At the beginning of the funeral service for Kenny Toft, held at First Lutheran Church in Ellendale, the Rev. Richard Sliper asked for those wanting to speak to come to the microphone. Two people spoke.
The first speaker was Chuck Crabtree. Chuck told about his being a lifelong resident of Beaver Lake, and what he had noticed regarding the pranks pulled between Ed Jensen and Kenny Toft. He had noticed a number of items on the flagpole at Kenny’s that shouldn’t be there. From his observations he knew they were the best of neighbors.
Norrine Jensen, wife of Ed Jensen, was the second speaker. She told how Kenny and Ed were the catcher (Kenny) and pitcher (Ed) of the Great Beaver Lake Baseball Team for a number of years, and later in life lived across the road from each other at Beaver Lake. She mentioned that earlier in the morning Ed had put a baseball in the coffin with Kenny.
Kenny and Ed were very good at pranks on the baseball field – any prank was okay as long as it helped their team win.
One of their best pranks was when they played the Pontoppidan Nine of Lemond (pronounced “Lamond”) Lutheran Church (the church can be found by following the Lemond Road west out of Owatonna). To be on the team, you had to be a member of Pontoppidan Lutheran Church with a last name ending in “-son.” (The player’s last name was either Anderson, Hanson, Jacobson, Johnson, Larson, Nelson, Paulson, Swenson, or Tollefson.)
The game was played at Beaver Lake Park, with the winner playing Albert Lea for the Minnesota State Amateur Championship. With the score at 2-1 in the top of the ninth with the Beaver Lake team ahead, it was time for Kenny and Ed to win with any prank possible. The Pontoppidan Nine managed to load the bases with nobody out and 3 balls and 2 strikes on the batter.
Kenny Toft called for time out and a new shiny baseball. The umpire granted his wish, and Kenny went to the mound for a conference with Ed and the other infielders. As Kenny left the mound you could see him give the white ball to Ed as the infielders went back to their positions.
The ump said “Play ball!” and the batter stepped back into the box. Ed wound up and threw one of his famous fastballs. The batter swung and was called out, even though the white (paper) ball never reached home plate. The shortstop, who had the real ball, tagged the runner off second base out, and threw to the first baseman, who tagged the runner off first base out. He then threw to home, and Kenny tagged out the runner from third trying to score. Net result: four outs and Beaver Lake won 2-1.
How do I know all this to be true? Because my father Harold was the batter. My uncle Mentor tried to score from third. My uncle Laurel was the pitcher. My aunt Lois was the cheering section leader, and I was the young batboy.
Ed took the winning ball home with him. Where is that ball today? Please reread what Norrine Jensen said at the funeral of Kenny Toft.
Bob is a retired AAL (Aid Association for Lutherans) agent, currently working on his master’s degree in Volunteering. His wife, Genie, is a retired RN, currently working on her doctor’s degree in Volunteering. They have two children, Deb in North Carolina, and Dan in Vermont. Bob says if you enjoy his column, let him know. If you don’t enjoy it, keep on reading, it can get worse. Words of wisdom: There is always room for God.