By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
Michigan celebrated its eighth inductee to the National High School Sports Hall of Fame with the honoring of Vermontville baseball star Ken Beardslee during the annual National Federation of State High School Associations summer meeting, this summer in Reno, Nevada.
Beardslee, who died in 2007, has been proclaimed as “prep baseball’s first ace” in the NFHS National High School Sports Record Book and was featured in the former print version of the book for his incredible feats from 1947-49. In his three years on the mound for Vermontville, Beardslee won 24 of his 25 starts (the team was 31-1 during that time). His 24 victories included eight no-hitters, with two perfect games, and seven one-hitters.
He set seven national records, and two still stand after 66 years: his per-game season strikeout mark of 19.0 and his per-game career strikeout mark of 18.1. He was drafted by the New York Yankees immediately after graduating from high school and pitched in the minor leagues from 1949 to 1956, when an injury ended his playing career. Beardslee went on to scout for the Pittsburgh Pirates for 21 years, and he received a World Series ring after the team’s championship win in 1971. He also went on to write eight books including novels, poetry and an instructional on pitching.
He was one of 12 individuals, including five athletes, inducted as part of this year’s class. His wife Marilene represented Beardslee in accepting the honor, and offered this as to the role high school athletics played in her husband’s life and career:
“My time with Ken was long after his high school days. I'm sure Ken's career gave him joy, happiness. It allowed him to accomplish goals. It opened doors; it opened doors to friendships throughout his life ... Terry Collins with the Mets, Doug Melvin (who) just this year stepped down with the Milwaukee Brewers. Those are things that high school opened doors for him.”
Beardslee was nominated for the NFHS Hall of Fame by the Michigan High School Athletic Association after years of research by Charlotte resident Terry Lowery. Lowery didn't have an immediate connection to Beardslee and only moved to Eaton County as an adult. But during a funeral for one of Beardslee’s high school teammates, Lowery heard the stories of the high school ace – and went to work building his application.
Below is the video produced by the NFHS that played during Beardslee’s portion of the induction ceremony and includes a touching interview with Marilene, who received Ken’s plaque from MHSAA assistant director Kathy Vruggink Westdorp.
PHOTOS: (Top) Marilene Beardslee stands with the NFHS’s Bruce Howard (left) and MHSAA Executive Director Jack Roberts during the Hall of Fame festivities in Reno, Nev. (Middle) Ken Beardslee, during his high school days at Vermontville. (Top photo courtesy of Terry Lowery.)