A tribute to Clintonville’s “Mr. Baseball” was given on Saturday, July 14, as the baseball stadium in W.A. Olen Park was dedicated as “Don Jirschele Stadium”.
Fans, friends, city officials, and family members turned out to help celebrate the occasion.
Bill Jartz served as master of ceremonies, while other speakers included retired A’s player and coach Dick Koeppen, Don and Mary Jirschele’s daughter Marge Arneson, current A’s manager John Fietsch, Jirschele family friend and Clintonville Park and Rec Commission member Al Miller, Jirschele family friend and former A’s player Dick Bennett, Clintonville Mayor Judy Magee, and a few words from Don Jirschele himself.
Koeppen said he always remembered looking up to Don Jirschele and his athletic accomplishments. Koeppen shared memories of playing days gone by, and thanked Jirschele for his dedication to sports in Clintonville-especially the Clintonville A’s BABA baseball team.
Jirschele spent 61 years with the A’s as a player, manager, president and GM. He participated in 15 BABA Grand Championships, and spent 21 years playing for the A’s. He is a lifetime .390 hitter. He hit .488 in 1955 and .487 in 1965. He is still the A’s all-time stolen base leader. He managed the A’s to a State Championship in the 1988 NBC Class A Tournament. His all-time record as a manager for the A’s is 674-184.
Many of Jirschele’s football accomplishments were noted as well. He set a Clintonville record by scoring seven touchdowns in one game against New London in 1950. He went on to play college football at Kentucky under legendary Coach Bear Bryant, and helped win a Cotton Bowl Championship in 1951. He was drafted by the Army and spent 1953 in Korea and 1954 in Guam. He played on the U.S. Army football team that won the Armed Forces Championship as well. He went on to sign a contract with the Green Bay Packers in 1955, but a terrible ankle injury shut him down – the same injury that ended his college career in his sophomore season. He still has the signed contract with then NFL Commissioner Bert Bell’s signature.
One of Don and Mary Jirschele’s daughters, Marge Arneson, shared some of her memories as a child growing up in Clintonville. “He was always down here at the ball park, and we were always with him,” she said. “We had so much fun running around down here and helping out wherever we were needed. He always made sure we were very involved as kids. We have so many fond memories here.”
John Fietsch, current manager of the A’s, expressed his appreciation for all of Jirschele’s hard work throughout the years.
“Don always did things the right way,” Fietsch said. “I try to follow that model. Don is a great example of a hard working, successful person.”
A letter of congratulations and appreciation from Justin Jirschele, Don’s grandson, was also read.
Al Miller, one of Don’s close friends, also shared his appreciation for Don’s efforts throughout the years, as he not only boosted the baseball teams, but helped bring fun events and performers to Clintonville.
Jirschele promoted many events throughout the years, and helped bring in the Harlem Ambassadors, Harlem Travelers, Indianapolis Clowns, Appleton Foxes, Green Bay Packers basketball teams, the State Women’s ASA Fastpitch Softball tournament, the Clintonville fireworks show (which began in 1969), and the Doug Jirschele Memorial Sports Award Banquet, which has been a highly anticipated event for the past 20 years. He has also helped give out thousands of dollars in scholarship funds through the JPD Scholarship fund, which is named after three of his sons-Jim, Pete and Doug.
Dick Bennett also spoke about Jirschele’s involvement in all sports in Clintonville. Bennett and his brother Jack were instrumental in encouraging the city to name the baseball stadium after Jirschele, and dedicate the high school basketball court in honor of Carl Bruggink.
“This is a really good day,” Bennett said. “This is the right and proper thing to do. It’s timely, and it’s right. Don Jirschele runs like an iron rod through the heart of all distinguished and successful baseball here in Clintonville. His name will remain forever green as long as baseball is played here.”
Mayor Judy Magee spoke just prior to the unveiling of a new sign, which reads: “Don Jirschele Stadium”. The sign will be hung on the press box for all to see upon entering the park.
“I want to thank everyone who has been involved in this special event-the city, my family, my friends,” said Don Jirschele. “I sure appreciate this. It’s a dream come true.
“My wife always told me to believe, and to have faith, hope and charity,” Don said. “She was very religious and prayed at night all the time for our family. She was very much a part of this. It’s a great honor for us. Thank you!”
The event concluded with refreshments after the ceremony, followed by a Clintonville A’s 7-6 victory over the Bowler Red Sox.