The Missouri Sports Hall of Fame enjoyed a tremendous Thursday, unveiling a larger-than-life bronze statue commemorating longtime Springfield resident Bill Virdon’s game-saving catch in the 1960 World Series for the Pittsburgh Pirates. Hours later, a crowd of almost 800 turned out in downtown Springfield as the Hall of Fame honored 15 individuals, including five new inductees and a new President’s Award recipient.
THE BILL VIRDON STATUE
Designed by St. Louis’ Harry Weber, the Virdon statue was unveiled on the Hall of Fame’s Legends Walkway in a morning ceremony. Virdon, a West Plains High School graduate who has called Springfield home for years, was in the big leagues for four decades, either as a player, manager or coach. Among his many significant contributions was his center field defense for the Pirates, especially in their 1960 World Series upset of the New York Yankees.
While all remember Bill Mazeroski’s series-clinching home run in the bottom of the ninth of Game 7, Virdon’s defense bridged the Pirates to that moment. Now forever remembered in bronze is his game-saving catch in the opening game of the series, as Virdon in the fourth inning robbed Yogi Berra of a two-run double in cavernous Forbes Field – a key play of the Pirates’ eventual 6-4 victory.
In Game 4, Bob Cerv’s deep smash of a potential, go-ahead two-run double also disappeared into the center fielder’s glove, preserving the Pirates’ 3-2 victory.
The statue was the idea of Sam Hamra of Springfield-based Hamra Enterprises. The design is depicted from a baseball card purchased by President & Executive Director Jerald Andrews from the Ben Franklin Store in Bolivar when he was 9 years old. It reads “Virdon Saves Game” and includes a photo of his catch in the ’60 Series.
“Today, we are blessed to pause and to celebrate a lifetime career of one of the greatest baseball players in Missouri history,” Andrews said. “This day represents his legacy as one of the best players, coaches, managers and a true baseball man.”
The larger-than-life statue is now the fifth on the Legends Walkway. It joins those of Missouri State Lady Bears great Jackie Stiles, golf’s Payne Stewart, “The Boy and The Man” depicting St. Louis Cardinals great Stan Musial signing an autograph for a young fan, and University of Missouri men’s basketball coach Norm Stewart.
BASEBALL LUNCHEON PRESENTED BY OZARKS COCA-COLA/DR PEPPER BOTTLING COMPANY
A crowd of almost 800 attended the Baseball Luncheon presented by the Ozarks Coca-Cola/Dr Pepper Bottling Company at the University Plaza Convention Center in Springfield. The Hall of Fame honored longtime Hiland Dairy Sales Manager Mark Speight with the President’s Award, and the Hall of Fame inducted five individuals: Mark Bailey (Glendale High School/Missouri State University/Houston Astros), the late John Donaldson (Glasgow High School/Negro Leagues), former Westran, Sturgeon and Jamestown softball/baseball coach Kelly Odneal, sports writer Rob Rains (Kickapoo High School/St. Louis media) and baseball coach Mark Stratton, who coached baseball at Glendale High School and Drury University.
The Diamond 9 awards presented by BJ’s Trophy Shop recognized former high school, college or pro standouts. This year’s recipients were Doug Bennett (Hillcrest High School/University of Arkansas/Los Angeles Dodgers), Dan Bishop (Springfield Central High School/Baltimore Orioles/New York Yankees), Jack Funderburk (Southwest Baptist University), Chelsea King Goodin (Strafford High School/Drury University), Kellie Becher Kessler (Missouri State University), Danny Powers (Carl Junction High School/University of Central Missouri/Minnesota Twins), Kyle Rapinchuk (Branson High School/College of the Ozarks), Stefanie Standley (Lamar High School/University of Missouri) and Michael Vincent (Hollister High School/John Brown University/Phillips University/Cincinnati Reds).
Mark Speight – President’s Award
Speight recently retired after 36 years with Hiland Dairy and received the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame’s prestigious President’s Award. It is given to someone who promotes sports in the state as well as to an individual who promotes the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame. A 1967 graduate of Branson High School and 1971 graduate of Missouri State University, Speight has been a longtime member of the Hall of Fame’s Board of Trustees as he has led Hiland Dairy in throwing its support behind numerous causes. He also has been a key figure in leading the company’s efforts that have helped fuel the success of the Price Cutter Charity Championship presented by Dr Pepper, a PGA Web.com Tour event. The PCCC has gifted more than $13.8 million to Ozarks children’s charities in the past 27 years. Speight has been the sales manager for more than 20 years at Hiland Dairy and has served as president or chairman on numerous boards in the area, including the Good Samaritan Boys Ranch, the Ozark Empire Grocers Association and the Springfield-Branson Restaurant Association.
Mark Bailey – Baseball Player, Glendale High School & Missouri State University & Houston Astros
Mark Bailey, a Springfield native and Glendale High School graduate, was a standout baseball and basketball player at Missouri State University from 1979 to 1982 and then enjoyed a 13-year pro baseball career. As the first former Bears player to reach the big leagues, Bailey spent portions of seven seasons in the majors, from 1984 to 1992 with the Houston Astros and San Francisco Giants. In his time at Missouri State, Bailey emerged as a switch-hitting middle infielder who helped the Bears advance to the 1982 NCAA Division II College World Series. He was a two-time NCAA D-II All-American as well as All-Region and All-MIAA. In basketball, he started in more than half of the 73 games he played over three seasons. Bailey is now in his 20th season as a coach in the Astros organization. He was Houston’s big-league bullpen coach for eight seasons, including on its 2005 World Series team.
John Donaldson – Pitcher, Negro Leagues
A native of Glasgow, Missouri, John Donaldson enjoyed a 33-year career (1908 to 1941) in baseball as he played for 25 teams, mostly in the Negro Leagues and barnstorming circuits. A left-handed pitcher, he won more than 400 games (the most in segregated baseball history) and struck out more than 5,000 batters. However, those statistics likely could be far greater, considering that more than 150 of his known pitching performances have no published strikeout total and more than 200 wins by teams he played for report no pitcher of record. Donaldson was a founding member of the Negro League’s Kansas City Monarchs in 1920, when he pitched, played center field and batted cleanup. In 1949, Donaldson was hired by the Chicago White Sox as a scout, becoming the first African-American full-time scout in Major League Baseball. He passed away in 1970.
Kelly Odneal – Softball & Baseball Coach, Westran High School
Kelly Odneal is the winningest high school softball coach in Missouri history, with a 515-92 record from 1975 to 2007 – mostly at Westran High School (485-89) but also at Jamestown High School. Overall, his softball teams made 15 trips to the state semifinals. Three of his Westran teams won state titles (1987, 1996 and 1999), while the program also placed second eight times, third three times and fourth once. Westran also won 19 district and 21 Lewis and Clark Conference titles. In baseball, Odneal’s teams were a combined 338-123 at Sturgeon and Westran high schools. Two Sturgeon teams (1980, 1982) won state titles, with three Westran teams (1986, 1989, 1990) reaching the state semifinals. Odneal is a 1970 graduate of Prairie Home High School and 1975 graduate of the University of Missouri.
Rob Rains – Sports Writer, St. Louis
Springfield native Rob Rains has been an award-winning sports writer for 37 years. A graduate of Kickapoo High School graduate and the University of Kansas’ School of Journalism, he has authored more than 30 books and hundreds of magazine stories. He is the former National League beat writer for USA Today Baseball Weekly and covered the St. Louis Cardinals for the United Press International as well as the St. Louis Globe Democrat until it folded in the late 1980s. He also won the Freedom Forum Grant as a guest professor at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism at Arizona State University. Rains has been an official scorer for Major League Baseball postseason games and is a voting member of the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown. He currently runs stlsportspage.com, primarily covering the Cardinals.
Mark Stratton – Baseball Coach, Glendale High School & Drury University
Mark Stratton was one of the most successful baseball coaches in the state, first at Glendale High School and then at Drury University. He was at Glendale from 1982 to 2006, either as an assistant coach or the head coach. As the head coach beginning in 1993, Stratton was 244-154 in 13 seasons, winning four district and three Ozark Conference titles. He sent 30 Falcons on to college scholarships. Stratton also coached the Glendale Merchants American Legion program from 1988 to 2002, compiling a 421-243 record which included a 1997 state championship and a runner-up finish in 1998. He was Drury’s baseball coach from the program’s inception in 2007 through 2012, finishing with a record of 175-134. The Panthers never had a losing season, won the 2007 Great Lakes Valley Conference championship and earned four NCAA Division II Tournament berths. Stratton, a graduate of Hillcrest High School and then-Southwest Missouri State, later earned a master’s degree at the University of Missouri. He is now the Vice President of Marketing for the US Baseball Park in Ozark.
DIAMOND 9 AWARDS PRESENTED BY BJ’s TROPHY SHOP
Doug Bennett – Hillcrest High School & University of Arkansas
A 1988 graduate of Hillcrest High School, Bennett helped the Hornets win two state championships for coach Dave Davis – the 1987 American Legion title and a 1988 title in MSHSAA. Bennett was an All-State pitcher his junior and senior seasons. He was part of the Team USA Juniors who won the 1989 World Championship and the 1990 Team USA Seniors who won the Goodwill Games. Bennett pitched three seasons for the Arkansas Razorbacks, helping them reach the 1989 College World Series and finishing No. 5 that season. He was a First Team All-American, two-time All-Southwest Conference and was drafted twice, by the New York Mets (12th round, 1988) and Los Angeles Dodgers (fifth round, 1991), then pitched two years in the Dodgers’ farm system.
Dan Bishop – Springfield Central High School, Baltimore Orioles & New York Yankees
Bishop was a 1956 graduate of Springfield’s Central High School, where he played on its baseball teams three years and played for coach Ed Brammer on local American Legion teams. He went on to then-Southwest Missouri State University but left school to pursue his baseball dreams. Bishop was a catcher in the Baltimore Orioles and New York Yankees farm systems from 1957 to 1962, reaching two Triple-A affiliates, Vancouver of the Pacific Coast League and Miami of the International League. The 1959 season was his best, as he reached both Triple-A circuits and played in the All-Star Game in the Class C Northern League. He later played seven years on Springfield fastpitch softball teams sponsored by Barnes Store.
Jack Funderburk — Southwest Baptist University
Funderburk was a standout for the Bearcats baseball team and was captain from 1995 to 1997. He was an NCAA Division II preseason All-American his junior and senior years and a three-time ABCA All-Central Region, including two first team honors. Funderburk was a four-time All-Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association (MIAA) selection, including dual honors as catcher and designated hitter. He was the MIAA Freshman of the Year in 1994. In SBU’s career records, Funderburk is second in batting average (.382), home runs (28) and runs scored (150), plus is third in RBI (155) and tied for the third-most hits (221). Many of those statistics led the program for 10 to 15 years. He was a 1993 graduate of Medford, Oklahoma High School.
Chelsea King Goodin – Strafford High School & Drury University
A 2007 Stafford High School standout, Goodin was a three-time All-State selection, including twice as a second baseman and an outfielder, and also earned News-Leader All-Ozarks from 2004 to 2006. She also earned All-Mid-Lakes Conference and All-District teams in an era when Strafford reached two state semifinals, placing third her freshman year and second her junior year – and reached state quarterfinals in the other two seasons. In 2006, Goodin batted .453 and moved into the single-season state record books with the fourth-most singles (35) and second-most steals (56). She went on to play two seasons at Drury University.
Kellie Becher Kessler – Missouri State University
A pitcher who transferred from Johnson County (Kan.) Community College, Kessler was a National Fastpitch Coaches Association All-Midwest Region selection in 1994, when she also earned the Missouri Valley Conference Player of the Year. Her 47 wins are sixth-best in program history but were second-most when she graduated. In fact, she was 31-6 in 1994, when the Bears finished 38-13. Kessler also owns the program’s third-best earned run average (0.98), ranks fifth in complete games (57) and sixth in strikeouts (447). She also had 28 shutouts, third-best in program history. She graduated from Olathe South (Kan.) High School.
Danny Powers – Carl Junction High School, University of Central Missouri, Minnesota Twins
A 2001 Carl Junction High School graduate, Powers was a two-time All-State selection, earning the award as an outfielder his senior year and pitcher his junior year. He went on to star at the University of Central Missouri, earning the pitching victory in the 2003 NCAA Division II College World Series championship game. In 2005, he was the Pitcher of the Year in D-II, Region and Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association (MIAA) and has since been inducted into the MIAA Hall of Fame. Powers pitched four seasons in the minor leagues, reaching Double-A in the Minnesota Twins organization. He is now the head coach of Neosho High School’s baseball program after coaching in Cassville and Liberal.
Kyle Rapinchuk – Branson High School & College of the Ozarks
A 2001 Branson High School graduate, Rapinchuk earned All-State as a catcher in 2001 as well as All-Central Ozark Conference and All-District. He went on to play at College of the Ozarks from 2002 to 2005, earning All-American honorable mention honors his freshman and senior seasons. Rapinchuk also was All-Midlands Collegiate Athletic Conference all four years. At C of O, he set the single-season record for hits (79), finished with the second- and fourth-best single-season batting averages (.443, .422), plus tied for second-most RBI in a season (62) and second-most doubles (17) in a season. His jersey No. 19 has since been retired by C of O.
Stefanie Standley – Lamar High School & University of Missouri
A 2002 Lamar High School graduate, Standley was a four-time All-State selection, the 2002 Gatorade Missouri Player of the Year and earned multiple All-Big 8 Conference and All-District honors. Between 1998 and the 2001 seasons, she set state records for career steals (206), steals per game (2.64) and stolen bases attempted (210). Her best season was in the year 2000, when Standley was 65-for-65 on steal attempts, making her the state record holder in both single-season steals and steals percentage (1.000). At one time, she also had the second-most steals in a season (54 in 2001). Standley went on to play one season for the University of Missouri, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in 2006.
Michael Vincent – Hollister High School, John Brown University, Phillips University & Cincinnati Reds
A 1980 Hollister High School graduate, Vincent was a three-time All-Southwest Central League selection in both baseball and basketball and the conference MVP in both sports. The shortstop also won the Springfield American Legion Triple Crown in 1980 with a .440 batting average, 21 home runs and 91 RBI. He was part of John Brown University’s 1981 NAIA College World Series team and, after the program was discontinued, he transferred to Phillips University and became a two-time NAIA All-American as well as All-Sooner Athletic Conference and All-Area. He helped Battle Creek, Michigan win the Stan Musial World Series in 1984, then played in the Cincinnati Reds farm system through 1988, reaching Double-A. Vincent later helped Price Cutter-Coors (now US Baseball) to two Men’s Senior Baseball national championships, and three Show-Me Games titles, plus helped the San Juan Red Sox win two Caribbean World Series.