A couple of my favorite Yankton athletes are headlined in our column this week. Former Yankton Buck all-around star Bill Whisler, a guy who would be in the running for the best ever to wear a YHS uniform, is about to receive a big honor.
And the former Mount Marty baseball star, Tim Lorang, who became the most valuable player in the 1991 South Dakota State baseball tournament when he led Larry Ryken's Yankton Old Milwaukee Brewers to the state title in a stirring game against a fine Dell Rapids team, is moving back to town.
Bill Whisler, who was an all-stater for the Bucks in football and in basketball and who was an outstanding American Legion baseball pitcher, is going to become a member of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers Hall of Fame. Bill, who was an al-stater in football and in basketball while in high school, was a standout end for some of Forest Evashevski's better University of Iowa football teams in the early 1960s.
Known by his teammates as the "Big Ticket," indicating the respect and confidence that they had for him in leading the Hawkeyes in their post-season ambitions, Whisler was recognized widely as one of the nation's outstanding college football stars.
He was drafted and signed by the Washington Redskins after his college graduation, but was cut just before the 1962 NFL season opened. Bill considered the late cut a slap in the face and a ploy to keep other teams from signing him, so he never — in his 10-year pro career in the Canadian Football League — heeded the several invitations that he had from NFL teams, staying with the CFL.
With Bud Grant's Winnepeg team, Whisler had great success and made the CFL all-pro team. The high regard in which he was held by our northern neighbors has been high-lighted by his selection into the Winnipeg Hall of Fame, an honor that fits with his previous selections into the Yankton High School Sports Hall-0f-Fame and with the South Dakota Sports Hall-of-Fame. Bill's in-laws, the Earl Felbers are Yankton residents. His parents have passed on, but his father, Bill, Sr., was a friend and a colleague — a long-time employee of the Yankton Press and Dakotan.
Tim Lorang, a native of Sioux Falls, was one of the first of the Mount Marty baseball stars. Dr. Doug Smith was the Lancers coach in both baseball and in basketball, but his baseball success was subtantially better. My grandson, Robbin List, was a Lancer teammate and a good friend of Tim's — and still is. As Robbin and his wife, Erica, visitied from their West Virginia home this past week, Tim shared the good news of his imminent return with us.
Tim was an outstanding O'Gorman High School football star for Bob Burns and Steve Kueter during his high school days. His prowess on the gridiron gave him a collegiate opportunity with the Augustana Vikings, where he started as an Augie linebacker in his freshman year. But an unfortunate knee injury cut short his football career and he dropped out of college for a couple of years before the opportunity at MMC returned him to the campus.
Lorang's visit brought back the happy memories of the 1991 amateur championship and Tim's well-deserved MVP status. In the fledgling Mount Marty baseball program, Lorang was their "go-to" guy. For four years he was an All-District 12 NAIA performer as the MMC top hitter and pitcher, and, in the summer months, he was an outstanding amateur player, and managed the Brewers in 1989.
In the state tournament in Mitchell, he wowed the crowd with a 440 foot home run to beat veteran Curt Frederickson and the Aberdeen Depot team in the semifinals. In the final game, in spite of being in every Brewer game as a pitcher, sometimes catching, and always in the lineup as a designated hitter if not in the battery, Tim relieved starter Kelly Heller (present MMC baseball coach) in the fourth inning. He trailed 10-3 in the top of the seventh, but his toughness showed through (he was beaned twice in the game, once in the face) and the Brewers prevailed 13-10.
Tim was a two-game winner on the mound and hit .571, with his game-winning homer in the semifinals and with six doubles in the state meet.
He married Mount Marty classmate Liz Schuster and got a job in Sioux Falls before he completed the work on his college degree — an oversight that he intends to correct this year at his old school. They will bring their four children (plus twins that are well on their way) to his new position in Yankton. Tim will be the youth director for both the Sacred Heart and the St. Benedictine parishes of the Catholic Church here — a career that he began in working with the Sioux Falls churches.
Congratulations to both of these fine citizens.
Hod Nielsen is sports columnist for the Press & Dakotan.