Ruling class

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Sunday, April 20, 2008
— Every sport is a quilt.

Players, coaches, officials and fans provide the fabric.

Richard Kingsley provided the stitching.

A 1953 Janesville High graduate, Kingsley left an indelible mark on Janesville athletics.

Need proof? Check out his impressive résumé.

As one of the most respected and knowledgeable officials in southern Wisconsin, Kingsley worked more than 5,600 basketball and baseball games in his 42 years of service.

Kingsley coached the Padres to the Janesville Babe Ruth city title for nine straight seasons, and in 1975, he managed Janesville to the Babe Ruth state title.

As Janesville’s American Legion coach for three seasons, Kingsley compiled a 163-23 record, including two state runner-up finishes in 1979 and 1981.

All that came after Kingsley lettered three years on the Bluebird basketball team and became one of the top players on the 7-Up Rockets, a southern Wisconsin traveling fast-pitch team.

Thanks to his many accomplishments—on and off the playing field—Kingsley will be one of five inductees into the Janesville Sports Hall of Fame on Saturday, May 17, at Rotary Gardens.

The day will take on special meaning for Kingsley as he joins his son, Ross, a 1995 inductee.

“It’s going to be very special and very emotional,” Richard said of the induction. “I was lucky to be surrounded by a lot of good people who helped make this possible, especially my family.”

Ron Yoss had the pleasure of working 15 years with his good friend on the baseball diamond. The dynamic duo traveled the state and was one of the most sought-after and respected umpiring crews in Wisconsin.

Yoss claims no one was more prepared or abreast of the rules and nuances of the game than Kingsley.

The WIAA requires all officials to attend rules interpretation meetings before the start of each high school sports season. Kingsley made it a point to host the baseball meetings.

“Rich was first class in everything that he did,” Yoss said. “No one cared more about the kids that were playing the game than Rich, and that’s why he went out of his way to make sure everyone playing the game he was calling got a fair shake.

“I knew early in our umpiring career what kind of a person Rich was.”

In their first year together, Kingsley approached Yoss on the basepath in between innings to discuss a call Yoss had made at first base. The score was 13-0 in the second inning, and Yoss had made a nonchalant “out” call.

“You kind of loafed on that play, didn’t ya?” Yoss recalled Kingsley saying. “After I told him ‘Yes,’ he said that wasn’t being fair to the kids.

“That was Rich’s approach to each and every game, no matter who was playing or what the significance of the game was. That’s why everyone he came in contact with respected him so much because he cared so much about the game and the kids.”

Kingsley, despite the fact that all three of his children—Ross, Rick and Rebecca—graduated from Craig, umpired close to a hundred Craig and Parker baseball games. His attention to detail and hustle on the field earned high praise from former Cougar coach Bob Suter.

“Rich was the epitome of what you would want in an umpire,” Suter said. “I would put him on the same level as Ken Kirby, another former great umpire in our area.

“The greatest compliment I can give Rich is that he always made himself available. If the varsity got rained out, Rich was always willing to pick up a JV or sophomore game if we needed him. He was always there for the kids.

“And I don’t know how many times I called Bonita, his wife, and she would go through his calendar book to see when he was available. It’s a great honor for Rich, and certainly a well-deserved one.”

As a coach, Kingsley had a simple but effective philosophy. Teach fundamentals and make sure that each and every kid had fun.

What makes Kingsley’s nine consecutive Babe Ruth titles even more impressive is the fact that the Padres had the last pick in the draft in each round for eight straight years.

That means Kingsley not only was adept at evaluating talent, but he also knew what to do with the players once he drafted them.

“I always looked for pitchers and catchers first because I felt like those were the two most important positions,” Kingsley said.

“Everybody was given the same opportunity, and as long as each kid got in every game, that’s what mattered most.”

Lonnie Merchant, a 1980 Craig graduate, played for Kingsley for three years in Babe Ruth. Not only did he come to appreciate the teachings of Kingsley, but also he uses many of those same principles today as a youth baseball coach in Indiana.

“Coach Kingsley just taught and taught and taught,” Merchant said. “He wanted to make sure that you knew what was expected of you as a player and as a teammate.”

“He never yelled at a player in front of the team, but he would take you aside and talk to you if weren’t concentrating on the game.

“Details were very important to coach Kingsley. You had to know the count on the batter, how many outs and what the situation was whether you were in the game or on the bench.”

Greg Leuzinger served as an assistant coach to Kingsley for eight years between Babe Ruth and American Legion. He said the little things set Kingsley apart from his coaching peers.

“Dick was a tremendous fundamentalist,” Leuzinger said. “He preached over and over how important it was to execute and not beat yourself. He kept things simple, but no one questioned any decisions he made because he knew the game so well.

“I can’t even begin to describe the amount of respect I have for Dick, not only as a coach but as a human being. He’s a top-notch, class person.”

Kingsley is retired after working 39 years at General Motors. He remains active in the community by volunteering at Rotary Gardens, Meals-On-Wheels, Adams School Breakfast Club and as a valet at Riverview Clinic.

When he’s not volunteering, Kingsley is glued to the radio or television keeping tabs on his beloved Chicago Cubs. Kingsley has attended at least one game a year at Wrigley Field since 1945, and he made it a point to take his Babe Ruth teams every year to the “Friendly Confines.” Kingsley’s lifetime of devotion to the Cubs was rewarded two years ago when he threw out the first pitch in a game against the Cincinnati Reds.

Kingsley certainly blanketed the local sports scene thanks to his passion, devotion and attention to detail in whatever he was involved in.

Last updated: 8:55 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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