The 1962
Protivin Merchants
One of just eight teams in the State of Iowa to
make it to the State Tournament!
"What Do YOU Want to Know?"
Bill Prochaska

scored 2,124 points during his
4 year varsity basketball career at
Rudolphinum High School in Protivin.
He broke the state scoring  record in
1955 with no fanfare.
Click the  photo
or here for more photos, video and an
interview with Bill Prochaska about The
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The uniform "modeled" here
is on loan from The Smithsonian
(actually the Julius Shileny Family).
It's the one worn in 1962 by
Julius Shileny.  The hat
is one from a later Protvin team.
They were the
Protivin Merchants

Protivin Merchants that we recall
from 1962 that sponsored uniforms

Clet Koshatka Farm Equipment
Fencl Oil & LP
(top 2 we believe only 2 still in
existence today)

Lensing Livestock
Bohemian Savings Bank
Dostal Insurance
Vrba's Store
Kalishek's Store
Prochaska's Tavern
Kalishek's Tavern
Bernard's Tavern
Andera's Tavern
Polashek's Meat Market
Chyle Garage
Adam's DX
Svoboda Produce
Jim Koshatka Service Station
Protivin Implement
Pecinovsky's Barber Shop
Louie Schmitt's Barber Shop
Bouska Construction
Protivin Creamery

(If we missed anyone, please let us
Prochaska's Tavern

See video of the demolition and
story and photos about Prochaska's
1962 State Tournament Team

Pitcher-Sonny Kalishek
Catcher-Bill Prochaska
1B-Bob Howard
2B-Wayne Kreitzer
SS-Jim Prochaska
3B-Roger Croell
LF-Norman Ira
CF-Bernie Kerian
RF-Charlie Frana

Manager-Julius Shileny
Reserves: Jack Lynch, Steve
Bouska, Billy Chiak
John Svoboda  (Scorebook)
Ron Novotny (Bat Boy)
Gerry Pecinovsky (Umpire in

Picked up for State Tournament
From Decorah-Bernie Ramlo
From Cresco-Dave Lundak
If there are any omissions, please
let us know
Please share any photos or
memories you have from the
1962 team
1962 Team Goes to State

It really isn't that big of a stretch to compare what happened to the
1962 Protivin Fast Pitch Softball Team to what happened in 1954
to Milan High School in Indiana depicted in the movie "Hoosiers".

It was a small town up against the much larger towns and
metropolitan areas to qualify for a State Tournament.

The excitement around the small town of Protivin, population of
barely over 300 in the summer of '62 was very much like we saw
in the movie.

Going to a men's fast pitch softball game was the thing to do.  
Some might even say the only thing to do in Protivin in 1962.

It definitely is not a stretch to compare the best crowd seen at the
ball park during Czech Days to a big game against a team from
Cresco in the middle of the week back in 1962.  It was always
standing room only.  That is if you were tall enough to stand and
see over the crowd.  The ball yard was jam packed.

A typical scenario would go something like this.  The man of the
farm would be in town conducting some "business".  He would see
the sign hanging on the corner by Vrba's Store across from The
Gym and Bohemian Savings Bank that simply said "Softball
Tonight".  He would "have to" stop in one of the four taverns to
find out who the Merchants were playing and what time the game
started.  After the "proper" amount of conversation (and maybe a
beer or 2) he would head home and proclaim to the lady of the
farm, "Pop Up some Pop Corn and make some Kool-Aid we're
taking the kids into town tonight The Merchants are playing
Tuchek;'s from Cresco".

The park would be crowded.  Cars lined the outfield fence.

The boys and sometimes girls would line the area in front of the
trees just Northeast of "The Shack" with the hopes of getting a
foul ball so they could turn it in for a nickel.  With that nickel they
could get a big candy bar, if they got 2 foul balls they could get a
pop and if they were lucky enough to get 3 that night they could
get a pop and a candy bar.

The majority chose that area because they knew with Sonny
Kalishek pitching the hitters would be tardy and a lot of foul balls
would come that way.

Sometimes if they were sharp enough they would sneak away
toward right field when they noticed that Bob Howard was coming
up.  Howard was a left handed hitter and usually was good for at
least 1 home run during a double-header.

They might do the same to left when it was time for Roger Croell,
Bill Prochaska, or Sonny to bat because they knew chances were
they would hit one into Bouska's Cornfield beyond the left field

Most of the time it was great fun for everyone, but there could be
an occasional fight for that foul ball and the nickel it represented.

If you were lucky enough to be "The Chosen One" who was to
hang the numbers on the scoreboard in right center that night you
already knew you had your 15 cents earned that you would no
doubt turn in for the pop and candy bar and if no one was headed
beyond the right field fence when Howard came up and he hit one
you would be the first one there and pick up a "bonus" nickel.

The economy was pretty good for young boys in 1962 Protivin.

In 1962 the team made it even more magical for everyone by
qualifying for the Men's Fast Pitch Softball Tournament.  There
was an unreal feeling of pride knowing your heroes of the summer
were among the best in the state.  You were proud your town of
303 would be in the same tournament with teams from Des
Moines, Sioux City, Cedar Rapids, Davenport, and other much
larger towns.

Only 8 teams in all qualified in a time when there was only 1 class
and several teams in places like Cresco, Waterloo, Oelwein,
Mason City, and Decorah.

The Protivin team that year qualified by winning the district
tournament in Oelwein and moving on to the substate in Mason
City, before on to Des Moines for state.

The State Tournament was such a big deal in those days that The
Des Moines Register would send several reporters and
photographers to cover it.

Protivin in its first game was pitted against a pitcher by the name
of LeRoy Carlson who had already become a legend because of
how hard he threw.  Protivin had a pretty good one themselves in
Sonny Kalishek who it was believed was throwing somewhere
around 100 miles an hour.

As expected it was a pitcher's duel between two of the finest in the
Upper Midwest.

Here's where the story gets a little hazy since I have heard several
different versions of what happened but all had the same 1-0
score in favor of Sioux City.

I did see the score book  in the late 60s so I will go with the
version that most closely resembles what I remember seeing.

The game was 0-0 at the end of 7 innings.  In the top of the eight,
Sioux City scored the only run of the game on a throwing error on
a bunt play.

In the bottom of the eight, the first two Merchants went down
easily and with two outs Bill Prochaska hit a ball to the deepest
part of the park that was caught just inches from tying the game.

The next day on the front page of the famous Des Moines
Register Peach Page was a large photo of Sonny Kalishek
snaring a line drive.  A pretty big deal for the folks back in Protivin.

It truly was a magical season that spring boarded the legend of
the Town of Protivin as a softball power for many years to come.  

The town in the 60s and into the early 70s always took pride in
the fact that every player had to be connected with the town in
some way.  No ringers allowed!

If you're wondering why Bud Svoboda and Larry Svoboda were
not part of the '62 team its because they were serving their
country that year, but they would both be a major part of the team
that qualified again in 1965 and finished third when there was still
only 1 class.  Dave Bouska is another player from aorund that
time from Protivin that was serving his country in 1962.

In 1972 Protivin would again be represented in a State
Tournament, but it was after classes were formed and it was the
"B" State.

And the fast pitch game in Protivin like most places would soon
die, but the memories of 1962 and beyond live on.
The 1962 Team is
being honored
this year at Czech
Days on
Evening August 18
at around 6:30 at
The Protivin Ball
 All members
and families
should gather on
the Novotny
Property by the
Gazebo adjacent
to The Ball Park!
Comments from Hall Of Fame
Pitcher Denny Linderbaum

"The story reminds me so much
about what it was like in Cresco
also.  There'd be a sign on Highway
9 in Cresco that said "Ballgame
tonight" and the crowds would be
great.   Tuchek's was a favorite
gathering spot for all of us high
schoolers in the 1960's.

I remember playing in Protivin in
front of those big crowds.  It was
such a great atmosphere and on
the weekend when there was a
tourney, there were always plenty
of brats and beers afterwards.  The
people there loved softball and
after the games, they treated
opposing players like long lost
friends.  I considered Sonny
Kalishek and his brother Gary
(sadly gone now), Randy and his
brother Mo and  other Protivin
players like Steve Mrachek, Bill
Prochaska (I think he was still
playing in the 1970's) as good
friends.  We had a lot of fun both
competing and sharing a few cold
ones and laughs after the games.

One weekend in 1975 Ed White
asked me to come up to Protivin to
play on a team he put together for
a late season tourney (I was his
third choice behind Al Rausch and
Gregg Bosch, my teammate
pitchers on Welty Way that year
and they couldn't come) and if
memory serves me correctly, our
team came out of the loser's
bracket to beat Joe Wedeking
twice in the finals.  I believe I
threw all of the games and Eddie,
true to form, told me afterwards,
"Well, Shanks, I guess you are
pretty good.  Lot better than I
thought."  Shanks was yet another
nickname that the Welty guys gave
me -- it eventually was changed to
Crank and of course LJ to Peter
and many others.

But the people in Protivin loved
the games.  They loved softball
and Sonny was like a god to them.  
I knew that he was good in the
1970's when I saw him, but I didn't
realize how good he was in the
decade before I played against
him.  He threw it hard, had a great
knuckleball and yes, he did hit two
HR's off me in one game.  I don't
remember too many people who
did that -- I'm sure there were

At any rate, what great memories.  I
have absolutely no regrets having
played the game for so many years.
 And Protivin embodied everything
that was good about the game.  
Great competition, great friends
and great fans.

Thanks for sharing all of this,
Randy.  I wish I could be in Protivin
on August 18 to celebrate the 1962
team with you guys.  One of our
best friends is getting married that
afternoon so it's not possible.  But
I hope that people in the IA HOF
agree with me that Sonny should
be in our 2012 class of new Hall of
Famers.  That would be great for
him and Protivin."
Comments from Gerry Pecinovsky

"You have me listed as Business
Manager.  That is not correct.  
Prochaska was the business
, at best I was his

Jim would line up all the
tournaments which included the
16-team invitational tournament.  
That was the big one each season.  
We would have teams come from
LaCrosse, Waterloo, Rochester,
Charles City, Marshalltown, etc.
plus local teams from Cresco,
Decorah, Oelwein, Clarksville,
Hawkeye, etc.  In addition, there
were all day 8-team tournaments.  
Playing teams like these is how the
Protivin Merchants honed their
skills preparing them for the State

Jim would also order all equipment
needed (balls, bats, score books,
etc.), scheduled teams to play
(there was no league, every team
had to be scheduled individually),
maintained the ball diamond
(dragging the field before games,
lining the field, placing the bases,
adding gravel as needed, etc.).  I
would help Jim but Jim organized

I was home plate umpire.  I was
always in the "hot seat" with the  
real umpires outside the fence like
Frank Novak, Adam Kalishek, Ed
Stika, and others."

Editor's Note:

According to Chuck Ollendieck of
Cresco he used to tell his
teammates as they entered the
parking lot in Protivin,
already behind 2-0".  
According to
Chuck, Cresco teams never got
too many calls in Protvin.

Chuck, like so many Cresco
players, was a favorite in Protivin
among the players and fans.
Sonny Kalishek Elected
to the Hall-of-Fame

Sonny Kalishek who pitched
Protivin to the state tournament in
1962 and was one of the most
feared pitchers and hitters for
many years was elected to the HOF
August 11, 2012.  

He will be inducted this fall.

Below is the resume submitted on
Sonny's behalf which was used for
consideration into the HOF

(Page down for Resume)

(A copy of the Press Relese to
other members of the media
announcing Sonny's Selection)

Protivin’s  Sonny Kalishek
elected to Hall-Of-Fame

Sonny Kalishek who was one of
the most feared pitchers and
hitters in the Upper Midwest from
the 1950s through the 1980s has
been elected to the Iowa Fast-
Pitch Softball Hall-of-Fame.

Kalishek now of New Hampton was
elected this past weekend by the
HOF committee during its annual
meeting.  He will be inducted this
fall in the ceremony.  The time and
place will be named at a later time.

Kalishek spent the majority of his
time playing for the Protivin
Merchants and pitched them to the
state tournament in 1962 and
1972.  He also pitched his team to
the European Championship in
1965 while serving his country in
the military in Germany.   

Kalishek also played for teams
from Cresco, St. Lucas, Frederika,
and also played some for Larry
Lange Ford out of Cedar Falls
during his Hall-Of-Fame career .

Kalishek was overjoyed with the
news  and said, “If it wasn’t for all
the great players I played with
during the years in Protivin and
everywhere else this would have
never happened.”

During the 1960s and 70s, Kalishek
was one of the top players in the
state.  He is one of the few that
ever combined the ability to not
only shut you down with 100 mph
fast-balls and a deadly knuckle-ball
from the pitching rubber, but he
also was a top hitter smashing
over 400 home runs during his

He had a pitching record of 815-
147 with 401 home runs against
competition that was among the
best in the Upper Midwest during
the majority of his career.
Comments from Bob Howard

"Just had to pass on some
remembrances of my time at
Protivin.  I was the first lay teacher
employed at Rudolphinum H. S.  Fr.
Skluzacek hired me in the spring
of 1961 at Loras College.  I was a
social studies major but when I
reported in August, I was informed
that I would teach accounting for
awhile as the nun who taught that
was still in Ireland.
I rented a room with Louis and
Anna Novak for a modest amount.  
So we started the school year and I
was a raw rookie.  I think Sr.
Celinia was the principal and Fr .
Clement Burke  was the Asst.
Within the first few weeks, I was
invited to play softball with the
Protivin Merchants.  So I became
acquainted with Julius Shileny,
Norman Ira, Bernie Kerian,Moe
Novotny, Jim Prochaska, Roger
Croell, Jim Balik,and the rest of the
Fast Pitch Softball Resume of Clayton
“Sonny” Kalishek
Career mainly in Protivin, Iowa (Now of New Hampton,

It was 1956 and the regular pitcher for the Protivin men’s fast
pitch team was called to the military.  Protivin was part of a highly
competitive league in Northern Iowa and Manager Julius Shileny
had no idea what to do, so he had all the players warm up
pitching before the game against Puritan of Cresco a team full of
top hitters.

A strong young boy of 14 caught the eye of Shileny and Shileny
told the youth, “You’re going to pitch tonight”.  The young lad said
to Shileny, “I don’t know if I can do it”.   Shileny responded, “If you’
re going to play on this team, you’re going to do what I tell you”

The Protivin team won that game 7-2 and the opposing manager
said to Shileny, “Your boy is not very good”.   Shileny responded,
“But he was good enough to beat you”

The 14 year old boy was Clayton “Sonny” Kalishek.  The rest as
they say is history.
Kalishek got a lot better and would go on and win over 800 games
in the next  25 years and not only pitch his team from a town of
just over 300 to the state tournament, but also pitched his military
team to a European Championship in 1965, while in the Army in

Kalishek’s fast-pitch softball career was not only limited to some
amazing exploits from the pitching rubber, but he was also one of
the most feared hitters of his era cracking over 400 Home Runs
while maintaining a batting average of over .300 during his career.

Kalishek’s arsenal of pitches included deadly rise balls and drop
balls clocked by an engineer from McDonald-Douglas, using some
sophisticated equipment, at 96 mph in 1963. Many who faced
Kalishek said he threw as hard or harder than pitchers who
claimed to throw over 100 mph.   He also had an almost unhittable
knuckle-ball that when the wind was right he could almost
exclusively get by with it.

Kalishek’s pre-military career in Iowa was highlighted when he
pitched his Protivin team population 302 to the State Tournament
in 1962.  In those days, there was one class and one state
tournament limited to 8 teams.  At the state tournament, Kalishek
locked horns with Hall-of-Fame pitcher Leroy Carlson of Sioux
City.  At the end of regulation neither team had scored a run
against the opposing team’s fire baller.   The only run of the game
scored on an error on a bunt play in the eighth inning and Protivin
fell, 1-0.  The game ended with a runner on and a drive off the bat
of Bill Prochaska (later the coach/AD at Upper Iowa for over 30
years) to the deepest part of the park caught by the Sioux City
outfielder right at the fence.  The 1962 Protivin team also included
Bernie Kerian in centerfield the father of hall-of-famer Steve

From 1964-1966, Kalishek was stationed in Germany and was
considered one of the top if not THE Top fast pitch pitcher in
Europe.  He pitched his team to the European Championship in
1965 and was on the way to doing it again in 1966 when he was
transferred back to the states.

He returned home and in 1967 picked up where he left off in
Iowa.  Over the next several years though still one of the best
pitchers in the Upper Midwest he would suffer through some arm
problems and would play first base much of the time where he let
his bat do the talking with long home runs.

In the late 60s and early 70s he was recruited by Larry Lange
Ford out of Cedar Falls to be a regular.  They had a job and
everything all lined up for “Sonny”, but because of commitment to
the family business at home, Kalishek was unable to play on a full-
time basis.

He still had some big moments with Larry Lange including a
pitching duel win over Jerry Ralfs of Welty Way in 1970.
In 1971, while pitching for Protivin, Kalishek pitched and hit his
team to victory in a duel with Hall-Of-Famer Denny Linderbaum.  
In the early season game, Kalishek hit 2 2 run home runs
accounting for all his team’s runs in a 4-3 victory.  The team from
Cresco also included two other Hall-of-Famers, Jim Soverign and
Al Rausch.  

Mainly because of Kalishek, the team though from a small town
made up of local young players, never shied away from the
toughest competition they could find.    In 1972, through the first 8
games of the season, 4 double-headers against the defending
Wisconsin State Champs, the runner-up in Wisconsin and the
runner-up in Minnesota, and the team that finished third in Iowa,
the team was 4-4, but 4-2 in games Kalishek played and 3-0 in
games he pitched.  In addition, Kalishek had 3 home runs in the 6
games against the best competition in the 3 states.

The 1972 season was also highlighted with another trip to the
state tournament for Kalishek and Protivin, the third in 10 years.  
Also, during that season, Kalishek dueled against Clear Lake
“Buttr Top” the team that eventually ended up tenth in the country
and lost to them 4 times by 1-run.

The” Kalishek Influence” affected several others from the small
community.  John Svoboda practiced endlessly emulating Kalishek
and was considered one of the top pitchers in Iowa by the time he
graduated from high school in 1966.  Arm problems limited
Svoboda’s pitching career, but he did become a top player in the
Midwest as an outfielder for Larry Lange of Cedar Falls and
teams out of Kansas City.  Kalishek also had two younger
brothers that became top fast-pitch players; Gary who was a
tremendous outfielder and hitter and Joe who caught and played
third, while developing into a feared hitter.

The Sonny Kalishek influence can also be seen in the
development of top pitchers out of Protivin in the girl’s high school
game.  Three girls including Sheryl Vrba, Mary Lensing, and
Meagan Novotny from and around the community won over 135
games in their high school careers making Protivin the only
community of any size in Iowa (and maybe the nation) that can
make such a claim.  In addition, another, Diane Jirak won 99
games.  Kalishek’s influence directly and indirectly affected all of
them in a positive way.

Through the years, Kalishek and Jim Soverign (HOF) from nearby
Cresco had many battles on the softball field, with Kalishek
gaining the upper hand most of the time.  Kalishek would not only
pitch the team to victory, but many times deliver a big blow from
the plate.

Kalishek’s legend was such that during the 60s and 70s in softball
circles in the Tri-State area from Waterloo to Clear Lake from
Austin to Rochester to Winona to LaCrosse to Madison to Prairie
du Chien to Garnavillo to Manchester to Oelwein and all the
softball towns in between, though a popular nickname of the day,
when you said “Sonny” everyone knew who you meant.

It’s also a testament to Kalishek and the teams from Protivin that
during those years even though the top players from the top
teams from the circle mentioned above had trouble pronouncing
the town and most of its player’s names, they didn’t need a map to
know how to get there to play softball.

Sonny now in his 70s is retired and lives in New Hampton where
he still loves to talk about the game.
We have known Sonny for over 50 years and witnessed first-hand
much of what this “Mr. Softball” accomplished on the field and the
influence he has had on others who have achieved in the game.

We are deeply honored for this opportunity to respectfully submit
for consideration:
Clayton “Sonny” Kalishek for the Iowa Fast Pitch Hall of Fame for
the year 2012.


Randy Novotny
(former  fast-pitch player and high school coach)
316 Commercial Ave
Protivin, Iowa  52163
563-569-8242 0r 563-569-8510


Bill Prochaska
(former coach and AD at Upper Iowa University & a Founding
member of Protvin Fast Pitch in the 1950s)
Fayette, Iowa

Career Statistics for Sonny Kalishek
Pitching Career won 815 lost 147 winning pct .847
Home Runs 401
Making the State Tournament back in 1962 was a great
achievement for the Protivin Softball Team.  Only 8 teams
made it out of the entire state and most came from the
major metro areas of Des Moines, Davenport, Cedar Rapids
and Sioux City.

Jim Prochaska in the interview below talks about playing  
in those days and how the town really got behind the team.  
Prochaska also talks about newly elected Hall-of-Fame
pitcher Sonny Kalishek and what he meant to the success
of the team

Budwesier                     Bud Light,
the official beers of Czech Day Coverage on
and the 1962 Protivin Softball Team

Enjoy a Cold One!  But Do Drink Responsibly!
Distributed by Kabrick Distributing, Mason City