As was the case with a lot of Nebraskans, Bob Steinkamp used to fall asleep in his Beatrice home listening to St. Louis Cardinals baseball games on radio station KMOX.

Steinkamp often had to strain to hear commentators Jack Buck and Harry Caray as the signal faded in and out.

Bob Gibson was a highlight of a lot of those nights.

"He was the best right-handed pitcher of my generation," the 71-year-old Steinkamp said earlier this week.

A graduate of Omaha Tech, Gibson on Sunday night will be formally inducted into the Nebraska Baseball Hall of Fame at the Country Cookin' Restaurant and Event Center in Beatrice. He leads a list of seven inductees that also includes former Husker standouts Paul Meyers and Tim Carroll, as well as Bill Larson of Lyons, one of the state's foremost baseball promoters of the 1920s and ’30s.

Rounding out the list of inductees is Jeff Graver, an umpire from Fremont; Virgil Richardson, a power hitter who played semi-pro ball in Fairbury and Superior; and Vance Toline, who according to a Hall news release was a "fireballing" left-hander for the Stromsburg Swedes.

Steinkamp, the sixth-year president of the state's hall, said Gibson's induction is "way overdue." After all, Gibson was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1981.

"We always have had a lot of people asking why Gibson wasn't in ours," Steinkamp said. "We thought it was time to rectify it. We doubted he would respond or show up for the ceremony, and I certainly haven't heard that he's planning on it."

The 83-year-old Gibson, reached by phone earlier this week in Bellevue, said he won't be on hand. Most baseball fans are aware of his prowess in the major leagues, especially his 1968 season with the Cardinals, when he went 22-9 with 13 shutouts and the lowest ERA (1.12) since 1914.

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But many folks don't know Gibson played semi-pro baseball during the mid-1950s in Crofton (population 725) in northeast Nebraska.

"I didn't get paid for it because I was still in school," said Gibson, who played baseball and basketball at Creighton University in Omaha. "I played in summer (baseball) leagues in South Dakota and Iowa. One summer, I started off in South Dakota and our team was terrible. A guy in Nebraska came up there and watched me play and asked if I would go play in Crofton. I played there the rest of the summer, for probably a month or two."

As for his induction into the state hall in Beatrice, Gibson said, "Anytime anybody votes you into something like that, it's always a pleasure."

Larry Bornschlegl, secretary-treasurer of the state hall, said a big crowd is expected at Sunday's event.

"Nebraska baseball history is important to these people," he said. "You should hear the stories that come out."

For example: "Vance Toline was a big-time pitcher in the ’40s but had to come back one summer to work on the farm," Bornschlegl said. "He was in a barn and saw a rat. He picked up a corncob and threw it at the rat — and threw his arm out. He was never effective again."

Larson is being inducted in the distinguished service category. He did most of his work in the northeast part of the state, highlighted by a "showcase" ballpark in Lyons, Bornschlegl said.

"(Larson) put thousands of dollars out of his own pocket to build that ballpark. He painted a big cow on the fence in the outfield, and if the batter hit the cow with a batted ball he would get 25 bucks."

Reach the writer at 402-473-7440 or ssipple@journalstar.com. On Twitter @HuskerExtraSip.


Husker columnist

Steven, a lifelong Nebraskan, newspaper enthusiast and UNL grad, joined the Journal Star in 1990 and has covered NU football since 1995.

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