A surprise honor: Wiley joins Stratton in Legion Hall of Fame induction

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By Todd Martin

Jim Wiley was excited for the late Bobby Stratton to be inducted into the American Legion Baseball Hall of Fame Thursday before his team took the field in the state tournament.

And he knew that "some other guy" was being inducted as well.

He also noticed that some of his old players were in attendance, and that both his sons were there with their families.

"They just told me they came down to watch the games," he said. "I didn't really think much of it. It's the state tournament, and a lot of people just come down to watch."

After listening to the portion of the ceremony for Stratton, Wiley drifted off, probably thinking about his team's game.

"They rattled on for about 10 minutes," he said. "And I didn't really think anything about it. I didn't start listening until they said 'won the (state) championship in '05.' I knew we won the title in 2005, and I thought 'My gosh, they're talking about me.'"

Well, all those friends and family came down to watch some baseball, but they also came to see Wiley join Stratton in the Legion's Baseball Hall of Fame.

"It was a total surprise," he said. "I had no idea. Come to find out, a few people in town knew about it. They really snuck one past me, but I was tickled to death about it."

Wiley started coaching in 1983 and just completed his 26th season at the helm of Shelbyville's Post 37 team. He's had more than 500 wins, "although I don't know how many more," he said.

He's won four state titles spanning three different decades. His first was in his first season in '83, his most recent just a few years ago in 2005, and he won back-to-back titles in 1991 and '92.

So, not only has he been one of the state's longest tenured coaches, he's also been one of its most successful. That first team in 1983 won 37 games and lost just seven.

He's also done scouting work for major league teams, starting out with the Chicago White Sox, then moving on to the Milwaukee Brewers and now with the New York Yankees for the past five years.

He said his face turned red Thursday night when they called his name, but if you were to ask any of the more than 100 players he coached that went on to play in college, or Lee Tinsley -- the former major league player and current first base coach for the Arizona Diamondbacks -- or current MLB pitcher Jon Rauch -- also with the D-backs -- well, they likely wouldn't have been surprised that Wiley was chosen for the honor.

One thing that may have surprised them: "I didn't say a word when I went up there," Wiley said. "I didn't have anything to say."