Saturday evening, Sept. 9, the Bottomley-Ruffing-Schalk Baseball Museum in Nokomis inducted six new honorees. The ceremony was held at the Nokomis Memorial Park House with approximately 60-80 people in attendance and prior to the induction they enjoyed a wonderful meal catered by Milanos Catering of Hillsboro.
Steve Johnson, treasurer of the B-R-S Museum, welcomed everyone in attendance and then turned the festivities over to the emcee for the evening, Tim Mize, sportscaster for WSMI radio.
The first honoree of the evening was former minor league pitcher Mick Fieldbinder. Fieldbinder was born in Springfield, but spent part of his childhood in Nokomis before his family moved to Rochester.
He spent five years in the minors, reaching as high as AA with El Paso, and finished with an impressive 37-24 record. He expressed his amazement in how much the museum has grown from its early days.
Fieldbinder talked about how everyone loves a five-tool player but the most important tool a player can have is the 6th tool – heart & soul, and how he developed a passion for the game at an early age, which was instilled by his coaches. He said he would never forget the town of Nokomis and the people and felt “extremely humbled and honored” by this recognition.
Mize then recognized two current honorees that were in attendance, Robert “Ish” Smith and Jim Staff.
Twenty year major leaguer, Gary Gaetti, was recognized as the second honoree of the evening. The Centralia native unfortunately was unable to attend because he manages the independent Sugar Land Skeeters of the Atlantic League and they have about a week left on their schedule.
Gaetti has the second highest home run total in the major leagues for Illinois-born players.
The next honoree was Mt. Olive native, Roger Kratochvil. Kratochvil starred in four sports at Mt. Olive High School and went on to excel in baseball at Eastern Illinois University before teaching and coaching for 23 years at Mt. Olive.
He began by thanking his family and friends that were in attendance. He stated that "baseball is the greatest game and it’s been very good to me."
Kratochvil also spoke of being a scout for the St. Louis Cardinals from 1979 through 2002, remembering fondly the Whitey Herzog years. He laughingly remembered getting special permission to wear a Cardinals uniform while conducting youth baseball camps and having the kids line up for his autograph afterwards. He also directed some special comments and thoughts toward fellow honoree Terry Todt.
Brighton native, Jason Isringhausen was the next honoree. Jason also was unable to attend due to a prior commitment. He played his high school ball for Piasa Southwestern and went on to a 16-year career in the major leagues, becoming the career saves leader for the St. Louis Cardinals.
The fifth honoree of the evening, WSMI Sports Director Terry Todt was unable to attend due to illness. Mize spoke primarily of the passion that Terry has brought to his job of being the voice of area high school sports for almost four decades. Terry is the first media honoree of the B-R-S Museum. We all hope and pray that Terry and his friendly voice returns to the airwaves soon. Keep battling T. Todt!
The final honoree of the evening was former major league pitcher Kirk Rueter. Rueter was born in Hoyleton and played his high school ball in Nashville.
He pitched 14 years in the majors for the San Francisco Giants and the Montreal Expos, ending with a 130-92 won-loss record. He spoke of growing up as a Cardinals fan and how surreal it felt the first time he faced his childhood idol Ozzie Smith. He amused the crowd with his difficulties of finding 150+ tickets for friends and family for his inaugural appearance at Busch Stadium.
Rueter spoke fondly of his dad who taught him to “keep reaching for your goals and dreams until someone tells you that you can’t”. Having never been in Nokomis before, he stated that it reminded him of Nashville and Hoyleton and how he cherishes the small town values they’ve instilled in him. He thanked the B-R-S Museum for this honor and mentioned that his certificate will have a special place in his renowned "Shed."
After the ceremony, the honorees and much of the crowd headed for the museum to see the vast collection of memorabilia.
Earlier in the day the museum hosted a vintage baseball exhibition featuring three teams from the area, the Vandalia Old Capitols, the Alton Giants and the St. Louis Brown Stockings playing 1860’s style baseball. It was well attended and greatly enjoyed by all. The Vandalia team presented a team-signed “lemon-peel” ball to the museum, which is the type used in vintage games.
It was a great day-long celebration of baseball! Thanks to everyone who helped and attended.
For more information on the Bottomley-Ruffing-Schalk Baseball Museum, go to brsmuseum.org or find them on Facebook.