Kirk Rueter, Gary Gaetti, Marnie Triefenbach-Herrling, Dave Butz, Dana Howard, Craig Hentrich, Don Ohl, Mannie Jackson and Tom Wargo were among 13 Illinois athletes inducted Thursday into the St. Louis Sports Hall of Fame.
The event, held at Gateway Classic Cars, drew a crowd of 350. It was the first time in the nine years of the Hall of Fame that the Illinois honorees were enshrined in their home state.
Others inducted were Rich Herrin, the late Arnie Knepper, Carl Mauck and Tom Stock.
Dave Luechtefeld (Metro Legends Award), Fred Huff (President’s Choice Award), the late R.J. Krause (Heart of Gold Award) and the 1980 Althoff state-championship football team coached by Glenn Schott (Whitey Herzog Award) also were honored.
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“This is a big honor,” said Rueter, 46, a native of Hoyleton and a Nashville graduate who enjoyed a 13-year major league career with the Montreal Expos and San Francisco Giants. “The people I’m going in with, a lot of them I grew up watching. When I heard all these names, I was like, ‘Oh, gosh, I’m going to be like a little kid again seeing all these guys.’”
Gaetti, 58, of Centralia, played 20 years in the major leagues, including two-plus seasons with the Cardinals from 1996-98. He was on former manager Tony La Russa’s first team.
“This is pretty awesome,” said Gaetti, who clubbed 360 career home runs. “I didn’t expect it, certainly. But I look at the names on (the program), and I’m honored. It says a lot about the whole St. Louis and Illinois sports neighborhood and family. Big names, so it’s a big deal.”
Triefenbach-Herrling, a 1992 graduate of Belleville West who starred in volleyball and basketball for the Maroons and then at Stanford University, credited the coaching she received at West. Some of them, including Charles Rodman, Larry Betz, Bob Keefe and Jane Sperry, were in the crowd.
Triefenbach-Herrling, a 6-foot-1 middle hitter, powered the West to back-to-back state volleyball championships in 1990 and 1991, with Rodman as the coach.
“He was also my English teacher,” Triefenbach-Herrling said of Rodman while being interviewed during the program. “He taught me how to speak, so it’s a little nerve-racking to have him here right now as I speak.”
On a more serious note, Triefebach-Herrling expressed gratitude for the induction.
“I’m truly honored. I’m excited to be back,” she said. “This is fun. My folks (Lee and Cheryl) come out quite a bit to California to visit.”
Triefenbach-Herrling , who lives in the San Francisco Bay area, was an outside hitter at Stanford and helped lead the Cardinal to two national championships and a third-place finish.
Wargo, of Centralia, is perhaps best known for winning the 1993 PGA Seniors’ Golf Championship. He was close with the late Arnold Palmer.
“The only bad thing about Arnie is he never paid his bets,” cracked Wargo, 74. “He was pretty tight around the wallet.”
Ohl, who graduated from Edwardsville, starred in basketball for the Tigers and the University of Illinois before enjoying a 10-year career in the NBA with the Detroit Pistons, Baltimore Bullets and the St. Louis/Atlanta Hawks.
Ohl, 80, was a 6-3 sharpshooter who often was given tough defensive assignments.
“I always got (Jerry) West and Oscar (Robertson),” he said. “It took 10 years off my career.”
Ohl estimated that with the 3-point shot, he could have added five or six points to his scoring average. Ohl, however, isn’t a big fan of the 3-pointer.
“It’s taken the big man out of the game,” he said.
Butz, a defensive lineman who resides in Swansea, played 16 years in the NFL and won two Super Bowls with the Washington Redskins. He played his first two seasons with the old St. Louis Cardinals in 1973 and 1974.
“I’m very honored to be here,” said Butz, 66. “It’s quite a recognition thing (to be) in your own area to get something like this. I’m extraordinarily pleased. It means you won’t be forgotten. Your name will go on a list, and it will be there forever and ever. That’s one way of living a little bit longer after I’m gone.”
Hentrich, 45, graduated from Marquette High in Alton. He was a punter who played at Notre Dame and then lasted 17 years in the NFL with the Green Bay Packers and Tennessee Titans. Hentrich’s Titans lost to the St. Louis Rams in Super Bowl XXXIV in 2000 in Atlanta.
Hentrich retired after the 2009 season and doesn’t miss football.
“I had my fill,” said Hentrich, a two-time Pro Bowler and a Super Bowl champion in 1997 with Green Bay. “I went out on my terms, and that’s what I wanted to do.
“Coming from a small school like (Marquette), no one gives you a chance. All the motivation I ever needed was for someone to tell me I can’t, and that’s what happened.”