The 2019 Frontier League Hall of Fame Class.
A starting right handed pitcher with the Southern Illinois Miners from 2008- 2010. He was a tremendous competitor and the leader of several great pitching staffs during his years. He was named the Frontier League Pitcher of the Year in 2008, when he led the League in wins (13) and strikeouts (152). Ryan finished with a 28-12 career record, 2.96 ERA, and 308 strikeouts in 289.1 innings over 49 games.
A catcher with the Gateway Grizzlies from 2010-2014. During his years in the League, he established himself as one of the top defensive catchers in league history. In 2013, he had a record 55% caught stealing percentage. Landon was a Post-Season All-Star in 2011, 2012, and 2013. The powerful right handed hitter, finished his stellar career with 64 home runs and 214 RBI.
A corner infielder with the Chillicothe Paints from 1996-1998. He joins his former teammates Scott Pinoni and Gator McBride in the FL Hall of Fame. He was a Post-Season All-Star at third base in 1996 and 1998 and at first base in 1997. The powerful right handed hitter led the Frontier League in hits, home runs, and RBI in 1996. Mitch compiled career numbers of a .300 batting average, 50 home runs, 181 RBI, and a .997 ops.
A switch-hitting 2B with the Windy City ThunderBolts from 2007-2010. He was a 3-time Post-Season All-Star, honored at second base in 2008, 2009, and 2010. Gilberto was a tremendous defensive 2B and he possessed great speed. He finished his career with a .295 batting average, 21 home runs, 156 RBI, 139 stolen bases (including a league-leading 49 in 2009), and a .820 ops. After his FL career, he played 7 more seasons of professional baseball.
A right-handed starter with the Springfield Capitals in 1998. He was only in the League for one season, but he made the most of it. He was named the Pitcher of the Year when he posted a 10-2 record and 2.95 ERA with 92 strikeouts over 16 starts against the best offensive season in league history. Jason made his way to MLB for the St. Louis Cardinals (2002-04) and Washington Nationals (2007). The FL’s Rookie of the Year Award is named for Jason, as he was the National League’s Rookie of the Month for June 2002.
Clint Brown (Special Contributor)
Clint purchased the Florence Freedom prior to the 2005 season. He owned and operated the club until his passing in January 2018. Clint was an active member of multiple committees during his time in the Frontier League, including the Executive Committee, the By-Laws Committee, and the Membership/Expansion Committee. Clint’s passion for golf, the Freedom, the Frontier League and the Northern Kentucky area was infectious. Florence was voted Organization of the Year in 2005 and 2015. Several of his top employees have won the Executive of the Year Award. The Freedom hosted the 2007 and 2016 All-Star Games. The team won the 2017 West Division title and advanced to the Championship Series in 2012 and 2017. He was very proud of his team’s accomplishments.
Opening of Hawkinson Ford Field and T.R. Hughes Ballpark For The 1999 Season (Significant Moment)
1999 was one of the milestone years in the history of the Frontier League as the Cook County Cheetahs and River City Rascals began play. Cook County and River City were notable for being the first two ballparks built specifically for Frontier League teams. Also, it was the League’s first entries into suburban MLB markets. Hawkinson Ford Field (now Ozinga Field) and T.R. Hughes Ballpark (now CarShield Field) drastically elevated the standard of ballparks for a Frontier League team. The off-field success of the Rascals and Cheetahs led to future suburban markets such as Gateway, Washington, Florence, and Lake Erie. The Frontier League is extremely grateful to the cities of Crestwood, Il., and O’Fallon, Mo., for having the foresight and courage to develop stadiums for their communities.
The 2018 Frontier League Hall of Fame Class.
Andy Clark began his Frontier League career in 2008 when he entered the league with Florence Freedom, where he played from 2008 through 2013. The right-handed pitcher from Louisville, Kentucky, has a career record of 37-16, while posting a 3.72 ERA in 94 games, 72 of those being starts. Clark who pitched in 471.2 innings accumulated a 2.85 walk to strikeout ratio. Andy Clark stands in the top five in career games started, innings pitched and victories in the Frontier League. Clark pitched for three managers while with the Florence Freedom. All of his managers considered him a work horse that was always ready when needed.
Andrew Davis began his Frontier League career with the Lake Erie Crushers in 2009. The infielder out of Kingston, Ohio, played for the Crushers from 2009 through 2014. In those six years, Davis made four All-Star appearances in 2009, 2010, 2011, and 2013 as well as receiving awards during the post-season in 2009 (third base) and 2011 (shortstop). Davis was one of the most feared switch hitters in league history. He possessed great power from both sides of the plate. He finished his career with a .292 career average, 71 home runs, 387 RBI, .851 OPS and 545 games played. Davis also ranks top three in career games played, at-bats, hits, and runs batted in.
Scott Dunn played for two teams during his Frontier League career, the Traverse City Beach Bums, where he started his career in 2010 and played through 2013, and the Washington Wild Things in 2014 where he ended his career. In 2010, Dunn was drafted in the second round of the Frontier League Draft. The right-handed pitcher from Clinton, Pennsylvania, and Slippery Rock University, finished his career with a 38-15 record, a 2.83 earned run average, 10 saves over 445.1 innings in 130 games, with 53 of those being starts. Dunn received honors of playing in the 2013 All-Star game and was awarded the 2013 Pitcher of the Year Award. Scott Dunn sits in second place all time in wins.
Eric Massingham was one of the most dominant relief pitchers in Frontier League history. He began his career in the Frontier League in 2011 with the Evansville Otters, where he pitched from 2011 through 2014. The Benicia, California, native posted a career record of 9-6 with an amazing 1.68 earned run average. He currently holds the Frontier League career record for saves with 70. Throughout his career, he averaged more than one strikeout per inning. His 137 strikeouts over 116 games and 128.1 innings demonstrate his effectiveness. Massingham collected a 2012 All-Star Game selection as well as 2013 Post-Season All-Star honors.
Terry Pearson began his stint in the Frontier League in 1995 and played for the Zanesville Greys through 1996. Pearson collected All-Star game selection honors as well as Post-Season All-Star honors during the 1996 season. Also during 1996, he had a league leading 20 saves with a 4-1 record with a microscopic ERA of 0.50. A right-handed pitcher from Tuscaloosa, Alabama, Pearson was the third Frontier League player to appear in Major League Baseball when he debuted for the Detroit Tigers in 2002.
Special Contributor, Duke Ward
Under Duke, the Roosters were voted Organization of the Year in 1995 and hosted the 1996 and 1998 All-Star Games. Duke was the first person to bring Pete Rose into the Frontier League when Pete served as the keynote speaker for the 1996 All-Star events. Duke served as league Vice President for most of his tenure in the Frontier League. He was instrumental in creating the league by-laws and was also responsible for the Frontier League qualifying for work visas. Duke passed away on July 28, 2017.
Special Moment, Unveiling of Baseball’s Best Burger
When former Gateway Grizzlies general manager Tony Funderburg unveiled Baseball’s Best Burger prior to the 2006 season, the team had no idea how well known the product would become. The sandwich, which features a thick hamburger with bacon and sharp cheddar cheese served on a grilled Krispy Kreme donut, received national publicity from the moment that it was introduced. The first major exposure was in March 2006 when the ESPN flew Tony and media relations director Jeff O’Neill to New York City to appear live on the Cold Pizza morning show to discuss and demonstrate the burger. Later that spring, ESPN.com highlighted the Grizzlies for “the newest taste sensation in minor league baseball.” Baseball’s Best Burger has gone on to be featured on The Travel Channel’s Man v. Food program, ranked second on Sports Illustrated’s list of Top Minor League Ballpark Foods, was one of the 11 Craziest Ballpark Foods listed in Fortune Magazine, and was the only non-MLB item listed as one of USA Today’s Top 10 Ballpark foods.
The 2017 Frontier League Hall of Fame Class.
Chase was a great power hitter for the Traverse City Beach Bums from 2010 to 2013. One of his most memorable moments was when he had a walk off Grand Slam in the 11th inning in 2013 against the Washington Wild Things. Chase was well known throughout the League for his slow strolls to home plate when he was about to hit. In his career, Burch was voted to the All-Star game in 2010, 2012, and 2013. Chase holds many Beach Bums Records. He was a consistent anchor in their lineup He finished his career with a .283 batting average, runs, and 235 RBI.
Travis played for the Ohio Valley Redcoats and the Chillicothe Paints from 2005 to 2008. In 2005, Travis was named Rookie of the Year and made the post-season All-Star team. He dominated in his rookie season when he slashed a .332 batting average with a .532 slugging percentage. Travis was the League’s Most Valuable Player in 2007. Travis was voted to the All-Star game in all 4 seasons he spent in the Frontier League. Garcia currently holds the League record for most doubles. In his Frontier League career, Garcia had a .304 batting average with 57 homers, 275 RBI, 256 runs, 42 stolen bases and an outstanding .503 slugging percentage.
When Pete graduated from Eastern Illinois University, he came to the Frontier League and made himself quietly known. Pete Played for Evansville in 2002, Richmond in 2003, and Kalamazoo from 2004-2006. Pete’s best season in the Frontier League came in 2005. He finished the season with a .347 batting average as well as 23 home runs and 35 stolen bases. Pete currently shares 2 league records. The first is most stolen bases in a game with five. The second, is for most RBI in a single season with 100. His contributions led the Kalamazoo Kings to win the 2005 Frontier League Championship. Pete was voted the 2005 Frontier League MVP.
In 1998, Gator came to the Chillicothe Paints after spending six years in the Atlanta Braves organization. He battled injuries throughout his career. In his 1 1/2 seasons (108 games) in the Frontier League, Gator finished his Frontier League Career with a mind-blowing .423 batting average and a .758 slugging percentage. He didn’t stop there, he also had 104 runs scored, 40 doubles, 27 homers, and 111 RBI. The Boston Red Sox took notice of Gator’s accomplishments and signed him after 39 games of the 1999 Frontier League season. His career was cut short by injuries sustained in an automobile accident. After his playing days, the Chillicothe Paints retired his number, 20.
Special Contributor, Steve Sturgill
In the winter of 1992 to 1993, several men, including Steve Sturgill, agreed to work together to form the Frontier League. Their concept was to bring professional baseball to areas of Ohio, Kentucky, and West Virginia that previously could not get professional baseball. Steve was named the first president of the Frontier League. Steve owned and operated the Portsmouth Explorers from 1993 through 1995. Later, he served the City of Portsmouth, Ohio as both the City Council President and the Mayor. Aside from Bill Lee, Steve is the only person to have his signature stamped on the Frontier League baseball.
The Moment, The Night the Frontier League Was Born
June 30, 1993. Eight teams took their respective fields. The Tri-State Tomahawks hosted the West Virginia Coal Sox, the Kentucky Rifles hosted the Ohio Valley Redcoats, the Lancaster Scouts visited the Zanesville Greys and the Portsmouth Explorers journeyed to the Chillicothe Paints. That night, the Frontier League was officially born. No one that night, could have possibly known what the future of the Frontier League would be. Their efforts paved the way for the dozens of markets, thousands of players and the millions of fans that have been a part of the Frontier League’s history.
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.