his 40s. During the 1940s and 1950s the local baseball scene was quite active and highly competitive, featuring teams from Camp McCoy that often featured major league players, against whom Henley frequently pitched, and held his own.
Henley, who stood 5’8”, was known locally as “The Mighty Mite.” Despite his diminutive stature, he was an accomplished ballplayer, and pitched professionally for two seasons (1940-41) with the La Crosse Blackhawks in the class D Wisconsin State League. The Blackhawks played their home games at Copeland Park, and Henley was the star of the team, posting a 20-3 record with a 1.82 ERA in 1940. He contributed at the plate as well, hitting .282 on the season with three homeruns. He followed that up with a 15-9 record in 1941, striking out 130 while walking only 37. Unfortunately for Henley and La Crosse baseball fans, World War II interrupted Henley’s career, and ultimately led to the dissolution of the league
After the war Henley continued playing for local teams. During the 1930s and 1940s Major League and Negro League ballplayers often barnstormed around the country after their regular season ended, taking on local teams. In one such contest at Copeland Park, Henley outdueled Hall of Famer Satchel Paige, leading the local All Stars to a 3-1 victory over the barnstorming team of professional players.
Jeff Schmidt was born in Northfield, MN and grew up in La Crosse. He played baseball at Central High School, posting a 5-0 record and a 2.24 ERA in his senior season, leading the team to the WIAA Class A State Championship Game. Upon graduation, Schmidt attended the University of Minnesota on a baseball scholarship. He was a standout pitcher for the Minnesota Gophers, leading the team to the Big Ten Championship in 1992. His success at the collegiate level earned him an invitation to the 1991 Olympic Baseball Trials.
After his junior season, Schmidt was selected with the 29th overall pick by the California Angels in the first round of the 1992 MLB Amateur draft. He spent seven seasons in the Angels minor league system where he posted 10 wins and 41 saves with 313 strikeouts in 486.2 innings. Considered a top prospect in the Angels minor league system, Schmidt was selected to play three seasons in the Arizona Fall League, and was named to the 1996 and 1997 AAA All-Star Teams.
Schmidt made his major league debut at Yankee Stadium on May 17, 1996. He appeared in nine games that year, all in relief, posting a 2-0 record. His first win came on July 14, 1996, when he tossed two innings of one-hit relief and was credited with the victory as California rallied to beat Texas 10-7. He earned his second win a week later. After signing with the Cleveland Indians as a free agent, Schmidt retired in 1999.
After retirement, Schmidt completed his bachelor’s degree from the University of Minnesota and earned his law degree from the University of Wisconsin. He practiced law with a Madison firm before joining the University of Wisconsin Athletic Department in 2004. He currently serves as the Badger’s Associate Athletic Director for Administration and Legal Affairs. Jeff, his wife and daughter reside in Madison.
Bill Terry was born in Cresco, IA in 1930, but grew up just down river in Lansing, IA, playing baseball and basketball at Lansing High School. After high school he enrolled at the University of Northern Iowa (UNI), but had to put his college career on hold in order to serve three and a half years in the Air Force. After finishing his tour of duty, Terry returned to UNI and earned his teaching degree. He moved from teaching jobs in Maxwell, IA to Westby, WI, where he began his coaching career, assisting the legendary head football coach Elmo Gulsvig. It was at Westby High School where he first began coaching baseball, and eventually was named Athletic Director as well. In 1961 he moved from high school coaching to college coaching when he joined the football staff at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse (UWL).
Bill Terry took the reigns as UWL’s head baseball coach in 1969 and kept the job for eleven years. He led his teams to a 199-144 record, racking up the third most wins in school history, and tenth most in Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference history. Terry’s teams won seven conference championships, advancing to the NAIA playoffs six times, making it all the way to the NAIA World Series in 1979, when they placed fifth in the nation. A total of 34 players earned all-conference honors under Terry. During his UWL career he coached ten players who went on to play either professional baseball or football, including Jerry Augustine (La Crosse Area Baseball Hall of Fame Class of 2017) and Craig Kusick (Class of 2016).
Coach Terry was inducted into the State Baseball Coaches Hall of Fame in 1986 and the UWL Wall of Fame in 1994. In 2010 he was named the La Crosse Tribune Sportsperson of the Year for his successful efforts to save UWL baseball. In June of 2009 the university announced plans to cancel the sport, and Terry spearheaded an effort to raise more than $175,000 to save the program.
Richard Francis “Dick” Ghelfi was born on August 24, 1934, in Genoa, WI. His family moved to La Crosse in 1945. Dick attended Aquinas High School, where he played baseball for four years, graduating in 1952.
During his senior year he was spotted by a scout for the St. Louis Cardinals and invited to a tryout camp in Red Wing, Minnesota, where he impressed the scouts by striking out all three batters he faced. He was then invited to the next round of tryouts, held at Copeland Park, where he was offered a contract with the Cardinals, complete with a $28.50 bonus check. He reported to spring training with the Cardinals in 1953 and was assigned to their class D minor league affiliate in Hazelhurst, Georgia.
Ghelfi’s career was cut short by injury after four years of steady progress in the Cardinals’ minor league system. His first professional season was his best. In Hazelhurst he sported an 11-4 record and 3.23 ERA in 128 innings pitched. This performance earned him a promotion to Joplin, in the class C Western Association, in 1954. Arm troubles limited him to only 17 appearances that year, and he was sent back to class D in 1955, where he flashed his old form, going 13-11 with a 3.47 ERA in 27 games, and batting .271. This earned him another promotion, this time all the way up to class B Peoria in 1956. Unfortunately, his arm injury recurred, and he retired after splitting the season between Peoria, Beaumont, and Decatur. His final professional record was a very respectable 31-22 in 74 games.
He returned to the La Crosse area in 1957 and continued playing baseball for the next several years for teams in Bangor, Spring Grove, and Nekoosa, where he moved in 1959 after marrying Nancy Oium. He eventually returned to La Crosse, where he continued to play baseball, as well as softball.
Ghelfi is the father of five children, two of whom also played baseball professionally. The Ghelfi baseball tradition has continued into a third generation. Two of Dick’s grandchildren were drafted by the Milwaukee Brewers, and a third is currently playing at the collegiate level.
Damian Miller was born on October 13, 1969 in La Crosse, and grew up in West Salem. He attended Viterbo University and was drafted by the Minnesota Twins in the 20th round of the MLB amateur draft in June of 1990. After retirement he returned to the Coulee region where he lives with his wife Jeanne and their two children. He volunteers at Coulee Christian School and has coached for the Boys and Girls club baseball teams.
His local honors include being named the 2000 La Crosse Tribune sportsperson of the year, and induction into the Viterbo University Wall of Fame in 2001. In 2014 West Salem honored him by dedicating their baseball diamond Damian Miller Field.
At Viterbo he set school records for highest career batting average, most doubles, and most RBI. He also set the single season record for doubles and batting average. In June of 1990 he was drafted in the 20th round by the Minnesota Twins, and made his professional debut that summer, homering in his first at bat with Elizabethton in the Appalachian League. He spent seven seasons in the Twins minor league system, hitting .276 with 39 homeruns, while establishing himself as one of the best defensive catchers in the minors. He made his major league debut on August 10, 1997 as a pinch hitter against Mariano Rivera and the New York Yankees.
After the season, he was claimed by the Arizona Diamondbacks in the second round of the MLB expansion draft. In his five seasons with Arizona he hit .269 with 48 homeruns in 467 games, helping them to the 2001 World Series championship.
In 2003 he joined the Chicago Cubs, guiding a dynamic young pitching staff that nearly took him to another World Series. After spending 2004 with Oakland, Miller joined the Brewers for three years, retiring after the 2007 season.
During his 11 year career, he hit .262 with 87 homeruns. It was his defense, however, that won him awards. He led the league in both putouts and assists by a catcher in 2001. Five times during his career he finished in the top ten in the league in throwing out potential base stealers. He also led all catchers in fielding percentage in both 2002 and 2004. He was named a National League All Star in 2002, doubling twice in three at bats, driving in two runs and scoring one.
Charles Hockenbery was born December 15, 1950 in La Crosse, WI. He currently resides in Onalaska, where he has lived most of his life.
Hockenbery played baseball for the Onalaska Hilltoppers and was a four year starter. In the 1960s it was difficult for Wisconsin high school players to get a “good look” from scouts because they played summer ball, and unless they made the state baseball tournament, they often went unnoticed. But that didn’t stop Hockenbery. After graduating from Onalaska in 1969 he contacted a local “bird dog” scout who came to watch him pitch. He impressed the scout and signed a free agent contract with the California Angels.
Hockenbery began his professional career later that summer at class A Quad Cities in the Midwest League. He appeared in only four games in his brief stint that year, and opened 1970 at Idaho Falls in the rookie league. He went 5-4 with a 3.29 ERA, striking out 50 in 63 innings. That solid performance earned him a promotion back to Quad Cities in 1971, AA Shreveport in 1972, and AAA Salt Lake City in 1973, where he pitched in 1974-75 as well. In three years at AAA he was 18-18 with a 4.92 ERA and 4.9 strikeouts per 9 innings. This output earned him a call up to the big league club in 1975. He appeared in 16 games for the Angels that year, pitching a total of 41 innings, mostly in relief. He earned one save and struck out 15.
Hock returned to the minors in 1976, fashioning a 5-6 record and striking out five batters per nine innings. This performance caught the attention of the Seattle Mariners, who planned to call him up, but he injured his ankle, costing him the entire 1977 season. He played professionally for one more season, splitting 1978 between Vancouver in the PCL and Jersey City in the Eastern League, turning in a fine 3.44 ERA and 8-11 record, before hanging up his spikes.
Hockenbery returned to Onalaska in 1978, and worked for G. Heileman Brewery until his retirement in 2005. He also owned and operated Hock’s Scoreboard Tavern in Onalaska from 1980 to 2013. He continued to play baseball, appearing regularly at Copeland Park as a member of the La Crosse Old Styles in the 1980s.
In 1990 Hock became the first coach of the Onalaska American Legion baseball team, and remained at the helm for the next ten years. He continues to help as part-time pitching coach, and is a regular at the legion games.
Chuck and his wife are enjoying their retirement, following the lives of their three children and five grandchildren. He enjoys watching baseball and regularly attends reunions of retired Angels players.
Paul “Pip” Wuest was born in La Crosse on April 10, 1910, graduated from Central High School in 1929, and attended La Crosse Teacher’s College (UWL), where he played football for one season. In 1935 he married Marie Wahlstrom of Waukon, IA, and they raised two children.
Wuest was an outstanding all-around athlete, and was inducted into Central’s Hall of Excellence in 2005. He starred in football, basketball and track, eventually joining the semipro football Old Style Lagers, before turning his attention to baseball.
He coached and played baseball and softball in the La Crosse area for more than 30 years, turning down a contract offer from the Chicago Cubs at the age of 28 because he didn’t want to start a new career at such an advanced age. He was a feared slugger on the diamond, leading the Bodega softball team to a national title in 1932 and the UAW of America Union 396 team to the 1939 state amateur baseball championship. He was also a respected and successful manager. His 1954-55 American Legion teams lost only three games and qualified for the state tournament both years.
Wuest served two terms as La Crosse county sheriff in the 1960s and worked thirty years at Electric AutoLite, never losing his passion for local sports. He was a regular at nearly every Central High School sporting event, and frequently provided baseball equipment to the team when athletic budgets were tight. He was also involved in the early organization of the Stars of Tomorrow tournament.
He died on June 23, 1980 while listening to a baseball game on his car radio. Three years earlier he had been recognized by the Oktoberfest committee for his community service when they named him Maple Leaf parade marshal.
Jerry Augustine has done it all when it comes to baseball in his native state of Wisconsin. He was born in Green Bay in 1952 and raised in nearby Kewaunee, where he began his baseball career at Kewaunee High School. In 1971 he took his talents across the state to UW-La Crosse, then back east for a decade with the Brewers. Since retiring from professional baseball, he spent 12 years as head baseball coach at UW-Milwaukee, and for the past nine years he has been calling games for the Brewers on FOX Sports Wisconsin.
While at UWL, Augustine helped lead the Eagles to back-to-back conference titles in 1972 and 1973, when he was named to the All-Wisconsin State University Conference First Team. His 14 career wins are tied for 13th in school history, and his 186 strikeouts are fifth on the school’s all-time list.
The left-handed Augustine was drafted by the Brewers in the 15th round of the 1974 amateur draft. He made his MLB debut at age 23 on September 9, 1975 after only 28 minor league appearances, and stayed with the Brewers for the next decade. He was part of a Brewers staff that transformed the team from 90+ losses each year from 1975-77 into division winners in 1981 and a World Series appearance in 1982.
Augustine compiled a career record of 55-59 with a 4.23 ERA in 944 innings. He began his career as a regular in the Brewers rotation, starting 87 games in a three year span, going 34-42 with a 4.14 ERA. He led the AL in fielding in 1978 when he won a career-high 13 games. He ranks sixth in all time appearances for Brewers pitchers with 279 and 10th in complete games with 27. His six career shutouts are 9th on the Brewers all-time list.
In 1979 he made a successful move to the bullpen, where he spent the remainder of his career. He was one of the first pitchers to be used in the role of what has now become known as the set-up man, most often entering in the 7th or 8th inning and then giving way to the likes of Hall of Fame closer Rollie Fingers.
His best season was 1976, when he posted a career-best 3.30 ERA and was named to the Topps All-Star Rookie Team and the AL All-Rookie Team. He was also selected by Milwaukee baseball writers as the Brewers Rookie of the Year.
Augustine finished his professional career at the AAA level, playing for the top minor league clubs of the Yankees and Orioles in 1985 and 1986 after finishing his Brewers career in 1984. He retired at the conclusion of the 1986 season, and left baseball to open an insurance agency.
He did not remain out of baseball for long, however. In 1995 he accepted a position as head coach of the UW-Milwaukee baseball team. He remained in the position for twelve seasons, retiring in 2006 as the school’s all-time winningest coach with a 347-297-1 record and three NCAA tournament appearances. He was named Midwestern Collegiate Conference Coach of the Year in 1997, 2000, and 2001.
Jerry Augustine was inducted into the UW-La Crosse Wall of Fame in 1984 and the Milwaukee Brewers Wall of Honor in 2014. In 2012 he was named to the WIAC All-Time Baseball Team.
Augustine and his wife Nancy have five children. He continues to operate his insurance company and call games for the Brewers on Fox Sports Wisconsin.
Craig Kusick was born on September 30, 1948 in Milwaukee. He enrolled at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse in the fall of 1969 and graduated in 1972, two years after he was drafted by the Minnesota Twins. While at UWL he earned all-conference honors in 1970, and led the team in RBI in 1969 and 1970, batting .325 over the two seasons. His career slugging average of .641 ranks third all-time at UWL. He was named to the WIAC All-Time Centennial Team in 2012.
Kusick made his major league debut on September 8, 1973, going 0-4 against the White Sox. That year he appeared in 15 games, batting .250 with two doubles and four RBIs. He played seven seasons in the majors with the Twins and the Toronto Blue Jays. He was a slugging first baseman and designated hitter, pounding 23 home runs and 25 doubles in only 631 at bats over the course of his two most productive seasons in 1976 and 1977. He even saw some action as a pitcher, appearing in one game with the Blue Jays in 1979.
Over his career, Kusick appeared in 497 games, batting .235 with a .392 slugging average, 46 home runs, 99 extra base hits, and 171 RBIs. His best single season was 1976, when he hit .259 with 11 home runs, 13 doubles, 33 runs scored and 36 RBIs in 109 games.
He also played eight seasons in the minors, finishing his career in Hawaii in 1981, appearing in 43 games and batting .272 with 16 extra base hits in 125 at bats. Over the course of his minor league career, which included stops at St. Cloud, Lynchburg, Charlotte and Tacoma before his promotion to the Twins, he batted .288 with a .492 slugging average and 113 home runs.
After his playing career ended, Kusick served as assistant baseball coach at Rosemount (MN) High School from 1982-1990 and head coach from 1991-2004. His teams posted a 262-154 record and won seven sectional championships. He was named sectional coach of the year six consecutive years. While at Rosemount he also coached football and basketball and was responsible for fundraising that refurbished the baseball field.
Craig Kusick was inducted into the UWL Hall of Fame in 1985 and the Minnesota High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 2010. He passed away on September 27, 2006 in St. Paul, MN.
George Williams was born in La Crosse on April 22, 1969, and graduated from Central High School in 1987, when he was named the Wisconsin Amateur Baseball Player of the Year. He played college ball at Des Moines Area Community College, Mira Costa College, and the University of Texas Pan American before being drafted in 1991 by the Oakland Athletics.
Williams made his major league debut in 1995 after parts of five seasons in the minor leagues. A switch-hitter who saw most of his time at catcher, he played in 29 games with the A’s in 1995, hitting .291 with five doubles, three home runs and 14 RBI. He appeared in 56 games in 1996 and in a career-high 76 games in 1997 when he hit .289 and set career-highs in runs (30), hits (58), doubles (9), RBI (22), walks (35) and on-base percentage (.397). He also tied his career-high with three home runs. He finished his major league career with San Diego in 2000, appearing in 11 games. He was signed by the Boston Red Sox in 2001, but an early season elbow injury ended his playing career. His career totals included 172 games, a .243 batting average with 10 home runs, 19 doubles, two triples, 104 hits and 62 runs scored.
Williams was named head coach of the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse baseball team in 2002, leading the team to a 26-18 record (19-9 conference). His teams went 60-60 over three years, and 23 of his players earned All-conference honors.
Louie Erickson Sauer was born on June 2, 1929 in Whitehall, WI. In 1948 she made her professional baseball debut for Racine of the All American Girls Professional Baseball League. Prior to her professional debut, she had never played organized ball. There were no girl’s sports when she attended Arcadia High School, where she graduated in 1946, but she coached in a summer softball league and played neighborhood pickup games with the boys.
“Lou” Erickson moved to Rockford for the 1949 and 1950 seasons. She was named to the 1949 All Star team on the strength of her 17- 6 record, which included seven shutouts. She went 16-10 in her final season and was again named an All Star. She helped Rockford to the league championship in both 1949 and 1950. By the age of 21 she had already been named to two All Star teams, had a .680 career winning percentage with a 2.13 ERA and compiled a 4-1 postseason record, helping her team to two championships. However, she retired following the 1950 season when she married Burton Sauer.
She and Burt returned to Arcadia, where they raised two children and ran a bowling alley. In her retirement, Erickson-Sauer coached softball and took up bowling, a sport she played for more than 30 years. She still lives in Arcadia, making occasional appearances at baseball events and Loggers games.
Robert “Kootch” Carroll was born in La Crosse on October 8, 1915 and died there on January 11, 1988. In between, he and his wife Marilyn raised eight children, he starred on the baseball field, and made a mark on the community that has been commemorated with a baseball field and an apartment building bearing his name.
Carroll graduated from Aquinas High School in 1932, joined the U.S. army in 1942 and retired four years later at the rank of Major. He worked for the Post Office for 35 years, retiring as Assistant Postmaster in 1971, and served as a La Crosse County Board Supervisor for 24 years.
“Kootch” was a regular on the ballfield for 18 years. When his playing days ended, he turned to coaching, umpiring, and part-time scouting for major league teams. And when that wasn’t enough, he organized a baseball league (the 13th Ward Baseball League, founded in 1961) and a tournament that grew to be one of the biggest in the country. He founded the Stars of Tomorrow baseball tournament in 1967 and guided it through its first six years before stepping down due to health reasons. He was known locally as the father of youth baseball, in part because of his oft repeated philosophy to “let ‘em all play.”
Stepping away from the baseball diamond did not mean he stopped contributing to the community though. Over the last twenty years of his life, “Kootch” was a regular lunchtime guest at local retirement homes, where he visited with residents and provided entertainment in the form of games, quizzes and prize drawings. He also helped establish the local meals-on-wheels program.
Carroll was highly decorated for a lifetime of selfless service. He was chosen to serve as Oktoberfest Parade marshal in 1969, named Man of the Year in 1971 by the greater La Crosse area Chamber of Commerce, and was honored by Viterbo University in 1985 as a recipient of the prestigious Pope John XXIII Distinguished Service Award
Corinne Zielke was a true friend of baseball. Upon her death on February 5, 2000 she left nearly $1 million to be used for the support of baseball in the La Crosse community. To date the Corrine Zielke Fund has provided a half million dollars to area teams, communities, and schools for baseball equipment and facilities. The largest single grant, $300,000, was used to renovate Copeland Park in 2003 to host the La Crosse Loggers, an expansion team in the Northwoods League .
Zielke was born Corinne Swenson on February 18, 1916 in Ettrick, and grew up on a farm near South Beaver Creek, seven miles east of Ettrick. After World War II she settled in La Crosse, first working as a clerk at Trane Company, then starting a restaurant on the Trane campus. In 1950 she opened Corinne’s Café at 2215 South 17th Street in La Crosse and operated it until 1970, when she retired and sold the property to Trane. The wise investment of the proceeds of the sale grew into the endowment that she provided for local baseball.
In 1953 she married Arthur J. Zielke. After his death in 1975 she returned to work, running the tea shop at Doerflinger’s. She retired again when the store closed in 1984, but volunteered at the Gundersen Lutheran Hospital gift shop until shortly before her death.
Boober Parizek, known as “Mr. Baseball,” was described as a walking baseball encyclopedia. He was a historian of the game and an eager and talented participant. He played on several outstanding local teams, ranging from Barre Mills, La Crosse, and Onalaska, to Richland Center, Stoddard, and Hokah. He managed local American Legion and semipro teams for six years before taking over the Western Wisconsin Technical College team. He served as a scorekeeper and umpire for area leagues and the Stars of Tomorrow tournament, remaining active into his 70s. He and Leo Mashak ran the National Baseball Congress tournament for over 40 years.
He was born on August 5, 1919 in La Crosse, and except for a few years in rural Westby, lived his entire life here. He died on May 24, 2008.
Parizek worked at La Crosse Peerless Brewery, the La Crosse Rubber Mills, and the La Crosse Post Office. He served as a private in the U.S. Army during World War II.
His baseball career began as a ten year old in the Powell Park midget league, helping his team to the championship, his first of many. He played baseball for local legion and semipro teams and in city softball leagues for more than 25 years, playing his final game on his fiftieth birthday. In 1953 he was awarded the annual Claire Raith trophy for all around baseball ability, character, and sportsmanship on and off the field. Later that same year he was honored by the city of La Crosse for his lifetime contributions to the local softball scene.
Frank Thornton was born in Portage, WI on February 25, 1944. He graduated from UW-La Crosse in 1968, lettering in baseball. Before he joined the Central High School faculty, Thornton had a brief career as a railroad fireman.
He spent two years as assistant baseball coach at Central High School before taking over the head coaching duties, which he held for 30 record-setting years. Before he hung up his spikes, he took the Central baseball team to 17 state tournaments, winning twice (1978 and 1986) and finishing second six more times. The 1986 team finished the season ranked 19th in the nation by USA Today. He also guided his teams to 23 regional titles, 18 MVC championships, and 24 city championships.
In 30 years he compiled a 459-131-1 record. His teams never had a losing season. He is the winningest coach in Wisconsin high school baseball history, and was inducted into the Wisconsin Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 1990.
Thornton was twice named the Wisconsin baseball coach of the year (1980 and 1986) and in 1999 became the first recipient of the La Crosse Tribune’s Sportsperson of the Year award. 81 of his former players went on to play baseball at the collegiate level, and nine of them signed professional contracts.
He assisted Jay Buckley in running the Stars of Tomorrow baseball tournament for 29 years, and umpired and officiated local baseball, football, and basketball games for more than 30 years.
In addition to baseball, Thornton also coached basketball, football, and both boys and girls skiing. He guided the girls ski team to the 1979 state championship. The boys were state runners-up that same year.
After retiring from teaching he has kept busy with his passion for stock car racing. He is a regular on the circuit, where he races as “Thunder” Turner.
Edward Joseph Konetchy was born in La Crosse on September 3, 1885. He left school after the eighth grade and began working at the Funk Candy Company. When he was 16 he joined the competitive factory team, and at age 20 he signed his first professional contract with the La Crosse Pinks of the Class D Wisconsin State League.
The big right hander usually batted cleanup and eventually attracted the attention of professional scouts. He was hitting .359 when the St. Louis Cardinals purchased his contract for $1000 in June of 1907. The next day he made his major league debut, getting his first hit in a 4-3 loss to the Reds.
Over a fifteen year MLB career, Ed Konetchy led National League first basemen in fielding eight times and batted .281 in 2,085 games. His 2,150 hits included 344 doubles, 181 triples (17th all time), and 74 home runs. He even contributed on the mound, appearing twice in relief and once as a starter.
In 1910 Konetchy put together a 20-game hitting streak, batted over .300 for the first of four times, and won the Triple Crown in fielding, leading NL first basemen in fielding percentage, putouts, and assists.
In 1911 the Cardinals team was involved in a train wreck on a trip to Boston. A dozen passengers were killed and 47 others injured. Konetchy and Cardinals manager Roger Bresnahan led the rescue effort, carrying several passengers to safety.
Before the 1914 season Konetchy was traded to Pittsburgh for five players. That year he batted only .249, resulting in a reduced contract offer from management, spurring him to sign with the Pittsburgh Stogies of the Federal League. In his only season in the Federal League, Konetchy set career highs in batting average (.314), hits (181), and triples (18), finishing in the Top Five in almost every offensive category while winning his second fielding Triple Crown. When the Federal League folded in the fall of 1915 Konetchy was purchased by the Boston Braves.
After three years with the Braves, Konetchy was sold to the Brooklyn Dodgers before the 1919 season. On June 28 that year he began an incredible streak, knocking out two singles and a double. He followed that up the next day with four singles and a triple, then started the following game with two more singles. When the hitting barrage ended, he had collected ten consecutive hits, tying a record set in 1897 that would stand until 1952, and is still the second most consecutive hits in MLB history.
In 1920, his 13th season in the majors, Koney, as his name was often shortened in box scores, played in his first and only World Series. He struggled at bat, collecting only four hits in seven games, but excelled in the field, setting a single game World Series record for most chances accepted by a first baseman with 19.
1921 was his last season in the majors. He was released by the Dodgers in July and claimed on waivers by the Phillies. He finished the year hitting .299 with a career-high 11 home runs, and a single-season record five unassisted double plays.
Konetchy’s playing days, however, were far from over; he remained active in the minors until 1926. After a year with Toledo of the American Association, he became player-manager of Omaha of the Western League in 1923. The following year he held the same role for Petersburg of the Virginia League, leading the circuit in home runs. In 1925, while playing for the Ft. Worth Cats, Konetchy, who turned 40 at the end of the season, batted .345 and led the Texas League with 41 home runs and 166 RBIs. He retired as a player after the 1926 season and remained in Texas for another ten years, managing the Brownsville entry in the the Texas Valley League in 1938 before returning to LaCrosse to take the helm of the new La Crosse Blackhawks in the Wisconsin State League. He led the Blackhawks to the league title that year and continued to manage the team until the league dissolved after the 1942 season. That season was Ed’s last in professional baseball, and he retired back to Texas, becoming a foreman at the Convair plant. He also owned a restaurant and chicken farm and worked occasionally as a scout for the St. Louis Cardinals.
Ed Konetchy died from heart disease on May 27, 1947. He was posthumously inducted into Wisconsin’s Athletic Hall of Fame in 1961, the first La Crosse native to earn such a distinction.
Scott Servais was born on June 4, 1967. The Coon Valley native played baseball at Westby High School and Creighton University before being drafted by the Houston Astros in 1988.
He began his professional career with Osceola in 1989, quickly rising through the Astro’s system to AAA Tucson, where he batted .324 in 1991 before being called up to the majors.
Servais made his Major League debut on July 12, 1991 for the Astros in a pinch hitting role. He played sparingly until late September when he garnered his first two major league hits in a game against the Giants and finished the season on a 6 for 16 tear. During an eleven year career that included time with the Astros (1991-95, 2001), Chicago Cubs (1995-98), San Francisco Giants (1999-2000) and Colorado Rockies (2000), Servais batted .245 with 130 doubles, 63 home runs and 319 RBI in 820 games. Three times (1993, 1994, 1998) he ranked among the top three NL catchers in fielding percentage. He got his only post season experience with the Cubs in 1998, and made the most of it, getting two hits in three at bats.
He enjoyed perhaps his finest offensive season in 1995, when he was traded from the Astros to the Cubs in mid-season. He hit .286 with 12 homeruns after the trade. For the season he hit .265 with 13 homeruns, 22 doubles, and 47 RBI.
In 1999 he signed with the San Francisco Giants as a free agent, hitting .279 and sharing the catching duties with Brent Mayne and Doug Mirabelli. He split the 2000 season between the Giants and Colorado Rockies before returning to Houston in 2001.
After retiring in 2002, Servais held the position of roving catching instructor for the Cubs. After two seasons with the Cubs organization, he became a professional scout for the Rockies. Following the 2005 season, he was named Senior Director of Player Development for the Texas Rangers.
In 2011 Scott Servais joined the Los Angeles Angels as Assistant General Manager of Scouting & Player Development. He had spent the previous six seasons in the Texas Rangers front office.
Servais played college baseball at Creighton University, where his head coach was former Cubs GM Jim Hendry. He was inducted into the school’s athletic hall of fame in 2003. He also helped Team USA win a gold medal in the 1988 Olympics and a silver medal in the 1987 Pan American Games, and earned USA Baseball’s Alumni Award in 1994.
Everett Johnson was born on October 7, 1926 in Onalaska. He caught for the Onalaska high school team as a fifth grader. Having nearly reached his full grown height of 6’1” and 185 pounds, he did not look out of place. By the time he reached high school age he had to drop out and go to work to help support his family. He continued to play ball in his free time however, and signed his first professional contract with the Cubs at age 17 in 1944. Before he could report however, he was drafted into the navy, where he played the next two years for the Kaneohe Klippers, a naval team stationed in Hawaii.
He finally began his professional career in 1947 with the Hutchinson Cubs in the Western Association. His first hit was a pinch hit grand slam. He finished the season with six home runs and a .240 batting average in 108 games.
He was limited to a 135 games over the next two seasons, but hit well enough (.290 with six home runs) to attract the attention of the Cincinnati Reds, who drafted him out of the Cubs organization and put him on their opening day roster in 1950.
Johnson stuck with the Reds for half the season, serving as the bullpen catcher, but never saw action, finally being sent down to Charleston of the Central League, where he hit .269 in 34 games. He finished his professional career in the Reds organization, with stops in Tulsa and Columbia before retiring after the 1953 season, his career cut short by a shoulder injury he suffered during the 1952 season. His minor league career spanned seven seasons and a total of 367 games. He hit .269 in 1101 at bats with 22 home runs, 13 triples and 44 doubles.
In 1956 he took a managerial position in Dickinson, South Dakota, but was soured by the fact that the team refused to allow black players on the roster. After having played against the likes of Hank Aaron and Jackie Robinson, Johnson wasn’t interested in segregated baseball. His interest in managing waned after that, and he turned down an offer to manage in the Reds minor league system, instead returning home to Onalaska where he continued to play ball on local teams while working in the construction business.
Onalaska honored their local hero with Everett Johnson night in 1968. Johnson continues to live there and can frequently be seen in the stands at Copeland Park during a Loggers home stand.