A good thing about being old is you have a lot of history behind you. I most certainly qualify in being old with a lot of history behind me.
Most of you are aware of the wooden bleachers at Tink Larson Field in Waseca being a total loss due to a fire. I go back to when the name was Community Field, home of the Southern Minnesota League baseball team known as the Waseca Braves (late ‘40s, early ‘50s).
My parents lived on a farm just north of St. Olaf Lake on the Waseca-Steele County line. Mother didn’t care for baseball while my father was a devout follower of local baseball — especially Southern Minnesota’s Waseca Braves.
Waseca, Owatonna, Austin, Albert Lea, Mankato, Winona, Faribault and Rochester had teams in the league. When Waseca was playing at home, we would hustle to get the farm chores done so we could go to the game (if it looked like rain, we didn’t go). If the Braves were doing well, we would sometimes go see them play at Dartt’s Park in Owatonna or Hayek Field in Albert Lea.
The players were paid a salary plus other benefits such as housing, or a well-paying part-time job. Albert Lea and Austin usually had the better team because each town had a meat processing company backing the team, Wilson’s in Albert Lea and Hormel in Austin.
Many of the players were on their way up to the big leagues or on their way down from the big leagues. The players all had one thing in common, and that was “we play to win with fun, not lose with fun.”
A classic example of “play to win with fun” was my uncle, Gene Farrell (a high school coach) and Arleigh Kraupa (New Richland High School principal). Gene was the catcher with lefty Arleigh as pitcher. Following are two of their plays to win:
Kraupa would lob the ball over to the first baseman — a big, clumsy sort of feller. In lobbing the ball, the hope was that the runner on first would go back to first standing up. T’was then the clumsy first baseman would stumble, getting his leg tangled with the runner, causing him to fall off first base and get tagged out. Did the play work? Yes. In fact, Minnesota Twins first baseman Kent Hrbek worked it to perfection in a Major League Baseball game.
With a runner on third, Kraupa would throw a fastball behind the right-handed batter. Gene would jump up and stop the pitch while letting the ball dribble down the third base line. The third baseman, catcher and pitcher all went after the ball and in doing so blocked the view of the runner and third base coach. The third baseman had the ball as the catcher and pitcher went to the mound for a conference. Gene, the catcher, returned to his position as Kraupa stepped on the mound and looked in for the sign. The runner on third would take a lead off the base and wonder how the third baseman got the ball to tag him out.
My history of pre-Tink Larson Field includes being a team member of the New Richland American Legion baseball team and playing ball at Community Field in Waseca.
The above is part of my history, and I’m sticking to it.
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.