The Frontier League has announced its Hall of Fame class of 2016, which includes five players, a special contributor, and a significant moment in league history. Formal induction ceremonies will take place on July 13 as part of the Hall of Fame Luncheon, which will occur over the all-star break.
The ceremony will unfold at Drees Pavilion as part of the festivities for the Y’All Star Game, hosted by the Florence Freedom.
Frontier League Commissioner Bill Lee is extremely proud of this class. ”This is a tremendous class of inductees,” Lee said. “There are five players that all had great impact in this League, one of the League’s truly great characters and a special moment that changed the credibility of the Frontier League.”
Richard Austin – Austin played 4 seasons in the Frontier League, one season for the Springfield Capitals and 3 seasons for the Rockford RiverHawks. He graduated from a small school and was told by many affiliated and independent scouts and managers that he could not play pro ball. Springfield Manager, Dick Schofield, gave him an opportunity and he made the most of it. Springfield moved to Rockford in 2002 and Austin quickly became a fan favorite. In 2004, Austin had his finest year, he hit .359 average while hitting 15 homers with 77 RBI. He led Rockford to the League Championship and was named the Frontier League MVP. In his career, he hit .293 with 40 homers and 192 RBI. Austin played a total of 10 seasons of Independent and Italian League baseball. He also returned to manage the RiverHawks in the Frontier League in 2011 for 2 ½ seasons.
Willie Edwards – Edwards is one of the most popular players in League history with both Kalamazoo Kings in 1998. He shocked everyone by being named the MVP of the 1998 All-Star Game, a game that featured some of the greatest players in League history. He was primarily an outfielder and 1B, but he played a total of 7 positions over his career. He eventually played 5 seasons in the League that featured stops in London, back to Kalamazoo and finally Chillicothe. He completed his FL career with a .311 average, 44 homeruns and 216 RBI. He also played in numerous All-Star Games and was a Post Season All-Star selection in 1998.
Charlie Lisk – Lisk was drafted as a catcher out of high school by the White Sox and spent 5 years in affiliated pro ball prior to signing with the Windy City ThunderBolts in 2006. From 2007 – 2011, Charlie played for the Gateway Grizzlies. Throughout those years with Gateway, he teamed with 2015 Hall of Fame Inductees, Mike Breyman and Stephen Holdren to form one of the most potent line-ups in League history. The powerful right handed hitter was a catcher, 3B, 1B and DH during his career that finished with the River City Rascals in 2012. He retired with a .280 career average, 127 homers and 442 RBI. He is the career leader in homeruns and RBI. Lisk was the League MVP in 2010. He is one of only 2 players to be named to the Post Season All-Star Team 4 times (Morgan Burkhart).
Joey Metropoulos – Metropoulos is the first member to have spent his entire Frontier League career with the Southern Illinois Miners to be inducted into the Frontier League Hall of Fame. From 2007-2010, he was the heart and soul of the Miners. A powerful right hand hitting outfielder, he was a true leader both on the field and in the clubhouse. His professionalism gained him a great deal of respect from his teammates, the entire Miners organization, fans and other teams around the League. He is one of only 5 players to hit more than 30 homers in a season. Joey was the Frontier League MVP in 2009 when he hit .317 with 31 homeruns and drove in 82 runs. He was a Post-Season All-Star in 2008 and 2009. During his FL career, Joey had a .305 average with 70 homers and 208 RBI.
Matt Schweitzer – Schweitzer is one of the most versatile pitchers in Frontier League history. The lefthander spent 6 seasons with the Richmond Roosters from 2000-2005. He would pitch in both starting and relief roles and never refused the baseball if he was called upon. He could be devastating to opposing hitters. When he left the Frontier League, he had a 29-22 career record, 13 saves, a 3.44 ERA, 196 games and 434 strikeouts. He currently ranks 2nd in career games and strikeouts. Matt was also part of two championship teams as the Roosters claimed the title in 2001 and 2002. He was a member of the 2003 Post-Season All-Star Team when he had his best year, posting a 4-1 record, 3 saves, a 1.11 ERA, 96 strikeouts and 15 walks in 64.2 innings.
Special Contributor – Umpire Max McCleary – McCleary is one of the most colorful characters in League history. He was better known to players, coaches and fans as “One-eyed Max”, due to the fact that he only had the use of one eye. The Baseball Hall of Fame believes he is the only one-eyed person to ever umpire professional baseball. He umpired in the League from 1995 – 2005. During that time, there were numerous articles about him in such publications as the New York Times, Cincinnati Enquirer, Sports Illustrated and The Associated Press. Max was also the subject of the book, “Everything Happens in Chillicothe: A Summer in the Frontier League with Max McCleary, the One-Eyed Umpire”. He was named the Frontier League Umpire of the Year twice and he worked several All-Star Games and Playoff Series. Max gave many young umpires their start in the Frontier League. He passed away in 2014. He was well-known for his many one-liners and quick wit. His favorite line was, “I just want to get it right”. He did. Max’s wife Patti will accept his award on his behalf.
Special Moment in League History – Brian Tollberg’s Major League Debut – Brian Tollberg gave the Frontier League national publicity on June 20, 2000 when he became the first former player to appear in a Major League Baseball game. Brian was the starting pitcher for the San Diego Padres and earned the win over the Arizona Diamondbacks by tossing seven shutout innings and allowing only one hit. Five days later, Brian won his second start lasting 7.1 innings against the Cincinnati Reds. He was named National League Player of the Week that week along with being named National League Rookie Pitcher of the Month. Brian appeared in 53 games (52 starts) for the Padres over four seasons, compiling a 15-16 record and 4.84 ERA. Brian made his professional debut with the Chillicothe Paints in 1994, finishing with a 7-4 record and 2.85 ERA before having his contract purchased by the Milwaukee Brewers, who traded him to San Diego prior to the 1997 season. The Frontier League Pitcher of the Year award is named in Brian’s honor.
Fans interested in learning more about the Y’All-Star events, including purchasing tickets to the Y’All-Star Luncheon should visit FlorenceFreedom.com.