Last week we talked about track, so lets talk about baseball this week!
Have you been watching “Town Ball Tour” on Channel 9? It is an entertaining program depicting baseball in many of the small communities in southern Minnesota. The program emphasizes an unparalleled small-town spirit concerning the game — when everybody in town shows up for a game and there is a feeling of — “We wouldn’t have it any other way.”
It is interesting to note that all of the small towns are in the southern part of the state, none of them are from up north! We use to have a town team in Walker. Half of the team consisted of recent Warrior graduates and the other half — old-time baseball players who loved the game and did their best to keep up with the youngsters. Actually, some of the old-timers were much better at the game than the youngsters.
An example of an excellent old-time player was Paul Feriancek, who worked out at Ah-Gwah-Ching. As soon as he finished his day of work he was out on the baseball diamond playing catch or hitting a few balls with any of his neighbors who wished to join him. The baseball field was where Ostlund Field is now, and Paul lived right across Fifth Street.
He had plenty of neighbors who also played — a half-dozen players from the George Johnson family and a half-dozen from the Pete Geving family. They were all very good players, however, Paul was the best. He could play any position! In fact, he did.
When Walker had our town team, Paul would begin a game pitching, catch the second inning, play first base the third inning and so on around the diamond and throughout the field. If the game went into extra innings, Paul ended up pitching again and usually won the game!
My dad used to pitch baseball for a little farming community called Sanborn in southern Minnesota. He loved the game and always managed to break away from his very busy medical practice at his hospital to watch Walker’s town team play. He and I always sat right behind home plate where dad had a good vantage point to determine if the umpire was calling the balls and strikes correctly. If dad disagreed with the umpire’s call, he was close enough so the umpire couldn’t help but call a good game because of dad’s constant heckling!
The umpire was not the only one subject to dad’s heckling. Marion Kennedy was the coach of Walker’s team and a very good friend of dad’s, so Marion was also be subject to a considerable amount of good-natured jeering and taunting from his good friend.
When I graduated from high school, I was honored to play for Walker’s town team during the summer vacation from college. Our coach in those days was a Native American by the name of Johnny Day. Johnny was the best! He was such a jovial, happy-go-lucky-guy, and it was indeed a pleasure to play for him.
Johnny worked for Lee Orton at Lee’s Standard Station, where Orton’s remains today. However, Lee knew that Johnny was needed on the baseball team, so Lee always let Johnny off from work to coach the team.
I have a crooked index finger on my right hand that will always reminds me of my days behind the plate, trying to hold on to Charlie Carlson’s blazing fast ball! I could always catch the other pitchers with my left hand only, but when Charlie was pitching I had to use two hands, as the ball came so fast and I was never certain where it was going to curve — right, left, up or down!
One of Charlie’s pitches hit the index finger on my right hand and dad had to come out of the stands to put a metal brace around the finger and bandage it up. When I returned to the game, and threw the ball back to Charlie, the metal brace went with the ball! Needless to say, now it was time for dad to take a little heckling from the crowd, and especially Marion Kennedy, as they were quick to give the good doctor a hard time about his lack of ability to provide a good bandage that would stay on my finger.
This year’s WHA boys’ baseball team had a pretty rough season. They only won three games — two over Laporte, one over Hill City-Northland, and they ended their season in the Sectional Tournament with a 10-0 shutout to Bertha-Hewitt-Verndale. However, at least they were out there giving it their all, and that’s what counts.
Speaking of kids out there trying, I have been watching my grandson play third-grade ball. “Out-there-trying” is about all one can say about their games, but it is fun watching them, and as Yogi Berra would say, “They are out there giving 100 percent for the first part of the game and whatever they have left for the second part!”
The views and opinions expressed in the “The old and the new” column belong solely to the author, and not The Pilot-Independent or an organization, committee or individual.
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