Longtime Missouri State University athletic director Bill Rowe is now a Missouri Sports Legend, and three individuals – Jason Isringhausen, George Toma and Mansfield High School baseball coach Doug Jones – can call themselves Missouri Sports Hall of Famers.
The Missouri Sports Hall of Fame honored the four, along with the third annual Diamond 9, during its annual Baseball Luncheon presented by the Ozarks Coca-Cola/Dr Pepper Bottling Company. A crowd of more than 800 turned out on Wednesday at the University Plaza Convention Center in Springfield. It marked the largest crowd for a luncheon in the 21-year tenure of President and Executive Director Jerald Andrews.
The Diamond 9 honors former high school, college and professional athletes who made contributions in baseball and softball. The awards went to Marin Whorton Cooney (Ozark), Sophia Alexander Denning (Strafford/Drury), Bob Detherage (Hillcrest/Royals), Bill Helfrecht (Glendale/Missouri State), Brent Maggard (Sparta/Crowder/Southern Arkansas), Kristen Marshall (Glendale/William Jewell), Troy McMain (Willard), Christian Overstreet (Nixa/Missouri State) and Tom Wilson (Bolivar/Detroit Tigers).
Rowe will soon have a specially commissioned bust, cast in bronze, on the Legends Walkway – an honor bestowed on the Hall’s Missouri Sports Legends. It’s significant because only a handful of Show-Me State sports greats line the walkway, including Stan Musial, Whitey Herzog, Norm Stewart, Len Dawson, George Brett and Ozzie Smith.
A Marionville native, Rowe is a 1961 graduate of then-Southwest Missouri State. He spent 19 years as the Bears’ baseball coach and then served as athletic director from 1982 until retiring in June 2009. He still serves as an ambassador for MSU in the community.
When Rowe became athletic director, Missouri State was transitioning to NCAA Division I status. During his tenure, the men’s and women’s intercollegiate teams made 46 trips to the NCAA championships along with numerous individual NCAA appearances. Under Rowe, the Bears Foundation, established in conjunction with the move to Division I, also grew exponentially along with the annual auction benefitting intercollegiate athletics. The Bears Fund, developed in 1987, raised more than $34 million before 2008 to contribute to the financial stability of MSU athletics.
Likewise, among the many capital projects undertaken by Rowe and his staff were JQH Arena, Plaster Sports Complex, Hammons Student Center, Hammons Field, Cooper Tennis Complex, various golf courses and Killian Softball Stadium.
Rowe was Executive of the Year by the Mid-Continent Conference four times. After SMS joined the league in 1982-1983, its teams won 30 titles overall and 20 titles in its final four seasons before SMS joined the Missouri Valley Conference in 1990-1991. Rowe served on the Valley transition committee to incorporate women’s athletics into the league in 1992.
As a Valley member, Missouri State finished in the top five in all but one season in the 10-team Valley’s all-sports competition, winning the title three times (2000, 2002, 2003).
Rowe also served on various national committees and assisted with NCAA events on numerous occasions. In 1988, Rowe was inducted into the ABCA Hall of Fame and named an MSU Outstanding Alumnus. He was inducted into the Missouri State Athletics Hall of Fame in 1994, the Springfield Area Sports Hall of Fame in 1998 and the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame in 2004. Rowe holds a master’s degree from the University of Missouri and completed 30 hours beyond his master’s at Indiana University.
Rowe spent 19 years (1963-1982) as the head baseball coach, athletics business manager and assistant athletics director. In baseball, Rowe was 394-230-1 (.631), including 126-62 (.670) in the MIAA. His teams won three MIAA titles, made seven NCAA Division II regional appearances, four NCAA D-II World Series appearances, one D-II runner-up finish and a D-II third-place finish.
Jason Isringhausen, MLB pitcher
Jason Isringhausen pitched 16 years in the big leagues, including seven seasons with the Cardinals (2002 to 2008). Of his 300 career saves, a team-record 217 came while pitching for St. Louis as “Izzy” was a key part of Cardinals playoff teams between 2002 to 2006. The club won a National League pennant (2004) and, two years later in 2006, won the World Series. Isringhausen led the NL in both saves (47) and games finished (66) in 2004, when the Cardinals earned 105 regular-season victories. In his St. Louis tenure, he struck out 373 batters in 408 innings, compiling a 17-20 record and 2.98 earned run average.
In his big-league career from 1995 to 2012, Isringhausen also pitched for the New York Mets in two stints (1995-1999, 2011), the Oakland Athletics (1999-2001), Tampa Bay Rays (2009) and the Los Angeles Angels (2012). He was a starter in his first few seasons until moving full-time to the bullpen in 1999. The move enhanced his career, as Izzy became a two-time All-Star (AL in 2000, NL in 2005). Isringhausen was a 44th-round draft pick out of Lewis & Clark Community College near his hometown of Brighton, Ill.
George Toma, Royals & Chiefs groundskeeper
George Toma, the longtime groundskeeper of both the Kansas City Royals and Kansas City Chiefs, has enjoyed a seven-decade career in sports grounds keeping. He began in 1942 with the Class A Eastern League’s Wilkes-Barre (Pa.) Barons, and he was still working in March 2016 at the Twins’ spring training in Florida. Toma was the head groundskeeper for the Royals from their inception in 1969 through 1999, and has been a consultant since 1997. His Kansas City roots date to 1957, when he was hired to be the Athletics’ groundskeeper at old Municipal Stadium. From there, he gained a national reputation as one of sports’ top field technicians, if not a troubleshooter of sorts. He is still around the game to this day. But his reach stretches beyond baseball.
Additionally, Toma was the head groundskeeper for the Chiefs from 1963 to 1991 and was chosen to prepare the first Super Bowl at the L.A. Coliseum and has continued on through the recent 50th Super Bowl in February 2016. He has prepared fields for 37 Pro Bowls, 26 in Hawaii; was a consultant for the National Football League; and, in 1985, began working on American Bowl games overseas. Between 1984 and 1994, and again in 1996, he worked Olympics venues for track, soccer and field hockey, plus all nine venues for World Cup soccer – running Soldier Field in Chicago, another in Pontiac, Michigan; and at Olympic Stadium in Atlanta. For the 1996 Atlanta Games, Toma led the installation of 13,500 yards of sod in 24 hours with 12 hours of sod bed preparation.
Toma’s reach has expanded almost everywhere in America. For example: In 1992, he was named to the All-Madden team. An LLC Publications biography about Toma was titled, “The Nitty Gritty Dirt Man” in 2004. A year later, he was part of the field rehabilitation and preparation of Louisiana State’s Tiger Stadium after Hurricane Katrina led the New Orleans Saints to relocate games there. Toma has received numerous national awards, including induction into the Royals Hall of Fame in 2012.
Doug Jones, high school baseball coach
Mansfield High School baseball coach Doug Jones has been coaching since 1980. He entered this season with a state-record 713 wins and has sent roughly four dozen players on to play collegiate baseball. Jones, who reached career win No. 700 on April 21, 2015, has overseen six of Mansfield’s seven state Final Four appearances: 1990, 1991, 1993, 1995, 1996 and 2005. The Lions won it all in 1995 and 1996, and the 2006 team finished 28-6 with a fifth-place finish at state.
Overall, more than 60 players went on to play in college, and three signed pro contracts, with Bart Evans reaching the big leagues with the Kansas City Royals. Mansfield also has won 21 district championships and 22 of Jones’ 24 Summit Conference titles. Between 1992 and 2000, the team set the state record with 51 consecutive league victories and, and then his 2004 to 2010 teams nearly pulled the trick again with 41 consecutive league wins.
Jones began his career at Mansfield in 1980. He went to Fordland in 1982 and coached there for six years before returning to Mansfield for the 1989-1990 school year. Jones was inducted into the Missouri Baseball Coaches Association in 2003 and also has been inducted into the Springfield Softball Hall of Fame. Jones is still coaching this spring, despite being diagnosed in January with a brain tumor. He is a graduate of Norwood High School and Southwest Baptist University
DIAMOND 9 presented by B.J.’s Trophy Shop
Marin (Whorton) Cooney, Ozark High School/Missouri Southern: Marin (Whorton) Cooney emerged as one of the top softball players in southwest Missouri in the mid-1990s. Before graduating from Ozark High School in 1997, she was a two-time All-State selection as well as All-Central Ozark Conference and All-District all four years, and the COC Player of the Year in 1995. Ozark won 67 of 88 games in her four seasons. As a pitcher, Cooney was 49-16 in 394 innings, in which she struck out 429 batters and compiled a 1.99 earned run average. Cooney’s 45 career doubles are tied for second-most in state history, and she is ninth all-time in hits per game (1.60). Her doubles per game are best (0.52) in the state as well. Along the way, she had a lifetime batting average of .513 and at one point held a program record for eight consecutive hits. Cooney, who went on to play two seasons at Missouri Southern, now sells real estate in Springfield.
Sophia (Alexander) Denning, Strafford High School/Drury University: Sophia (Alexander) Denning became part of a tradition-rich softball program at Strafford High School before graduating in 2007. The team finished as the Class 2 state runner-up in the fall 2005 season after back-to-back state semifinal appearances. The 2006 team reached the state quarterfinals. In both her junior and senior seasons, the pitcher was All-State, All-Ozarks and All-Mid-Lakes Conference. She also was a four-time selection to the All-District team and a three-time selection to the All-Region team. Denning hit .483 and, as a pitcher, built an ERA of 1.19 with 550 career strikeouts. Her 28 wins in 2005 remains tied for fourth-best in a single season in state history. She played one season at Drury University in 2008 before going on to complete her nursing degree at Cox College.
Bob Detherage, Hillcrest High School/Kansas City Royals: Bob Detherage was a standout right-handed pitcher and hitter for Hillcrest High School and its American Legion program. Detherage was voted by News-Leader readers as the “Player of the Century” for high school baseball in January 2000, and was All-State his junior and senior years. He was one of three future big-leaguers – the others being George Frazier and Keith Drumright – on Hillcrest teams that were a combined 41-10 in Detherage’s final three seasons. He was also on the Hillcrest Merchants American Legion teams that won two state championships (1970 and 1971) and the Legion state runner-up in 1972. His 1972 summer was punctuated by two events – Detherage was a third-round draft pick of the Los Angeles Dodgers, the 56th player selected overall; and, weeks after deciding to wait to sign the contract, he struck out 32 batters and went the distance in a 16-inning, American Legion district championship game. Detherage eventually reached the big leagues as an outfielder with the Kansas City Royals in 1980, playing in the season’s first month in a year when the Royals went on to win their first pennant. Overall, he spent nine seasons in the minor leagues, mostly in Double-A and Triple-A, with stops in the Dodgers, Houston Astros, St. Louis Cardinals and Royals farm systems. Detherage hit 58 home runs with 108 doubles, 36 triples and 378 RBI in the minor leagues. He was voted Rookie of the Year in the rookie-level Pioneer League in 1973 and later helped the Triple-A Charleston (W.Va.) Charlies win the 1977 International League and the Triple-A Omaha Royals win the 1978 American Association championship.
Bill Helfrecht, Glendale High School/Missouri State University: Before graduating from Glendale in 1967, Bill Helfrecht was the starting shortstop on the Falcons’ American Legion state championship team his junior season. He also was on Glendale’s runner-up Legion team the year before and, as a senior, on Glendale’s third-place team in the MSHSAA state tournament. He was first team All-State his senior year as well as All-District and All-Ozark Conference his junior and senior seasons. Helfrecht captained Glendale’s 1967 team and batted a team-best .400-plus as a senior. Helfrecht’s play led to scholarship offers from Mizzou, Minnesota and Mississippi, but he chose Missouri State, where he played from 1968 to 1971, becoming a first team All-American his senior year. Overall, he was a four-year starter in center field, setting a record for playing 125 consecutive games, and helped the 1969 and 1970 Bears win the MIAA and reach the NCAA Division II World Series, with the 1969 team finishing as national runners-up. Helfrecht led the Bears in runs scored as a junior and senior, and led the team in hits his last two seasons, doubles as sophomore and junior, and is the only player ever to lead SMS in stolen bases four seasons in a row. Helfrecht, who also shares the school record for single-season fielding percentage of 1.000, was voted the Bears’ MVP his senior year. Helfrecht is still among several top 10 offensive categories in Bears baseball history. He went on to scout for the Baltimore Orioles for three years and later became a two-time All-American in the over-40 division of the American Softball Association’s national tournament.
Brent Maggard, Sparta High School/Crowder College/Southern Arkansas: Brent Maggard was one of the top baseball players in the state from 2002 to 2005 for Sparta High School. He was a two-time All-State selection, as well as four-time first team All-Southwest Central League and a three-time All-District, including in 2003 when he was the only sophomore in southwest Missouri named all-district. He led Sparta to a 105-23 record during his career, including 60 of 62 wins – and 29 consecutive wins – from 2002-2004. In his career, Sparta won the Class 1 state championship in 2003, reached two state semifinals and won sectionals and district three times. Overall, he set or nearly set 26 state records. Maggard played in 128 consecutive games, a state record (the previous record of 113 was set in 1977 and tied in 2003). Additionally, Maggard had a state-record 383 at-bats and finished second in state history in hits (179) and singles (98) and the third-most RBI (155), extra-base hits (81) and doubles (43). Maggard also hit the fourth-most home runs (30), plus was seventh with eight triples and 13th with a .451 career batting average. In 2004, Maggard broke the single-season runs scored record of 51 with 77 and finished with the state record in hits (59), doubles (17) and extra-base hits (35). The team reached the state semifinals that season, and Maggard’s extra-base hits total was previously held by Sikeston’s Blake DeWitt, who went on to reach the big leagues with the Los Angeles Dodgers. Maggard’s 60 RBI were second-most in the state that season as well, and his 15 home runs were third-most. As a senior, he also pitched, setting a state record with 193 strikeouts, shattering Morrisville’s Chris Gerleman’s record of 164 set in 2002. Maggard was the South Central League MVP before and later played at Crowder and signed with NCAA Division I Southern Arkansas but was limited due to injury.
Kristen Marshall, Glendale High School/William Jewell College: A 2005 Glendale High School graduate, Kristen Marshall was one of the top softball players in the area before going on to more success at William Jewell College in Liberty. At Glendale, she was first team All-State in 2004 and News-Leader All-Ozarks in 2002. Additionally, she was first team for both All-District and All-Ozark Conference as an outfielder and pitcher in different seasons. Marshall also hit .477 as a junior at Glendale, where in 2002 she had nine hits in nine consecutive at-bats – which remains tied for fourth-best in state history. Glendale was 25-4 in 2002 and reached the state quarterfinals. At William Jewell, Marshall in 2009 led all divisions across the country, from NCAA down through NAIA, in fielding percentage (.998) among players with 400-plus chances. She was All-Heart of America Athletic Conference in 2006 and 2009, and her name appears 20 times in various categories of the program’s Top 10 leaders. Career-wise at William Jewell, Marshall is third in both starts (199) and singles (134), fifth in both hits (177) and stolen bases (26) and sixth in doubles (32). She holds single-season records for games played (60), starts (60), putouts (464 in 2008) and double plays (19 in 2009). She also ranks in the Top 10 in program history in nine single-season categories: batting average (.355 in 2006), hits (55 in 2008), singles (44 in 2008), walks (23 in 2008), stolen bases (13 in 2009), on-base percentage (.423 in 2006) and appears twice in fielding percentage and three times in putouts. Marshall also is a 2014 graduate of Bastyr University.
Troy McMain, Willard High School: Troy McMain was one of the area’s outstanding two-sport athletes in the late 1990s, as he starred for Willard High School in both baseball and football before graduating in 2000. In baseball, he set school records for single-season runs scored (44), home runs (14) and RBI (51). He also established the program’s best batting average, of .550 set his senior year, until it was broken four years after he graduated. He also holds the career record for home runs (22) and RBI (119). McMain was a three-time All-State selection, along with All-Central Ozark Conference, All-District and All-Ozarks by the News-Leader. McMain, who was all-conference and All-Ozarks in football, went on to play two seasons for Missouri State football and two seasons for Evangel University, where he graduated in 2005. He is now the head baseball coach at Ash Grove High School.
Christian Overstreet Nixa High School/Missouri State: A 2006 graduate of Nixa High School, Christian Overstreet was a three-sport athlete (baseball, football, basketball) for the Eagles and earned All-State honors in baseball as a junior and senior. He also was a preseason Louisville Slugger All-American in 2006 and was selected for the Area Code Games in Long Beach, California. In his senior year, he hit .508 and, as a pitcher, was 2-1 with a 2.03 ERA to earn first team All-State, All-Ozarks, All-District and All-Central Ozark Conference. He set school and state records for a season and career in several categories, including runs, triples, homers, walks and slugging percentage. He led Nixa to its first COC title in school history during his junior season. At Missouri State, Overstreet played four seasons for coach Keith Guttin, captaining the team his junior and senior years, and graduated with a degree in physical education in 2011. Overstreet played in 130 games, starting in 84. His best year was his senior year in 2010, when he had a career-best .412 slugging percentage. He also had 36 hits along with five doubles, six home runs and 30 RBI – all career bests – and was 12 of 13 on stolen base attempts. Overstreet is the athletic director, high school assistant principal and head baseball coach at Fair Grove High School.
Tom Wilson, Bolivar High School/Humansville & Buffalo Legion/Detroit Tigers: Tom Wilson was an All-Central Ozark Conference and All-State selection for Bolivar High School before graduating in 1973. A pitcher, he compiled an impressive 28-3 record in his final three seasons. Wilson helped the 1972 team to the state quarterfinals and the 1973 team to the district championship game. Wilson also played for Humansville American Legion as a junior and Buffalo’s American Legion team as a senior. It was during that senior year when Wilson no-hit Everton, striking out 20 of 21 batters. In Legion ball that summer, he suffered three losses – two to mighty Hillcrest, which was en route to its third consecutive Legion state championship game. Wilson received athletic scholarship offers from Southwest Baptist University and Northeastern Oklahoma State but instead signed with the Detroit Tigers in the spring of 1974. He suffered a shoulder injury, however, cutting short his career. Wilson did play more than a decade in the American Softball Association slow-pitch circuit, helping the Bolivar MFA Oilers win the Missouri state men’s major in 1985 as the Oilers qualified for the national tournament. Wilson works at Ozarks Coca-Cola/Dr Pepper Bottling Company.