Wichita State Shockers

Wichita Sports Hall brings in another class

Former Wichita Thunder hockey player Jason Duda gives an acceptance speech during Wichita Sports Hall of Fame inductions Saturday at Hillside Christian Church.
Former Wichita Thunder hockey player Jason Duda gives an acceptance speech during Wichita Sports Hall of Fame inductions Saturday at Hillside Christian Church. Eagle correspondent

Paul Savage’s five-minute rule forced each Wichita Sports Hall of Fame inductee to summon his or her best material.

Savage, the Hall’s founder and proprietor, warned Saturday’s inductees that he would begin to nudge them from the podium once speeches approached five minutes, and the 8 of 13 in attendance used the time for engaging stories.

The first to accept induction, former Trinity Academy, Stanford and Olympic swimmer Caroline (Bruce) McAndrew, told of finding her love for swimming in her aunt’s pool along with siblings Jamie, Michael and Elizabeth.

“I thank her for getting me and my sisters involved in swimming,” McAndrew said. “My parents didn’t really know what (competitive) swimming was all about. They weren’t swimmers.”

Saturday’s class included Thunder hockey player Jason Duda, gymnast and coach Mark Folger, El Dorado Broncos general manager J.D. Schneider and the Goebel family, a longtime donor for Newman University athletics.

Inductions for former Wichita State basketball stars Ron Baker and Fred VanVleet were accepted in their absence by radio broadcaster Dave Dahl. America’s Cup sailor Bill Koch’s was accepted by a friend and tennis player Mae Ceurvorst was inducted posthumously.

Jim Thomas, former WSU assistant baseball coach, will accept in 2017 because he spent Saturday on his honeymoon.

Like McAndrew, Folger explained how his roots in his sport came from an unexpected source.

“I lived on the 2900 block of South Vine, and in the early 1970s our neighbor bought a trampoline,” Folger said. “Nobody in the early ’70s had a trampoline – except for my neighbor, thankfully enough for me.”

Folger became a state champion at South in the parallel bars in 1977 and was an All-Big Eight gymnast for Oklahoma. He ran Folger’s Gymnastics, which produced several accomplished athletes, from 1986-2014.

Schneider, who helped run the Broncos’ National Baseball Congress team during stays in Hutchinson, Wichita and El Dorado, said the team produced about 50 major leaguers of the 1,500 or so he brought to the team.

One player whose reputation was equally memorable was a catcher from Evansville, Ind., whom Schneider didn’t name. The player, Schneider said, would only go out on Thursdays.

“I found out it was amateur night for male strippers,” Schneider said. “He won about eight weeks in a row. Guys were really happy when he left town and went back to school so they’d have a chance to win it again.”

Rock’s Dugout, a card shop inside Northrock Lanes run by Joe and Cathy Ruocco, was the organizational inductee. Joe Ruocco, who has been in the memorabilia business for nearly four decades, said one of his favorite parts of the job was bringing stars such as Hank Aaron and Stan Musial to Wichita for card and autograph shows.

Ruocco recalled bringing in 1950s Philadelphia Phillies pitcher Robin Roberts to town and allowing one long-time fan to sit next to Roberts.

“The guy was bawling,” Ruocco said. “He couldn’t believe he was sitting next to his boyhood idol. That’s what sports characters mean to many of us.”

Saturday’s team induction was presented to the Kapaun Mount Carmel state-champion football teams of 1972 and 74-77. The sixth Mal Elliott Sports Media Award, named for the former Eagle sports editor, went to Eagle photographer Fernando Salazar and former Eagle photographer Jeff Tuttle.