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A Salute To The Earl Of Oconomowoc

By Dan Flaherty | 9/18/2015
It's a familiar sight at Roosevelt Field on a summer Sunday afternoon. Earl Eppler hitches up his suspenders, finds himself a good seat at or around home plate and settles in to watch the Oconomowoc Five-O's. Anyone who has been around the Five-O's, knows Earl - even if they don't know him by name, they know him by his presence. He's always there to support the O's, and when necessary, to work an umpire over a bit.

Nor is this restricted to Roosevelt Field. Earl is a familiar sight at road games, and fans around the Western Division, from Brookfield to Hartland would recognize him when Oconomowoc comes to town.

This is not something new to baseball in this area. Earl Eppler has spent the better part of his adult life competing in, and serving the amateur baseball community of Oconomowoc and the surrounding area.

It was 1958, with the Milwaukee Braves in the middle of two successive National League pennant runs, that Earl's career began in Ixonia. A talented young catcher, he played both behind the plate and in the outfield in a career that ran through 1973 in Ixonia and later included stints in North Lake, Stone Bank and right here in Oconomowoc.

Towards the end of his career in Ixonia, he took the managerial reins and ran the team for six seasons. Overall, he was a part of four division title winners and made five All-Star Games. His career batting average was a sparkling .370. For the record, that's four points higher than the career major league leader, Ty Cobb. In fairness, Cobb hit in the Dead Ball Era, something that comes out in baseball circles whenever those ferocious - "Would You Take Earl Eppler Or Ty Cobb?" debates break out.

Those of us who know Earl today know that he's not shy about letting Blue know his opinion, and he has a lot of experience to back him up. Once his playing career was done, Earl spent about a decade working behind the plate and on the bases before finally stepping away from the field in the early 1990s. In 1991, he received the Meritorious Award from the Land O'Lakes League.

He might have been away from the field, but Earl didn't stop supporting baseball. A successful businessman who handled the installation of Ray Allen's pinball machine and air hockey table when the great basketball star was in Milwaukee, Earl has shared the wealth, donating generously to the Five-O's. His legacy continued with his son Mike, who played for Five-O's championship teams in 1999 and 2007 (scoring the winning run in the 2007 victory over Lannon that clinched a division), and whose ability to take the ball the other way remains part of team legend.

Earl's career received its crowning achievement in 2000 when he was inducted into the Land O'Lakes Hall Of Fame. There is a plaque honoring him at the Roosevelt Field concession stand, reflecting the fact he is an institution in amateur baseball in this area. In the kingdom that is Oconomowoc baseball, we can say that this earl is truly royalty.

The Five O's are proud to announce that Earl has received the 2015 Fan of the Year award which will be presented at the Western Division Banquet.