The 2016 Frontier League Hall of Fame Class.
Austin played 4 seasons in the Frontier League, one season for the Springfield Capitals and 3 seasons for the Rockford Riverhawks. He Graduated from a small school and was told by many affiliated and independent scouts and managers that he could not play pro ball. Springfield manager, Dick Schofield, gave him an opportunity and he made the most of it. Springfield moved to Rockford in 2002 and Austin quickly became a fan favorite. In 2004, Austin has his finest year, he had a .359 average while hitting 15 homers with 77 RBI. He led Rockford to the league championship and was named the Frontier League MVP. In his career, he hit .293 with 40 homers and 192 RBI. Austin played a total of 10 seasons of independent and Italian baseball. He also returned to manage the Riverhawks in the Frontier League in 2011 for 2.5 seasons.
Edwards is one of the most popular players in Frontier League History with the Kalamazoo Kings. In 1998, he shocked everyone by being named the MVP of 1998 All-Star game, a game that featured some the greatest players in league history. He was primarily an outfielder and first baseman, but he played a total of 7 positions over his career. He eventually played 5 seasons in the league that featured stops in London, back to Kalamazoo, and finally Chillicothe. He completed his Frontier League career with a .311 average, 44 homeruns, and 261 RBI. He also played in numerous All-star games and was a post season All-Star selection in 1998.
Lisk was drafted as a catcher right out of high school by the Chicago White Sox and spent 5 years in affiliated pro ball prior to signing with the Windy City Thunderbolts in 2006. From 2007-2011, Charlie played for the Gateway Grizzlies. Throughout those years with Gateway, he teamed with 2015 Hall of Fame Inductees, Mike Breyman and Stepehn Holdren to form of the most potent line-ups in league hisotry. The powerful right handed hitter was a catcher, third and first baseman and Designated Hitter during his career that finished with the River City Rascals in 2012. He retired with a .280 career average, 127 homeruns and 442 RBI. He is the career leader in homeruns and RBI. Lisk was the league MVP in 2010. He is one of the only 2 players to be named to the post season All-Star team 4 times (Morgan Burkhart).
Metropolous is the first career Southern Illinois Miners player to be inducted into the Frontier League Hall of Fame. From 2007-2010 he was the heart and soul of the Miners. A powerful right hand hitting outfield, he was a true leader both on the field in the clubhouse. His professionalism gained him a great deal of respect from his teammates, the entire Miners organization, fans and other teams around the league. He is one of only 5 players to hit more than 30 homers in a Frontier League season. Joey was the Frontier League MVP in 2009 when he hit .317 with 31 homeruns and drove in 82 runs. He was a post-season all-star in 2008 and 2009. During his Frontier League, Joey had a .305 average with 70 homers and 208 RBI.
Schweitzer is one of the most versatile pitchers in Frontier League history. The left-hander spent 6 seasons with the Richmond Roosters from 2000-2005. He would pitch in both starting and relief roles and never refused the baseball if he was called upon. He could be devastating to opposing hitters. When he left the Frontier League, he had a 29-22 career record, 13 saves, a 3.44 ERA, 196 games, and 434 strikeouts. He currently ranks 2nd in career games and strikeouts. Matt was also part of two championship teams as the Roosters claimed the title in 2001 and 2002. He was a member of the 2003 post-season all-star team when he had his best year, posing a 4-1 record, 3 saves, a 1.11 ERA, 96 Strikeouts and 15 walks in 64.2 innings.
“The Moment” Brian Tollberg’s MLB Debut
Brian Tollberg gave the Frontier League national publicity on June 20, 2000 when he became the first former player to appear in a Major League Baseball game. Brian was the starting pitcher for the San Diego Padres and earned the win over the Arizona Diamondbacks by tossing sever innings and allowing only one hit. Five days later, Brian won his second start lasting 7.1 innings against the Cinncinnati Reds. He was named National League player of the week that week along with being named National League Rookie Pitcher of the Month. Brian appeared in 53 games (52 starts) for the Padres over four seasons, compiling a 15-16 record and 4.84 ERA. Brian made his professional debut with the Chillicothe Paints in 1994, finishing with a 7-4 record and 2.85 ERA before having his contract purchased by the Milwaukee Brewers, who traded him to Sand Diego prior to the 1997 season. The Frontier League Pitcher of the Year award is named in Brian’s honor.
Special Contributor, Max McLeary
McLeary is one the most colorful in league history. He was better known to players, coaches, and fans as “One-eyed Max,” due to the fact that he only had the use of one eye. The baseball Hall of Fame believes he is the only one-eyed persont o ever umpire professional baseball. He umpired in the league from 1995-2005. During that time, there were numerous articles about him in such publications as the New York Times, Cincinnati Enquirer, Sports Illustrated, and The Associated Press. Max was also the subject of the book, “Everything happens in Chillicothe: A Summer in the Frontier League with Max McLeary, the One-Eyed Umpire.” He was named the Frontier League Umpire of the Year twice and he worked several All-Star games and playoff series. Max gave many young umpires their start in the Frontier League. He passed away in 2014. He was well-known for his many one-liners and quick wit. His favorite line was, “I just want to get it right.” He did. Max’s wife Patti accepted the award on his behalf.
The 2015 Frontier League Hall of Fame Class.
There were many good relief pitchers in the Frontier League in the early years, but nobody did it better than Bobby Chandler. Chandler, a right handed reliever, played in the League from 1998-2002. He signed with the League in 1998, after finishing his collegiate career at Cal State Stanislaus. He was a member of the Chillicothe Paints, Richmond Roosters, and Johnstown Johnnies. Chandler finished with a 10-8 career record, a 2.86 ERA, 162 strikeouts and 56 saves, he was the all-time saves leader from 2001-2013. He is one of the players from the early years of the League to establish a high standard of excellence for the players to follow him.
Chris Sidick could be called the “Pete Rose” of the Frontier League, with his hard-nosed style of play. Prior to arriving in the Frontier League, Sidick was a quarterback and centerfielder at Marietta College. He patrolled centerfield for the Washington Wild Things from 2005-2011. He had a .285 career average, 635 hits, 434 runs, 257 RBI’s and 166 stolen bases. Sidick, a left handed hitter, holds many of the League’s career records. He has the records for games played, at bats, runs scored, and hits, and was a Post-Season All-Star in 2006.
Jason James was a left handed hitting outfielder that was a magician with the bat. After playing at Kishwaukee College and Lindenwood University, James signed with the Frontier League in 2006. He was a member of the league from 2006-2009 and 2011. James played for the Rockford RiverHawks as well as the Windy City Thunderbolts. He was signed by the Chicago Cubs and even appeared in a Major League Spring Training game. James boasts a .347 career average, 465 hits, 207 runs, and 40 home runs. He also had a Frontier League record 40 game hitting streak. He was a post-season All-Star in 2007-2009. He is perhaps the greatest pure hitter the League has ever had.
Mike Breyman entered the Frontier League with the reputation as a great hitter. He left the League with that reputation intact. Breyman signed with the League’s Gateway Grizzlies in 2004 after finishing his collegiate career at The University of Kentucky. From 2004-2008, he left his mark on the Grizzlies organization. He was a truly solid hitter with power to all fields. He retired as the career hits leader, tied for career RBI’s and second in career home runs. The left-handed hitting 1st baseman was a Post-Season All-Star in 2008, with a .325 career average, 458 hits, a .420 on- base percentage, and 82 home runs.
Stephen Holdren, played 6 years in the League with 5 different teams. He amassed tremendous career numbers from 2006-2011. Holdren joined The Windy City ThunderBolts in 2006, after playing two years of Division 1 ball. He was also a member of the Rockford RiverHawks, Gateway Grizzlies, the Southern Illinois Miners, and River City Rascals. The left handed hitting outfielder finished with a .302 career average, 548 hits,100 home runs, 388 runs, and 351 RBI’s. He left the League as the second all-time in runs scored, hits, home runs, and RBI’s. He was a Post-Season All-Star in 2010 and 2011. In 2011, he was named the League’s Most Valuable Player as a member of the River City Rascals.
Bob Wolfe was one of the co-founders of the Frontier League prior to the 1993 season. He partnered in and was a General Manager of the Zanesville Greys, 1993 Frontier League Champions. He was an Executive of The Year and served as League Treasurer from 1993-2011. The League’s Executive of the Year Award is named for him. “A great gentleman whose contributions for many years, were instrumental to the long term success of the League.”
Jackson’s HR Derby Heroics
It was the night of July 10, and The 2002 Frontier League All-Star Game, held in Kalamazoo Michigan. The night before the game, the Major League All-Star game ended in a controversial 7-7 tie after 11 innings. The League owners in attendance determined that the FL All-Star Game should never end in a tie. To that end, a Home Run Derby was designed to be the tie breaker. The game did end in a tie and the Home Run Derby took place. Fans and players were amazed at the excitement that was generated. Brody Jackson of the River City Rascals hit the eventual game winner for the West Division. The Derby drew national attention for the League immediately, with a 30-minute segment on Fox Sports Radio’s national broadcast and continuing to have the television footage shown the following afternoon on ESPN’s SportsCenter. Bill Lee did 12 radio interviews on stations throughout the country and interviews with several newspapers including The New York Times and Washington Post. The tie-breaker was also on the front page of Yahoo News the following day. The All-Star Home Run Derby has since become a rule of the All-Star Game should there be a tie. The Derby has settled a tie in four All-Star Games, 2002, 2003, 2006 and 2008.
The 2014 Frontier League Hall of Fame Class.
Morgan Burkhart was one of the Frontier League’s early superstars, and the League’s first position player to advance to Major League Baseball. Burkhart signed with the League’s Richmond Roosters in 1995 after he finished his collegiate career at Central Methodist State. In his rookie season, Burkhart was selected to the Frontier League All-Star team. His first year in the Frontier League was only a precursor to what he accomplished during his next three seasons. Burkhart, a first baseman and DH, won the League’s Most Valuable Player award in 1996, 1997, and 1998. In 1998, he captured the Frontier League’s Triple Crown when he led the league in batting average, home runs, and runs batted in. Sportswriter Peter Gammons called him “the Babe Ruth of the Frontier League.” The St. Louis native debuted in the majors on June 27, 2000. He singled at his first Major League at bat. He spent time with the Boston Red Sox and Kansas City.
From 2003 to 2008, Aaron Ledbetter was one of the most reliable pitchers in Frontier League history. When his career ended, he possessed career records in numerous Frontier League categories. Ledbetter joined River City in 2003. During the 2006 season, the righty joined Washington and played there through the end of the 2008 campaign. He pitched to under a 3.00 earned run average in five separate seasons during his first Frontier League career, earning him Frontier League Pitcher of the Year in 2007. The Cedarville, Arkansas native walked away from the Frontier League with League career records in innings pitched, games started, strikeouts, and complete games.
Scott Pinoni arrived in the Frontier League and quickly became a star. He joined Chillicothe in 1996, and led the Paints to the League playoffs in each of this three seasons with the organization. Pinoni had power to all fields. He also possessed great quickness while playing first base. Pinoni won the Frontier League Most Valuable Player award in 1999, and was named a post-season All Star in 1996, 1998, and 1999.
Fran Riordan was not only a star in the Frontier League as a player, but he also emerged as one of the most successful managers in League history. Riordan played in the Frontier League from 1997 to 2002. He was a first baseman and outfielder. He spent his first two seasons in Richmond before he went to Dubois County for the 1999 and 2000 campaigns. He won two Frontier League championships as a player manager with Richmond in 2001 and 2002. He then proceeded to manage the Kalamazoo Kings from 2004 to 2009, where he won another league championship in 2005. On July 26, 2009, he won his 413th games as a Frontier League manager. It made him the winningest manager in league history.
Kirk Taylor quickly became one of the Frontier League’s most feared hitters after he signed with the Ohio Valley Redcoats in 1998 . Following a sensational rookie season, the outfielder joined the Johnstown Johnnies in 1999 and played there until the end of the 2001 season. By the end of his Frontier League career, Taylor amassed 64 home runs and 275 runs batted in. He won the Frontier League championship with Johnstown in 2000, and was named the League’s Most Valuable Player in 2001. After his playing career, Taylor managed Johnstown in 2002.
Dr. Chris Hanners was one of the co founders of the Frontier League prior to the 1993 season. He served as Frontier League President from 1994 to 2003, Chairman of the Board from 2004 to 2008, and he owned the Chillicothe Paints from 1993 to 2008. Dr. Hanners fought to keep the Frontier League alive in its early existence. He provided the initial vision and planning for what the League would ultimately become.
Brett Gray K’S 25
It was June 3, 2000 and Opening Night for the defending Frontier League champion London Werwolves. The players received their rings and the team raised the championship banner prior to the game. Then, London right-handed pitcher Brett Gray took the mound. What transpired over the next three hours ranks as one of the greatest moments in Frontier League history. With MLB Hall of Fame pitcher Bob Feller in attendance, Gray proceeded to strike out Frontier League record 25 Chillicothe Paints batters. It was a feat that drew tremendous national attention. Memorabilia from the game went on to the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown. In the Midst of his performance, Gray signaled for his father, Werewolves’ pitching coach Bruce Gray, to visit the mound in the 9th inning of the game. Gray then asked his father to be the best man at his September wedding. His father left the mound in tears and Gray retired the final two batters of the night. Two days after the incredible outing, Gray was signed by the Cincinnati Reds organization.