For an earlier post about Hice at Fastpitchwest, click here.
HALL OF FAME: At age 64, he’s the only inductee currently playing softball.
By Bob Keisser Staff Writer
Long Beach Press Telegram
Posted: 09/18/2010 10:28:55 PM PDT
LONG BEACH – Of the 12 inductees into the Long Beach Baseball and Softball Hall of Fame Saturday at Joe Rodgers Stadium, Hice Stiles is the only one who can say he’s still an active player.
That’s probably true for every inductee since the Hall of Fame was created in 2004. Not bad for someone who turns 65 in October.
“There are two big events in my life,” the silver-haired Stiles said Saturday. “The first is I am being inducted into this Hall of Fame, which is on par with being inducted into the International Softball Congress (ISC) Hall of Fame (in 2001).
“The second is I qualify for Medicare next month.”
Stiles probably won’t exceed any of his health care limits.
He’s still a robust looking man with a smooth left-handed swing who starred for the Long Beach Nitehawks and other major fast-pitch teams in the ’70s and has played on several masters championship teams since the mid-80s.
“I played in a 45-and-over tournament last week and got to pinch hit and play the last game,” he said, “and I’m playing in the national 55-and-over nationals next week (in Prescott, Arizona).
“It keeps you in the game and the young guys say they like keeping us old guys around,” he said.
Stiles was one of five inductees into the softball wing of the hall Saturday, joining former Long Beach State stars Meredith Cervenka and Kristi Fox, long-time softball player, manager and benefactor Al Savala and former Nitehawks player
The baseball side welcomed four men posthumously – Jack Rothrock, the first local product to play in the major leagues; former scout Jerry Gardner; former Press-Telegram scribe George Lederer; and American Legion director Ray McKinstry. Also inducted were former Millikan player and coach Dan Peters, ex-Lakewood standout Damion Easley and ex-49er Don Anderson.
“I played regularly until I was about 40 and remember thinking `I don’t want to play in old-guy leagues,”‘ Stiles said. “But guys kept calling and saying it was a lot of fun so I went back to play in my mid-40s.
“It was great, because I was playing against a lot of guys I had played with and against 20 to 30 years ago. Everyone still played intense and wanted to win, but now after games we’d all go have a beer and tell stories from the past that kept getting bigger and better.”
Peters, the former CIF champion player and coach from Millikan touched on the great men he was associated with over the years, a virtual collection of Hall of Fame-worthy people in various sports.
“I’ve really been blessed with a lot of people who supported me at Millikan and helped teach me the game,” said Peters, who won a CIF title as a player and three as the Rams head coach. “I played for Bob Myers at Millikan, and then Joe Hicks at Long Beach City College, and Augie Garrido and Dave Snow (the future Dirtbag patriarch) at Cal State Fullerton. My roommate in college was George Horton.
“I played basketball for Howard Lyon in high school, Lute Olson in college and Bob Seymour in junior high. I have always been proud that so many of my former players came back to coach for me, mostly because I knew how important it was for me to have people like Bob and Joe help my career.”
Anderson touched on the same kind of legacy of iconic coaches in his past.
“All of my coaches are in this Hall of Fame, Bill Crutchfield (Jordan), Hicks and Bob Wuesthoff (Long Beach State),” said Anderson, the first real star of Long Beach State baseball.
Anderson set several school records and was on the first 49er team to ever beat USC (in 1962). In 1964, he had a walk-off grand slam to beat USC, 9-8, and that team won the first conference title and postseason berth in school history.
He had a career average of .308 in 10 minor league seasons, reaching Triple-A and spending four years playing in the Mexican League. “We played a team in Tampico, and their field had a railroad track running across the field from right field to left,” he said.
“We’d stop in the middle of a game and open the fences so the train could go through. And when a line drive hit the rails, it could jump 30 feet in the air. Outfielders didn’t dive for many balls in Tampico.”
The ceremony included the official renaming of the softball stadium as “Red Meairs Field at Joe Rodgers Stadium,” to honor Meairs, the longtime Nitehawks player and manager who followed Rodgers. Parks, Recreation and Marine Department chief Phil Hester, who will retire at the end of the year, also was presented a plaque for his contributions to baseball and softball.
bob.keisser (at) presstelegram.com