Asking Malcolm Wendt which motorcycle hillclimbing championship was his favorite is a lot like asking a parent to choose his or her favorite child.
Wendt, a York County native, was the top pro rider in the profession for eight years and won seven national championships between the United States and Canada.
During his reign of dominance from 1964 until 1975, Wendt won titles in all three classifications -- A, B and C. That makes "Beese," as his friends and family affectionately call him, perhaps the only hillclimber to ever to pull off that hat trick.
An inspector at the Harley-Davidson plant here in York for more than 35 years, Wendt still remains involved in the sport he loves. He's a life-long member of the White Rose Motorcycle Club and the North York Liberty Fire Department. He also stays involved with the famous Jefferson Hillclimb, which he calls one of the better ones in the nation.
His strong dedication and success in the sport earned Wendt, now 75, a spot in the York Area Sports Hall of Fame. He was officially inducted on Sunday at Sovereign Bank Stadium before that night's contest between the York Revolution and Long Island Ducks.
We caught up with Wendt recently for this edition of Sports Q&A.
How did you find out you were elected into the York Area Sports Hall of Fame and how did that make you feel?
"I was notified by Charles Jacobs, who I think is in charge of the Hall of Fame. I was really honored. It was really a great accomplishment for my life."
I see you've won a lot of championships during your career. Which one stands out the most?
"I won quite a few championships, seven of them. They were national pro championships and they all stand out. There were a lot of memories to them, over a lot of years I competed for them, over 30 years, and I'd say for about 20 of them I was in the top five. And I won back-to-back nationals riding an Indian Scout and I also went to Canada and won. I won back-to-back in the United States and in Canada. Then I moved up to Class A and I won both classes in the United States and in Canada. And they are all, at the time, there was nothing any greater than to be on top and to be winning. So I can't pick any one over the other."
So there are differ ent classifications? How does that work?
"It has changed over the years. It was originally three classes -- Class A, Class B and Class C. Class C was a gasoline hillclimber. Class B was with a 145 cubic-inch motor. If you won Class B, you had one year to defend your title and then after that you had to move up the Class A, which I did. I won back-to-back (Class B) nationals and then I moved up. Out of all three classes, I won in all three classes and I'm the only person out there today that has ever won in all three classes."
What are the specs with Class A?
"Class A is the bigger class of motors. Class A was an 800 cubic-inch motor, which was the same as the biggest motors that we had. They changed it now and have a different wording for it now. Originally it was Class A, Class B and Class C and I actually won pro national championships in all three classes."
How did you get involved in hillclimb ing?
"I started racing stock cars. I drove down in Baltimore. At the time, the money and everything was sort of way over my head. I got into motorcycle hillclimbing through Howard Mitzel, who was known as the old man on the mountain here in York County. I started back about 1959."
So what goes into motorcycle hillclimb ing that the casual ob server may not know?
"Every place you go is different. There's a whole circuit of different places. They vary in size anywhere from 300 to 2,000 feet. The big thing is being focused on what you're going to do, because you don't have a lot of time to do it. You spend most of the week preparing to go, working on the motor so that there's no mistakes. To win, you can't make any mistakes. It's a tough competition and everybody wants to be No. 1."
So how many others did you compete against in these na tional championships?
"Well it varies. When I won the Canadian National Championship there was a crowd of 12,000 there and there were 120 professional riders from the United States and Canada."
How did you get your nickname "Beese?"
"That started before all of this. I rode a BSA motorcycle and everybody else had Harleys at the time. But at the time I rode what I could afford. Over my lifetime I've probably rode 20-30 different kinds of motorcycles. I still ride today a little bit, but I'm not up in the tops anymore, but last year I probably put on three to four thousand miles."
-- Reach Ryan Vander sloot at sports@yorkdis patch.com.