2016 Inductee Bios
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Baseball – A lifetime journey of fun
Never underestimate the emotional wallop of a phone call, especially the one informing you you’ve been elected to the Roy Hobbs Baseball Hall of Fame.
Just ask David Harvell.
“I was overwhelmed,” he said. “I truly had tears in my eyes. I don’t often blubber but I did that night.”
Harvill, 78, has done a great deal in his life. He has been married to DeAnna for 58 years, they have 4 sons and 13 grandchildren, and he enjoyed sales career at Johnson & Johnson.
But baseball has also been an important part of his life. He has played on 13 Roy Hobbs World Series championship teams, he threw out the ceremonial first pitch at a Detroit Tigers game in Comerica Park in 2005.
“A lifetime journey of fun,” DeAnna said.
“How could it get any better?” DeAnna said.
Not bad for a guy who was away from the game for decades. When he was a young man Harvill was busy raising 4 boys and working. He didn’t return to baseball until he was 54 and signed up for a Tigers fantasy camp in 1992.
In his first fantasy camp game, he went to bat without a helmet. Growing up playing as a boy in Missouri he never wore one.
He’s come a long way from that first camp.
He’s done it with skill, even on big stages. DeAnna was asked if her husband threw a strike in Comerica Park during that opening pitch ceremony.
“Absolutely!” she said.
Hall of Famer Gary Dover noted in his nomination that Harvill “is a true ambassador for the game.”
DeAnna still recalls the first moment she saw her husband on a baseball field.
“That’s where he belongs,” she remembers thinking.
Now he belongs someplace else – the Roy Hobbs Baseball Hall of Fame.
– Glenn Miller
Baseball – A fixture in his life
The name J.D. Hinson is synonymous with baseball around Asheville, N.C., and indeed throughout the western part of the state.
And it has been for decades, dating back more than 40 years to when Hinson played on the state 3A championship team at Enka High School in 1970.
Now, those glory days are long gone and that teenaged high school player is 62, the father of three and grandfather of six.
But baseball has been a fixture in his life ever since he was a prep standout, from compiling a 745-390 record as baseball coach at Charles D. Owens High School and coaching Babe Ruth Baseball teams to state titles and building Roy Hobbs teams in North Carolina. Hinson was a champion in high school and has won many more titles through 25 years of Roy Hobbs Baseball.
“Baseball has been very important in my life,” Hinson said.
He has played on 6 Roy Hobbs championship teams, 5 with the Asheville Sox and 1 with the Carolina Rockies. Hinson has coached, managed, organized, recruited and encouraged countless ballplayers over the decades.
Hinson doesn’t take good fortune for granted. “I’m thanking my Heavenly Father for allowing me to be around the game,” Hinson said.
He’s done it with faith, class and passion, qualities he has passed on to his children and now grandchildren.
“Without his influence of character, passion, zeal and faith, I would not be the man I am today,” said his son John Hinson II, who played baseball at Clemson and in the Astros organization.
Now the elder Hinson sees the passage of time through baseball and his son and their respective positions in the world.
“John used to be known as J.D. Hinson’s son,” Hinson said. “Now I’m known as John Hinson’s father.”
He is also known now as a Roy Hobbs Hall of Famer.
– Glenn Miller
Baseball – ‘The best drug in the world’
An unfamiliar phone number popped up on Gerry Huppmann’s cell phone in August. Everybody knows that moment of doubt. Please don’t let it be a telemarketer.
Huppmann considered not answering but then thought it might be one of his children needing help and using another phone number. He answered.
His kids were fine. The caller jolted him with unexpected good news. Huppmann, 60, had been elected to the Roy Hobbs Hall of Fame.
“I was floored,” said Huppmann, a resident of Providence Forge, Va. “I was speechless. My wife and kids won’t believe that.”
But they’re sure to believe Huppmann, a father of three and grandfather of five, earned the honor.
Huppmann is a Hall of Famer for many reasons – as a player, commissioner, groundskeeper, Special Olympics fundraiser, helping build a sports facility, loyal friend, team organizer and more.
The call came just a few weeks short of his Sept. 14 birthday. “There’s no better way to celebrate your 60th birthday,” he said.
Huppmann knows the game from a perspective many players and fans don’t. He’s been head groundskeeper at 2 sites for the Atlanta Braves’ AAA farm team – the Richmond Braves from 2000 to 2008 and the Gwinnett Braves from 2008 to 2012.
That gives him an appreciation for the quality of fields in the Roy Hobbs World Series.
“Playing on a surface like that is a treat,” Huppmann said.
What is perhaps an even bigger treat is playing at Terry Park, a site where dozens of MLB Hall of Famers played from the 1920s through 1980s, legends such as Ty Cobb, Bob Feller, Roberto Clemente and more.
“Kind of hallowed ground,” Huppmann said. “Their ghosts still haunt that place.”
It’s part of baseball’s eternal allure that brings Huppmann back every fall and helps him recruit players.
“I tell them,” Huppmann said of baseball “It’s the best drug in the world to get addicted to.”
– Glenn Miller
Baseball – A diamond of a coach & teammate
Like countless others before and since, Frank Murphy used to play a popular game in the Chicago area – 16-inch softball.
But Murphy grew up on baseball, from his days on the West Lawn (Ill.) Pirates Little League team, to high school and college ball at Andrews University in Berrien Springs, Mich. in the early 1970s.
Softball? Then, though, came a chance to play baseball again in the mid-1980s. It felt right.
“I was never going to go back to softball,” said Murphy, a Chicago resident.
Now, more than 30 years later, Murphy, 67, has played on championship teams in the Oak Lawn League and also coached and managed and recruited other teams to the league and assembled teams for the World Series.
Through the years of playing, coaching, managing, serving as an administrator and recruiting, he has impressed other Roy Hobbs players with his character and dedication.
“I can’t say if he is a better coach or a better teammate because he is great as both,” said Steven Partlick, who has played with and against Murphy since 1984.
There is no surprise that Murphy has earned his election to the Hall of Fame.
Some things can’t be counted or weighed or measured. These include intangibles such as thoughtfulness and generosity.
During the Hall of Fame vetting process Partlick spoke of the time he and a teammate, Rich Budziak, showed up at the World Series without a hotel room.
“Frank was newly married but he and his wife had an extra room and had us stay with them,” Partlick said.
That’s Frank Murphy.
The days of 16-inch softball are long gone. Murphy has been a World Series fixture as player and manager since 1991, when the event was held around Orlando.
He still recalls the thrill of playing on pro fields there.
“I was blown away,” Murphy said of playing in big-league spring training stadiums.
The game of 16-inch softball didn’t have a chance against such experiences.
– Glenn Miller
Baseball – ‘Because we can play’
Linda Kissik recalls how excited her husband Dick was in 2015 when he heard about his nomination for the Roy Hobbs all of Fame.
“He said, ‘Oh, God, what an honor’,” she said. “He thought it was an honor just to be nominated.”
Kissik wasn’t elected to the Hall of Fame in 2015. Now, a year later, Dick Kissik is in the Hall of Fame. But he didn’t live to hear the news. He died at the age of 72 April 27 after battling heart disease for several years.
Linda and Dick would have celebrated their 50th anniversary on May 7.
Linda talked about her husband and how the high school sweethearts met at a dance when they were students at Cumberland (R. I.) High School. Now, her sweetheart is gone and she’s still grieving. “I get weepy a lot,” Linda said.
She and Dick spent their lives together, raised 3 children and built a half-century of memories, dating back to that dance. Linda was only 16 at the dance and she can recall what he said.
“He said you must know me, I’m Dick Kissik, I play baseball,” Linda said.
She didn’t know this Dick Kissik boy and didn’t know anything about baseball and didn’t care, and when they danced he stepped all over Linda’s feet.
It wasn’t an auspicious beginning. But she learned about the boy and how good a baseball player he was even if he wasn’t much of a dancer.
He was the catcher on the 1962 Cumberland High team that won the school’s first state title in 30 years. He then starred at Providence College and was good enough to play in the LA Angels farm system for the Thetford Mines Miners in Quebec.
After playing pro ball in 1964 and 1965, Kissik returned to Rhode Island to start a family. He spent most of his working life as a driver of tractor trucks.
“He loved that job,” Linda said. “He was his own boss.”
He also loved baseball and hankered to return to the game and started playing adult baseball in 2004 and then in 2007 was a co-founder of the Rhode Island Massachusetts Association (RIMA), which is affiliated with Roy Hobbs.
“He was the catalyst in starting the league,” said Glenn Wilcox, a nephew and teammate on the Silver Foxes.
He was a revered figure in the league. The month of August was devoted to Kissik in the league, his number 8 was retired league-wide and on May 1 a moment of silence was observed.
Linda recalls asking Dick and one of his old high school teammates, Walt Dusza, who played Roy Hobbs with him, why two such old, well, fogies were still playing the game.
“They both looked at me and said, ‘Because we can play,’” Linda said.
That was Dick Kissik, a baseball player from childhood and into his 70s, even if wasn’t much of a teenage dancer.
– Glenn Miller
Baseball – Oak Lawn’s Most Valuable Person
Roger Laurella might be the MVP every year of the Oak Lawn Roy Hobbs League near Chicago.
That’s MVP as in Most Valuable Person.
“Absolutely!” said Bonnie Fear, who nominated Laurella and whose husband Bill has played in the league.
Laurella, who turned 58 on Halloween, is the man who has made the league thrive for a quarter of a century.
You name it and Laurella does it.
Start a Roy Hobbs league? Yes.
Schedule and pay the other umpires? Yes.
Schedule games and work as a groundskeeper and lend money to teams to keep them in the league and just about anything related to maintaining a league? Yep.
And play? Indeed.
“If it wasn’t for Roger I don’t think we’d have a league,” Bill Fear said.
Laurella started with Roy Hobbs in 1989 but began playing adult baseball a few years earlier, before Roy Hobbs was founded. In the mid-1980s, his baseball goal was simple.
“Some of us just wanted to keep the dream alive,” said Laurella, a resident of Evergreen Park, Ill. The dream was to play baseball as grown men. Now 3 decades later Laurella is keeping the dream alive for many.
At one point, he said, Oak Lawn had 36 teams. It’s now down to 24 but the organizational wizardry to keep that functioning would exceed the capabilities of most people. Not Laurella.
The extent of his labors is unknown. “I don’t think any of us really know what he does, he just does it for the love of the game,” Hall of Famer Vito Ruscio said in a reference letter to the Hall of Fame committee.
It’s love of the game and organizational talent that earned Laurella the Hall of Fame. It’s not because of winning multiple World Series titles. Heck, Laurella hasn’t even been to the World Series since 1996.
It’s for what he does behind the scenes that makes him a Hall of Famer and MVP – Most Valuable Person.
– Glenn Miller
Baseball – His middle name is South Dakota
In a sparsely populated land faraway from the palm trees, sandy beaches and ball fields of Lee County and the Roy Hobbs World Series, Dave Mydland has helped build adult baseball in South Dakota.
The state’s population is about 860,000. To put that in perspective, Lee County’s population is roughly 661,000.
In Lee County one can’t go to grocery stores or drive a couple of miles without bumping into ballplayers or ball fields.
Not so in South Dakota’s wide-open spaces. From his hometown of Sioux Falls, Mydland, 62, has not only helped grow Roy Hobbs Baseball but also adult senior baseball in general. He’s organized teams and brought them to Arizona and Florida for the World Series for 23 years, at Roy Hobbs every year since 2004.
Dave ‘Baseball’ Mydland has been synonymous with amateur baseball in his state for more than 30 years. He’s known as the Founding Father of adult baseball in South Dakota.
“He’s pretty much the driving force,” said Hank Lawson, who has played with Mydland since 1991.
Mydland scours the state for ballplayers. Most of his players are farmers or schoolteachers.
Unlike in Florida or California, he just can’t head down the road to fill his roster. Mydland builds teams with players from town such as Rapid City and Aberdeen and maybe farms located between towns.
It’s not easy. Mydland, who owns an insurance agency, said the team he brought last year had only 12 or 13 players. Yet, his teams compete and even won a title in 2008.
Mydland is also in the South Dakota Baseball Hall of Fame, which named him its Man of the Year in 2015.
Mydland, who played baseball at South Dakota State, has been a fixture in his state’s baseball culture as a player, organizer, administrator, recruiter and more.
Now, he’s in another Hall of Fame.
“I’m sure there’s some more deserving than me,” Mydland said.
Maybe. But it’s unlikely you will find anybody more deserving anywhere in the wide-open spaces of South Dakota.
– Glenn Miller
Baseball – Yes you can play baseball at any age
For more than half a century Carl Rakich has excelled on baseball diamonds in and around Akron, Ohio, and Southwest Florida.
Rakich was a 3-time all-city second baseman and pitcher at Akron Central High School in the mid-1960s. Then at the University of Akron he was a 4-year starter at second base and co-captain in 1968 and 1969.
Now, at 69, after participating in 25 Roy Hobbs World Series, Rakich has earned another honor – election to the Roy Hobbs Hall of Fame.
After his collegiate career ended, Rakich moved on to the Akron AA League, one of the top amateur leagues in Ohio, but in his early 30s, he hung up his spikes and thought he was done with baseball.
When he was a boy and his father was about 40 and throwing him batting practice, it was inconceivable to the youngster that a man his father’s age could play baseball.
“I thought he was an old man,” Rakich said.
Back then there wasn’t anything around such as Roy Hobbs.
Like countless former high school and college baseball, players, Rakich found another outlet. “We ended up sliding into softball and never conceived we could play baseball,” he said.
It’s the way things were done. It was the way of his father’s generation and every baseball playing generation before had done things.
“You gave it up because it was time to give it up,” Rakich said.
That was then. Now, ballplayers such as Rakich can keep playing, and, boy oh boy, has he taken advantage of the opportunity!
His Akron Blues team once posted a 56-game winning streak from 1991 to 1993. His teams have compiled a 440-53 record from 1991 to 2015. That’s an improbable .890 winning percentage.
Talking his old college and AA teammates into returning to the field, he has given back to the game as a coach, manager, organizer, cheerleader and a Roy Hobbs Challenger Baseball volunteer.
Rakich and a core group of teammates have played together over the decades and have competed in the 30s, 40s, 50s, and 60s age divisions.
“Our kids grew up watching us play baseball,” Rakich said.
– Glenn Miller
Baseball – At home with a bat or a yoke
Lanny Ropke may be as amazing in the air as he is on baseball fields.
He flew Huey helicopters in Vietnam in the late 1960s and then became an American Airlines pilot for 33 years, flying jets such as the 727, 757, 767 and 777.
Speaking of numbers, here are astounding baseball statistics and tidbits on the retired pilot:
• He’s participated in more than 2,500 games, batted more than 8,000 times while playing for 59 teams and participating in 43 tournaments.
• The Woodland, Calif., resident was an all-star in his local league every year from 1991 to 2010.
• As a founder of the Labor Day Best of the West tournament, he helped grow it from 10 teams in 1992 to 40 teams in 2015.
Now, at 70, Ropke is going into the Roy Hobbs Hall of Fame.
He attributes his longevity to good fortune. “Well, I have been blessed with a body younger than my chronological years.” He added, “When I was 60 I felt like I was 45.”
Now, though, age is catching up to him. “Last year I noticed,” he said.
Other baseball people have noticed Ropke over the years for his ability and character. They know that in 1987 Ropke was on the board of directors for the original Roy Hobbs league in Woodland.
They know how hard he has worked to keep the league vibrant. He has been commissioner of managers, competition commissioner, umpire coordinator, vice president, field maintenance coordinator and president.
He’s also worn multiple hats with the Labor Day tournament.
“Baseball would not be in Woodland if it weren’t for Lanny – period!” Woodland player Ron Williams wrote in an email. “The time and effort that he has put into making Woodland work is inconceivable to any that has not done what he has done. … It is no walk in the park to keep a league running as Lanny has done for many years.”
And he’s not done…
– Glenn Miller
Baseball – A consummate dugout builder
Even by Roy Hobbs Baseball standards, Ron Staples has played an enormous amount of baseball.
“I’ve played 62 years,” Staples said.
That’s a long time, indeed.
“Since I was 8 years old,” Staples said. “I haven’t stopped.”
That includes some years of fast-pitch and modified fast-pitch softball, but since his days in the Lakewood (Wash.) Little League in the 1950s the 70-year-old Staples has rarely stopped playing ball.
Well, there was that year in the Army in the 1960s, but other than that Staples has played and played and played…
He’s also won and won and won…
Staples, a retired banker and Gig Harbor, Wash., resident, has played on 8 Roy Hobbs World Series championship teams, 7 with the Washington Titans and 1 with the San Diego Padres last year in the Timeless Division.
Since 1989 he’s missed only 2 World Series despite having to travel all the way from the Great Northwest to Florida.
When he was vetted for the Hall of Fame honor, Staples was praised as a “consummate team builder” and a person who “set a standard of hard-nosed play and perseverance.”
He has also helped teams win. In addition to his 8 titles, Staples has earned 4 Roy Hobbs silver and 5 bronze medals.
Staples is not done. He played 14 games in 14 days in the 2015 World Series and is playing in 2 divisions again this year.
On a summer night came the call telling him he had been elected to the Hall of Fame. He was astounded and asked, “Are you serious?”
His wife, Cheryl, was there and heard his reaction.
“Oh, my goodness, he was so surprised,” Cheryl said. “He said, ‘Are you sure?’”
Now on a fall night Staples is going into the Hall of Fame and Cheryl will be there for the ceremony.
”I am a crier,” Cheryl said. “The tears will come down my face.”
– Glenn Miller
Baseball – Carrying the gear & making plays
Roy Hobbs Baseball is about more than balls and strikes, hits and errors, wins and losses. Just as important and maybe even more important are camaraderie, building friendships and bonding toward common purposes.
Dave Zavracky, 66, combines the best of both worlds – talent and character, a man who can help you win on the field and is a pleasure in the dugout.
“He’s a good guy to have on your team,” said Doc Pollack, a teammate of Zavracky’s on the Livingston (N. J.) Dodgers. He’s the sort of fellow, Pollak said, who carries equipment to the field and cleans up after games.
Pollak should know. They’ve known each other more than 30 years, even longer than Zavracky has played in Roy Hobbs.
Zavracky is as much of a fixture in Fort Myers it seems as the palm trees. He’s played in 22 consecutive World Series.
“I’ve been doing this so long I’ve lost track,” Zavracky said.
The Navy veteran, who played fast-pitch softball when he was in the service, is a man of many parts. The Mt. Arlington, N.J., resident also umpires high school baseball and softball.
When Hall of Famer Tom Scull (HoF 2014) was asked about Zavracky’s he said simply that Zavracky leads by example.
Pollak manages the Dodgers but in 2009 he was hospitalized with a serious health condition. Zavracky filled in as manager and led the Dodgers to a World Series title.
Zavracky, of course, doesn’t take credit for the championship. “The team just jelled,” he said.
That’s Zavracky. He did more than fill out lineup cards and make pitching changes during that World Series. He also stole 18 bases.
Zavracky is a songwriter guitarist who met his wife, Elana, when they were in a band called Remember When.
Here’s another Remember When moment for Dave and Elena – his 2016 Hall of Fame induction.
– Glenn Miller