BVU Athletics Hall of Fame Enshrines 1968 World Series Team

Beekmann’s baseball bunch becomes fifth team inducted into BVU Athletics Hall of Fame

Buena Vista University Athletics this month inducts the 1968 baseball team into its Hall of Fame, as the NAIA College World Series qualifier under legendary Coach Jay Beekmann joins previous BVU teams who earned their spots: the 1984 NCAA Division III National Champion Beaver softball team; the 1975 Boot Hill Bowl Beaver football team; the 1992 NCAA Division III National Runner-up softball team; and the 1986 NCAA Division III third-place wrestling team.

The banquet and induction ceremony take place at 7 p.m. Friday, Sept. 30, in Siebens Forum on the BVU campus in Storm Lake. The 1968 baseball team and other individual inductees will also be recognized at halftime of the Beavers’ Homecoming football game versus the University of Dubuque. The game on Saturday, Oct. 1, begins at 1 p.m. on Peterson Field inside J. Leslie Rollins Stadium.

“We enjoyed baseball, but we also took it very seriously. We ran from Victory Hall to the hospital and back every day. We climbed ropes and did the fundamentals. We were game-ready when the season began.”

Joe Ascolese

“We are thrilled to be part of the BVU Athletics Hall of Fame,” says 1968 BVU graduate Joe Ascolese, a New Jersey native who will make the trip from his home state for the weekend celebration. “What a great group of people who were on that team and all throughout Buena Vista. Coming to school at BV was the best decision I ever made.”

Ascolese played third base for a team that qualified for the NAIA College World Series after defeating Winona State University, 5-3, on a walk-off home run smashed by Larry “Butch” Biittner at venerable Memorial Field in Storm Lake. Biittner, who played first base and had an 8-1 pitching record as a senior that year, would go on to log 14 years in the major leagues, playing outfield, first base, and even doing some pitching. The Pocahontas native died on Jan. 2, 2022, ending a battle with cancer. He was 75 years old.

Biittner and other members of the team have earned spots in the BVU Athletics Hall of Fame as individuals. Beekmann, a 1942 graduate, was among the inaugural members of the hall of fame when it was created in 1969. Assistant Coach Lanny Grigsby, a 1960 graduate, was inducted in 1971.

“Jay Beekmann was a secondary father to me,” says 1969 graduate Doug Smith, a second baseman who earned All-America honors and was inducted into the BVU Athletics Hall of Fame, along with teammates Biittner and Dan Southard. “My father, Blair Smith, who coached Jay at Pisgah when Jay was growing up, died in April of 1968. I was devastated. Jay was always very close to me and helped me in ways far beyond the baseball diamond.”

The Beavers started that historic season with a spring break trip that included a three-game series against the University of Arkansas. The Beavers took two of three games from the Razorbacks.

“Arkansas had already played 20 games when we went south,” Ascolese remembers. “We had taken ground balls from Coach Beekmann and Coach Grigsby in Victory Hall. We enjoyed baseball, but we also took it very seriously. We ran from Victory Hall to the hospital and back every day. We climbed ropes and did the fundamentals. We were game-ready when the season began.”

“Coach Beekmann was an excellent coach,” says Denny Dotson, a 1968 graduate who pitched for the Beavers. “He was also a wonderful recruiter and someone who’d do anything for you.”

Dotson recalls being in the bullpen down the left-field line when Biittner clouted the game-winning homer in the bottom of the ninth inning to break a 3-3 tie and send the Beavers to the World Series. The Beavers trailed 3-0 before getting a pair of RBIs from Ascolese prior to Bob Johnson’s solo homer in the seventh to tie the game. Starting pitcher Southard, working on only two days of rest, retired the final 13 Winona State batters to earn the victory.

The Beavers came up short in two games at the College World Series the following week in St. Joseph, Mo., losing 4-3 to William Jewell College and 7-2 to Georgia Southern University.

“We’ve gotten together at times through the years, and we love to meet up at Homecoming,” says Smith. “It’s just a wonderful group. Everyone should be so fortunate to have people like that in their lives. Going to BV just made my career!”

Those returning to campus for the celebration look forward to meeting some of the current Beaver baseball student-athletes and reuniting with Coach Steve Eddie, who has directed the program for 22 years. Eddie’s 2022 squad won the American Rivers Conference by three games.

“Coach Eddie keeps us updated on how the team does each week,” says Ascolese, who, like Smith and Dotson, spent his entire career in education. “It is wonderful to keep tabs on an excellent program that you feel you had a small role in helping to build. This is such an honor for all of us. We can’t wait to get there!”
 

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