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.)
With the first girls basketball games, wrestling matches and ski races joining the event schedule this week, an estimated 65,000 athletes will be competing across the 13 sports for which the Michigan High School Athletic Association sponsors postseason tournaments.
Girls basketball tipped off Monday, Dec. 4, and the first boys and girls wrestling meets may take place Wednesday, Dec. 6. The first girls and boys ski races may begin Saturday, Dec. 9, when they will join competition already underway in boys basketball, girls and boys bowling, girls competitive cheer, girls gymnastics, boys ice hockey, Upper Peninsula girls swimming & diving, and boys swimming & diving across both peninsulas.
The MHSAA winter schedule concludes this 2023-24 school year with the Girls Basketball Finals on March 23. This will be the first time since 2018-19 that the girls basketball tournament will finish the winter season, a switch made necessary by the start of the NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament March 22-23 and the possibility Michigan State University could host first-round games at the Breslin Center, where the MHSAA plays both its girls and boys basketball Semifinals and Finals.
Three more sports will incorporate changes this season related to MHSAA Tournament format or qualification.
For girls and boys bowling, Regionals will be conducted at eight sites – instead of the previous six – with each site qualifying to Finals its top two team finishers and the top seven singles for both girls and boys competitions. For the Team Bowling Finals, match play has been switched to a head-to-head, best-of-five Baker game format, whereas previously the format included regular games rolled by individual bowlers.
In girls gymnastics, an addition to criteria is expected to classify gymnasts more accurately as Division 1 (most skilled/experienced) or Division 2 for MHSAA Tournament individual competition. Athletes who have previously competed in a non-school event at either the Sapphire or Diamond Xcel levels would be required to compete at the Division 1 level for MHSAA postseason competition. These designations were added to other criteria used to determine an individual competitor’s division.
A change that led to much larger event fields at the Lower Peninsula Girls Swimming & Diving Finals this fall is expected to produce the same at the LP Boys Swimming & Diving Finals this winter. Beginning this season, qualifying times have been determined based on the past five years of MHSAA race data, but also accounting for past numbers of qualifiers in each swim race – which should, as with the girls, allow for more boys to advance to the Finals in events where fields have not been full over the previous five seasons.
Additionally, the Competitive Cheer Finals will return to its traditional Friday-Saturday schedule, March 1-2 at McGuirk Arena at Central Michigan University, with Division 1 on Friday and Divisions 2-4 on Saturday.
This regular season, wrestlers have two more opportunities to compete. Teams are allowed two more dual meets (between two teams only, not to be converted into three or four-team meets), bringing the total allowed days of competition to 16 with no more than eight of those allowed for tournament-type events where a wrestler competes more than twice.
At those tournament-type events, wrestlers may now compete in up to six matches on one day of competition (as opposed to the previous five matches per day) – but an athlete may not wrestle in more than 10 matches over two consecutive days.
An adjustment to the awarding of free throws in basketball is likely to be the most noticeable in-game change for any winter sport this season. One-and-one free throws have been eliminated, and fouls no longer will be totaled per half. Instead, fouls are totaled and reset every quarter, and two free throws are awarded with the fifth foul of each quarter.
The 2023-24 Winter campaign culminates with postseason tournaments, as the championship schedule begins with the Upper Peninsula Girls & Boys Swimming & Diving Finals on Feb. 17 and wraps up with the Girls Basketball Finals on March 23. Here is a complete list of winter tournament dates:
Districts – Feb. 26, 28, March 1
Regionals – March 5, 7
Quarterfinals – March 12
Semifinals – March 14-15
Finals – March 16
Districts – March 4, 6, 8
Regionals – March 11, 13
Quarterfinals – March 19
Semifinals – March 21-22
Finals – March 23
Regionals – Feb. 23-24
Finals – March 1-2
Districts – Feb. 16-17
Regionals – Feb. 24
Finals – March 1-2
Regionals – March 2
Finals – March 8-9
Regionals – Feb. 19-28
Quarterfinals – March 2
Semifinals – March 7-8
Finals – March 9
Regionals – Feb. 12-16
Finals – Feb. 26
Swimming & Diving
Upper Peninsula Girls/Boys Finals – Feb. 17
Lower Peninsula Boys Diving Regionals – Feb. 29
Lower Peninsula Boys Finals – March 8-9
Wrestling – Team
Districts – Feb. 7-8
Regionals – Feb. 14
Finals – Feb. 23-24
Wrestling – Individual
Districts – Feb. 10
Boys Regionals – Feb. 17
Girls Regionals – Feb. 18
Finals – March 1-2
The MHSAA is a private, not-for-profit corporation of voluntary membership by more than 1,500 public and private senior high schools and junior high/middle schools which exists to develop common rules for athletic eligibility and competition. No government funds or tax dollars support the MHSAA, which was the first such association nationally to not accept membership dues or tournament entry fees from schools. Member schools which enforce these rules are permitted to participate in MHSAA tournaments, which attract more than 1.4 million spectators each year.