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 Sunday, August 24, 1997




Tri-County Hall of Fame gets eight new members

League honors award winners during annual dinner at West End Y.C.

Of The Morning Call


As player-manager of the back-to-back Tri-County League champion Limeport Bulls, Billy Fatzinger was in a good mood Saturday night when the amateur baseball league handed out its annual awards at the West End Youth Center.

But while Fatzinger was happy to talk about his present Limeport stars, he was equally thrilled to speak about one former Limeport star whom he happened to know pretty well.

Fatzinger got to present his uncle, John Szalachowski, as one of the newest members of the Tri-County Hall of Fame.

Szalachowski was one of eight new inductees into the Tri-Co's Hall of Fame, bringing its membership to 55.

The rest of the new Hall of Fame class included Gene Smith, Lee Mecherly, Leo Schnalzer, Larry Butler, Woody Rice and Carroll Benner from the original era (1950 to '64) and Glen Mensch from the modern era (1964 to present).

And while the stars of the past were recognized, so were the standouts from the 1997 season.

Mike "Doc" Moyer, who guided Gabelsville to a 30-4 regular season record and into the league finals, was named "Manager of the Year."

Brian Ware of the Northern Yankees, who hit a league-best .563 with 20 extra-base hits, 38 RBIs and suffered just four strikeouts in 112 at-bats, was named the league's Rookie of the Year.

Limeport's veteran lefthander Dennis Kinney was saluted as the league's Most Valuable Pitcher. The former major league hurler was 9-1 with a 1.82 ERA and 71 strikeouts in 73 innings.

Cetronia's Mike Merkel, who batted .480, scored 39 runs, and had league-highs of 13 home runs and 52 RBIs, was named the Tri-Co's Most Valuable Player for the third consecutive year.

Other awards were presented to the league's strikeout leader, Stahley's Josh Gunkle, who fanned 74; and to the league's ERA king, Gabelsville's Bob Drumbore, who compiled an ERA of 1.44.

In addition, Gabelsville, South Whitehall and Center Valley were saluted as division champs.

But while the stars of '97 got their awards, much of the talk at WEYC centered on the past as the eight new Hall of Famers had their glorious careers reviewed.

Here's a capsule look at each:

GLEN MENSCH -- A 14-year player for Upper Perk, Mensch compiled a career batting mark of .269. His best year was 1983 when he hit .365. He helped the Chiefs win league titles in 1979, '80, and '83. He also hit three home runs in a game at Silver Creek.

JOHN SZALACHOWSKI -- After a 10-year career in the Blue Mountain League, Szalachowski spent the last eight years in the Tri-Co and said, "They were the best years I ever had."

He posted a lifetime Tri-Co batting mark of .328, scored 108 runs, drove in 100 runs, had 26 doubles and played a solid third base for Ishky Fatzinger, his former brother-in-law, Billy's father, and another Tri-Co Hall of Famer. Szalachowski helped Limeport win league titles in 1982 and '88. He and his nephew, Billy Fatzinger, once hit back-to-back home runs in a game at Limeport.

Szalachowski is now a successful coach in the South Parkland Youth Association where he coaches his sons, Brad and Matt.

LARRY BUTLER -- Butler played for the Bethlehem Giants from 1960 through '68. He was an outstanding first baseman both with the glove and bat. A captain for Bert Tarboro's clubs, he was always among the league leaders in RBIs. His best season was 1966 when he hit .400 and followed that up with a .329 mark in '67. He helped the Giants win a league crown in '67.

CARROLL BENNER -- Benner was called "The Antagonizer" in his career for the way he tormented teams on the base paths. A player with the Richlandtown A.A. club from 1944 through '61, he helped his team win a league crown in '47. A gritty, gutty second baseman and leadoff hitter, Benner was regularly among the league leaders in walks, runs and steals.

LEE MECHERLY -- A player with the Gabelsville Owls from 1956 to '77 as the team shifted from the Berks County Rec League to the Tri-Co and Lebanon Valley League, Mecherly compiled a lifetime batting mark of .278. During his career as a shortstop and third baseman, his teams were 70-28. He is now the coach of the Boyertown Bearcubs Junior Legion juggernaut. His Bearcubs have won 10 state junior legion crowns.

GENE SMITH -- With Gabelsville from 1950 through '84, Smith decided to make a pitching appearance in 1990 at the age of of 57. He scattered four hits over 5-1/3 innings in that appearance, striking out five. He has pitched in five different decades. He was 15-2 lifetime in the Tri-Co.

LEO SCHNALZER -- A member of the Richlandtown team from 1965 through '67 and Quakertown from '70 to '73, Schnalzer was a top Tri-Co hitter. He led Quakertown to the '70 Tri-Co title with a batting average of .442. He also batted .388 with Richlandtown in '65.

WOODY RICE -- Rice was a strong-armed infielder and cleanup hitter for Spring Valley in the '50s and Bingen from '58 to '62. His best year was '58 when he hit .429, had eight doubles, three triples, four home runs and drove in 26 runs for a club that scored just 58 times all season. His slugging percentage ranged from .625 to .710 throughout his career.


From The Morning Call -- August 24, 1997

Copyright 1997, The Morning Call