BLAST FROM THE PAST: Ellsworth baseball team edges Edgerton in 1959 District 8 championshipWORTHINGTON — It has been mentioned several times in this feature that the calendar in 1959 was the same as 2009, meaning that June 10, 1959 was a Wednesday.
By: Les Knutson, Worthington Daily Globe
WORTHINGTON — It has been mentioned several times in this feature that the calendar in 1959 was the same as 2009, meaning that June 10, 1959 was a Wednesday.
So it was exactly 50 years ago this evening — in the Region 2 semifinals at Lakefield — that Ellsworth’s Cinderella ride in high school baseball came to an end.
The District 7 champion Storden Tigers defeated the Panthers that night, 10-6, advancing SHS to the regional championship game.
District 6 champion Mankato blanked the Ceylon Huskies — champions of District 5 — by an 8-0 score in the other semifinal, setting up a Region 2 title clash between the small-school Tigers and the big-school Scarlets.
Storden, paced by the pitching prowess of Bob Meyer, came through District 7 with victories over Lakefield, Okabena and Mountain Lake.
But after its four-run triumph over Tri-County Conference champion Ellsworth in the regional opener, the Tigers —who only dressed 10 players — came up one game short of a state tournament trip. Mankato, behind the pitching performance of Whitey McArthur, won the contest, 4-1.
I wrote a previous “Blast” about Meyer and those remarkable ’59 Tigers four years ago — May 14, 2005 —to be exact.
So, today’s feature will tell some of the “rest of the story” from the last days of May and the first days of June from that memorable — and wet — spring of 1959.
May ended with huge thunderstorms
“Rains Bring Flooding, Leave Area Awash,” screamed the banner headline on the front page of the Daily Globe on Monday, June 1, 1959.
The sub-heading ran as follows: “Lakefield Gets 6.4 Inches, Flash Floods Hit Homes.”
Yes, on the evening of Saturday, May 30, 1959, the area was saturated with a downpour that capped a month of above normal precipation.
The story, written by Ray Crippen, mentioned that once in 1953, Lakefield had received 8.9 inches of rain in a 12-hour period, but that Saturday’s cloudburst came faster.
“At the height of the Saturday night deluge, with rain pouring out on the southern half of Jackson County like Niagra Falls, water flowed freely across fields and over roads and highways until whole sections were transformed into vast lakes.”
Four photographs on the front page, including a large aerial picture — showing the “Great Jackson Sea” — gave more vividness to the results of the heavy downpour.
Two nights earlier, on Thursday, the 28th, a rainstorm had been happening during a double graduation ceremony at Worthington High School.
I say double, because both WHS, with 167 graduates, and Worthington Junior College, with 54 sophomores receiving diplomas, held commencement before a capacity crowd of over 3,000 in the brand new gym.
Crippen also wrote that story and included the names of WHS superintendent E.A. Durbahn, high school principal Arnold Sanderson and school board president Walter Prouty.
The WHS valedictorian was Joel Lieske, while Gary Kallsen — who was also the student council president — was the salutatorian.
So with heavy rains on two of the last four days of the month, May of 1959 had an official total rainfall reading of 12.49 inches — higher than the total amount of average precipation in the first five months of a “normal” year.
So, while the calendar was the same in 1959 as in 2009, the rainfall totals were in sharp contrast.
Kallsen wins Region 2 singles championship
The day before graduation, Kallsen became the first Trojan to qualify for the state tennis tournament, when the all-around WHS athlete won the Region 2 singles championship.
Another sporting highlight of that week was Butch Meyeraan’s triumph at the Northern Collegiate Conference golf meet. Meyeraan, who had helped the Trojans win the 1957 state golf championship, was a sophomore at Mankato State and his medalist score of 113 (27 holes) led the Indians to the team title, as well.
Meanwhile, the Trojan baseball team, which had just defeated Pipestone to win the Southwestern (it’s name then) Conference championship, opened District 8 play with a 12-0 victory over the Chandler Eagles.
Gene Puhl pitched a one-hit shutout for the Trojans in that game and Slayton’s Duane Lien nearly did the same, twirling a one-hitter in an 8-1 tournament victory over Adrian.
In the next round, Worthington — behind a two-hitter by ace Del Buntjer — claimed an 11-1 victory over Fulda. Puhl (second base) and center fielder Jim Wibbens each had two hits for the Trojans. Wibbens ripped a “board rattling” triple in the bottom of the third and then scored Worthington’s first run on a ground out to short off the bat of Dennis Young.
While Worthington was advancing, so were Ellsworth and Edgerton.
Ellsworth, behind a one-hitter by ace all-around athlete Jerry Matthiesen, had blanked the Flying Dutchmen (10-0) in the regular season-finale to clinch the Tri-County title.
In the tournament, the Panthers posted a 3-1 win over Slayton as Matthiesen and Don Meester each smacked doubles.
Edgerton, meanwhile, had upset Pipestone in the West semifinals and then defeated Jasper (6-0) to win the District 8 West championship.
The Daily Globe game write-up of that contest, described some of it this way:
“With the invincible Barney Van Essen twirling a two-hit shutout and the Flying Dutchment playing errorless ball behind him … The big bat of Bob Wiarda combined with Van Essen’s hurling to cop a spot in the district finals for Edgerton.”
Wiarda, who was a rugged rebounder and key starting member of the famous basketball team (undefeated state champions) the following winter, hit a two-run triple in the fifth inning and then blasted a two-run homer in the top of the seventh.
Jasper had defeated Edgerton in the 1959 District 8 basketball championship game.
Catching for the Quartz-siters in that ’59 baseball loss was Lloyd “Butch” Raymond, who had starred in basketball for Jasper. Raymond later coached basketball at several Minnesota colleges, before becoming athletic director at Southwest State in Marshall. He currently is the commissioner of the Northern Sun Conference.
Ellsworth Cops East Crown; Hoffman wins
The sports page of the Daily Globe on Tuesday, June 2, 1959 had a pair of banner stories, along with an interesting smaller article.
“Ellsworth Cops East Crown,” ran across the top of the page, with a sub-headline above that read: ‘Matthiesen paces win over Trojans.”
Mathiessen, who had quarterbacked Ellsworth to an undefeated football season the previous fall and had been a three-year starting guard in basketball, had a brilliant day for the Panthers.
In leading Ellsworth to a 3-0 victory for the District 8 East title, Matthiesen pitched a two-hit shutout and reached base all four trips to the plate — getting a single, a double, reaching on an error and walking.
Matthiessen stole second three times and scored two runs, being driven home in the fifth on Le Roy Visker’s RBI single and scoring again in the seventh on an RBI single by Dennis Lenderts.
Larry Boomgaarden scored Ellsworth’s first run earlier in the fifth when Matthiesen was safe after a Trojan error.
In giving up just four hits, Buntjer pitched very well for Worthington, twirling four scoreless innings and finishing with 14 strikeouts.
Buntjer, Wibbens, Wayne Krull, Bob Hanson, Ken Peterson, Joel Beck and Paul Poppen were the seniors on that 1959 Trojan baseball team.
The second large headline that day ran:
“Windom’s Hoffman Tops State Tourney”
“MINNEAPOLIS (AP) —Eight strokes ahead of the field, Jon Hoffman of Windom posted a 148 for the title in Monday’s 36-hole state golf tournament over the University Course. He had rounds of 72 and 76.”
That’s quite an accomplisment — winning the state golf meet by eight strokes, impressive!
Tom Maas (Duluth Denfeld) and John Konz (Austin) tied for second at 156.
Defending state champion Bob Balega (Minneapolis Edison) shot a 165. Balega had won the 1958 individual title as a Worthington junior and had teamed with Meyeraan and Joel Goldstrand to win the team championship as a sophomore in 1957.
Other area golfers and their scores at the ’59 state meet were Larry Rapp, Luverne, 162; Bob Sanderson, Worthington, 168; Dennis Ehlers, Worthington, 174; Harold Walto, Jackson, 180; and Tom Hallin Worthington, 183.
Redwood Falls won the team title by one stroke, 482-483, over Edison.
The smaller article on that same sports page, had this headline:
“Edgerton Gets New HS Coach”
The story told about the hiring of Richard Olson, a 1958 graduate of Macalester College, who was completing his master’s at the U of M and would be teaching biology, physical education and general math at Edgerton, as well as take the reins of the Flying Dutchmen boys’ basketball team.
Olson’s teams would win three District 8 championships in the four seasons that he stayed in Edgerton.
Ellsworth edges Edgerton, 3-2, in finals
After each winning its division, the two Tri-County rivals met for the District 8 title in Worthington on June 4.
That same day, Del Koopman pitched a complete game (struck out eight) and went 3-for-4 at the plate (two singles and a double) in leading the Fulda Giants to an 18-7 victory over Chandler Air Force Base in a high-scoring amateur baseball game.
In the high school district championship, Matthiesen and Van Essen hooked up in a pitcher’s duel, which had Edgerton holding a 2-1 lead into the bottom of the seventh.
But the Panthers, who had lost to Edgerton in the District 8 basketball semifinals three months earlier, rallied with two runs to win their first district baseball title.
After Vince Mulder and Harold Lenderts drew walks, Boomgaarden’s RBI single scored Mulder and advanced Lenderts to third.
Lenderts scored the winning run on the same play when an Edgerton throwing error (attempting to nail him at third) allowed him to streak home.
Ken Brown was Ellsworth’s coach, while Ken Kielty guided Edgerton.
As was mentioned earlier, Storden ended Ellsworth’s season six days later on June 10.