'Harvey Sterkel Field' coming to Aurora
His fellow fastpitch softball teammates and the many fans fortunate enough to see Harvey Sterkel in action knew they were witnessing somebody special.
To see him pitch was an experience in and of itself, his mastery so mesmerizing and awe-inspiring that it stopped you in your tracks and captivated your attention.
Those of us who came later marvel at his wizardry through stories, photos and conversations. It takes only a sampling of highlights from Sterkel's historic career to spur the imagination. Soon, we too are reveling in his greatness.
Simply put, Harvey Sterkel was one of the greatest pitchers in the history of fastpitch softball. For 21 years -- from 1956 to 1977 -- he performed as one of the world's best right here in the Fox Valley, earning international acclaim for his feats.
On Tuesday, June 10, Sterkel will be celebrated and his name permanently emblazoned in the region's sports history that he helped create so prominently. Through the Fox Valley Park District and the Aurora Fastpitch Softball Association, "Harvey Sterkel Field" will be dedicated at Stuart Sports Complex around 7:30 p.m.
Starring for the Aurora Sealmasters and, later, Home Savings & Loan, Harvey was the most dominant pitcher of his time. His statistics are staggering and off-the-charts remarkable.
From 1956 to 1969, Harvey posted a phenomenal 345-33 record (91 percent) that included 60 no-hitters and 15 perfect games. In 2,599 innings pitched, Harvey struck out 5,212 batters (2 per inning) and posted an ERA of 0.34. During a three-year span from 1965-68, he won 52 consecutive games.
A member of the Amateur Softball Association (ASA) Hall of Fame, Sterkel led the Sealmasters to four ASA national fast pitch championships -- as MVP in 1956 and 1959 -- and earned All-America honors eight times. Nicknamed "The Horse," Harvey won eight straight games in the 1959 tournament -- a national record -- including 24 scoreless innings over three games.
Harvey also led Aurora to two International Softball Federation world championships, compiling a 7-0 record while striking out 74 batters in 45 innings pitched and garnering MVP honors in the 1966 tournament.
"The greatest pitcher I ever saw, broadcast or played against," said Neal Ormond, whose association with Aurora fastpitch dates to its origin in the post-World War II days.
Ormond will emcee the event on Tuesday, which will include appearances by other dignitaries and former teammates.
Chuck Nelson, the assistant chief of staff in the mayor's office, spent many a weekend during his youth watching Harvey pitch at Stephens-Adamson Field -- sometimes until the wee hours of the morning during Saturday twinight doubleheaders.
"Of course, Harvey would pitch one of those games, and if it was an extra-inning affair, he'd go the entire distance," said Nelson. "Looking back, now I know why Mom and Dad would have us kids wear pajamas to the games."
Former player and team manager Bill Pfeiffer followed Harvey's career from the day Sterkel arrived from Denver in 1956. Pfeiffer eventually joined Home Savings in 1972 and the two were teammates until Sterkel retired in 1977.
"One of the top five pitchers who ever played the game," said Pfeiffer. "If teams got more than a couple hits off him, it was the exception and not the norm -- he was that good."
Already a member of virtually every fastpitch Hall of Fame, Sterkel will now have a field to forever honor his feats. And we all get to share in it, which is fitting. For in many ways, Sterkel's outstanding accomplishments not only brought fame and recognition to the sport of fast pitch -- but to the Fox Valley area he represented so admirably.
• Jeff Long is the public relations manager for the Fox Valley Park District. Contact him at email@example.com