By JON GAGNON
Niagara Gazette — The Western New York Softball Hall of Fame will be inducting 13 new members to its hall today. The hall was established in 1965 and currently has over 800 members.
Included in this year’s inductions are Jim Walker of Lewiston and Carl Edholm, a resident of Tonawanda.
Walker was a catcher who played throughout the '60s in Lewiston and has been an active member of the Buffalo community for over 50 years.
Between 1957-61 Walker played basketball for the University at Buffalo.
“Scholarship sports is more of a job than it is fun,” Walker said. “You practice six to seven days a week with high intensity. So softball was a different kind of thing. … It was more relaxing but it was very competitive at the time.”
Walker batted third in the lineup throughout his career, that was highlighted by a unique experience.
“There was a traveling four-man softball team that played exhibition games and their pitcher was the best in the U.S. at the time. He was literally impossible to hit,” Walker said. “He would pitch an inning blindfolded, an inning from second base and at least one batter from center field. I was fortunate to get a homerun off him.”
Walker’s career ended in 1968 and he began a new life as a physical education teacher at Lewiston-Porter. He went on to coach the varsity basketball team for 33 years, varsity football for eight years and retired as the school’s athletic director in 2000.
In 1979 he won the WNY Coach of the Year for football and again in 1985 for basketball. Just last year he retired from his 22-year position as the Section VI boy’s basketball chairman.
After all the accolades Walker has achieved over the years, he was still surprised upon learning of his induction.
“I was shocked really,” Walker said. “I was surprised, pleased and kind of shocked because it goes a long way back. It was great fun and I played with a lot of great players and great guys.”
Edholm played softball for 20 years in the Tonawanda leagues and Tri-Town leagues. His career began as a baseball player, where he pitched at Buffalo State College and made first-team All-SUNYAC his senior season.
After graduation Edholm continued to play baseball but had to give up the sport when he broke the thumb on his pitching hand.
Then his softball career began.
“My buddy asked me to show up for a softball team,” Edholm said. “I started at 28 and finished when I was 48. I played one year of slow pitch softball and couldn’t stand it because it makes everybody a ball player. When you play fast pitch you really have to have skills.”
Edholm’s experience as a pitcher positioned him for success in his softball career, where he started in center field.
“In my first year people took extra bases because the bases are shorter, but I must have had 15 outfield assists because I had such an accurate arm from pitching — accuarate and strong,” Edholm said. “My second year no one ran on me anymore.”
At the plate Edholm was always slated at No. 1 or No. 2 in the lineup. His best season was highlighted by a .564 average without one strikeout. He lacked speed but always put the bat on the ball.
Now at age 63, Edholm is retired after having spent several years as a softball coach at Orchard Park High School and then several years as an umpire.
“I was surprised,” Edholm said of first hearing of his induction. “It means a lot to me, baseball is by far my favorite sport and I enjoy the people who play it.”
The induction will be held at the Woodlawn Fire Hall. Cost of entry is $35 entry per person.