Officials should call the festivities to order with a robust, “Play ball!” Hors d’oeuvres can be a bag of sunflower seeds, followed by a main course of hot dogs and brats, nachos and a favorite cold beverage. Dessert is your choice: salted-in-the-shell peanuts or a large box of Cracker Jacks.
The Induction Ceremony for the Rend Lake College Sports Hall of Fame Class of 2006 will have a distinctive baseball flavor February 18 when two individuals and a team are welcomed into membership during the seventh banquet overall and first since Fall 2004.
Batters up . . .
• Randy Lemay, Mt. Vernon native who played his last game for the Warriors in 1974 and is believed to be the lone two-sport All-Region selection in a 49-year athletic history encompassing Mt. Vernon Community College and Rend Lake College, was a menacing, 6-foot-5 pitcher for Hall of Fame Coach Mike McClure and a rugged inside stalwart for Hall-of-Famer Jim Waugh’s cagers.
• Rick Gaebe, a get-down-and-dirty second sacker and record-setting No. 2 hitter, ranked second to no one when he departed in 1986 to further his career at Southern Illinois University-Carbondale. The former Woodlawn Cardinal now coaches in Okawville.
• The 1985-86 Warrior Baseball Team that dominated Great River Athletic Conference action in the fall, finished a best-ever 82-26 for the combined season and came closer than any other RLC baseball team to advancing to the NJCAA World Series. First-Year Head Coach Paul Evans & Friends claimed Section IV and Region XXIV championships before dropping a doubleheader on the final day of the Great Lakes District and falling one victory shy of reaching the national finals.
That team featured five future NCAA Division I players – Gaebe and fellow Southern Illinois University-Carbondale signee Cliff McIntosh (GRAC “Most Valuable Player”), Tim Dressler (Missouri), Steve Scoville (Kansas State) and Rick Strickland (Austin Peay State), who also played professionally.
A dinner honoring the Hall of Fame newcomers is scheduled for 6 p.m. Saturday, February 18, in the Student Center on the Ina campus. Plaques will be unveiled following in the lobby of the Aquatics Center.
The public is invited. Tickets are $15 per person and should be purchased in advance through the Rend Lake College Athletic Department.
Although the Warriors have fielded baseball and basketball teams longer than any other sport, the national pastime’s only connection to the RLC Sports Hall of Fame had been McClure, who brought the program to prominence in the 1970s.
Basketball has monopolized selections to date, with high-scoring Doug Creel (Class of ’80), Susie Woodward (’83) and Lee Yearwood (MVCC ’62) joining McClure as charter members in 2000. Illinois Basketball Coaches Association Hall of Fame Coach Jim Waugh, in his first year of eligibility, and Softball All-American April Long (’95) were added the next year, followed by First Team All-America cager Bryant Lowe (’96).
More recently, the 1994-95 Men’s Golf Team that was ranked No. 1 in the country, led the NJCAA Division II Championships for two days and finally settled for second-place became the first squad to be recognized, along with All-American Ace Matt Armstrong (’95) and two-time Softball All-American Jaymie Cowell (’97), in Spring 2003; All-American Golfer Jace Bugg (’97), third in the nation individually as a sophomore, and 6-foot-2 Lady Warrior cager Cheryl Weis were Fall 2003 inductees, just ahead of former Warrior cager Curtis Smith (’82) in 2004.
Creel was an outstanding shortstop for the Warriors as well as the all-time leading scorer on the hardwood at the time of his departure, but Lemay is the first of the Fame nominees to be admitted as a two-sport star.
Freshman Lemay helped a balanced RLC basketball quintet to the first 20-win campaign in the first 22 years of the program and a Southern Illinois College Conference crown. The next winter, he helped carry the squad by averaging 17.2 points and 9.9 rebounds per contest as the team “MVP” and All-SICC pick.
The two-year starter scored in double-digits 14 times as a freshman (high, 20) and 23 the following season, when he had 20 or more in seven contests. He netted 33 versus John A. Logan, 30 with 15 rebounds vs. SIU-Edwardsville and posted a 26-17 combo against Western Kentucky Vocational. His career stats: 683 points (13.1 average); 47.8 percent field goals; 69.5 per cent free throws; 447 rebounds (8.6).
Lemay may have been even more imposing on the diamond, where as a sophomore he helped the Warriors to a 32-6 record, SICC championship and No. 2 Region IV (state) and No. 20 national rankings.
He departed with records for mound wins (9), strikeouts (68) and shutouts that spring, including a 9-0 no-hitter against Kaskaskia, and was named All-Great Lakes District and All-SICC. The Warriors started 7-0 and later reeled off 13 wins in a row, one of 10 team records established. His ’72-73 Warriors were the first to post a winning record at 17-13 and shared league honors.
Lemay played both sports the next season at Marian College (IN).
Gaebe spoke softly but carried a big stick, a steady glove and brought fear to rivals on the basepaths. He capped a record-setting RLC career by receiving a Silver Louisville Slugger bat as one of 15 National Junior College All-Americans. His career .367 batting average (235-641) helped the Warriors go 52-26 and 82-26, capturing GRAC, Sectional and Region XXIV titles his sophomore year.
The former Southern Illinois prep “Player of the Year” set Warrior standards with 151 hits as a soph, thanks to a .421 showing in league games, .402 overall in the fall and .391 during the spring drive to the Great Lakes District finals. He also set team career records for hits, runs scored (180) and games played (184).
Records that have since been broken included 115 runs, 10 triples and 61 stolen bases (in 68 attempts) in 1985-86. An exceptional bunter with good quickness and speed, the contact hitter struck out just 46 times in 740 plate appearances (1:16), with a career .438 on-base percentage and 91-of-102 stolen bases. Defensively, he was guilty of only 15 errors in his first 1 1/2 seasons (106 games).
Gaebe was asked to join the Warrior basketball squad as a reserve point guard after scoring 1,500-plus points as a prepster and has coached both baseball and basketball in the Okawville school system.
The elements and a couple of junk-throwing lefthanders proved to be the 1985-86 team’s final downfall. Evans & Co. were on a 49-10 spring roll and the lone unbeaten team remaining when two cold, rainy days in the Chicago suburbs forced a delay in Great Lakes District play. Grand Rapids (MI) responded better to the soggy conditions and swept a twin bill to abruptly end the season for a Warrior nine that established nine of 11 offensive records and eight team batting marks.
Team records still standing 20 years later – Fall Wins (27-3, each loss by a run); GRAC Wins (25-3); Spring Wins (55-23); Combined Wins; Batting Average (.330); Hits (1,028); Doubles (171); Triples (40); Stolen Bases (193, tied), and Shutouts (16, tied).
Rend Lake College rated mention in USA Today’s “Across The USA in Sports” after three Warrior hurlers tossed no-hitters within six days. McIntosh shut out Parkland, 10-0, Doug Ridner stopped Kaskaskia, 5-0, and Jerry Boldt blanked Paducah (KY), 7-0.
All-Great Rivers Athletic Conference recognition was awarded to P-1B-D.H. McIntosh, the league MVP; Gaebe; leadoff hitter-CF Joe Humeston; Boldt; Ridner, and rookie Head Coach Evans.
Records included those belonging to Gaebe, Humeston (35 doubles, 50 career), McIntosh (5 shutouts, 9 career) and Reliever Brian Lee (11 saves, 16 career). Other standards later erased included more by Gaebe, 13 home runs by both Humeston and Dressler, 96 RBIs by McIntosh, 59 bases on balls by First Baseman Chad Weiss and Warrior totals for runs (745), home runs (65) and RBIs (655).
The 1986 Spring Warriors boasted nine in-district contributors and six other Southern Illinoisans on a 22-player contingent. Members included Gaebe and another Woodlawn product (Boldt); Mt. Vernon pitchers Scoville and Bobby Beard, catcher Bill England and outfielder Strickland; Christopher pitcher Jeff Smith; Waltonville shortstop Dressler, and Pinckneyville outfielder Jim Carlson. Outsiders from the fringes were the Highland trio of infielders Weiss and Mark Rosen and outfielder Tom Geiger; Fairfield’s Lee; Clay City’s McIntosh, and Granite City outfielder Shane Cole.
Imported from out-of-state were Cleveland, OH, products Humeston (Central Catholic High School) and infielder Jeff Powers (St. Edwards); third baseman Bobby Neth (Evansville, IN / Memorial); catcher Brian Etter (Chambersburg, PA); Ridner (Indianapolis, IN / Perry Meridian); pitcher Mike Brechun (Euclid, OH / Brush), and pitcher Todd Mitchell (Grand Rivers, KY / Livingston Central).
Evans was an assistant coach the previous two seasons under Coach Kirk Champion, now the Triple-A pitching coach for the World Champion Chicago White Sox, and stayed two more seasons on the Ina campus before departing to become the pitching coach for Southwest Missouri State University, where he remains today for a D-I contender which now goes by Missouri State.
The .679 winning percentage by Evans (201-95) ranks No. 1 all-time among RLC baseball coaches, ahead of his successor, Jim McGuire (220-116, .655 / four seasons), and McClure (312-177, .638 / 10 seasons).
Don Kalkstein was in his only season as a Warrior assistant coach while working on his doctorate degree. He recently accepted a position as Sport Psychology Consultant for the Boston Red Sox after spending the past 10 seasons in a similar capacity with the Texas Rangers. He works during the winter months in the same role for the Dallas Mavericks. Kalkstein is married to former Rend Lake College cheerleader Debbie Wolf of Benton.
For high-resolution versions of the above photos, click on the captions below each.<