Former Turks Player and Manager Inducted into 2018 VBL Hall of Fame

By Jen Kulju
Turks Staff Writer

HARRISONBURG – Bill Burkholder, who played for and managed the Harrisonburg Turks, was inducted into the Valley Baseball League (VBL) Hall of Fame on Sunday, July 8, 2018. Burkholder grew up in Rockingham County and attended Mt. Clinton High School where he played baseball and basketball. He came to the VBL in 1950, and over the next 13 years, played for the Turks, Linville Patriots and Staunton Braves as a pitcher and outfielder.

“I enjoyed it and made a lot of good friends,” says Burkholder of his time in the VBL. His most vivid memory is throwing a no-hitter for the Turks in 1957 the day before he married his wife Pat. “It was thrilling,” recalls Burkholder. “I walked one person and faced 27 batters.”

Burkholder says playing with the Turks was “very exciting” and that “everybody seemed to be after the Turks because they did their share of winning.” “Everybody was after us to beat us. It was a challenge not to let that happen, but it did happen.” Burkholder went on to manage the Turks for three seasons where he won two VBL championships. He also coached the Braves in 1964, and served as the VBL president from 1968-1969 and 1974-1975.

In 1952, Burkholder signed a contact with the New York Giants and spent the summer playing ball in the Tri-State League in Knoxville, Tennessee. He was drafted in the U.S. Army a year later where he played on a post baseball team and got to know future Yankees manager Billy Martin. “I was fortunate to be around him [Martin] for two years,” says Burkholder. “That was a big moment in my life. We were close friends, and I enjoyed knowing him.”

Although Burkholder did not pursue professional baseball when he returned from the service, he speaks positively of the VBL. “College players can come to the VBL and play against fellows of equal or better talent. If you don’t play with or against anybody better than you, you’re not going to get any better. This league gives players good experience, and I am honored to be part of the permanent history of this league.”

As for baseball, it “is still a national pastime,” says Burkholder. “Baseball will be a good game for as long as it is played.”

Former Turk and major league player Billy Sample was also inducted into the 2018 VBL Hall of Fame. Stay tuned for his story next week!