The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

December 27, 2012

'Whiz Kids' founder Barnett to be honored


From staff reports

WICHITA, Kan. — The late Walter “Barney” Barnett, who founded the Baxter Springs Whiz Kids, will be among six inductees into the 2013 class of the Kansas Baseball Hall of Fame.

Barnett worked his days in the lead and zinc mines of southeast Kansas and spent the rest of his time coaching the Whiz Kids, a Ban Johnson League powerhouse in the 1940s and 1950s. Whiz Kids players included future New York Yankee stars Mickey Mantle and Ralph Terry.

Terry, a 1994 Kansas Baseball Hall of Fame inductee who pitched in five consecutive World Series for the Yankees, will serve as the banquet’s speaker, which will be at noon on Jan. 26 at the Hillside Christian Church in Wichita.

In addition to Barnett, the 2013 class will include Pat Meares, Chris Wimmer, Jim Deckinger, Paul Roberts and the late John Weitzel. Lee Stevens, a 2012 electee, also will be officially inducted into the hall.

Meares, from Salina, played nine seasons in the major leagues for the Minnesota Twins and Pittsburgh Pirates. He helped Wichita State to the 1989 College World Series championship.

Wimmer, from Wichita, was a member of the 1992 USA Olympic Team and was a two-time All-American for Wichita State.

Deckinger, from Wichita, was the most successful high school coach in Greater Wichita Athletic League history. His 1978 Southeast High team won a mythical national championship. His teams won 10 GWAL titles and five state championships.

Roberts was a fixture of Wichita baseball for more than seven decades, starting in the 1930s at Island Park until he retired from Lawrence Dumont-Stadium in 2008.

Weitzel, from LaCrosse, sponsored teams in the Victory League in the 1950s and 1960s. The John Weitzel Cowboys won the 1958 state baseball tournament and became one of Weitzel’s many teams that played in the National Baseball Congress World Series.

Stevens was a first-round pick out of Lawrence High School in 1986 and later played 10 years in the majors. He hit at least 20 home runs for five straight seasons.

Tickets for the banquet on Jan. 26 are $15 and can be purchased by calling Paul Savage at 316-393-1164. Prior to the banquet, there will be a free reception from 10:30-11:30 a.m. at the Wichita Sports Hall of Fame.