The Challengers Baseball Hall of Fame was instituted several years ago and is attended to every other year. In 1999 legendary coach Garry Selby, his wife Pam, Elbert Williams, and the “Swede’s Crew”, mainstays of building the structure were honored. The entire Hall of Fame members are recalled here.
The most active eight men who made this a stadium that players from around the west region want to play in. That group includes Hall of Famers George Burke, Selby, Williams, John Haxby, Carl Nicholsen, Bill Priaulx, Jack Wormdahl, and Gerald Honea.
The 1985 team was the first Challenger team to capture the state title. The team posted a 67-19 record, won the Southern Oregon League crown and finished fifth in the Pacific Northwest Regional playoffs.
The only other Challenger team to win an American Legion State Championship. They won the 1999 Grant Smith Wood Bat Tourney and took second in the 24th annual Papa’s Pizza Invitational on their way to a 50-16 season.
Alexander, Art & Rayora
Art and Rayora volunteered and ran the concession stand each summer for eight years, an investment of approximately $30,000.Art also served on the Challenger board for eight years. They are the parents of former Challenger great Kevin Alexander.
Babb’s son, Mike played on the first Challenger teams in 1976 and 1977. For years Babb has spearheaded the fundraising efforts and has been a major contributor on his own.
The foreman of the construction of Swede Johnson Stadium, Burke used his knowledge of the construction business industry to help bring together skills, materials, and motivation for the thousands of hours of volunteer work needed to complete the stadium. He also served as President of the Board of Directors and was the driving force behind the latest improvements. His son Eric played on the 1987 team.
Chatt, John O.
A local businessman, John Chatt was a baseball fan and a supporter of kids athletics. He donated money to pay for the installation of the lights in the early construction of the stadium. Chatt’s legacy will continue on. At his death it was revealed that he named the Challengers in his will, the funds to be used for capital improvements to the stadium.
A center fielder for the Challengers from 1983-1986, Gogal was the only 14-year old starter in Challenger history. He holds several Challenger records and was a member of the 1985 American Legion State Championship team. He is a graduate of Sheldon High School.
Played first base for the Challengers in 1980 and 1981.One of the all-time great hitters to play here, he was a dedicated, hard worker. A graduate of Marist, he died in 1982 while practicing with the Oregon State University baseball team, where he had won a starting position as a freshman. The annual MVP Award for the Challengers is named for him.
Haxby was there from day one, every weekend, every evening after work, rain or shine for nearly five years. John and his wife Rhonda were busy beyond that running the concession stand. Haxby was instrumental in getting the original scoreboards donated.
Mom of Challenger Brian Haxby, Rhonda began to help with concessions and expanded the menu by adding a deep fryer and grill. She helped plan the original concession stand and was its supervisor for a number of years.
Honea remembers, not so much his contribution, but all of the others who became involved. “There were so many people dedicated to one purpose. I had so much pride in the way that the entire building of the stadium was performed,” he said.
A player on the Challenger team from 1976-1979, Don was dedicated to the game. He gave a stability and dependability to the program as it began. He is a North Eugene graduate and continues to live in Eugene.
The father of Flip, Larry served as the director of the Papa’s Pizza Fourth of July tournament. His engineering skills were used to the maximum during the stadium construction.
Mom of the Challenger player Flip Lindley, Rhonda served as a Board Member for several years. She was instrumental in keeping the Challenger Camp going and then later found a way to start a concession stand that has helped both the Challengers and North Eugene High teams.
A local insurance broker who had been coaching the Sheldon area Legion team, Gene served as assistant coach with Selby in 1976 and 1977 and the head coach in 1978.He was President of the Board of Directors from 1976-1985.Manley was responsible for much of the early fundraising. He also had two sons, Stan and Sam, who played for the Challengers.
A former professional baseball player and father of North and former Challenger baseball coach Corey, Carl became a reluctant welder when the stadium was built. He gave that up and now owns, with wife Kathy, one of the leading athletic equipment stores in the city, Eugene Silkscreen. Nicholsen is on the current Executive Board of Directors.
Piesker was a second baseman for the first Challenger team, an all-state high school player who went on to play college ball at Lane Community College and Oregon State University. He was later an assistant coach for the Challengers for three years.
Priaulx walked into this Hall of Fame years ago when he strolled into North Eugene High Schoool to do another task, got caught up in the situation and stayed with if for two years until the project was completed. He still marvels at how many people were involved and how others, who did not volunteer were willing to wait for the money owed their business until it was raised.
Father of pitcher Jeff Reece, he served on the Board of Directors for several years and helped make the Board representative of both Sheldon and North, a policy that was expanded to South and Marist.
Won 907, Lost 498, Tied 1. That took 17 seasons and will eventually not be remembered by most people. What Selby and his friends did in building Swede Johnson Stadium will long be remembered by so many of you who appreciate what he did for the community. Selby, who completed his run as coach of the Challengers after the 1994 season, retired from coaching at North Eugene High School in 1998 and now resides in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Pam tied it all together. She was the lynchpin behind all of the upfront activities we normally think about. She was the bookkeeper, the placer of orders, and for many years not only ordered the uniforms but made them herself when money was low and the needs were great.
Grant Smith was a father, Board Member and a fan extraordinary. He had two sons play for the Challengers, served on the Board for many years and probably saw more Challenger games than anyone other than Selby. He died suddenly in 1991 and the family asked that contributions be made to the Challengers in his name. For years one of the annual tournaments has born his name, now known as the Grant Smith Wood Bat Invitational.
Larry served on the Board of Directors for five years and as Board Chairman for two. Welch was instrumental in getting the American Legion State and Regional tournaments at Swede Johnson Stadium. His son John played on the 1985 state championship team.
Williams was, is and will continue to be the ultimate giver. No one gives more time, more energy, more of himself than does Williams. He coached on the high school scene, is a Challenger Board member, and heads up the bus service that gets the Challenger teams to their games. Most of the time Elbert is the one behind the wheel.
Another father of a former Challenger player, Wormdahl spent many years on the Board of Directors. He worked for years on field maintenance and fund raising. His son Derek played on the 1988 team.