The Kenosha Softball Hall of Fame needs to widen its scope. As I’ve asked in the past..”how many votes do the guys from Finney’s actually get”? With all due respect to everyone involved, the field needs to be extended. It is one thing to be a good player on a great team, but does that actually make you a Hall of Famer? OK, this guy batted 8th on a iconic team for 10 years, is he better than a guy that batted clean-up on a good team for 30 years? Are the circle of friends and/or the guys and girls you played with more important than your body of work? As you might imagine, I’m all about props to the people that are below the radar, that lived and breathed softball for many years, and that maybe added more to the history than a decent 7 hole hitter on a great team.. Here are some folks I believe should already be in:
Don Umscheid Absolute no-brainer! Played well into his 50’s and played at a very high level including leading the league in hitting out at Finney’s West when they had the best league in town…at the age of 50!! Drove the ball all over the field, outstanding fielder, fantastic teammate. And if you were to take into account the accomplishments of his sons Paul, Joel and Mike, he is literally in a class by himself. This is a perfect example of what a Hall of Fame player looks like. NO ONE could tie his shoes on his skills after the game, supporting his sponsors..probably still can’t.
Bea Dinan (Tim and Kathy Dinan) from Bill’s Corner Club Again, with all due respect to all sponsors for their support of Kenosha Softball, name me one sponsor that has gone wire-to-wire. Bill’s Corner Club STILL has an active streak. From damn near day 1 of recreation softball in Kenosha up to and including today, Bill’s Corner Club has been a proud sponsor of at least one softball team. A few years back when the men and women’s league had a combined 24 teams, Bill’s Corner Club had 4 of those 24 teams. They had a little stretch there in the mid to late 80’s where they had a team at a very high level, but no sponsor can touch their longevity dating back to 1961 when the doors opened.
Steve Hoppenjan Easily my “most favorite teammate” ever. Not because we are life long buds, but because no one held himself more accountable on the softball field than Hop. A power-of-the-order hitter and a plus fielding shortstop his entire career, Hop was an absolute staple of every team he played on for over 25 years. He got his one Rotary win with Washington Park Tavern but was never part of the “big league” crowd. That most certainly does not diminish anything from a long a outstanding softball run. He is a perfect example of a guy that played with his friends his whole career and just never took an inning off. The most fierce competitor I ever had the pleasure of playing with.
Jerry Kalbfell A true softball teacher. “Big Man” was a hitter’s hitter. His game was as much attitude as aptitude and when you were on his team, you were NEVER out of a game. Using a 40 inch 40 ounce bat, he defined the theory of “top hand”. He was a rare bird in that one could always hear the balls he hit. He is responsible for some of the development of great players that he helped get their start like Ron Schuler, Scott Durkee, Mark Paszek, Tommy Lux and his own son, Jeremy “Whammer” Kalbfell. Another guy who just played with his buddies and just raked over a 30 year career. Put him at catcher or AH on ANY team that would be considered a big-time team from the Golden Age and he’d already be in the HOF.
It is time to get past the idea of “OK, who gets to go next from this team”.