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When Mike Spencer and Jack Fischer are inducted into the Tell City High School Athletic Hall of Fame Saturday, some men still in their 30s who played for both will likely attend.
I’m pretty sure Chris Spencer will be there. He was the star running back when Fischer coached Tell City’s eighth grade team to a conference title in 1988 and then set several Tell City rushing records while playing for his father the next four years.
Not many younger fans know much about Norm Kramer, though. He graduated from Tell City in 1942 and last coached in Tell City in 1960, helping the Marksmen win their first two basketball regional titles.
And since he died in 1999, he won’t be able to talk about his career himself at the induction ceremony 6 p.m. Saturday in the Tell City auditorium.
But his son, Steve, will speak in his behalf. And he knows many interesting stories from his dad’s career that really haven’t been recorded anywhere yet.
Even Baseball-Reference.com, which tries to list the complete professional statistics of anyone who ever played baseball in the major or minor leagues, apparently has a gap in Kramer’s record.
It does not list him ever playing for Terre Haute when it was a farm team for the Philadelphia Phillies. But Steve Kramer said his dad told him stories about playing for that team and showed him a team photo (which Steve now has) to prove it.
Kramer’s minor league teammates included Earl Weaver, who became a Hall of Fame manager for the Baltimore Orioles, and Ned Garver, who became an all-star pitcher for the St. Louis Browns (the team that later became the Orioles) in 1950.
Kramer was likely not the hardest thrower on any of his minor league teams, as he did not have an overpowering fastball.
“He was not a big guy,” said Steve. “But he had a good screwball and the most wicked knuckleball—it dropped about 11⁄2 feet.”
Steve Kramer played college baseball at Bowling Green State University (one of his teammates there was future all-star pitcher Orel Hershiser). But even when he was in college and Norm was long retired, Steve still had difficulty hitting his dad’s knuckleball.
Steve likely inherited some of his dad’s talent. But Norm also nurtured Steve’s talent by building a batting cage in their backyard when Steve was a youngster. It was such a nice facility that Steve’s high school baseball team sometimes held its practices there.
Norm Kramer became the head basketball coach at Southwestern High School after leaving Tell City. But Steve said his dad remained a Tell City fan, commenting several times on how strong Tell City’s 1972-73 basketball team was.