Category: History

Interview with Andy

Anyone associated with the Chippewa Rivers Baseball League (CRBL) within the last 25 years has most likely heard the name Andy Niese. Having played for four different teams throughout his 28 playing career (1993 to present) and managing two teams – Chippewa Falls Lumberjacks and Eau Claire Rivermen – he’s no stranger to amatuer baseball in the Chippewa Valley.

His infectious knowledge for baseball within the Eau Claire and Chippewa led to a rather unique project. On a September day in 2003, Niese decided to begin an endeavour that would bring a tremendous amount of historical information together in the form a league history and record book. His first edition was printed in 2009.

Question & Answer

QUESTION: What gave you the idea of putting together a history book of the Chippewa Rivers Baseball League?

ANSWER: Going back to my first CRBL season in 1993, I had heard the stories from veterans about the CRBL’s long history, and always wondered “how old” the league really was.  I originally began creating a record book for the Chippewa Falls Lumberjacks in the fall of 2003.  I quickly realized through that research that there was a treasure chest of information on the CRBL and amateur baseball in this area that had been buried by the natural passage of time.  I decided I was going to give it a shot, and see exactly what the history of the CRBL involved.

QUESTION: What did you envision this project to become? And did you think it would be done after you completed your first edition?

ANSWER: I envisioned it being a CRBL/amateur baseball version of the Baseball Encyclopedia, an awesome and vast publication of baseball stats that I grew up with.  And no, I always foresaw this being a running, continuously updated history of the CRBL’s existence.   

QUESTION: What kind of feedback did you receive from other players or coaches?

ANSWER: Early on I don’t think anyone knew how big and comprehensive it was going to become, or that it would be updated annually.  Once people started seeing rough drafts and “test runs”, the feedback was all positive and thankful. 

QUESTION: You had your book inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown. How suprising or rewarding was it when you heard this news?

ANSWER: Truthfully, my wife contacted Cooperstown on my behalf.  I didn’t think they would have any interest.  Then, I received an email from Cooperstown saying they were interested.  Yes, it was extremely surprising when they notified me they wanted a copy.  I remember speaking to one of their head librarians on the phone, she was very cordial and nice.  I have the certificate of donation framed in my office at home.  It is even signed by Jeff Idleson, the Hall of Fame’s president.  Frankly, it is still an odd and humbling feeling to look at it.  

QUESTION: Who are some of the most memorable people you have met trying to collect this league information?

ANSWER: The people that come to mind right away include  Monk Solie from Cornell, Porter Popple from Chippewa Falls, George Gannon from Chippewa Falls, Roger Bergeron from Jim Falls, Ron Buckli from Eau Claire, and George Jackson from Cadott.  There have been so many people and faces over the last 17+ years of compiling info, and all of them have been so gracious and thankful for the book.

QUESTION: What were some of the biggest hurdles in gathering all the information?

ANSWER: Time and filling in the sporadic gaps in information.  The unavoidable time and focus it takes to comb through microfilm and internet searches to find miniscule box scores and game summaries can get intense.  There have been some frustrations in that process as some years and eras were much better than others in recording data and info.  In those instances, I’ve had to rely on statistical patterns or self-created, anecdotal algorithms as well a few “guesstimations” to fill in or theorize on that lost information and data.  As I’ve said for a long time — are these estimations exact?  No.  Are they close and better than nothing?  Yes and yes. 

QUESTION: Currently, you are on version 12 of the CRBL history book. How long do you see yourself updating information?

ANSWER: I’d like to think I have a few decades left to keep it going.  That said, the time and effort it takes doesn’t always jive real well with the demands of life — family, work, sleeping, etc. 

QUESTION: You were also instrumental in starting the CRBL Hall of Fame which recognizes past time players, managers, umpires and other league figures. What are some of the most memorable moments from meeting these ‘old-timers’ and even some of their family members?

ANSWER: Meeting the guys who played in the 40’s and 50’s has been truly rewarding.  Giving those guys who played 50-70 years ago their due as well some enjoyment to their families is a memorably poignant moment to be a part of.  Moreover, to see the heartfelt thanks and emotion people have — I think that as much as anything keeps me motivated to keep the book and project going.  Anyone who says this is “just a little amateur baseball league”  hasn’t spoken to a family member whose deceased dad/brother/uncle is getting honored by the CRBL — there is genuine meaning to all of this that you can’t put a price on.

And now that I’ve been around a while (2020 is my 28th year in the CRBL), I’ve also had the great privilege and honor of inducting many of my former opponents and teammates.  To give those guys proper and deserved recognition in the form of becoming a CRBL Hall of Famer is a special thing.  It allows us to share more than a few laughs, catch up on life,  and recall a lot of great memories from the diamond. 

2020 Hall of Fame Class Selected

Five players have been selected to enter into the Chippewa River Baseball League (CRBL) Hall of Fame from 25 active canidates. As in the past, the formal introduction and ceremony will take place during the CRBL all-star game on July 5th at Cinder City Park in Altoona, WI.

After the 2020 induction, the CRBL will have 77 members of their Hall of Fame.


Ray McIlquham

During a league career that spanned nearly forty years and touched five different decades, Ray McIlquham carved out his place in CRBL lore, first as a solid catcher for 10 seasons and then during a commendable 23 season run as a league umpire.Breaking in to the Chippewa County League in 1946 with the Lafayette team, Ray played 10 seasons as a backstop for eight different teams, with his last year of competition coming with the Cadott Red Sox in 1961.
Read Full Bio


Todd Bresina

Todd Bresina’s 26 seasons of competition in the CRBL were shaped as a sure-handed 2nd baseman and steady contact hitter, as well as manager of Tilden’s veteran teams of the late 2000s. More than any other attribute, however, “Breeze” will be remembered as one of the elite pitchers of his era, dominating opponents with pinpoint control and his signature, wipe out slider.
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Mitch Steinmetz

After beginning his CRBL career with the Bloomer Merchants in 1988, the left-handed hitting shortstop became a Tiger in 1989. Combining agile feet with quick, soft hands, Steinmetz was a defensive wizard, lauded for his superior range, arm strength, and sure-handedness. From the middle of the Tilden diamond, Mitch teamed with fellow Tiger and CRBL Hall of Famer Todd Bresina to form the longest tenured and most productive double play combo in CRBL history.
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Rick Baier

After playing briefly with the Cadott Red Sox in 1986, Rick became a full-time CRBL player with Tilden in 1988, immediately giving the Tigers a visible stalwart at the pivotal backstop position. Renowned for his defensive skills behind the plate, Rick had a memorably strong arm and quick release. A catcher’s catcher, he was also adept at working with pitchers, calling a game, blocking balls in the dirt, securing twisting pop-ups, and fearlessly protecting home plate.
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Randy Baier

A right-handed hitter, the slugging first baseman deployed a powerful swing from an upright, slightly closed stance during his 25-year career to amass an incredible cache of offensive accomplishments. In 21 separate seasons, Baier hit over. 300, exceeding .400 in six of those campaigns. Twice the righty eclipsed the .500 mark, leading the CRBL with a .509 (29 for 57) tally in 1992 and a .527 (29 for 55) ledger in 1997.
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2020 Candidates

Hank Ash – Pitcher

Cornell Mill Gang 1935-36; Cornell Hawks 1952-53; Lake Hallie Lakers 1954

Randy Baier – 1st Baseman, Pitcher

Cadott Red Sox 1986; Tilden Tigers 1988-2006, 08-12

Rick Baier – Catcher

Cadott Red Sox 1986; Tilden Tigers 1988-2014

Todd Bohl – Pitcher

Bloomer Merchants 1983-88

Todd Bresina – Pitcher, 2nd Baseman – Manager

Player: Tilden Tigers 1989-2014 | Manager: Tilden Tigers 2004-11

Jerry Dachel – Outfielder, Pitcher

Tilden Tigers 1967-78

Tom Drehmel – Outfielder

Fall Creek Mets 1967, 73; Lafayette Lakers 1968-73; Cadott Red Sox 1974-80

Terry Hartman – Shortstop, 3rd Baseman

Jim Falls Sturgeons 1969-77

P.J. Johnson – Catcher

Eau Claire Pioneers 1990-91; Augusta Athletics 1992-95; Hallie Eagles 1996-98

George Lee – Pitcher

Northern Colony Colonists 1932-38, 40

Ray McIlquham – Catcher – Umpire

Player: Lafayette 1946; Lafayette Badgers 1948; Lafayette Giants 1949-50; Hamilton Chevrolets 1955-56; Lake Hallie Lakers 1957; Chippewa Falls Triangle Sports 1958; Seymour 1959; Cadott Red Sox 1961

Umpire: 1962-84

Mike Pearson – 3rd Baseman

Eau Claire Pioneers 1986; Chippewa Falls Lumberjacks 1987-92; Tilden Tigers 1998

Rich Rosenow – Pitcher

Lafayette Indians 1971-76

Adam Rothenbuhler – Pitcher, Designated Hitter

Chippewa Falls Lumberjacks 2005; Beef River Bullfrogs 2009-11

Gary Rykal – Catcher

Cadott Red Sox 1961, 1965-78

Bill Schoch – Pitcher

Cooks Valley Hayshakers 1979-80; Tilden Tigers 1981-88

Bernie Seichter – Catcher

Boyd Bees 1953-54; Lake Hallie Lakers 1955-57

Jim Spaeth – Shortstop

Chippewa Falls Lumberjacks 1983-94

Mitch Steinmetz – Shortstop

Bloomer Merchants 1988; Tilden Tigers 1989-2012

Gene Vavra – Catcher

Lafayette Braves 1956-70

Marty Webster – Pitcher

Cornell Merchants 1950; Cornell Hawks 1956-57, 60

Bob Wolfe – Outfielder, 3rd Baseman

Lafayette Braves 1953-59

Dennis Zech – Infielder

Lafayette Lakers 1981-93

Jeff Zwiefelhofer – 1st Baseman

Cooks Valley Hayshakers 1977; Tilden Tigers 1979-87

Todd Zwiefelhofer – Pitcher, Infielder

Tilden Tigers 1991-97

25 active candidates

Stanley Slammers Fold

The Stanley Slammers have folded and will not compete in the Chipppewa Rivers Baseball League (CRBL) for the 2020 season. The Slammers entered the CRBL in 2012 season under the direction of manager Brandon Geist. During his tenure the slammers were 59-117 and qualified for the Wisconsin Baseball Association (WBA) tournament three times.

Randy Gustafson was the first person I approached when attempting to bring baseball back to Stanley.

Brandon Geist managed the Stanley Slammers for their entirety

The Slammers most successful season came in 2015 when they finished 11-11 and qualifed for the WBA.

Brian Smasal is the number one guy I want to thank. He did a lot for the team and was essentially Mr. Slammer. We did fundraisers to help operate our team and had a lot of support from sponsors and fans. Hopefully it’s not the end for Stanley.

Brandon Geist managed the Stanley Slammers for their entirety

Slammers existed from 2012-2019

A former Stanley team, the Stanley Loggers, occupied the CRBL standings from 1999-2004.

Keith Smasals two grand slams against Cadott in Stanley on fan appreciation night, Randy Gustafson beating Tilden on a game ending triple play and Jeff Trunkel’s walkoff hit against Jim Falls are some of my most memorable moments as Manager of the Slammers.

Brandy Geist managed the Stanley Slammers for their entirety

Augusta Athletics Fold

The Augusta Athletics forfeited their remaining nine CRBL league games and have folded after the 2019 season.

Jan Krueger started the Augusta Athletics in 1989 and Augusta won the Wisconsin Baseball Association Tournament in 1994.

After 30 seasons of league play, the Athletics finished with 291 wins and 284 losses with five league championships (1992, 1993, 1995, 1998 and 1999).

CRBL Hall of Fame Class of 2019 Selected

Four more Chippewa Rivers Baseball League (CRBL) players have been selected to enter the CRBL hall of fame on July 8th during the CRBL All-Star game at Cadott High School. First pitch is set for 12:30 pm and each recipient (one per inning) will be honored starting in the bottom of the 1st.

After the class of 2019, a total of 72 players hold the honor of being inducted into the CRBL hall of fame.


Rick Goettl

A right-handed pitcher, Rick Goettl was the ace of the memorable and dominant Cadott Red Sox teams of the late 1970s and early 1980s.After spending his first two CRBL seasons pitching a total of 30.1 innings with the Jim Falls Sturgeons, Goettl went to Cadott in 1977, where he would remain until the conclusion of his career in 1984.
Read Full Bio


George Jackson

A baseball lifer and longtime supporter of baseball in the Cadott area, George Jackson’s league career stretched across 33 years, four different teams, and the roles of both player and manager.Getting his start for Rainbow Gardens in 1946, George was the featured thrower for the Gardeners in the first two years of post-World War II baseball in the Chippewa Valley.
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Steve Fetterly

Country strong from both the batter’s box and the pitcher’s mound, Steve Fetterly was a fearless competitor who played baseball with enthusiasm and intensity throughout his 12 seasons in the CRBL. Debuting with the Chippewa Falls Lumberjacks in 1995, “Fetters” hit .318 (7 for 22) and went 2 and 0 in 16 innings within a part-time capacity, gaining Honorable Mention All-CRBL honors at utility for the North Division champions.
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Art Zwiefelhofer

Recalled as an accomplished player and well known as a highly respected umpire, few people have done more for the betterment and stability of the Chippewa River Baseball League than one Art Zwiefelhofer. Breaking in to the Chippewa Valley League in 1961, Art became known as a slick fielding and ultra-competitive shortstop for the Howard Braves.
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From left to right: Rick Goettl, George Jackson, Steve Fetterly and Art Zwiefelhofer
Photos courtesy of The Chippewa Herald

2019 Candidates

Hank Ash – Pitcher

Cornell Mill Gang 1935-36; Cornell Hawks 1952-53; Lake Hallie Lakers 1954

Todd Bohl – Pitcher

Bloomer Merchants 1983-88

Jerry Dachel- Outfielder, Pitcher

Tilden Tigers 1967-78

Tom Drehmel – Outfielder

Fall Creek Mets 1967, 73; Lafayette Lakers 1968-73; Cadott Red Sox 1974-80

Steve Fetterly – Utility

Chippewa Falls Lumberjacks 1995-2004; Beef River Bullfrogs 2005-06; Augusta Athletics 2006

Rick Goettl – Pitcher

Jim Falls Sturgeons 1975-76; Cadott Red Sox 1977-84

Terry Hartman – Shortstop, 3rd Baseman

Jim Falls Sturgeons 1969-77

George Jackson – Outfielder, Pitcher, Manager

Player: Lafayette 1946; Rainbow Gardens Gardeners 1947, 53-54; Cadott Lions 1950-52, 56; Manager: Cadott Red Sox 1960, 67-68 Cadott Lions 1956; Cadott Red Sox 1957-60, 62-64, 68-70, 79

P.J. Johnson – Catcher

Eau Claire Pioneers 1990-91; Augusta Athletics 1992-95; Hallie Eagles 1996-98

George Lee – Pitcher

Northern Colony Colonists 1932-38, 40

Ray McIlquham – Catcher, Umpire

Player: Lafayette 1946; Lafayette Badgers 1948; Lafayette Giants 1949-50; Hamilton Chevrolets 1955-56; Lake Hallie Lakers 1957; Chippewa Falls Triangle Sports 1958; Seymour 1959; Cadott Red Sox 1961 Umpire: 1962-84

Mike Pearson – 3rd Baseman

Eau Claire Pioneers 1986; Chippewa Falls Lumberjacks 1987-92; Tilden Tigers 1998

Rich Rosenow – Pitcher

Lafayette Indians 1971-76

Adam Rothenbuhler – Pitcher, Designated Hitter

Chippewa Falls Lumberjacks 2005; Beef River Bullfrogs 2009-11

Gary Rykal – Catcher

Cadott Red Sox 1961, 1965-78

Bill Schoch – Pitcher

Cooks Valley Hayshakers 1979-80; Tilden Tigers 1981-88

Bernie Seichter – Catcher

Boyd Bees 1953-54; Lake Hallie Lakers 1955-57

Jim Spaeth – Shortstop

Chippewa Falls Lumberjacks 1983-94

Gene Vavra – Catcher

Lafayette Braves 1956-70

Marty Webster – Pitcher

Cornell Merchants 1950; Cornell Hawks 1956-57, 60

Bob Wolfe – Outfielder, 3rd Baseman

Lafayette Braves 1953-59

Dennis Zech – Infielder

Lafayette Lakers 1981-93

Art Zwiefelhofer – Shortstop, Manager, Umpire

Player: Howard Braves 1961-64; Tilden Tigers 1965-83 Manager: Tilden Tigers 1980, 82-83 Umpire: 1984-2018

Jeff Zwiefelhofer – 1st Baseman

Cooks Valley Hayshakers 1977; Tilden Tigers 1979-87

Todd Zwiefelhofer – Pitcher, Infielder

Tilden Tigers 1991-97


To view the rules and criteria for HOF induction. The HOF began in 2009.