For generations, the dream of every American boy was to grow up to be a Major League Baseball player. For nearly all of those boys, that dream never becomes a reality. For some, though, baseball is still a part of life for a long time past childhood – whether that be playing in high school, college, or even minor league baseball. For St. Charles native Jerry Kleeschulte, baseball will forever be a part of his life – and his life will forever be a part of baseball.
In 1997, Kleeschulte was inducted into the St. Charles Sports Hall of Fame, thanks to his lifetime of success in baseball. Then, in 2017, he was inducted into the St. Louis Amateur Baseball Hall of Fame. For Kleeschulte, it’s an honor to be inducted into both.
“My name came up in 1997 for St. Charles, and it was really neat for me. I’m a baseball nut you might say,” said Kleeschulte. “In my earlier years – in grade school – we got together to play and I spent most of my summers playing ball at Blanchette Park. My aunt lived a mile away.”
His love of the game was evident early on.
“I always told my aunt I loved playing ball. It all worked out pretty well,” he said. “When your name is picked (for the Hall of Fame) and everything comes to a head, that felt pretty nice. It’s a good feeling.”
Like lots of parents, Kleeschulte’s mother wasn’t sure why he spent so much time playing the game. “She would always ask ‘why do you keep doing that’ until at some point she realized it was all worthwhile,” he said.
Success came early for Kleeschulte, who made his mark playing third base in the Eastern Missouri Baseball Association (EMBA) from 1958-1973. He played at the Cottleville & Harvester Athletic Association (C & H) from 1963-1973 and for Dardenne from 1958-1962. In that time, he was selected to four EMBA All-Star teams with Dardenne and six with C & H.
For his outstanding play at C & H, he was presented the Albert Banze Award as well as the Ham Hemsath Award.
“I played high school ball, too. I was in the first freshman class at Duchesne High School,” said Kleeschulte. “We had quite a few winning teams.”
And Kleeschulte was a big part of that winning, having been a starter for all four years at Duchesne. He won the league MVP award in 1959 and 1960, and was named to the Catholic All-Star team three times. He also played American Legion from 1958-1960 and was an All-Star in 1959.
From 1960-1961, Kleeschulte played third base in the Ban Johnson League. He went on to serve three years on the Board of Directors of the St. Charles Junior Baseball Association, was president, vice-president, and board member for the Duchesne High School Men’s Club Athletic Association, and was a coach in the St. Charles Baseball Association for eight years. He currently serves on the Board of Directors for the St. Louis Amateur Baseball Hall of Fame.
Success runs in the family, it turns out. Jerry Kleeschulte was quick to point out that his brother, Dick, was inducted into the St. Charles Sports Hall of Fame in 1999. Dick passed away in 2015.
If you’re interested in visiting the St. Louis Amateur Baseball Hall of Fame, head down to Busch Stadium and check it out. There is a display between sections 138 and 140 on the lower concourse.
“It’s enclosed in glass and is really top notch,” said Kleeschulte. “We rotate items in there to not let it get stagnant. And right in the middle of it there’s a rotating display of all of the players names who have been inducted.”
Kleeschulte is also happy with the display in St. Charles. “That one turned out pretty decent, too,” he said.
Kleeschulte said he feels “everything has turned out great for me. I didn’t play ball on a college team, but I married Mary when I was 18 and I kept playing ball. I was the only guy on the team who was married.”
o visit the St. Charles Amateur Sports Hall of Fame, you can visit the Heritage Museum, located at 1630 Heritage Landing in St. Peters.