Buena Vista University Athletics will induct the 1968 baseball team into the Hall of Fame this weekend, an NIA College World Series qualifier under legendary coach Jay Beekman, who joined former BVU teams to score points — the 1984 NCAA Division III national champion softball team, the 1975 Boot Hill Bowl football team. ball 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 will be held at 7 p.m. Friday in the Sibans Forum on the BVU campus. The 1968 baseball team and other individual favorites will be announced at halftime of the homecoming football game against the University of Dubuque. Saturday’s game kicks off at 1pm at J. Leslie Rollins Stadium.
“We are thrilled to be a part of the BVU Athletic Hall of Fame,” said 1968 BVU graduate Joe Askoles, a New Jersey native who will be making the trip from his hometown for the weekend celebration. “What a great group of people who were on that team and who were all over Bona Vista. Coming to school at BV was the best decision I ever made.
Ascot played third place in the National Team World Series with a 5-3 victory over Winona State University at Larry “Butch” Bittner’s Memorial Field. Bittner, who played first base and had an 8-1 pitching record that year, spent 14 years in the major leagues playing outfield, first base and even working some ball games. The Pocahontas native died on January 2, 2022, ending a battle with cancer. He was 75 years old.
Bittner and other members of the team earned spots in the BVU Athletics Hall of Fame as individuals. Beckman, a 1942 graduate, He was one of the original members of the Hall of Fame when it was created in 1969. Assistant coach Lanny Grigsby, a 1960 graduate, graduated in 1971.
“Jay Beckman was a second father to me,” said 1969 graduate Doug Smith, who earned All-America honors and was inducted into the BVU Athletics Hall of Fame along with teammates Bittner and Dan Southard. My father, Blair Smith, who coached Jay at Pisgah when he was growing up, died in April 1968. I was very sad. Jay was always very close to me and helped me way beyond the baseball diamond.
The Beavers began that historic season with a three-game fall break road trip against the University of Arkansas. The Beavers have taken two of the three games from the Razorbacks.
“Arkansas played 20 games when we went south,” Ascoles recalled. We took footballs from Coach Beckman and Coach Grigsby at Victory Hall. We loved baseball, but we took it very seriously. We run from Victory Hall to the hospital and back every day. We climbed the ropes and did the basics. When the season starts, we are game ready.
“Coach Beckman was a great coach,” said Denny Dotson, a 1968 graduate who played for the Beavers. He was also a great recruiter and would do anything for you.
Dotson recalled Bittner’s ninth-inning game-winning homer in the bullpen down the left field line to break a 3-3 tie and send the Beavers to the World Series. The Beavers took a 3-0 lead before Bob Johnson’s solo homer in the seventh got a pair of RBIs from Askoles to tie the game. Starter Peter Southard, working just two days rest, retired the final 13 Winona State batters to earn the victory.
In St. Joseph, Mo., the Beavers lost 4-3 to William Jewell College and 7-2 to Georgia Southern University in two games in the College World Series.
“We’ve gotten together a few times over the years and we love coming home,” Smith said. “It’s a great team. Everyone should be very lucky to have such people in their life. Going to BV made me do my job.
Those returning to campus for the festivities look forward to meeting current Beaver baseball student-athletes and catching up with coach Steve Eddy, who has led the program for 22 years. Eddie’s 2022 team won the American Rivers Conference by three games.
“Coach Eddie lets us know how the team is doing every week,” said Askoles, who like Smith and Dotson have spent their entire careers in education. “It’s great to attend a great program that you feel like you had a small part in building. It’s an honor for all of us. We can’t wait to get there.”