For ISC Hall of Famer Lanny Rupp, softball was his life

Written by Bob on August 24th, 2011


The late Lanny Rupp was inducted into the class of 2011 ISC Hall of Fame and he is also a member of the Long Beach (Calif) Hall of Fame.
Courtesy Photo / Ronnie Rupp

LONG BEACH, CA – In the 1970s and ’80s, great players, great teams and great managers abounded in Southern California’s Western Softball Congress.

But when it came to recruiting, no one was greater than the late Lanny Rupp.

Rupp was the general manager and manager of the Lakewood Jets. If Rupp wanted to sign a top-caliber player, he went after him with a salesman’s charm and a bulldog’s gusto.

Most times, he landed his target.

“He worked, he plotted, he planned and he recruited, recruited, recruited,” said Hice Stiles, who played with and against Rupp in the Western Softball Congress (WSC).


“Lanny’s passion and determination centered around building a team, the Lakewood (Calif.) Jets, that would not only compete against, but beat the Long Beach Nitehawks (10-time International Softball Congress World Tournament champions).”

Rupp’s Jets not only played on par with the Nitehawks in the competitive WSC, but they were a national power as well – competing in Amateur Softball Association Championship tournaments as well as the ISC World Tournament.

“I played on both sides of the (Jets and Nitehawks) rivalry,” Stiles said, who was inducted into the ISC Hall of Fame in 2001. “Much of the 1970s and ‘80s greatest teams and games were when the Jets and Nitehawks went head-to-head. As fate would have it, Lanny’s ultimate dream came true in winning the World Tournament in Rock Island (IL).”

That ISC title came in 1973 under the banner of the Lakewood Stevenson / Forrester Jets, along with fourth place finishes in ’72 and ’74. Also, in the Jets’ fabled history, they finished second to St. Paul All-American Bar in the 1976 World Tournament held in Long Beach.

But the great games with the Nitehawks and the world championship would not have happened without Rupp’s tenacious recruiting. And he landed his biggest prize when he convinced pitcher Ed Klecker (ISC Hall of Fame, 2006) that he should pitch for the Jets.

Klecker was a hard throwing right-hander who pitched in a Mormon Church league. And Rupp was his catcher – one of only two non-Mormons allowed on a team.

“Without Klecker the (World Tournament) championship would not have been possible,” said Ronnie Rupp, Lanny’s son. “He wouldn’t have been able to recruit the (championship) caliber players. Klecker made it all possible.”

Klecker pitched for Rupp from 1972 to ’74. His short Jets’ career ended with a shoulder injury in 1975. During those three years, Rupp and Klecker formed a strong bond, and regardless of the offers, Klecker stuck with Rupp and his Jets, said Ronnie Rupp.

“Other teams offered more,” Rupp said. “But Ed stayed with dad because of their friendship.”

But Klecker wasn’t the only star that Rupp recruited. There were many more – including the likes of ISC Hall of Famers’ Stiles, K.G. Fincher, Jerry Hoffman, Greg Sepulveda, Alan Rohrback, George Pearson, Nick Hopkins and Don Frazier. In fact, 17 former Jet players that Rupp recruited were inducted into the ISC Hall of Fame.

And on August 14, Rupp joined his former players in the hallowed Hall. At his induction ceremony, several attended including Ronnie Rupp, Stiles, Don Stout, and Dave Blackburn.

Blackburn, also a 2011 Hall of Fame inductee, nominated Rupp.

“He was the master recruiter,” Blackburn said. “He had to be a superb salesman to get Klecker.”

How so?

Klecker was a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Playing on Sunday is frowned upon within the faith. But Sunday’s in fastpitch softball is known as ‘championship day’. And without Klecker on Sundays, the Jets had little chance of winning hotly contested tournaments or WSC championships.

The Sunday issue, says Blackburn, pitted Rupp against the greatest recruiter in the history of mankind: the Lord.

“In the history of the sport, this was one of the most unique coups,” Blackburn said. “(General Managers) battle wives, they battle professions and bosses for players, but no one had to go up against the Lord.”

Lanny Rupp had a profound influence on his son, instilling a love for the game. Ronnie Rupp forged a solid career in the WSC and played for the World Tournament champion Lancaster Chameleons (1983) from 1980 to ‘82.

As a young lad of nine, he tagged along with his dad to ball games. Soon he began hitting, fielding and pitching – emulating the great stars his dad had recruited. Finally, figuring he was good enough, he asked his dad for a spot on his team.

“When I was 18 or 19, I thought I was pretty good and wanted to play on dad’s team,” said the 54-year-old Rupp. “I said, ‘dad I really want to be on your team.’ He said, ‘yeah sure, but you’re not going to play.’

“He was about winning and win he did. And I’m proud of him for that.”

When Ronnie Rupp happens by Joe Rodgers Field in Long Beach – former home of the Nitehawks and site of many fierce battles with the Jets – he only has to gaze at a bronze plaque to realize the profound influence his dad had on fastpitch softball in southern California.

“My dad was also inducted into the Long Beach Hall of Fame (2009),” Rupp said. “His name is right below Ed’s (Klecker) on the plaque.”

All that winning, all that recruiting that ultimately led to several WSC titles and a World Tournament championship, earned Rupp his place in the ISC Hall of Fame.

An honor that Ronnie Rupp says his dad would be most thrilled.

“He would be very proud and honored to have been named to the Hall of Fame,” Rupp said, adding that his dad’s fastpitch career began in the late 1950s, and until he passed away at the age of 63 in 2000, he was still very much involved with fastpitch.

“The ISC is the ultimate,” he said. “This is his validation being inducted with the great many players and managers in the Hall of Fame. He would be tickled pink, softball was his life.”

6 Comments so far ↓

  1. Dale Plesetz says:

    Never met Lanny but know Ronnie and can see why he is now a HOF member. Great to see all the class act players get their day.

  2. Bob says:

    Bob, this is a great article, and it answers some questions I had about Ed Klecker.

    In the 1973 (Rock Island Ill.) World Tournament the Jets came into the final night through the losers bracket, having to beat Las Vegas, Long Beach, and Manny’s of San Bernadino, just to get to us (only undefeated team) the Clovis Cowboys.

    Back then it was a true double elimination tourney, so they had to beat us twice.

    K.G Fincher started the game against us and in the fifth we got two runs to go ahead 2-1, which seemed like the game was over, but in the top of the sixth K.G. hit a line drive back at the mound and hit our pitcher Herman Duinkerken in the ankle, and he couldn’t continue so we brought in Ralph Salazar (he had dropped a 50-pound jack on the big toe of his right foot, the one he pushes off with, and his doctor told him not to even go to the tourney).

    Ralph hit a batter and walked one, and they scored a run to tie it up. Then Ralph settled down and we went 13 innings tied 2-2.

    When Lakewood went back out, they entered Ed Klecker and he not only shut us out the rest of that game (seven full innings) he shut us out in the final 4-0.

    We had beaten Lakewood in every tourney that year (Long Beach, Lakewood, San Bernadino, Bakersfield), but Ed Klecker didn’t pitch. So my story is simple, Ed Klecker was the best pitcher of that era and the man that recruited him deserves to be in the Hall of Fame with him!

    P.S. Bob Guy, (Nick) Hopkins, and K.G. (Fincher) had all been recruited on that same team.

    – Joe Avila, 2010 ISC Hall of Fame member

  3. dave garcia says:

    lanny was a great coach and the greatest recruiter too.here is a story that is typical lanny..when i was playing for the long beach nitehawks,,i didn”t know this at the time,,butt they were recruiting hice styles to play for them…i had just led the nitehawks in in hitting 2 years in a row and was considered one of the best center fielders in the country with hice and jack johnson.so who do you think told me the news of what was going on behind my back…yep lanny..!!!. was pissed..!!(i knew lanny new that i”d be pissed)..so by the time the nitehawks got to tell me the news that they wanted to move me to left or right..having me and hice in the same outfield..?? by the time i heard the news from the nitehawks,,,lanny already had me sighned to a contract.!!.so i was the new lakewood jet”s center fielder and we went to the world tournement that year…if it wasn”t for lanny rupp,,i would have never,ever, left the long beach nitehawks..now that”s pretty good recruiting..the rest is history..!!..my deepest condolences to the rupp family..i know it was a great loss…if i would have known about the funeral,i would have gone to it no matter what…..dave garcia……….p.s. the last time i saw ronny he looked like a grown up dennis the menace with a uniform on.!!..ha,ha

  4. Steve Cooper says:

    My father Gerald Cooper was the catcher for the Lakewood Jets from approximately 1968-1974 and caught back to back no hitters from K.G. Finch and Ed Klecker in a tournament. They didnt know which pitcher to give the tourney MVP to, so my dad recieved the honor! My dad says Ed Klecker was the best fastpitch pitcher to ever live. Not only for his hard throwing(he said he’s never seen anyone throw as hard as he did ever)but for his accuracy. He says he never threw a ball over the heart of the plate. Ed recruited my dad from LDS church leagues after my dad had 2 hits off him in a game. Ed Klecker didn’t give up 2 hits a game often, let alone to the same guy. So from then on my dad caught Ed for the Lakewood Jets. Dad has an All-America plaque and a World Champions 1973 picture and certificate of congratulations fron the City of Lakewood. My dad would love to contact or hear from anyone that played on those teams including Ronnie Rupp. Gerald Cooper can be reached at oldmancoop@msn.com

  5. Bob says:

    Hi Steve, thanks for taking us down memory lane with your father. Hopefully some of your dad’s former Lakewood Jets teammates will contact him. If you could send photos of your dad with his plaque, and the 1973 ISC World Championship photo, I’ll run it on the front page of “Otto In Focus” and maybe that will stir up some activity. But again, very nice memory that I’m sure many who played back in the great eras of the 60s and 70s will appreciate.

  6. Cary Reese says:

    looking for teamates from the 1969 Camp Pendleton Varsity team, we went 19 and 1 in the 11th Naval District. Also teamates from 1970 Western Congress Tri City Merchants Oceanside ca

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