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Bob Freels
The Centralia Sports Hall of Fame
2000 Individual Award Winner


Affectionately known as “Mr. Steps”, Freels came to Centralia in 1953 to take a job as principal and teacher at North Wamac School.  Long before arriving on the local scene, Freels was an outstanding athlete at Mascoutah High School. His basketball jersey is retired there and he is a member of the hall of fame there as well. 

He attended the University of Illinois on a basketball scholarship.  In 1947, he left the U of I to sign a baseball contract with the St. Louis Browns as a pitcher. He then began officiating high school basketball games to help make ends meet.

His minor league baseball career began in Belleville in the Illinois State League. He lost his first two games and then reeled off 19 straight victories. After stops in Springfield, Illinois, Muskogee, Oklahoma, and Wichita Falls, Texas, he went to Dayton, Ohio in 1951 in Class A ball. He started the season there at 12-0. 

The next year he moved up to Triple A ball in Toronto. There he suffered an arm injury which ended his hopes of becoming a major league pitcher. That’s when he made his move to Centralia.  

His penchant for calling the walk in basketball earned him the moniker of “Mr. Steps”. During his 42 years of officiating basketball, he had the privilege of calling three IHSA state final tournaments. 

He also spent 25 years as a football official and 40 years as a baseball umpire. In 1979, he umpired 16 major  league baseball games in St. Louis while the regulars were on strike.

In 1990, Freels was inducted into the officials’ section of the IBCA Hall of Fame.



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