High School Sports

St. Louis Sports Hall of Fame to induct nine from the metro-east

Ken Oberkfell, a Collinsville High School graduate, was the starting third baseman for the 1982 World Series Champion St. Louis Cardinals.
Ken Oberkfell, a Collinsville High School graduate, was the starting third baseman for the 1982 World Series Champion St. Louis Cardinals. BND File

Collinsville basketball legend Vergil Fletcher and 1982 World Series champion Ken Oberkfell highlight the 2018 class of inductees to the St. Louis Sports Hall of Fame.

Fletcher won 747 games as head coach at Collinsville High School including two state championships. He was enshrined in the National High School Hall of Fame after a 32-year career. His 1961 team finished undefeated and also will be honored Feb. 1 with the Hall of Fame’s Whitey Herzog Award.

Oberkfell, a resident of Maryville and Collinsville High School graduate, batted .278 in 15 big-league seasons, most prominently with the St. Louis Cardinals. He was promoted to the major leagues as a second baseman, where he played 400 games, but started at third for Herzog’s 1982 championship team. He delivered the game-winning single in Game 2 of the NLCS against the Atlanta Braves.

Those and seven other metro-east stars will be part of the second Illinois-only induction class. The enshrinement ceremony is Feb. 1 at Gateway Classic Cars in O’Fallon. Tickets are $90 each or $720 for a table of eight.

Cocktails and hors d’oeuvres will be served at 6 p.m. The induction program, which begins at 7 p.m., follows a unique format. Instead of reading prepared speeches, the honorees are interviewed by members of St. Louis media.

Other inductees include:

▪  Nancy Scranton, of Centralia, 23-year veteran of the LPGA.

▪  Arthur “Flash” Johnson, East St. Louis, Olympic boxer and North American and National Boxing Association champion.

▪  Rita Menke, Belleville, coached Belleville East softball to a record three state championships and is among a hanful of Illinois coaches with more than 600 wins.

▪  Joe Reiniger, Collinsville, SIUE soccer star scored 600 goals in National Professional Soccer League.

▪  Darrin Plab, Mascoutah, a two-time NCAA champion in the high jump while at SIUC and 1992 Olympian.

▪  Donnie Freeman, Madison, scored 11,544 points over eight seasons in the American Basketball Association, for which he appeared in five all-star games. He remains University of Illinois’ scoring leader at 26.8 points per game.

▪  Tom Jager, Collinsville, two-time world champion swimmer, five-time Olympic Gold medalist and six-time world record holder in the 50-meter freestyle.

▪  Dick Schofield, Springfield, spent 19 years in the big leagues with eight different teams and was a hero for the 1960 World Champion Pittsburgh Pirates.

Special Awards also will be presented. Those honorees include:

▪  Metro Legends Award: Larry Graham, who holds wins record as head basketball coach at SIUE, St. Louis Community College and Madison High School, where he won two state championships.

▪  President’s Choice Award: Longtime Belleville Hilgards American Legion baseball coach Barney Elser and original Hilgard member Cal Isselhardt will be honored with the President’s Award.

▪  Whitey Herzog Award: 1961 Collinsville Kahoks basketball team, which was the undefeated state champion.

The St. Louis Sports Hall of Fame is a non-for-profit organization dedicated to the recognition and preservation of the region’s athletic history and its greatest contributors both on and off the field of play. For more information, visit www.stlhof.com or “like” our page on Facebook.

Todd Eschman: 618-239-2540, @tceschman