Book detailing Edgerton’s 1960 championship run ‘absolutely fascinating’EDGERTON — Some 18 days ago, on Nov. 8, I had the opportunity to watch the drama department of Southwest Star Concept High School put on the play “Leaving Iowa.” In a lead role, Quasar senior Jerry Simpler played the part of Mr. Browning, the father of a family on a summer vacation. While stopped at a road-sign map, Mr. Browning could not take his eyes of the interesting items that were being promoted by that sign. “Fascinating, why this is simply just fascinating,” Browning said over and over. “This is so fascinating.”
By: Les Knutson, Worthington Daily Globe
EDGERTON — Some 18 days ago, on Nov. 8, I had the opportunity to watch the drama department of Southwest Star Concept High School put on the play “Leaving Iowa.” In a lead role, Quasar senior Jerry Simpler played the part of Mr. Browning, the father of a family on a summer vacation.
While stopped at a road-sign map, Mr. Browning could not take his eyes of the interesting items that were being promoted by that sign.
“Fascinating, why this is simply just fascinating,” Browning said over and over. “This is so fascinating.”
That same day, I received an e-mail from Ken Kielty, who was Edgerton High School’s head boys’ basketball coach for three seasons in the late 1950s, leaving EHS after the 1959 school year. Kielty, who had been a starting outfielder for the University of Minnesota baseball team in the mid-50s, was also the player-manager for Pipestone’s amateur baseball team that won a state championship in 1958.
Why the e-mail from Kielty?
To promote the upcoming release of the book, written by retired Delaware journalist Tom Tomashek, “Edgerton, A Minnesota Basketball Legend.”
Kielty, who assisted Tomashek with the research, e-mailed me the manuscript — and, just like Jerry Simpler, I was “fascinated, absolutely fascinated.”
The book is the story of the legendary Edgerton Flying Dutchmen, who on March 26, 1960 became the smallest school in history to win the one-class Minnesota state basketball tournament.
One-class basketball, boys’ style, existed in Minnesota from 1913-1970.
The first girls’ state tournament — in two classes — was played in 1976, and both boys and girls expanded from two to four classes in the ‘96-97 season.
Mountain Lake, which had made a total of 13 state tournament trips between 1913 and 1952, had claimed runner-up honors three times (1913, 1915, 1917) before winning the state championship in 1939.
Lynd, population 292, became the tournament darling in 1946. But the tiny school, just eight miles southwest of Marshall, lost badly (63-31) to big-school, perennial powerhouse Austin in the championship game.
So 14 years later, when an undefeated team from the Tri-County Conference came through with four victories in the always-challenging District 8 tournament and then claimed the Region 2 title by steam-rolling defending champion Mankato (73-44) and defeating Mountain Lake (61-55) in the championship game, a new tournament darling was emerging.
But, despite impressive late-season victories over larger schools (Slayton, 82-47 and Luverne, 76-65), along with tournament triumphs over Pipestone (66-52), Worthington (84-65) and Mankato, few of the Twin Cities media “experts” gave the Dutchmen much of a chance to win the state tournament.
Edgerton (24-0) drew Region 7 champion Chisholm in the first round and claimed a hard-fought 65-54 victory, advancing the Dutchmen to the semfinals against pre-tournament favorite Richfield. The Spartans were loaded with athletes, having won the state legion baseball championship the summer before.
In one of the most dramatic games ever played at Williams Arena, Edgerton sank 35 of 43 free throws and won an overtime thriller, 63-60, setting up a state title clash against Austin, which had claimed the championship in ‘58 and finished third in ‘59.
With a record 19,018 frenzied fans (an estimated 18,000 of them wildly rooting for the Dutchmen) jammed into the “barn,” Edgerton gradually pulled away and posted a convincing 72-61 victory, capping a perfect 27-0 season and forever etching the names of Bob Wiarda, Dean Verdoes, Dean Veenhof, Darrell Kreun and LeRoy Graphenteen — Edgerton’s starting five — in the memories of those who witnessed the event, watched on television, listened on radio, read it in the newspapers, or (like me) heard about it later.
It is one of the biggest stories ever in Minnesota sports history, and Tomashek’s and Kielty’s book, published by North Star Press in St. Cloud, tells the whole tale.
The 256-page book is divided into 10 chapters, and includes acknowledgements, a preface, and an introduction before the first chapter. At the book’s end is a “Where Are They Now” section, along with sources and an index.
The preface is written by Minnesota Basketball Coaches Association (MBCA) Hall of Fame member Bob Erdman, who was Luverne’s head coach from 1958-1961.
Starring for the Cardinals during those years was current Worthington attorney Andy Hagemann, who scored 35 points — including the game-winning free throws — in Luverne’s 68-66 victory over Edgerton in the last game of the 1961 season. Edgerton avenged that loss in the ‘61 District 8 finals.
The first four chapters —“Edgerton, the Early Years”; “Post Nickerson and Brovold and World War II”; “The Building Years”; and “A Change in Command” — lead the reader up to the ‘59-60 season.
Superintendent E.O. Nickerson and principal-coach J.H. Brovold were Edgerton’s educational leaders during the 1930s and 1940s. The Dutchmen were District 8 runners-up in both 1948 and 1949, and had another great season in 1950, sporting a 17-3 record.
John Beukelman, Sid Koster, Fred Baldwin and Casey DeJong were among the top players for Edgerton during those years, and later John Fransen scored 1,017 varsity points before graduating from EHS in 1955.
Kielty came to Edgerton in the fall of ‘55, and after one year as the assistant basketball coach, took over the reigns as head coach for the next three seasons.
The Dutchmen were 17-5 in ‘58-59, upsetting Ellsworth (18-2) in the semifinals, 62-59, before losing a heartbreaker to Jasper, 65-64, in the District 8 championship.
Kielty returned to Minneapolis and took a job at Jefferson Junior High in the fall of 1959, and his replacement, Rich Olson (featured in Chapter 4), inherited a hungry group of veterans who were determined to go farther in ‘59-60.
That’s what the next five chapters (4-9) are about: “The Regular Season”; “The District and Regional Tournament”; “The Legend Evolves”; “The State Tournament”; and “The Celebration.”
All five starters will gather for book release
Chapter 10 is titled “The Years After,” which includes the 1961 repeat District 8 and Region 2 titles, as well as the 1963 undefeated season and a third District 8 championship in four seasons for the Dutchmen under Olson.
The “Where Are They Now” section is most interesting and reflects on how that amazing championship season positively influenced the lives of those players.
Speaking about those players, nine of them — Wiarda, Verdoes, Veenhof, Kreun, Graphenteen, Daryl Stevens, Larry Schoolmeester, Bob Dykstra and Tom Warren, along with student manager Doug Vander Beek — will be at the book signing in Edgerton on Dec. 5. Coach Olson and his wife, Marlys, are in Florida and will not be present.
The event starts at 2 p.m. with the advance sale of the book, for $19.60, plus tax, in the Brovold Gymnasium (the little, old gym) where the legend was built five decades ago.
That $19.60 figure was the brainchild of Edgerton grocery owner Mike Drooger, who is helping promote the book.
That night, the team members will be introduced at halftime of the girls’ varsity game between Southwest Christian and Edgerton (in the new EHS gym). The book will be on sale that night, and again on Saturday morning (Dec. 6) in the Brovold Gym from 9 a.m. through the early afternoon.
Tomashek, who also wrote Town Ball (about Minnesota amateur baseball up until 1960), is a native of Hutchinson and earned his journalism degree from South Dakota State University in Brookings, S.D., before working as a sports journalist for the Chicago Tribune. He spent most of his career in Delaware, including covering University of Delaware sporting events for the Newark News Journal.
“I hope that the players and Edgerton fans enjoy reading the book as much as we did retracing a special period in not only Edgerton and surrounding areas, but throughout Minnesota,” said Tomashek about the project, which included more than 100 interviews during two years of research. “It was a special team in a special era.”
The book may be ordered ($25 total) through the author’s Web site, Edgertonabblegend.net.
As one who has been lucky enough to get a “sneak” preview, I highly-recommend this book — “it’s fascinating, just absolutely fascinating.”