Local baseball: Branen, Friend, McCourt join the Burlington Baseball Hall of Fame | Baseball


Three new members will be inducted into the Burlington Baseball Hall of Fame on Sunday. The induction ceremony is scheduled to begin at 11 a.m. at Beaumont Field.

The three inductees are Bill Branen (posthumous), Jim Friend and Bill McCourt.

After the HOF ceremony, the Burlington Barons will play a Land O’Lakes League game against the Brookfield Blue Sox at noon. The dealership will be open.

Here are the profiles of the three inductees; the information was provided by the Burlington Baseball Hall of Fame Committee:

BILL BRANEN: Branen, who died in 1988 of an inoperable brain tumour, started as a Little League coach in 1964 for a team originally sponsored by the former Montgomery Ward department store on North Pine Street, where the Mercantile Banquet is located today. Center. In 1974, Montgomery Ward dropped its sponsorship, and as owner of the Burlington Standard Press newspaper and other area weeklies, Branen took over the sponsorship.

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Branen coached Little League teams for 27 years. Its teams have been Burlington champions multiple times, and its teams have also participated in numerous Little League tournaments, district tournaments, and other post-season competitions.

In the early 1970s, Branen was responsible for contacting the Burlington Park Board to build a Little League diamond named Branen Field at Sunset Park on Dardis Drive. Branen was responsible for installing exterior fencing in 1973, dugouts in 1974, and lights in 1977. Branen matched all financial contributions towards lighting the grounds of Sunset Park, which is still used by the Burlington Little League Board . Few cities had floodlit fields for Little League teams at the time.

Bill Branen’s baseball sign at Branen Field reads, “Winning isn’t everything; it’s extremely important, but the basics of baseball and good sportsmanship are more important.

Branen loved baseball, Little League and the kids he coached.

In the early 1980s, Branen and his wife, Nan, housed many of the Milwaukee Brewers team staff, including Pete Vuckovich, Don Money, vice president of tickets Dick Hackett, and former owner and commissioner at baseball Bud Selig.

JIMAMI: Friend grew up in Burlington, attended Burlington Schools, and graduated in 1978 from Burlington High School. Jim was a tri-sport athlete in high school, participating in football, wrestling and four years of baseball at BHS as a pitcher, first baseman and outfielder.

During his summers in high school, Friend played American Legion baseball for coach Dick Imrie. After his American Legion baseball eligibility ended, Jim played amateur baseball for the Burlington Barons for 14 years and for the Waterford Rivermen for six years when both teams were members of the Southwest Division of the Land O ‘Lakes League. He also helped organize the annual Land O’ Lakes All-Star Game at Beaumont Field over the years.

When his skills as a player declined, Friend began his coaching career at Burlington High School as a pitching and hitting coach. When a head coaching opportunity arose at neighboring Catholic Central, Friend accepted the head coaching job there.

Before these coaching opportunities opened up, Friend was involved with summer youth travel squads, including helping organize the current Burlington Little League Titans traveling squads for age levels 8U, 9U , 10U, 11U and 12U.

Friend, along with Tim Burd, helped develop and manage the batting center, named after Burlington Baseball Hall of Famer Rollie Bauman, at the Burlington Little League complex on Maryland Avenue.

Friend also helped Becky Sagedal organize the Merchant baseball program for 13-16 year olds.

BILL MCCOURT: McCourt is a longtime resident and active member of the Burlington community, dedicating himself first to serving others, as evidenced by his decades of service as a volunteer firefighter and deputy fire chief, and his support of many many Burlington sports programs.

McCourt started in Little League as a catcher and also became a good hitter. His Tigers Little League team was very competitive during Bill’s tenure, and he was selected as a member of the City of Burlington All-Star Team in 1976. He progressed through the Babe Ruth and American Legion baseball leagues.

At Saint Mary’s High School (now Catholic Central), he played on several winning and champion teams in baseball, football, and basketball. In 1981, Saint Mary’s won the WISAA Class B State Football Championship and McCourt was named the Most Valuable Player in the title game and was the All Area Player of the Year. In 1982, Saint Mary’s was a runner-up in the WISAA State Baseball Tournament and Bill was named to the All-Tournament Team and was the Racine County Batting Champion.

Bill then attended the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, where he played football, but suffered a serious knee injury that abruptly ended his college career. He transferred to the University of Wisconsin at Madison and began playing competitive men’s softball. His softball career spanned over 20 years as a member of the Palm Garden, Burlington Hi-Liter and Coors Silver Bullets softball teams and left a legacy of countless tournament victories across the Midwest.


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