Wisconsin State Baseball LeagueSix Bound for WSL Hall of Fame

April 10, 2023

The Wisconsin State Baseball League will induct five into its Hall of Fame next October and an additional inductee gets the honor of being the first to be selected for a new wing of the Hall of Fame.

Wisconsin State Baseball League

The Wisconsin State Baseball League will induct five into its Hall of Fame next October and an additional inductee gets the honor of being the first to be selected for a new wing of the Hall of Fame.

Going into the Hall of Fame will be Mark Cibrario of the Kenosha Kings, Steve Elliott of the West Allis Nationals and current administrator of the league, Bob Gillespie of the Addison Braves, Rick Baumgart of the Sheboygan A’s, and Andy Basten of the original Green Bay Blue Ribbons.

“Many of our players and people associated with our ball clubs have made it to the Major Leagues and I think we should recognize them,” said Dennis Ruh, Chairman of the State League’s Hall of Fame Committee. The committee agreed and decided to set up a special section of its Hall of Fame for those who have made Major League rosters.

The first inductee is unusual because he did not go from the State League to the Major Leagues. Rather, he went from a successful Major League career to coaching pitchers on the collegiate and the high amateur level of the Wisconsin State League.

Tim Stoddard, one of two people who have played in the Final Four and in the World Series, who now coaches pitchers at North Central College and for the champion Lombard Orioles, will be the first inductee into the new wing on Saturday, Oct. 23, at the Annual Wisconsin State League Awards and Hall of Fame Dinner at Blue Harbor Resort and Conference Center in Sheboygan.

Stoddard grew up in East Chicago, Indiana, where he teamed with Pete Trgovich, who went on to UCLA, and Junior Bridgeman, who went on to play at Louisville and in the NBA, to give East Chicago the Indiana state high school basketball tournament championship.

He went on to play baseball and basketball at North Carolina State. His NC State Wolfpack went 30-1 that season under Norm Sloan, losing only to the Bill Walton-led UCLA Bruins.  The Wolfpack gained revenge defeating UCLA in the Final Four and ending their 7-year reign as national champions. Then they beat Al McGuire’s Marquette Warriors for the national title.  Stoddard recorded 17 points and grabbed 15 rebounds in the Final Four.  Later, he would become one of only two athletes to play in a Final Four and in a World Series.

He pitched at NC State from 1972 through 1975. He was 12-3 in 1974 and ranks fourth on the NC State ERA list with a 1.05 ERA in 1975. The team won three ACC championships in Stoddard’s four seasons.

He was signed by the Chicago White Sox in 1976 and made his professional debut with the AA Knoxville Sox. He advanced to the Iowa Oaks but was traded to the  Baltimore Orioles and played for them from 1977-83, serving as their closer and helping them to the 1983 World Series when they beat the Philadelphia Phillies in five games. He also played with the Cubs, Padres, Yankees, and Indians. He recorded 26 saves for Baltimore in 1980 and finished his career with a 41-35 record and 76 saves.

After retiring, he became the pitching coach for Northwestern University. Nineteen of his Northwestern and North Central pitchers have been drafted including Mike Koplove, A.J. Happ, George Kontos, and Luke Farrell.  Lombard’s 19 straight championships speak to the job he is doing for Orioles’ manager Jeff Vukovich.

“Tim’s great,” Vukvioch said. “I think he’s missed three games in the last seven years. He’s really good with the players.”

“Getting honored for something you love to do . . ., well, it’s really special and I am truly grateful,” said Stoddard, who is a member of the Chicagoland Sports Hall of Fame, Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame, and the Indiana Baseball Hall of Fame.            

Mark Cibrario ended a 19-year, 424-game career with 351 hits, a .314 batting average, and a .450 on-base percentage in 1,437 plate appearances. “I hoped to be considered for the Hall of Fame, but you never know if you have enough numbers,” he said. While he may have been uncertain about his chances, there certainly wasn’t any question in the minds of the committee.  Only Randy Wilke at .325 had a higher average than Cibrario among those players with 1,400 or more plate appearances.  He hit over .290 13 times, and over .300 10 times. His best years were in 2011 when he hit .433 and in 2007 when he hit .417.

In addition, he was an outstanding defensive third baseman coming in with a .939 lifetime average. He was voted the all-league third baseman six times.

Most notable is that “Cibby,” who keeps himself in remarkable physical condition, was playing effectively when he was a half-century old.  “I was in my ‘30s when I started playing with the Kings and I was with them more than 20 years . . . I guess that is something. I’m grateful to Tim Pulizzano and Kyle Stone (Kenosha managers) for giving me the opportunity,” he said.

Steve Elliott took the reins as Executive Secretary of the State League in 2016 and brought with him a professional touch and organizational traits rarely seen on the semi-pro level. Executive Secretary is the State League’s term for CEO.  Being thrust into a leadership role is nothing new to Elliott, though. He ran the Southeastern Wisconsin Baseball League from 2003 to 2011, expanding the Milwaukee County Minor League beyond Milwaukee County by adding franchises from Racine, Kenosha, Rock, Waukesha, and Washington counties.  He then served as commissioner of the prestigious Milwaukee County Langsdorf League, expanding that as well.

“It’s an honor to be elected to the WSL Hall of Fame,” Elliott said. “I consider myself to be in the shadows of the giants who laid the foundation for the WSL’s success and built the WSL into one of the finest semi-pro baseball leagues in the US. I’m grateful for the guidance and support I’ve received from my predecessor Denny Moyer and my peers on the WSL leadership team.”

But Elliott’s credentials say he was far more than a pen-pusher.

An All-Conference/All-state pitcher for West Allis-Nathan Hale High School, Elliott went on to St. Olaf College where he was a member of two MPIAC conference championships and two NCAA D3 tournament qualifying teams. Then it was on to the West Allis Nationals where he was a member of five league championship teams, three tournament championship teams, 7 all-league teams, was twice named pitcher of the year, and was inducted into the West Allis Nationals Hall of Fame. He became manager in 1997 and has guided the Nationals to six regular season championships six post-season championships and sports a 484-276 overall record.

“I’m surprised,” Sheboygan’s Baumgart said. “I didn’t put up the numbers.” Baumgart played a very inconspicuous 16 seasons for the Sheboygan A‘s doing the dirty work that real ballplayers do.

Hall of Famers’ names dot the leaders’ lists in runs scored, hits, runs batted in, and home runs. Baumgart’s name is nowhere to be found in those columns.  Rick Baumgart’s name is found in only three career leaders’ lists: years played (16th with 16), base on balls 5th with 207), and sacrifice bunts (4th with 17). He was a real ball player:  he took pitches, he covered runners stealing bases, he hit behind runners, and he bunted runners up.  Evidently, the Hall of Fame committee has not lost track of real ballplayers; those whose main concern is helping the team win.

In 16 years with the A’s, Baumgart has played every position including pitching and catching. He finished his career with a .250 batting average in 1,066 appearances.  “Bummy did and still does a lot for our organization. He is most deserving of this honor,” former A’s General Manager Danny Moyer said.

Bob Gillespie patrolled the Addison outfield for 12 seasons after coming over from the Lombard Orioles where he played in his first year in the league.

He finished his 13-year career (1994-2006) with a .289 average in 307 games and that ranKs 12th among players with 1000 or more appearances. His best years were 1996 and ‘ 97 when he hit .368 and .377. In total, he hit over .300 five times.

“He was a good hitter,” his manager Larry Kurkowski said.  “He wasn’t especially fast, but he had this delayed steal that seemed to fool everybody.  He stole a lot of bases.”

A reliable and consistent starting pitcher for six seasons, Basten helped the Green Bay Blue Ribbons to three championships: 1980, ‘81 and ’85.  His best season was 1983 when went 6-3 with two shutouts and a 1.39 earned run average, leading the league in both ERA and innings pitched. He was elected Pitcher of the Year that year. He finished his career an even 3.00 earned average, an 18-7 record and four shutouts.

“When he pitched, he reminded me of a bulldog,” Blue Ribbons manager Dennis Ruh said.  “He got himself into a frame of mind that he was going to be tough as nails to beat. He always wanted the ball. The thing that stands out in my memory of Andy is that he always said, ‘the inside of the plate is mine’ and he pitched that way. I also remember Andy as a tireless worker who helped build the Blue Ribbons.”

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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