A look back at the first 50 years in A’s history

May 28, 2012

A look back as the A's celebrate their 50th season in 2012.

Wisconsin State League

It finally happened.

With a three-game sweep against the Rockton (Ill.) Blackhawks in late July, 1991, the Sheboygan A’s baseball club won its first-ever Wisconsin State League title.

It was the club’s 22nd year in the WSL but its first championship.

“We finally won the darn thing,” A’s general manager Denny Moyer recalled during an interview last week. “We had a nice team, a young team, lots of local guys.”

The A’s entered the final game of the series with a magic number of one.

Sunday’s coronation almost seemed to overwhelm the squad a bit, as it committed seven errors in the clinching game. But the A’s offense was just too good — led by hall of famers Lee Wetenkamp and Randy Wilke — and Sheboygan cruised to a 10-5 win and the league crown.

“The guys came back on the bus, had a police escort,” Moyer said. “There were lots of people waiting. We had a reception at the Elks Club, the mayor was there.”

The ’91 ballclub remains the greatest in A’s history. The team finished 49-9 (.845 winning percentage) and had outstanding performances from players up and down the lineup.

Not only could the team hit — Greg DePagter and Mark Holzman each hit .370 while Wetenkamp and Tom Gardner hit .360 — but its pitching was almost untouchable.

“They had a tremendous pitching staff,” Moyer said. “Our pitching was outstanding.”

Tom Eckhardt went 12-1 with 129 strikeouts in 112 innings, Whitney McCurdy finished 10-0 with a 1.24 ERA, Jeff Hendrickson was 11-1 and Tim Sprio, the club’s closer, was 5-1 with four saves.

The A’s added two more WSL championships, but it’s been more than a decade since the club’s last in 2000.

“I think we’re due,” Moyer said.

The A’s are born

The Kingsbury Breweries Company began sponsoring a team in 1952, but after 10 years it became apparent that Kingsbury would no longer continue sponsoring a team, and thus, the Sheboygan Athletic Club was born.

“(The A’s) were born in the fall of 1962,” Moyer said. “Chuck (Zeichert) was the guy, I think, you can credit him for starting the whole thing. After playing in 1962 for Kingsbury, at the end of the year the guys decided they wanted to play again next year.”

Del Ohlschmidt was named the team’s first manager, leading the A’s to a sparkling 17-5 record in thier first season. But keeping a team on the field in those primitive years was taxing.

The 1965 season saw the A’s forfeit a portion of their schedule due to low numbers and there was no team in 1966.

But in 1970, stability was brought to the ballclub.

The A’s competed in the newly formed Wisconsin State League, and Zeichert took over the reins as manager, a position he would hold for 15 seasons.

Zeichert led the A’s to 333 wins and the second-best record in club history in 1981 — the A’s first year at Wildwood Baseball Park — at 39-11.

A new home

The A’s opened play at Wildwood on June 6, 1981, with an 8-2 win over Howards Grove in front of a crowd of 700.

It had been nearly two years since the A’s were able to play a true home game in front of their fans. With Wildwood under construction during the 1980 season, the A’s played the entire year on the road, save for the occasional “home” game at Howards Grove or Sheboygan Falls.

“Going from Legion Park to what we have now has been quite an improvement for us,” Moyer said.

Story by The Sheboygan Press

The Wisconsin State League is one of the premier semi-professional/amateur baseball leagues in the mid-west. In operation since 1970, the Wisconsin State League is a highly competitive league that features many of the midwest's top current and former collegiate athletes, as well as many former professional baseball players. Keep up to date on everything happening in the Wisconsin State League by following the league online on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram.

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