Big Dave Hall Lands in the LCC Hall of Fame

‘Hall’ of Fame: Hall Slugged NWAC Records That Still Stand Before Going Pro

By Jordan Nailon

jnailon@chronline.com

Dave Hall isn’t the type of guy to bring up his laundry list of accomplishments on the baseball diamond — You just have to twist his arm a little.

Although he’d be the last one to bring it up, Hall recently added another accolade to his hefty collection when he was inducted into the Lower Columbia College Hall of Fame on Feb. 2.

Hall, a former Lewis County prep standout and longtime owner of Willie’s Sports Shop in downtown Centralia, starred for the Red Devils baseball team in 1978-79. He then went on to play a season at Gonzaga University before embarking on a four-year term in minor league baseball with the Cincinnati Reds organization.

Before making waves on the collegiate and professional stage Hall was mashing baseballs and otherwise dominating the playing field as an Onalaska Logger. However, when the Loggers football program was given the ax before his senior season Hall and about a dozen of his teammates decided to transfer to other schools and wound up scattershot around the county.

“We were like horse manure. We were spread everywhere,” said Hall while walking down memory lane without leaving the comfort of his sports shop.

After completing his four year stint on the local prep sports circuit Hall says he nearly signed on to play ball for Centralia College. But before he could ink his name with the Trailblazers his old coach from Onalaska, Scott Carnahan, was tabbed as the new skipper at Lower Columbia. Hall said that his established relationship with Carnahan (another LCC HOF member) was enough to redirect his path about fifty miles south.

“I just went to play ball. I didn’t have any big ambitions,” said Hall of his decision to follow his baseball path down to Longview.

Hall noted that a pair of fellow Lewis County baseball stalwarts, Jeff Spencer of Centralia and Ross Cox of W.F. West, also chose to take I-5 down to Lower Columbia. Adding to the local flavor on that squad was Toledo’s own Rob Hippi, who was at the beginning of his decades long stint as pitching coach for LCC that ultimately landed him in the NWAC Coaches Hall of Fame.

Freshly married to his wife Nancy, the Hall’s first rented a place in Kelso and commuted over the Cowlitz River to the LCC campus. The next year they got a place closer to campus before reversing course back over the bridge.

“Somebody kept trying to steal my gas so we moved back to Kelso,” Hall said through his trademark chuckle.

In his two years with the Red Devils Hall helped to secure a pair of second place finishes in the NWAC tournament. Hall’s freshman year the team went 30-11 to win a division title. The next year they finished 31-11 to claim another division title but again came up one game short of their ultimate goal.

Hall was even named MVP of the NWAC Tournament in 1979 when he set the record for most hits (16), homeruns (5), and at bats (29). Only the home run record has fallen in the last four decades and one might think that would be enough to erase the sting of those championship defeats, but that someone would be wrong.

To help explain his feelings Hall points to the wall of his shop. There, above the batting gloves and athletic cups, is a quote attributed to Hall’s old friend and longtime Columbia Basin College head coach, Pete Doumit. That quote, painted big and bold in black and white, reads, “Games won and lost are soon forgotten, but the kind of teammate you are never will be.”

Still, those words only go so far to serve as a tonic to the heartburn of defeat in a competitor like Hall.

“That’s the funny thing about that quote. Losses are forgotten, but not THAT one! Not yet anyway,” said Hall as he laughed through the disappointment. “I hope I was that kind of teammate on the teams that I played on.”

Hall says he was first contacted about his Hall of Fame induction by LCC Athletic Director, Kirc Roland. He is also grateful to LCC President, Chris Bailey, for helping to push his candidacy along.

Roland was full of high praise for Hall, even when stacking his resume up against the who’s who of NWAC championship winning talent that has made its way across David Story Field over the years. In an email Roland called Hall “one of the great hitters in the storied LCC baseball program.”

Speaking over the phone, Roland didn’t mince words when speaking of Hall’s prowess during his days as a big bopper for the Red Devils.

“Just looking at the stats and talking to (Coach) Carny it was obvious that he was the real deal, I mean this guy could rake,” explained Roland. “It’s well deserved. He had a great career at LCC and a good minor league stint.”

Roland said he made a surprise stop into Willie’s Sports Shop earlier this winter to deliver the news that Hall had been selected for the LCC Hall of Fame.

“He had just gotten back from a hunting trip so I think he was kind of blown away by my shared friends and knowledge of his career,” said Roland, who teased Hall for selling Trailblazer gear but no Red Devil apparel. “He’s a humble great guy but he could hit the ball. Just a great player. I’ve always had a healthy respect for guys like that who go big time and then come back home to give back to their community.”

Since old rivalries never really die Hall is always keen to take a friendly jab at the program just down the road from his shop in the Hub City.

“They were tough back when we played them. This is a big baseball community and I don’t see why they can’t be again,” said Hall of Centralia College. “I always give the college kids crap when they come in here. ‘Aw, you’re Red Devil bait this week!’ I’m always betting pops with them and trying to get them to do better.”

After his two years at LCC Hall spent a year at Gonzaga. That team wound up ranked ninth in the nation after losing in the regional round to a University of Arizona team anchored by Terry Francona that went on to win the the national title. He was then drafted in the 27th round of the amatuer draft by the Cincinnati Reds and quickly embarked on his professional campaign.

Hall was first assigned to the Eugene Emeralds in low A ball before advancing to the Midwestern League for two seasons with the Cedar Rapids Reds. His final year in the organization he played for the Tampa Tarpons (“It’s a fish!”) in the Florida State League. During his four pro seasons he compiled a .277 batting average with 45 home runs and 244 RBIs. Hall said he especially enjoyed his season with the Tarpons.

“The nice thing about the Florida State league is that the parks are big and the air is heavy so 2-0, 3-1, you’re GOING to see a fastball. And that’s what I made my living on,” explained Hall as thoughts of home runs made his pulse and volume rise.

Still, Hall wound up getting pink slipped in the offseason in favor of an up and coming ballplayer named Chris Sabo who also played third base. Sabo went on to win the 1988 Rookie of the Year award with Cincinnati.

Even when the going was good (he made two minor league all-star teams) the living wasn’t that great. As a minor leaguer his starting monthly salary was around $600 with a daily meal stipend of about $7.50. Further complicating matters was the fact that those checks only came during the season, excluding spring training. Still, for those four seasons the life of a pro ballplayer was all that a baseball crazy kid from Onalaska could have ever dreamed of.

Hall noted that during his years as a minor leaguer he developed a close friendship with Scott Terry, who wound up pitching six years in the show primarily with St. Louis. Back when Hall met him, though, Terry was a position player.

“He and I used to go to the ballpark early to take BP together and my wife would be in the outfield shagging,” recalled Hall.

To this day he insists he should receive a scouting credit since he’s the one who first told Reds’ coaches to take a look at his friend on the bump. He said he’d learned just how filthy Terry’s stuff could be during all those ragged rounds of batting practice.

After he was released by the Reds, Hall spent a season playing baseball in Netuno, Italy where he was teammates with Lenny Randle, most famous for attempting to blow a fair ball foul at the Kingdome as a member of the Mariners. Hall then returned stateside for a final spring training fling with the Pittsburgh Pirates.

“I went to spring training with them and it was either make a A team in the southeast or go to Vermont which was their AA club. I was working out on the AA team and I was doing good and I thought, ‘Hey, I’m going to make this AA team!’” remembered Hall. “Nancy was getting ready to come. She had a truck all loaded up and she’s like ‘Which way am I going?’ So I go to Branch (Rickey) and say, ‘Hey, what do I tell my wife? Am I going to Vermont or am I going somewhere in North Carolina?’ And he goes, ‘Ah, just hold off.’ So it got to where spring training was coming to an end and I said, ‘Hey Branch, I’ve got to tell her. She’s left, now she’s at D.C. Do I tell her to take a right, or make a left and head north? North or south? And he goes, ‘Well Dave, this guy came back that was injured and this other guy came back that was injured so we’re not going to have a spot for you.’ And it was like, oh…Time to go get a real job.”

Despite that cold dismissal from the professional ranks of the game that he loves Hall has never let any animosity seep into his heart. He still plays slow pitch softball on the regular and serves as one of the biggest supporters of youth sports in all of Lewis County. He even wears road gray baseball pants every day, no matter the occasion.

“They are the most comfortable pants known to man!” Hall has said. “I wear them on the couch. I wear them to work. I even wear them to vacuum.”

After so many years Hall reserves his largest cache of gratitude for his wife Nancy who has been by his side for every twist of his life in baseball.

“I was never one going out to parties, or wondering where I’d wind up eating dinner. I never had to worry about any of that stuff,” said Hall. “She’s the reason I’m in the Hall of Fame.”

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