The gods and goddesses of sport are a fickle bunch. They smile on some while leaving others frustrated. They allow some to have long and healthy careers while ending the careers of others in the blink of an eye. I wasnt familiar with the baseball of career of Athens native Ken Roesler before this weekend. Roesler, along with Joe Westfall and Dick Iverson was inducted into the Central Wisconsin Baseball Hall-Of-Fame on Sunday in a very nice ceremony at Athletic Park. Roesler told his story of growing up on an Athens area farm in the 1950's with no electricity and only a vague understanding of pro baseball. He honed his batting eye by hitting chunks of gravel with an old axe handle for hours. He played high school ball and then played at Carroll College in Waukesha where he caught the eye of the Milwaukee Braves. He agreed to sign only if he could finish his two years of college between seasons. The Braves agreed but also demanded he come to County Stadium to work out with the big club while he was at school. He, of course, agreed and found himself, at the age of 19, in the clubhouse full of stars competing for a World Series title. Fast forward to to 1963. After a few very good seasons in the minors Roesler got an invitation to spring training with a good chance to make the majors. In a pre-season game he slid into homeplate and tore his ulnar nerve on his right arm on the catchers shin guard. Just like that his career was over. He could have been bitter...but seemed at this point to realize that nothing is guranteed and was thankful for his chance and the ability to connect with guys like Eddie Matthews and Bob Uecker. He roomed with Uecker in his first spring training and even then Uecker was a jokester...putting a belt in the bottom of Roesler's bed after telling him to watch out for snakes in the bunkhouse. His was an interesting story and I'm glad I've learned about it.
The other inductees were also very deserving. I coached Joe Westfall for four years with the Wausau Legion team and let me tell you he was a force. I reminded him of a classic game at Athletic Park where he squared off with Kevin Mlodik of Stevens Point. Two big horses trading strikeouts for inning after inning. We won it 1-0 on a solo homer by Westfall's Marathon teammate Brad Ceranski. Westfall pitched at Minnesota, was with the Woodchucks briefly and also pitched for the St Paul Saints.
Dick Iverson has coached baseball at Rib Lake for 32 years after promising his wife in the first year there that they would be gone in three years because of the winters. As someone who has coached for a long time I can tell you that you have to love the game, the competition and the players to stick with it that long...especially in a small town situation where you are not only the coach but groundskeeper, equipment manager and a myriad of other responsibilites.
Woodchucks owner Mark McDonald also made the announcement that the Hall-Of-Fame selections will become an every other year thing going forward and that the team and the city are talking about where a permanent display of the inductees can be placed.
The Legion season is winding down. Wausau will host Wisconsin Rapids in the regular season finale tonight at 7pm at Athletic Park. Wausau is also hosting the AAA Regional Tournament beginning on Wednesday. Games at 1,4 & 7pm on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday with the championship games on Saturday at 4 & 7 if necessary. The first days action on Wednesday will feature Plover vs Wisconsin Rapids at 1...Marshfield vs Stevens Point at 4...and Wausau vs DC Everest at 7. Admission is $5 per day and 12 & under are free. All games are at Athletic Park. Hope to see you there.
Noting the passing of James Garner over the weekend. Loved Maverick, Rockford Files and the movies like "Support Your Local Gunfighter" and Support Your Local Sheriff"
Songs Of The Day (from My I-pod)
Night Train To Munich-Al Stewart (1995) One of his "historical songs" from an album of historical songs about the time in history between the two world wars. The entire album features the great acoustic guitar work of Lawrence Juber
The Nightfly-Donald Fagen (1982) title track from his first solo album...a song about a latenight DJ on a radio station...that he may have have heard in his formative years in the 50's growing up in the exurbs of New York