Pekin Lettes 50th. Anniversary

Remembering the Great Lettes Players
From the Past ............

                 Remembering the Great Lettes Players From the Past  .....

---  Together Again  ---

at Mineral Springs Park

Lettes Field in Pekin Illinois   





The 1965 Pekin Lettes

3rd. Place in the 1965 A.S.A World Tournament

Word from the City of Pekin - Mayor's Tebbens Office

Today - March 26 - 2008

June 25 Has Been Designated By The City Of Pekin As

-Pekin Lettes Day - 

in Observance of their Golden Annivesary Celebration in

Pekin, Illinois

~~~  Official Press Release  ~~~

PEKIN LETTES Womens Major Fastpitch Softball Squad

~ America's Oldest Continuous Major Fastpitch Team and Still Hitting ~

Mayor's Proclamation Designates June 25




In Memory of JOAN NELSON  .....

Joan M. Nelson, 82, of Peoria Heights, died on Friday, March 1,
2013 at 9:15 p.m. at Washington Christian Village surrounded by her friends.
She was born May 14, 1930 in Pomona, CA to Stewart and Marie Marcott Nelson.
She is survived by 2...
brothers, William and Jerry Nelson both of California, and her dear friends Gary and Sheri Brown, Jenniffer and John Post, and Jason Brown.
She was preceded in death by her brother Rick.
Joan worked as a General Foreman for Caterpillar for 33 years.
She was a member of St. Thomas Catholic Church.
Joan played Softball with the CAT Diesellettes and Pekin Lettes from 1950 to 1966.
She was inducted into the State of Illinois Sports Hall of Fame in 1973. She was also inducted into the Peoria Sports Hall of Fame in 1989 individually, and in 2005 as part of the 1965 Pekin Lettes Softball team. Joan is in the top 10 in many categories for women’s softball, including home runs and hits.
A Funeral Mass will be 10:00 am on Tuesday, March 5, 2013 at St. Thomas Church, with Msgr. William A. Watson officiating.
Visitation will be on Monday, from 6 to 8 p.m. at Wright & Salmon Mortuary, and half hour prior to the mass on Tuesday.
Graveside services will be in Pomona Memorial Park in Pomona CA at a later date.
In lieu of flowers memorials may be made to ICC Women’s Softball Scholarship Fund.
Tributes and condolences may be submitted to




ALUMNI LETTES Confirmed and Coming to Pekin in June

As of June 23 - 2008

Marlys Taber Watts

Dows, IA.

Bonnie Swanson

Chillicothe, IL.

Irene "Pepper" Kerwin

Peoria, IL.

Joanne "Becky" Beckman

Washington, IL.

 Ann Mullins Tindall

Largo, FL.

 Lynn   Hippensteel

Venice, FL.

Sunne B. Thomas

W. Chicago, IL.

Pat Alexander

Indianapolis, IN.

Lorene Ramsey

Washington, IL.

Mrs. Chuck (Wilma) McCord

Chillicothe, IL.

Beverly Brown

East Peoria, IL.

Annie (Osterman) Meyer

Topeka, IL

Eleanor "Rudy" Rudolph

East Peoria, IL.

Barb 'Bobbie' Fuller

Peoria, IL.

Amy Irene Applegren

East Peoria, IL.

Joan Nelson

Peoria Heights, IL.

 Esther Graiff Torry

Washington, IL.

Sherry (Thome) Diegel

Pekin, IL.

Madeline Dotta

Washington, IL.

Lou Albrecht

Fairfield, Connecticutt

Dot Maple

Pekin, IL.






























          50th. Anniversary Program Messages


I was a member of the Pekin Lettes and played shortstop from 1964-1972.  After retiring from the Lettes and moving to the Chicago suburbs, I taught at Golf Middle School in Morton Grove, IL.   During this time I played shortstop for the West Allis State Bankettes, later to become the Milwaukee Bankettes.  I retired from softball in 1986 after suffering a shoulder injury, but took up the great game of soccer.   

In 1995 I retired from teaching and moved to Dows, IA.  I joined a performing clog dance team and met fellow performer, Dennis Watts.  We were married  in 2000, and I became part of his very large family - now 6 children, 11 grand-children, and 2 great-grand children.  I love being "Grandma Watts" and taking part in all the activities of family life.   I have since been enjoying small town life in Dows and am busy with community and church activities.   My sport of choice now is golf, and I enjoy playing many golf tournaments with friends.

Life is great now, but I will always remember my great years living in Pekin, IL and playing shortstop for Chuck McCord and the Pekin Lettes.


 IRENE "PEPPER" KERWIN - Peoria, Illinois

Very Thankful and Appreciative that Peoria and Pekin had Such Top-Flight Teams to Play with.  The Many Friendships are "Priceless". 

The Eight or Ten Still in this Area often get together still from Chuck McCord Era.

1940 - Peoria Redwings / 1950 to 1953 - Chicago Pro League - Stayed Free with Sisters Family - All Pro Money Paid for Four Years at Illinois State University between Pro Summers / 1954 - Loafed - Taught Elementary P.E. and Coached Sports at Farmer City, Illinois for Nine Years - Peoria Hines for Nine Years - Oak Grove in Bartonville for Twelve Years - Retired in June of 1983 / 1955 - Bicycle-Hosteling for Two Months in Europe / 1956 - Reinstated as Amateur and Re-Joined the Lettes - Sunnyland Lettes 1956, 57 and 58 - Pekin Lettes 1959 to 1972 - Only helped Coach in 1972.



Education - Hillsboro High School 1958 / Carthage College B.A. 1962 / IL St. Univ. M.S. 1983

Athletic Career -  Pekin Lettes 1963-1970, 1972 (All-American Catcher 1965 &1970) / Central IL Field Hockey Team 1963-65 /  Played AAU basketball 1963-1972 (AAU Hall of Fame) / First Olympic-AAU Developmental Training Camp 1967 / Charter Inductee in Carthage College Athletic Hall of Fame 1983 / Inductee in Greater Peoria Sports Hall of Fame 1994

Professional Career -  Peoria High School 1962-1993 / Teacher of Physical Education, Health and First Aid / Assistant Coach of Girls Track and Field / Coach for Parochial & Youth Soccer Teams / President of Peoria Soccer Club

Family Information - Married Gary Tindall Dec. 1971 (Deceased Aug. 2001) - Son Christian, 3 step-children: Mark, Robin, Laura - 3 grandchildren: Payton, Kaleb, Maxwell - 7 step-grandchildren: Shawn, Sarah, Tim, JJ, Rylee, Danielle, Brittney - 3 step-great grandchildren: Abdel, Adam, Nadia

Current Activities - Church Choir -  Bell Choir / Volunteer in Hospice Office / Genealogy & President of Our Ware Family Association Computer Club / Retired to Palm Hill Country Club Mobile Home Park in 1993 - Ladies’ Golf Association - Communications Committee - Block Captain / Fan of  the Tampa Bay Bucs and Rays, but Still a Fan of the St. Louis Cardinals and Chicago Bears


 JOANNE "BECKY" BECKMANN - Washington, Illinois

I played starting in '62 and took two Years off and then came back for a few Years.  I was Inducted into the Illinois Hall of Fame in 1974.  Thank You for remembering Us in Your Anniversary Year.


 SUNNE B. THOMAS - West Chicago, Illinois

I played 7 Years - 1959 to 1965.  I was chosen for the All-Star Team in 1960 when I was 16 Years Old.  Lori Ramsey and I flew out the next Year to play in the All-Star Game.

After Softball with the Lettes, I went North to Lombard, Illinois to teach after Graduating from Illinois State University.  I started Teaching at Glenbard East High School, staying for three Years.  Then I helped to open Glenbard North High School, staying there for 26 Years.  During my stay at Glenbard, I also coached softball for 18 Years, Basketball for 14 Years, Archery for 12 Years, Volleyball for 4 Years and before Women had Teams, I Coached Bowling, Track, Field Hockey and Golf.

I had the opportunity in 1976 to play Pro Softball with the Chicago Ravens.  I so Wish We could get People to Watch the Pro Teams now like our Crowds were for the Lettes.  They were Fantastic  !!!

I retired from Teaching in 1994 and have enjoyed playing Golf, many Water Sports, Traveling, Bicycling, Motorcycling and R.V. 'ing


 BEVERLY BROWN - East Peoria, Illinois

Beverly J. Brown played for the Lettes from 1952 to 1963.  She is from Paxton, Illinois where she grew up on a Farm and played softball for the Ford County 4-H Softball Team.  She Graduated from Paxton Community High School in 1951 and went to work (and played softball) for Caterpillar Tractor Company in 1952.  She continued working for Caterpillar for 37 Years retiring in 1998.

When Caterpillar elected to drop all of the  sports teams from their Programs (in 1955) the Womens Softball Team played in Sunnyland, Illinois for several years and then finally found a Welcome Home in Pekin, Illinois.

Her Best Batting Average was .316 in 1956.  In 1957 She was Named to the State Tournament All Star Team.  In 1973 She was Inducted as a Member of the Illinois Softball Hall of Fame.  This is the Highest Honor Attainable in the Illinois Softball Association.

One of Her Most Memorable Occasions was Playing in the 24 Inning Game in Orlando, Florida on July 6, 1961.  The Lettes Lost the Game after 3 Hours and 58 Minutes.  The Lettes had a Total of 10 Hits with Beverly having 4 of them.  The Orlando Rebels had a Total of 7 Hits But, Won the Game 1 to 0.


 ELEANOR "RUDY" RUDOLPH - East Peoria, Illinois

Eleanor "Rudy" Rudolph Played for the Lettes from 1947 through 1964.

From 1947 through 1957 the Team was Sponsored by Caterpillar Tractor Company and later was Sponsored by the Pekin Merchants.

"Rudy" is from Springfield, Illinois.  She was an Outstanding Cather for the Team.  She also played Shortstop and Third Base.  Her Best Year was 1955 when She Hit .381.  Her Lifetime Average was .285.

"Rudy" was Named Springfield's Girl Athlete of the 1947 through 1957 Decade.  She was a Member of the Manager's All-American Team in 1950.  "Rudy" was Co-Captain of the Lettes from 1951 through 1962.  She was Named "Most Valuable" Player of the West Central Regional Tournament.

In 1974 "Rudy" was Inducted as a Member of the Illinois Softball Fall of Fame.  This is the Highest Honor Attainable in the Illinois A.S.A.

"Rudy" Assisted the Softball Coaching Staff of Illinois Central College from 1978 through 1998.  In 1982 They Won the Junior College National Championship.

In 1990 "Rudy" was Inducted into the Greater Peoria Sports Hall of Fame.


 AMY IRENE APPLEGREN - East Peoria, Illinois

Played for the Lettes in 1943 and Played in All American Girls Baseball League 1944 to 1953.  Played for Rockford Peaches - The Team that was Featured in the Movie "A League of Their Own" and Pitched 205 Games and Played in a Total of 386 Games.  Had a 94 and 91 Pitching Record with ERA Under 3 the First Three Years and then Two Years of 1.06 and 1.76.


 LORENE RAMSEY - Washington, Illinois

PEKIN LETTES CAREER:  401 Wins & 90 Loses / 4 All American Selections / 3 National All Star Series / .56 Earned Run Average / Over 3,800 K's in 3,600 Innings / .261 Lifetime Batting Average / Led the Team in Hitting in 1963 with a .396 Batting Average

For 18 Consecutive Years I was the Slowest Runner in Chuck McCord's Pre Season Time Trials.  One Year We had a big heavy girl try out, and I had high hopes of moving up to second from the end, but she quit before Time Trials.

ICC SOFTBALL COACHING CAREER:  840 & 309 Won-Loss Record / 2 National Championships and 2 National Runner-Up Finishes

ICC BASKETBALL COACHING CAREER:  5 National Championships / 887 Wins & 197 Loses


 Anna Osterman Meyer - Topeka, Illinois

Played for Chuck McCord 1958-1959

Played Six Years for Bob Wiebler and Producers Dairyettes in Pekin

Played for Bill Roberson and Roberson Girls in Pekin

Married Bill Meyer in Pekin in 1960 and moved to Manito and then Topeka, Illinois.  I have Seven Children, two girls and 5 boys.  Now I'm watching my Grandchildren play ball. 


 Barb Fuller - Peoria, Illinois

Caterpillar Dieselettes - 1945 to 1956

Coached Pekin Lettes - 1974 to 1980 - 249 Wins & 124 Loses


 Bonnie Swanson - Chilicothe, Illinois

Graduate of Western Illinois University and Member of WIU Softball Team

Played for the Pekin Lettes - 1965 to 1972 - .268 Batting Average - 4 Home Runs

Coached Athletics at I.V.C. High School in Chilicothe, Illinois until retirement


 Lou Albrecht - Fairfield, Connecticutt

Name: Lou Albrecht  (when with lettes Edna Lou)  That was Chuck's doing.
323 Old Mill Rd. Fairfield, CT 06824, 203 256-0930,

Played with the Diselettes starting in l953 (I think) and the Pekin Lettes from the start till 1958 when I moved to California.  Was inducted into the National ASA Hall of Fame in l985.   Retired from Southern Connecticut State University in 1992 as the Associate Athletic Director.


ALUMNI Lettes Confirmed that Cannot Attend


Darlene Wenner

Staunton, IL.

 P / 2B / LF

 1959 to 1961

Have a Great Time

Everyone at the Reunion  !!!

Barb Waddell

Sorry I will be unable to attend this event.
Appreciate the time and efforts of each of
you are making to have this very special
celebration of the Pekin Lettes.  I'm very
proud to have been a member of this
Have a GREAT Celebration!
Barb Waddell













 Remember the Wooleys






Softball brought them here

Former members of the Lettes reminisce during 50th anniversary gathering

Lettes 50th. Runion Dinner at Pekin Family Restaurant

Pat Alexander of Indianapolis Indiana Chats with other Lettes Alumni

Posted Jun 24, 2008 @ 10:18 PM
Last update Jun 24, 2008 @ 10:19 PM


In recognition of 50 continuous years of women's fastpitch softball, Pekin mayor Dave Tebben has proclaimed today Pekin Lettes Day.

As part of a five-day celebration, the current Lettes team will face a squad made up of former players tonight in an exhibition game at Lettes Field in Mineral Springs Park.

Many players from the Lettes' golden years gathered for a reunion dinner Tuesday at Pekin Family Restaurant.

"I was a catcher," said Eleanor "Rudy" Rudolph, who displayed a couple of mangled and disfigured digits on her right hand as proof.

Rudolph, 80, lives in East Peoria. Her playing career spanned the Caterpillar Dieselettes, the Sunnyland Lettes and the inaugural Pekin Lettes, in 1959.

"I came up from Springfield to play for the Dieselettes and ended up working at Cat for 30 years," Rudolph said. "Softball brought me here."

Caterpillar disbanded its men's and women's athletics teams in the mid-1950s, and for three seasons the Dieselettes played as the Sunnyland Lettes.

The late Chuck McCord, who had managed the team since 1947, helped bring the team to its current home in Pekin.

Pat Alexander, originally from Robinson, played for the Lettes from 1964-69. She traveled to the reunion from her home in Indianapolis.

"I was student teaching at East Peoria and decided to try out for the team," she said. "I spent a lot of good years here. This (reunion) brings back a lot of memories."

Irene "Pepper" Kerwin is a native Peorian. A graduate of the now-defunct Academy of Our Lady, she went on to teach physical education at Oak Grove grade schools in Bartonville.

She also rapped out an all-time Lettes' record 716 hits, before retiring as a player in '72.

"I played right out of grade school for the Farrow Chix, and they ended up recruiting me to play for the Dieselettes," Kerwin said. "Back then, most of the players either worked at Cat or taught school."

Sunne Bea Thomas hailed from Manito, where McCord had been a coach. She played with the Lettes from '59-65.

"My family knew him and knew it would be a first-class outfit," Thomas said. "It was an honor to play for the Lettes."

Thomas, who now resides in West Chicago, went on to coach softball and girls basketball at Carol Stream Glenbard North.

Also present at Tuesday's reunion was Lorene Ramsey, who pitched the Lettes to 401 wins.

Ramsey went on to 1,727 career victories as the softball and women's basketball coach at Illinois Central College.

"The bats and balls they play with now are different from back then," Ramsey said. "And the girls now lift weights and do conditioning year round.

"But a lot of the ones that played back when I did could have played in any era."

The senior member of the group Tuesday was Dot Maple, a 95-year old Pekinite.

"I was 14 when I started out pitching for the boys teams, but I had 10 brothers, so what else was I going to do," she said. "I could still play now if they would let me."

Gates open for the game tonight at 5 p.m. Adult tickets are $5 at the door.

The game will pit the current Lettes, coached by Chuck Harris, against players from the era when Fred Reader coached.

Reader remains as the owner and manager of the Lettes.

A picnic will take place at 1 p.m. Thursday at Mineral Springs. On Friday, former players will gather for a musical tribute and karaoke party at Pekin's Concord Inn.

The reunion celebration will conclude Saturday with the Legends of the Lettes tournament at Mineral Springs. The Bloomington Hearts, Indiana Slammers and St. Louis Saints will join the Lettes in a four-team round-robin.

The reunion was organized by Scott Shults, a Lettes historian and the team's public address announcer.

For more information visit the Internet at

Lonnie Schwindenhammer can be reached at 686-3214 or


Lettes play ball

Westerwinds help make softball reunion at Mineral Springs Park a special one

Journal Star
Posted Jun 26, 2008 @ 12:07 AM
Last update Jun 26, 2008 @ 12:15 AM


The student taught the coach a lesson when the Pekin Lettes softball team faced a team of Lettes Alumni in an exhibition Wednesday at Mineral Springs Park.

With two outs in the bottom of the seventh, Lori Pankratz hit an inside-the-park home run to give the Lettes a dramatic 2-1 victory.

Pankratz, from Bettendorf, Iowa, will be a junior this fall at Western Illinois University. Her bomb, to the deepest part of right field, came off complete-game loser Holly VanVlymen, her coach at Western.

"I knew she used to play for the Lettes but I had no idea she would be here pitching tonight," Pankratz said of her college coach. "She did an awesome job. She was the first one at home plate to congratulate me. I think she was more excited than I was."

VanVlymen, who played in high school at Orion, recently completed her third season as head coach of the Westerwinds.

"(Pankratz) rips me in batting practice all the time, so I know she can hit," VanVlymen said. "I haven't thrown competitively in three or four years. I figured I would be alright for a few innings, but I wasn't sure about going seven. It wasn't too bad."

Pankratz's hit was well over the head of Lettes Alum right-fielder Sara Loete.

Loete, a former standout catcher at Pekin, was a Division II all-American designated hitter last season at Southern Indiana.

"Never," Loete said when asked the last time she played outfield. "I just looked up, turned around and started running toward the fence (280 feet from home plate)."

The Lettes broke a scoreless tie in the fifth inning.

East Peoria native Julia Rhodes advanced all the way to third base on a two-out throwing error. She scored on an RBI single to left by Pankratz.

"I pitch at Western, and we usually don't get to hit in the games," Pankratz said. "Maybe I'll get a chance to swing the bat a little next season."

A single by Rachel Sinks, a Washington product and 2008 Western graduate, and an infield hit by LaSalle-Peru graduate Torie Bunzell (Quincy University) loaded the bases after the Lettes' run in the fifth.

Alum second baseman Sue Gaugish made a nice running catch on Rae Gordon's foul pop-up to retire the side.

Pankratz and Bunzell had combined to hold the Alums scoreless until the sixth, when VanVlymen reached on a lead-off single.

After a fielder's choice, a sacrifice, a strikeout and a hit batter, April Schermann lined a single to left that scored Priscilla Welch-DeLaere, running for VanVlymen, with the tying run.

Sinks, in left field, threw a strike home to Metamora and Illinois Central College graduate Lauren Snopek, who tagged out Lauren Gidcumb trying to score the go-ahead run.

"We're a highly competitive group," said Schermann, a 1997 Richwoods graduate who recently completed her fifth season as head coach at Normal West. "We wanted to give them a good fight and I think we did."

Rhodes made an over-the-shoulder catch in center field to rob Loete of extra bases in the fourth inning.

Schermann, playing shortstop for the Alums, made a running catch in foul territory to retire Tremont and ICC product T.J. Matheny in the sixth.

"It was a real battle," Pankratz said. "I hope if I come back and play in this thing in 10 years I'll do as well as they did tonight."

Yellow fever: Many former Lettes and Caterpillar Dieselettes, from the era when the late Chuck McCord was head coach, were on hand as part of their reunion celebration this week. ... Former player Dot Maple lost her balance and was injured while throwing out the first pitch. The 95-year-old Pekinite was transported to Pekin Community Hospital with a suspected arm injury. ... Event organizer Scott Shults said he hopes to make the Lettes vs. Lettes Alums exhibition an annual event. ... Proceeds went to the Don Bohlander foundation for Parkinson's research. ... The Lettes reunion continues today with a 1 p.m. picnic in the park.

Lonnie Schwindenhammer can be reached at 686-3214 or