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Will to win boosts Craig Brown into Minnesota Softball Hall of Fame

Saturday, November 26th, 2016
Minnesota Softball Hall of Fame members, Dan Nessler, left, and Craig Brown, who were inducted in 2016, and Jeff Nessler, Dan's brother, who was inducted in 2004. Courtesy Photo

Minnesota Softball Hall of Fame members, Dan Nessler, left, and Craig Brown, who were inducted in 2016, and Jeff Nessler, Dan’s brother, who was inducted in 2004. Courtesy Photo

St. James, Minn. – His speed wind-milling a softball? Average. His spin to make it rise, drop or curve? Good but not great. His physical stature? Not imposing.

Craig Brown may not have had all the physical tools to become a great fastpitch pitcher. But what Brown did have speaks to the internal rather than the external.

Call it what you may: guts, drive, intense desire. As his former teammates would attest, Brown possessed the one quality all great athletes have: a relentless will to win.

No one knew Brown any better than Dennis Johnson, St. James’ softball statistician, historian, and devoted fan of the town’s fastpitch teams.

“He was an intense competitor,” said Johnson, who holds memberships in the International Softball Congress and Minnesota Softball Federation hall of fames. “He wanted to prove that he could beat the good teams and prove his skeptics wrong. That motivated him. He just hated to lose.”

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Minnesota Softball Hall of Fame missing some great players

Thursday, October 9th, 2014

Jolstad.Leroy.3web The great LeRoy Jolstad was inducted into the Minnesota Softball Hall of Fame in 2008.

YUCAIPA, Calif. – I searched three times and still couldn’t find Walt Nelson or Tom Niederkorn’s name anywhere on the hallowed list.

A list that includes some of the greatest men’s players and contributors in the history of Minnesota men’s fastpitch softball.

The Minnesota Softball Hall of Fame.

The 2014 Hall of Fame induction takes place Nov. 1 at the Rochester International Event Center.

But Nelson’s accomplishments in the pitching circle, or Niederkorn’s greatness in the field won’t be recognized at the event. To me, that’s a shame.

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Jim Rubbelke put Minnesota on the fastpitch map

Thursday, March 25th, 2010


St. Paul All American Bar entered the 1976 ISC World Tournament in Long Beach, Calif. for the very first time, and won the only World Tournament in Minnesota men’s fastpitch history with a double-knockout of the Lakewood, Calif. Jets. But if not for manager, Jim Rubbelke, it never would have happened. Rubbelke pictured third from right, second row in St. Paul team photo.

“We came ready to play for Jim. We were dedicated to him, reluctant to let him down…” – Jerry O’Conner, 1976 ISC World Tournament Most Valuable Player

By BOB OTTO
First printed July 3, 2003
botto3@verizon.net

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ST. PAUL, MN – For Jim Rubbelke the memory remains crystal clear. Shiny new Buicks lined up with ball players behind the wheel ready to begin another long distance softball road trip.

From St. Paul the motorcade wound its way to the softball diamonds of the Clearwater, Florida Bombers, Aurora, Illinois Sealmasters, and ASA National Tournaments.

Those memorable road trips ended 40-some years a go. But August of 2003, Rubbelke made one final road trip – right into the International Softball Congress Hall of Fame in Kimberly, Wisconsin, where he took his place among the greatest in men’s fastpitch softball history.

The 71-year-old Rubbelke along with Johnny Appell, Bill Boyer, and Mark Smith, comprised the 2003 class of ISC Hall of Famers. Rubbelke was inducted in the Managers category. In the 63-year history of the ISC, only 12 managers have been so honored.

TWO-CAREER MAN

Rubbelke really has two chapters in his 32-year fastpitch career. In chapter one (1957-1970), he played the hardnosed third baseman and lead off batter. His St. Paul clubs included the Clover Softball Club, 7-Up Softball Club, and Whitaker Buick.

In 1964 he was lured away by the Raybestos Cardinals of Stratford, Conn. where he spent the next four years earning ASA All American honors.

“He could run like a deer, good bunter, good defense,” said Mike Payton who played with and for Rubbelke from 1961 to 1975. “He had amazing power for a little guy. He would bunt and run during the season, but somehow he hit the long ball in the (ASA Regional Playoffs). There was seldom a regional where he didn’t hit a home run.”

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Someone To Know: Robert Gray, working hard for the Blue and Gray

Sunday, March 7th, 2010

MONTGOMERY, AL – We live busy lives. We complain about work overload.

Well, you won’t hear Robert Gray complain about being overworked. And if anyone has a right to complain, Gray does.

Search high and low if you like. But finding anyone more dedicated to men’s fastpitch softball in the southeastern U.S. than the 67-year-old Gray, well, that’s going to be hard to do.

Try these work hats on for size:

Gray has served as an International Softball Congress (ISC) Regional Commissioner for 21 years; Secretary of the ISC for five two-year terms; Assistant Chairman of the ISC Hall of Fame; and game controller for the AAU International Tournament.

“It keeps me busy,” Gray said, “with all the telephone calls and emails. I also spend one week at the ISC World Tournament. And one week at the AAU tournament (Disney’s Wide World of Sports Complex in Orlando, Florida)…”

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