Two Locals To Be Inducted Sunday, December 6th, Into Ohio USSSA Hall Of Fame Class Of 2015
By Scott Kuhnen
Columbus, OH. – Two Greater Cincinnati softball legends, including Joe Kiradjieff and Tom Rowan, will be among the ten distinguished slow pitch softball figures comprising the 2015 class of inductees into the Ohio USSSA Softball Hall of Fame on Sunday, December 6th.
Elected by the Ohio USSSA Board of Directors and being inducted are: Mr. Stephen Blanchette from
Willoughby, Mr. Tim Haley from Wilmington, and Mr. Larry Garrard from London in the Male Player Category; Ms. Sandy Edwards from Columbus, and Ms. Lyn Rose from Orgonia in the Female Player Category; Mr. Dan DeClaire from Sardinia, Mr. Jeff Hague from Columbus, and Mr. Tom Rowan from Cincinnati in the Team Manager Category; Mr. Don Keys from Wilmington in the Executive Category; and Mr. Joe Kiradjieff from Cincinnati in the Sponsor Category.
The ten will be inducted during the 4th annual Ohio USSSA Hall of Fame ceremonies and banquet planned for Sunday, 6 December, 2015 at Embassy Suites Columbus – Airport, located at 2886 Airport Drive, Columbus, OH, 43219.
This year’s class brings the Ohio USSSA Hall of Fame to a total of forty distinguished members in the seven categories for outstanding contributions to USSSA softball in the State of Ohio.
Steve Blanchette, a Willoughby, Ohio native, played with some of the best known elite teams in N.E. Ohio softball including Hillcrest Tavern, Steele’s Sports, Cleveland Competitors, Non-Ferrous, and Stewart’s out of Pittsburgh. Nominated by Hall of Famer Mike Macenko, this highly efficient power hitter was a virtual MVP award machine from
the late 1970’s until the late 1980’s in multiple association championship events and the National Slow Pitch Conference (NSPC). His Non Ferrous team won the Men’s Major World Series in 1986 and he was one of 54 players chosen for the 1989 US Olympic Festival and event won by the USA. Yet, Steve fondly shares what great fan turnouts (4000+) he witnessed while playing for the Cleveland City Championships back in the heyday of softball. He was inducted into the Greater Cleveland Ohio Softball Hall of Fame in 2000.
In the Female Player Category, from the site of the Party on the Hill and World Famous Devil’s Staircase Motorcycle Hill Climb… Oregonia, Ohio, Ms. Lyn Rose played for such notable teams as Famous Recipe, McGlaughlin Oil, DJ’s Lounge, and the great Empress Chili. A talented and highly versatile offensive and defensive player, Lyn could hit for average to all fields (.600) or with power (300 HRs) and it resulted in countless MVP and All-Tournament, All-State, and All-World selections over a 23-year playing career.
Among her fondest moments in the game are the three consecutive USSSA World Titles she helped her teammates with Empress Chili to win in 1986, 1987, and 1988. Her commitment to her teammates, many of whom are also Hall of Famers, led to success on and off the field. She is a member of both the USSSA National Hall of Fame and the Greater Cincinnati Softball Hall of Fame.
Mr. Tim Haley, from Wilmington, comes from a true softball family. Following in the footsteps of his late father, who was an early member of the great Lima Steele’s, Tim distinguished himself with such teams as Bill Marine Ford, Ohio Players, Danny’s Drilling, Carroll Marathon, Jay’s, R&D, DuBois, Columbus Pipe, and both for and against Steele’s Sports. He has enjoyed playing with and against some of the greatest names in softball, including Mighty Joe Young, Don Clatterbaugh, Randy Kortokrax, his good friend Henry McBeth, and his younger brother, Tony, a great player in his own right. He has played in 38 states and appeared in all the legendary tournaments of his day, including the Agler, the Baron’s Classic, the Stroh’s, the Thoroughbred, the Cincinnati Metro, and seven times in the Smokey Mountain Classic. In such marquee and multiple Association championship events,
he has won far too many All-Tournament and MVP awards to list. He was known as a clutch hitter but also one of the great power hitters in the game, hitting more than 6000 homeruns in league and tournament play. He has been elected to the Clinton Co. Hall of Fame, Dayton & Ohio ASA Halls of Fame, and was named a Southwest Ohio “Legend of the Game” in 2011.
Mr. Joe Kiradjieff, from Cincinnati, for more than a decade (1986-1997) sponsored one of the most renowned of all USSSA women’s teams, Cincinnati’s Empress Chili. Empress Chili simply dominated Women’s Class A softball from 1986 until 1990, and over the course of just more than a decade, recorded an astounding 683 wins vs. 187 losses (.785 winning percentage) in the highest level of women’s play offered. Empress won local titles, State titles, NITs, and National titles, and captured the Women’s A World Tournament in 1986 in Petersburg, VA. The next year, they won the
inaugural USSSA Women’s World Series. They won three consecutive Women’s World Tournaments, appearing in the finals of that event 6 times in a dozen years. Yet, Joe’s fondest memory of sponsoring the Empress Ladies is the great role models they turned out to be for their own daughters, Tracy & Jamye. On the field, they were stellar athletes; off the field they served as teachers, athletic directors, a doctor, a nurse, a physical therapist, and a police officer. The steadfast generosity and support of this Ohio sponsor has seen no less than 8 Empress Chili players enshrined in the USSSA National Hall of Fame.
Ms. Sandy Edwards, from Columbus, played a 28-year career with such well-known women’s teams as McGlaughlin Oil, Maher Insurance, Aqua Science, Possum Holler, and UPI out of Cookeville, TN. She was an adept infielder, but played wherever the team needed and was MVP and/or All-Tournament in multiple State Championships, NITs, National, and World Tournaments. In National Championship play, she had the distinction of being named MVP in back-to-back seasons (1992 and 1993). That led to her being featured as a “Face in the Crowd” in the October 1993 edition of Sports Illustrated. Sandy explains that softball brought her a
college education, a rewarding professional career, and many lifelong friends. She also treasures the opportunity that softball provided when, playing on a mixed couples team, she was able to play with her son, Dustin. She was inducted into the Columbus Softball Hall of Fame in 2007 and named as a USSSA Columbus Softball “Legend of the Game” in 2015.
Mr. Dan DeClaire, from Sardinia, has played, coached, sponsored, and served as a director. Over the span of a 35-year softball career, his teams played in over 4500 games and won over 3000. They participated in 134 leagues and appeared in 563 tournaments starting in 1979. His Men’s B team compiled an impressive 1865 vs. 996 won-loss record in both ASA and USSSA play and was consistently ranked as one of the top ten teams in Ohio during that period. He takes pride in having the longest running single-sponsored Men’s B team in Ohio softball history, playing 3709 games under the same sponsorship banner. He also sponsored
DeClaire Insurance Master’s teams for 13 years with those teams winning multiple State Championships, 3 World Tournaments, and finishing runner-up in another three World Tournaments. Dan served on the Ohio USSSA Board of Directors from 1986 until 1993, was elected to Greater Cincinnati Softball Hall of Fame in 2006, and was named a Southwest Ohio “Legend of the Game” in 2014.
Mr. Jeff Hague, from Columbus, started playing Class E ball more than 30 years ago and moved in only one direction, toward the pinnacle. Over the years, his teams won 126 tournaments and over 2100 games. Hague’s teams won 13 World Championships, including one in Class B, six in AA, and another six in Major play. One of those teams, in 1995, was the only AA team to ever capture the USSSA Major World Series and that remains one of the great tournament wins in USSSA history. He was instrumental in the creation of BATS in Columbus and has helped countless players and directors in the Columbus area by his generous support of Columbus Recreation & Parks Division, BATS, and the Columbus Softball Hall of Fame. Jeff has been instrumental in bringing the Conference USSSA circuit to Berliner Park over the last
few years. Jeff was inducted into the Columbus Softball Hall of Fame in 2000, named a Columbus “Legend of the Game” in 2010, and was inducted former players for both the Ohio USSSA Hall of Fame and USSSA National Hall of Fame.
Mr. Tom Rowan, from Cincinnati, had a great playing career prior to breaking an ankle and moving into managing where he had a 10-year career which saw his teams compile a 746 vs. 243 win-loss record and capturing 43 tournament championships at the highest level of men’s play. His teams included Dase’s Place, Savannah Café, and Greater Cincinnati Sports, and he served as the manager for two professional softball team franchises: the Cincinnati Suds in 1981 and Lima Steele’s in 1982. His teams were multiple winners of Cincinnati ASA Metro titles, USSSA National Championships, and over a three-year span (1977-1979) his teams competed in USSSA World
Series…reaching the winner’s bracket finals in 1977. Tom’s teams were known a “Giant Killers” as they had a better than 60% winning percentage against the likes of Howard’s Furniture, Campbell’s Carpets, Nelson’s Painting, Ken Sanders Ford, and Jerry’s Catering…all great names from the time of National Slow Pitch Conference (NSPC). For his accomplishments, Tom was named 1st Team All-Century Manager in Greater Cincinnati. Tom is a 1994 inductee into the Greater Cincinnati Softball Hall of Fame.
Mr. Larry “Monk” Garrard from London, played the game for 31 years for such notable teams as Springfield Pabst, Steele’s Sports, DuBois Chemical, and Springfield Stroh’s. Monk was a power-hitting USSSA pitcher who had an estimated 2000 wins against 200 losses on the mound and pitched no less than five 1-hit games. In the earliest days of USSSA play, it was the pitching which distinguished the new Association and drove participation. Monk was one of the best of that early group of USSSA pitching pioneers who developed new techniques and threw pitches that others wouldn’t even try. Specifically in World Tournament play, Monk held a 100 vs. 20 won-loss record. He was a consistent tournament batting leader and All-Tournament selection and was the MVP of the 1983 Stroh’s Tournament, USSSA’s most prestigious early NIT. He was also named as one of the National Slow Pitch Conference (NSPC) All-Stars.
Mr. Don Keys from Wilmington has more than 40 years invested in the game. As player, team manager, umpire, sponsor, park manager, and USSSA Director he has excelled at everything he has done. His
playing & managing days reach back to fast pitch in 1958 with NCR and Middletown Post Office and he continued playing slow pitch until 1998 with Lebanon Bombers, Kendrick Movers, Meeks Construction and his own D.K Trophy teams. He fondly recalls those early days where games were played on single fields behind a school, church, or fire house. Winning was for pride primarily, as the route to championship play was very narrow: start with a County championship, hope to do well enough to go to State, and so on up the championship path. A lousy weekend at any level was the end of the road. This longtime owner of D.K Trophies in Lebanon estimates that his record 1400 wins against 450 losses may also include a record number of recycled trophy parts. His tenure as Softball Director at Warren County’s Armco Park has seen that park be resurrected from an “old world” park with 280’ and four-foot high fences into a player friendly official facility which is a hitter’s paradise surrounded primarily by thick woods. Don continues to run both outdoor and indoor softball programs for teams all around the tri-state area and it’s simply a fact to point out that Don just ran an indoor tournament last night and prior to today’s ceremonies! He was named a USSSA Southwest Ohio “Legend of the Game” in 2008, and was just inducted into the Butler Co. Softball Hall of Fame on 15 Nov 2015.
This year’s Ohio USSSA Hall of Fame induction ceremonies and banquet affords an opportunity for softballers from around the State of Ohio to gather, enjoy the rich history of Ohio USSSA softball, and celebrate the worthy of inductees in the class of 2015.
Ceremonies begin at 1pm with a cocktail reception featuring a cash bar. The banquet begins at 2pm, with induction ceremonies immediately to follow.
We hope you will consider joining us at this special softball event to honor and congratulate our newest Ohio USSSA Hall of Fame inductees.
For ticket information, call Mark Linnemann at 859-991-3860.
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