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