1994 Springfiled Sports Hall Inductees


Hal Edwards

Springfield High School graduate (1941), where he played football. After a four-year stint in the military service, he attended Bradley University in 1946, and lettered in baseball and played freshman basketball. In the spring of 1946, he signed a professional baseball contract with the Springfield Brownies of the Three-I League, hitting .309 as a rookie, Hit .276 with Springfield in 1947 and .319 in 1948 before retiring from pro baseball. From 1950-54, he played in the Riverton A.C. Little Eight Baseball League, and from 1950-70 he officiated college and high school basketball and umpired college, high school and Muny League baseball and softball. He won the 1966 Round-The-Town golf tournament, and in 1992 he shot 71 - his age - at the Rail Golf Club.


Pat Kane

Feitshans graduate (1940), was two-year starter in baseball and basketball, was basketball team captain his senior year and was named to the five-man All-City team that year. He played briefly for Superior, Wisconsin, in the Class C Northern League in 1942. He was drafted into the Army later that year. He had a few other pro offers before and after World War II, but he did not pursue pro baseball after the war, No statistics are available, but he was regarded by many as one of the best hitters in the Springfield area during the 1940s. He was primarily a catcher and third baseman who played for four different local teams that advanced to the American Baseball Congress National Tournament in Battle Creek, Michigan: Frisina Theatres (1941), Paul Weidenbacher's (1947), Fitzpatrick's (1950) and Springfield Elks Club (1952). Four other years, he played for teams that finished one win short of going to Battle Creek. He also played for several teams that won Muny baseball and fast-pitch softball city championships in the same season, including Hummer's Manufacturing (softball) and Fitzpatrick's (baseball) in 1941. He was added to the Frisina baseball team for ABC tourney play after Fitzpatrick's was eliminated that year. His last year of baseball/softball was 1954. Back problems forced him out of the game after that. He also played amateur basketball for several local teams after high school, including the One-Day Cleaners team (1940-41) and Fitzpatrick's (1942).


Ron Little

Played football, basketball and baseball and ran track at Lanphier High School, earning all-city honors in football (1947-50), baseball (1947-50) and basketball (1949-50) and winning the City Track Meet 100-yard dash title in 1950. He was a member of the Chicago Daily News All-State Football Team in 1949 and the Illinois State Baseball Tournament All-State Tournament team in 1948 and 1949. He played football and baseball on the Miami Marine Base teams from 1952-55. He was a three-year starter at quarterback and punter at Western Illinois University, and in 1957 he was a member of the IIAC All-Conference Team, team captain and team MVP. He was a three-year regular in baseball at WIU, a three-time IIAC All-Conference pick, the team MVP in 1957 and 1958 and he set a school career batting record (.371). In 1958, he hit a school-record .474 and was named conference MVP. He coached football at Orion High School and Bartonville Limestone.


John O'Connor

Known as Johnnie Connors, he was Springfield's only world professional boxing champion, In 1894, at the Olympic Club in New Orleans, he defeated British champion Jack Levy for the world flyweight title. He held the title until 1900, retiring undefeated. He had nearly 200 ring fights in the days when they used skin-tight gloves. He was the dean of American fight promoters, serving as a sports promoter for over 50 years until his retirement in 1942. He discovered and taught Jack Johnson the first African-American heavyweight boxing champion. He brought many champions to Springfield for exhibitions and personal appearances, and his Empire Hotel on Jefferson Street was a gathering spot for headliners in the sports and theatrical world.

Jim Rockford

Griffin High School graduate (1980) and a four-year starter at Oklahoma, where he played quarterback, wide receiver and defensive back on teams that won three postseason bowl games and the national championship following the 1984 season. He spent one season in the NFL as a defensive back for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, San Diego Chargers and Indianapolis Colts. from 1986-92 he played in the Canadian Football League for Hamilton, Edmonton and Toronto. He also has worked as a graduate assistant football coach at the University of Oklahoma.


Lynn Callahan Ruppert

Springfield High School graduate (1977) who holds Girls City Basketball Tournament records for points in a game (48), points in a tournament (114 in three games - they play 4 games now), field goals in a game (21) and field goals in a tournament (45). She averaged 27.6 points (the highest female scoring average in city history) and 11 rebounds and shot 56.7 percent from the floor as a senior, when she was the top vote getter on the All-City team. She was an All-Big 12 Conference selection as a junior and senior in basketball, and in 1984, after not playing competitively for almost eight years, she was a member of the women's open division team in the first Prairie State Games. In volleyball, she was the No. 4 vote-getter on the All-City team as both a junior and senior, and she made All-Big 12 in volleyball both seasons. She also played on the last city team to beat Sacred Heart-Griffin in volleyball, in 1976. Attended Brown's Business College and did not compete in sports. She still plays competitive basketball and volleyball and plays tennis, golf and swims.


Larry Selinger

Griffin High School graduate (1966), where he earned five varsity letters, three in football and two in basketball. He was an all-city quarterback in 1964 and 1965 and an all-city basketball player in 1966. He won four letters as a quarterback at Bradley University, where he set two school passing records. In his Bradley career he was 409-for-988 passing with 5,280 yards and 31 touchdowns. He also rushed for 418 yards in his career, scored 134 points and played some linebacker, too. He's a member of the Bradley Sports Hall of Fame. He coached basketball at Griffin, compiling a 61-88 record in seven seasons. His 1973 griffin team won the City Tournament title, and his final team, in 1977, won the regional crown by beating Quincy at Quincy.


Dale Schofield

Springfield High School graduate (1951), he has won 17 golf tournaments in his career, including five consecutive Men's City Amateur titles from 1958-62. No other player has won more than three straight. He won the first Round-The-Town tournament in 1965. He was the first-day medalist in 1961 State Amateur. He won two big amateur tournaments in 1960 at Ottawa, Ill., and the Midwest Industrial Tournament (he was employed at Sangamo) in Lafayette, Ind. He also won several tournaments for servicemen while serving in the Army from 1956-58. He was preparing to try playing the PGA tour in 1962, but he broke his leg and was on the shelf for a long time. He finally turned professional in 1966 and immediately became the course pro at Bunn Park. He won three pro division titles in the Shambolee Invitational in the late 1960's and early '70s. In both 1991 and 1992, he qualified for the National Seniors Club Professional Championship, and in 1991 he also qualified for the National Club Professional Championship.


Eddie Sommers

Cathedral High School graduate (1939). He was captain of the high school football and basketball teams, and he led Cathedral to the downstate Catholic Basketball Tournament title in 1939. He was a first-team Catholic All-State selection as both a junior and senior. He played football and baseball at Bradley University. He later played basketball on the elite Caterpillar Diesels (1946-47 and 1947-48) team that toured the country playing AAU teams, and the Caterpillar team own an AAU state championship and competed in the national tournament in Denver. After graduating from Bradley in 1949, he was a teacher and assistant coach at Cathedral High School, and in 1950 he went to Jacksonville Routt where he taught and coached football, basketball and baseball. In 1981, he was inducted into the Cathedral Hall of Fame.



1964 Griffin HS Baseball

1964 GRIFFIN HIGH SCHOOL BASEBALL - The Cyclones, under first-year Coach Dick Murawski, were notorious for late-inning comebacks. Every tournament game, from the Springfield District to the State Tournament in East Peoria, provided new heroes and heroics. At the state tournament, the Cyclones won three one-run games: 4-3 over Rock Island Alleman, 3-2 over Danville and 6-5 over Skokie Niles West for the championship. In the six games leading up to the State Tournament, Griffin went extra innings three times, including an eight-inning, 5-1 victory over city champion Feitshans for the district title. The Cyclcones were within an out of elimination in the Taylorville regional championship but scored twice in the bottom of the seventh to win 4-3. Griffin then edged Granite City 2-1 for the Staunton Sectional crown, scoring a run to tie it in the bottom of the seventh. The pitching tandem of Jerry Hamende and John Davsko accounted for all nine post-season victories. In the title game, Griffin Spotted Niles West a 5-3 lead after six innings. But the Cyclones rallied for three in the bottom of the seventh to win it. Hamende's single scored the tying runs, with Bob Bandor scoring the tying run when Niles West catcher Roger Thomas couldn't hold on to the ball. With Luke Gleason at third and nobody out, Bill Nonneman laid down a squeeze bunt that scored Gleason with the winning run.




George Baker Casey - A native of Pana and Pana High School's only cheerleader in 1924, Casey went on to a near-40-year career as a newspaperman and wore a variety of hats during that time. Casey came to work at the Illinois State Journal in November of 1941. In the next 26 years he would write obituaries, serve as a police beat reporter, sports reporter, sports editor, state editor, managing editor and executive editor. Casey coached women's softball teams like the Pana Roses, then the Harry Hershey for Governor Girls teams, then had a run of success as coach of the Madison Furniture Company team that finished second in the state tournament for five straight seasons, from 1942-1946. Casey kept active after his retirement from the Journal in 1967, and his love of athletics still came through loud and clear as he served on the board of directors of the NCAA Division II World Series during the years it was held at Lanphier Park and on the board of the Central Illinois Collegiate League. An avid harness racing fan, Casey also did publicity work for the Illinois State Fair.

Larry Ellis - Springfield High School graduate (1955), he played football, basketball and baseball in high school. He spent 11 years as a professional baseball umpire, and he retired from the Pacific Coast League in 1974. He remained active as an umpire on the Springfield amateur level after his retirement. He owned and operated Ellis' Your Out Inn and was an active sponsor of recreational teams in volleyball, softball, baseball and bowling. In addition, he sponsored a race car and a golf league, was on the Springfield Redbirds and then Springfield Cardinals' board of directors, active in the American Business Club and the Boys Club and was an elected member of the Springfield Metropolitan Exposition and Auditorium Authority. He died Aug, 16, 1991.

Wally Groesch
Lanphier High School graduate who played and coached in amateur basketball and baseball leagues in Springfield, he also served as the district commissioner of the Illinois Amateur Baseball Association in 1945. He was an umpire in the state baseball finals in 1947, and in 1948 he worked as a professional umpire in Kansas-Oklahoma Muny League, and two of his teams advanced to the national tournament in Battle Creek, Mich. He spent 30 years as an Illinois high school official in baseball, basketball and football, officiating on the district and regional levels.

Lee Landers - Fresno, Cal., native who served as trainer for the Class AAA Springfield Redbirds for four seasons and then was the general manager for the Class A Springfield Cardinals the past 12 years. Started full-time in baseball in 1959 with stops in Fresno, Modesto (Cal.) and Twin Falls (Idaho). Twin Falls was awarded the Larry McPhail Award for excellence in promotion in 1961. In 1968, he went to work for St. Louis as a trainer in Modesto and then was assigned to Little Rock (Ark.) through 1973, moving to Triple-A, first in Tulsa and then in New Orleans. He was named all-star trainer in the California League , Texas League and American Association. He won the Midwest League Executive of the Year Award (1985), won the President's Award (1987) and nine of the 12 years won the Operator of the Year Award in the Midwest League. In 1992, he won the baseball prestigious Bob Freitas Award, which is awarded for longevity and excellence of operation. For the past 10 years, he's been America's speaker at the National Sports Marketing Seminar in El Paso, Texas, and he's served on numerous National Association and league committees. He's a director of Springfield's Italian-American Hall of Fame, spent 10 years as a director of Senior Olympics and is a member of the American Business Club. In addition, for 12 years he has sponsored Dick Taylor's "Cardinal Car" on the NASCAR racing scene.

John O'Connor, Jr. - Known as "Buster Connors", he was oldest of the four sons of "Johnnie Connors," and Buster worked with and succeeded his father in sports promotion, mainly in the pre-World War II era. He promoted professional boxing and wrestling and brought to Springfield the leading wrestlers and many top boxers, holding cards at the Elks Club and Lanphier Park. He also sponsored the Connors Empires basketball team, which played around the country and hosted teams at the Elks Club. The Empires Baseball Club almost annually qualified for national tournaments, and the 1937 team - coached by Hall of Famer Grover Cleveland Alexander - finished third at Denver. He also sponsored a women's basketball team and had a midget car race track in Springfield.

Mike Walden - Springfield High School graduate, He's been a fixture in sports broadcasting in southern California since 1966, and h's the only announcer in radio and television to serve as both the voice of the USC Trojans and later UCLA basketball and football. He's done seven Rose Bowl games for NBC and major league baseball for the Dodgers, Cardinals and Braves. He began his broadcasting career by serving as the voice of University of Illinois football and basketball, and later he did University of Wisconsin football and basketball plus the Big Ten Football Game of the Week for CBS. He also broadcast Green Bay Packers games. He has received many awards, including four Golden Mike awards. He's still seen on Showtime Networks's "Super Dave Osborne Show," which recently won a cable TV Ace Award.

Bill Wood - Wrote his first outdoors column for the Illinois State Register in 1940 and had outdoors columns published by the Citizen's Tribune, Springfield Sun, Fortress Feature (an Air Force publication in Germany after World War II), Selfridge Flyer (Army base newspaper), Illinois Wildlife and Midwest Outdoors. He helped organize the local chapter of Ducks Unlimited and was active in various outdoor groups. He served three terms as president and two each as vice president and secretary of the Springfield Sportsman's Conservation Club, and he's a member of the Outdoors Writers Association of America and the Association of Great Lakes Outdoors Writers. He retired from active writing in 1988.


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