Seven will be inducted into the Dubuque County Baseball Hall of Fame Saturday, July 13 at A.J. Spiegel Field in Peosta as part of this year’s Hall of Fame festivities.
This year’s inductees are: players — Rufus Bennett (Sherrill), Bill Petsche (Epworth), Ken Rapp (Sherrill), Tim Schmitt, Dean Steffen (Farley) and Pete Weber (Holy Cross); along with honorary contributor — Jim Leitner (Dubuque).
The Hall of Fame dinner/program will be July 12 at Happy’s Place in Key West and the Hall of Fame All-Star Game, which will have the Prairie League All-Stars playing the Eastern Iowa All-Stars and Hall of Fame inductions, will be held at A.J. Spiegel Field in Peosta July 13 at 6:30 p.m. The induction will begin at approximately 8:30 p.m. following the game.
Bennett played 20 years of semi-pro baseball in Eastern Iowa, with Sherrill and Peosta (six years each), East Dubuque and Farley (three years each), Petersburg and New Vienna (one year each).
Bennett grew up in Gary, Ind., where he was a four-year starter in baseball for Gary Westside High School. He earned all-conference honors for three years.
He was a four-year starter at the University of Dubuque, graduating with a career .325 batting average, holding the school records for most hits in a season and career, most triples in a season and career and the career stolen base record.
While playing semi-pro, Bennett averaged .350 over his career, hitting over 400 home runs, and career numbers in RBIs and doubles. He hit with power to all fields. A centerfielder by trade, Bennett moved to first base after an arm injury. Speed on the field and bases was one of his attributes.
Highlights of Bennett’s career included being named Most Valuable Player in the Sherrill Tournament three years and the Rickardsville Tournament in 1993. He also earned many more awards on numerous occasions like Most Home Runs, Most Hits and RBIs, most games in which he hit three home runs. Those included a Dyersville Tournament where he hit three home runs with seven RBIs against Pat Weber, only to get defeated 8-7.
Bennett participated in 12 Dubuque County Baseball Semi-Pro All-Star Games.
During his playing days, Bennett was feared as one of the best clutch hitters.
Petsche’s baseball career included Holy Cross Little League, Farley Babe Ruth, Western Dubuque High School, Wartburg College (three-year starter) and 15 years of semi-pro baseball with the Epworth Orioles.
In semi-pro, with Epworth, Petsche played shortstop, occasional second base and pitched while batting leadoff or in the second slot throughout his career.
Petsche established a career .340-plus batting average with over 300 doubles, 30 triples, six home runs and 300-plus stolen bases. Petsche was a great hit and run batter who seldom struck out and wasn’t afraid to take a walk.
He was a great defensive shortstop covering lots of ground with an adequate glove with above average arm speed. As a pitcher, he always wanted the ball in a big game. He had great control, was not over powering, but the ball got to the batter in a hurry.
Petsche’s motto was “Hustle — play the game at 120%.” He was always running hard to first after a walk and running to his defensive position or back to the bench after the inning ended. He always wanted to be a good example to the young players watching in the stands.
Petsche’s outstanding accomplishments included playing in five Hall of Fame All-Star Games, in 1994 pitching a complete game shutout in the championship of the Dyersville Tournament, winning over 15 championship tournaments while playing for a very good Epworth team during a six to eight-year span. He also earned two sportsmanship trophies along with best defensive player awards in several tournaments.
His coach said, “(He was) dedicated to baseball, never missing a game. Never heard anything negative about Bill. Had as much class as any Epworth ballplayer”.
Rapp started playing semi-pro baseball in 1975 with La Motte. Rapp played two years with LaMotte and 11 years with both Sherrill and the Dubuque Merchants from 1977-87. Rapp then moved to the Quad Cities where he continued to play in an over-30 league. He still plays 25 to 30 games per year at the age of 62, playing in a senior league in Arizona in the winter and Cedar Rapids during the summer months.
Rapp is a member of a baseball family, having played with his seven brothers in the youth leagues and high school in Dubuque when he was young.
He starred in high school baseball at Dubuque Senior, being named MVP on the sophomore team and then starting two years on varsity, while playing centerfield as a junior and shortstop and pitcher during his senior year. He was a team captain in 1974.
During his semi-pro career, Rapp had a lifetime batting average of .350 with 86 home runs. He played every position, but mostly was a relief pitcher and shortstop. As a shortstop, Rapp had good range with an accurate throwing arm.
Rapp’s highlights include hitting three home runs in one game against Springbrook, hitting a grand slam, a three-run home run and a single in a Prairie League Championship Game against Kieler, Wis., hitting two of his longest home runs off his brother, Mike, and good friend Tom Neuhaus. Rapp was named MVP in the 1983 Sherrill Tournament and played in the first Semi-Pro All-Star Game in 1986
Rapp was known for his desire to play baseball on every occasion he could and his love for the game of baseball, which shows as he continues playing at the age of 62.
Schmitt literally grew up with a bat and glove in his hand. The son of Hall of Famer Paul “Spoons” Schmitt, Schmitt attended his father’s games along with playing Little League, Babe Ruth, high school and college ball.
Schmitt played high school ball at Wahlert where he was an outstanding pitcher. He was all-Mississippi Valley (unanimous pick), all-state in 1990 and pitched a perfect game against Dubuque Senior.
Schmitt played two years at Kirkwood Community College. He was a pre-season all-American pick in 1992, ended the season fourth in the nation with 1.46 strikeouts per inning. He broke Kirkwood’s strikeout record with 70 in 51 innings, and was selected to play in the 1992 Iowa Junior College All-Star game.
He signed a national letter of intent with Iowa State as a left-handed pitcher in 1992 but hurt his arm that summer.
During his semi-pro career, Schmitt played 22 years with Rickardsville as a first baseman. A consistent .340 hitter with lots of power, always batting third or fourth in the lineup. Schmitt was an outstanding defensive first baseman with a smooth glove. He was a team leader.
Schmitt was selected to play in five Telegraph Herald Semi-Pro All-Star games. Other awards garnered throughout his career were winning MVP in the Holy Cross Tournament on two occasions, Outstanding Game Performance and Hustler of the Tournament two different years in the Cascade Tournament, hitting three home runs in one game and in 1991, he had 17 strikeouts in a losing cause to Bernard (Ed Sawvell).
Schmitt was the epitome of semi-pro baseball. “Mister Nice Guy,” played the game hard and was always cordial in winning and losing.
Steffen’s semi-pro baseball career spanned over 42 years. His first two years in 1980-81, he played with the Farley Fire. Steffen, then began an illustrious 30-year career of winning baseball with the Farley Hawks. Steffen ended his playing days with the Dyersville Bulls and Quad City in an over-40 league.
Steffen played Little League, Babe Ruth and Junior Legion all under the coaching of his father, Herb. During his junior and senior years in high school, he played for Western Dubuque, starting in right field and earning honorable mention all-state his senior year. As a result of his great speed, Steffen ran track and cross country and held the school record in the mile run and long jump.
Steffen patrolled center field during his playing days. With great speed, great instinct and tremendous jumps to the batted ball, Steffen was one of the best defensive outfielders to play the game.
He was a singles and doubles hitter, averaging over .330 batting leadoff for the Hawks. Steffen averaged eight home runs per year. With speed, speed and more speed, he was a base stealer personified. Rumors have it that Steffen was successful in stealing 99% of his attempted bases.
Highlights of his career included being named Most Valuable Player in the 1987 and 1993 Worthington Tournament. Steffen batted .600 with most home runs, best batting average and stolen bases in a Bernard Tournament, but missed MVP due to missing one of the tournament games. He also led in most stolen bases in numerous tourneys along with being named Outstanding Hustler of a Cascade Tournament. Steffen was selected to play in three Hall of Fame All-Star Games.
He played in over 40 tournaments in Las Vegas and Arizona for 14 years, once averaging .550.
Steffen’s greatest attribute was being a great “Team Player” and a hustler.
Weber’s semi-pro career covered 27 years, starting with the Dubuque Greyhounds in 1987 for two years; Holy Cross for 15 years, Peosta for seven and East Dubuque for three, ending his career in 2013.
His early years of baseball included three years in the Dubuque Independent League, high school ball for the Dubuque Senior Rams, earning all-conference and all-district honors his junior and senior years and being a three-year starter for Loras College.
Weber played most of his career as a centerfielder, later moving to right field and then first base after injuring his arm. He was a right-handed thrower and left-handed hitter, who had a career .350 batting average that included over 700 hits with 175 home runs.
He was a power hitter to right field. Weber showed a strong throwing arm in the outfield and, when playing first base, exhibited an outstanding defensive glove.
Highlights of Weber’s playing career included playing in 10 Hall of Fame All-Star games, once hitting a home run off Cascade’s Micah Green. He was named MVP in a Peosta Tournament and, in a Dyersville Tournament, when he hit two home runs against Key West while playing for Peosta.
Weber was a great team player, hardly ever missing a ball game.
Leitner has been a sports writer his entire adult life with the Telegraph Herald and was named sports editor in 1998. In that time, he has covered all levels of baseball in Dubuque County
Leitner’s loved for baseball evolved from Little League through high school where he started as a catcher his junior and senior year helping the Hempstead Mustangs reach the semi-finals of the state tournament. Leitner’s career ended after two years as a starting catcher at Loras College. He then opted to give up the game of baseball and join the Telegraph Herald as a weekend sports reporter.
Leitner, throughout the years, has covered and promoted semi-pro through his paper, with the pre-season teams’ outlook for the coming season, the box scores of games played and personal coverage with game day interviews with MVPs and managers of the championship teams of all the local semi-pro tournaments.
Leitner personally gives the Dubuque County Baseball Hall of Fame outstanding coverage during the organization’s yearly two-day celebration of the new inductees.
Some of Leitner’s memorable moments in Dubuque County semi-pro baseball include watching Major Leaguer Mitch Williams pitch in the Worthington Tournament and covering Tim Feldermann, of Rickardsville, as he pitched a perfect game. Leitner stated the most relaxing time in baseball is “Just sitting up in the press box and talking baseball with the announcer and/or scorekeeper.”
Leitner received the Media Appreciation Award from the Iowa High School Athletic Association in 2015 for his contributions toward the “success of interscholastic athletic programs and other activities.”
Leitner is also a three-time recipient of the Iowa High School Baseball Coaches Association’s Media Award.