The past met the present Friday night in the Valmeyer High School gym, as generations of Pirates fans gathered for the inaugural VHS Athletic Hall of Fame induction ceremony.
Four legendary VHS athletes were honored along with one amazing team, but the event itself served as a celebration for an entire village and its triumph through tragedy.
Former Valmeyer mayor Dennis Knobloch served as emcee during a ceremony at half court prior to the boys varsity basketball contest. He said it only took the school 93 years since the first graduating class to honor athletic achievements. In getting such a late start, the VHS Athletic Hall of Fame Committee led by Valmeyer Police Chief Tom Andres and VHS Athletic Director Nathan McSchooler has a lot of sports tradition and memories to choose from.
“This will be an annual undertaking,” Knobloch said.
Those wishing to nominate an athlete or team to the Hall of Fame can get in touch with Andres or McSchooler for an application.Imogene (Fries) Yarbrough — who was on the 1953 cheerleading squad — stands with current VHS cheerleader Maddison Hansen, who is wearing Imogene’s homemade 1953 cheer outfit.
Those inducted during the first-ever ceremony were Ray “Bud” Rippelmeyer (Class of 1951), former major league baseball player and pitching coach; Brad Rippelmeyer (Class of 1988), former minor league baseball player and the school’s all-time leading basketball scorer; Ken Meyer (Class of 1960), former minor league baseball player and Mon-Clair League Hall of Famer; and Norbert Vogel (Class of 1953), leading scorer on the legendary 1952-53 basketball team and former SIUC baseball standout.
Also inducted was the 1952-53 basketball team coached by Vern Tomlinson. The Pirates, led by starters Vogel, Gene Mentel, Bob Wheat, Ross Schneider and Dennis Ritzel, finished the season with a school record for victories (27) and won conference, district (defeating Waterloo) and regional titles (defeating East St. Louis) before falling to Collinsville, 66-63, in the sectional.
Other team members included Norman Weber, Arlen Harres, Glen Foster, Fred Hotz and Alvis Hoffmann.
After the game, friends, family and fans gathered at St. Mary’s Parish Center for pizza and wings and an informal recognition.
The night featured many highlights, key among them the induction of father and son, Bud and Brad Rippelmeyer.
Bud Rippelmeyer, whose baseball career spanned more than 50 years as a player, coach and manager in the major and minor leagues, is a member of more than a few halls of fame — including those for the San Diego Padres and Southeast Missouri State University.
“I think this is my fourth Hall of Fame,” he said at the podium. “But this means as much to me as any of them.”
Brad Rippelmeyer thanked the committee for starting this annual tradition.
“To be in the first class with these other inductees is an honor,” he said. “To go in with my dad is a special honor. He will always be the greatest athlete that I’ve ever met.”
Brad said that although he and his family moved to Columbia following the Flood of 1993, he has nothing but fond memories of his time in Valmeyer.
“It felt very good to put on a purple shirt tonight,” he said with a smile. “No matter where I go, Valmeyer will always be home.”
He also heaped praise on the small-school environment Valmeyer offers, with the flexibility to participate in many school activities for a well-rounded experience.
“At Valmeyer, we did everything,” Brad said.
Accepting on behalf of her late husband, Marlene Vogel expressed thanks for the school’s recognition of Norbert’s achievements.
“I am so pleased to accept this for Norbert,” she said. “I want to just thank everybody. I’m so proud of him.”
Several members of the 1952-53 hoops squad were on hand for the induction of their team into the Hall of Fame.
A few team members offered remarks during the ceremony, with Roger Rubemeyer sharing that it was common back then for the players to join the coach in smoking a cigarette after a practice or game.
Ross Schneider remembered that magical 1952-53 season fondly, saying the team’s record could actually have been 29-4 counting two alumni game wins.
“We had to deal with Bud Rippelmeyer, so that wasn’t easy,” Schneider said.
He echoed the sentiments of other teammates by saying he’d “give anything to have Robert Wheat and Norby Vogel” at the ceremony.
And Schneider said he has a valid excuse for each of the team’s four losses. He had pneumonia and didn’t play during one of them, and on his first game back he was still weak in another loss. Vogel fouled out of the other two losses, including the heartbreaking three-point defeat to Collinsville.
“We were behind all the way, but Norb hit two shots in a row and we went ahead by four points in the fourth quarter,” Schneider recalls of that sectional showdown with Collinsville played at the Ainad Temple in East St. Louis. “The place, it was almost a riot, and the very next play, they fouled (Vogel) out. I’d like to know who that ref was.”
Even with that sour memory vividly on his mind, Schneider couldn’t help but smile when talking of those glory days.
“If my wife wasn’t here, I’d be very tempted to say this was the best thing that’s ever happened to me,” he said.