BLAST FROM THE PAST: As Lakers move west, area high school athletes shine in 1960WORTHINGTON — During the final week of April 50 years ago, the 13-year existence of the Minneapolis Lakers was officially coming to an end.
By: Les Knutson, Worthington Daily Globe
WORTHINGTON — During the final week of April 50 years ago, the 13-year existence of the Minneapolis Lakers was officially coming to an end.
The Lakers, who had won NBA championships in 1949, 1950, 1952, 1953 and 1954, announced in late April of 1960 that they were heading to Los Angeles, ending their sliding — both in performance and attendance — tenure in the Twin Cities.
Five years ago, I wrote a “Blast” about how the Heron Lake Lakers — a local area amateur basketball powerhouse — twice played the Minneapolis Lakers in well-publicized, well-attended and well-played games at Lakefield.
The first meeting was a relatively close contest, played on March 10, 1958. Minneapolis, led by veterans Vern Mikkelsen and Ed Fleming, along with newcomer “Hot Rod” Hundley, rallied to beat Heron Lake by a mere 10 points, 96-86.
In the second game — played on April 18, 1960 — the NBA Lakers, led by rookie sensation Elgin Baylor’s 44 points, defeated Heron Lake (which was, by that time, an all-area all-star team) by a final score of 105-84.
As it turned out, that game between the Lakers and Lakers in Lakefield was the last time that the professional Lakers played in Minnesota. The following season (‘60-61), the franchise was playing on the West Coast.
Puhl, Wiarda, Young all toss one-hitters
While Laker president Bob Short was officially announcing the Lakers move to L.A., a number of impressive high school athletic performances were taking place in the rain-soaked spring of 1960.
Among those were one-hitters pitched by Worthington’s Gene Puhl, Edgerton’s Bob Wiarda and Worthington’s Dennis Young during the last week of April and the first week of May.
A number of sparkling track and field performances took place, and Worthington’s Paul Sanderson was consistently winning golf meets. More on Sanderson and the highlights from the track meets later in this column.
First, a brief look at the pitching performance of Puhl.
A senior right-hander, who had averaged a team-high 15.1 points per game for the WHS basketball team the preceding winter, Puhl struck out 12 batters for the Trojans in their season-opener against Fulda at home on Thursday, April 21.
Worthington won the game 9-0, as Gary Lenehoff’s single in the top of the fourth was Fulda’s only hit.
Then on Monday, May 2, at Adrian, it was Wiarda who made headlines with his one-hit shutout against the Dragons.
Wiarda did give up six walks in the contest, but Dale Bruns’ single in the bottom of the sixth was Adrian’s only hit in a 1-0 loss.
Ron Breuer pitched well for the Dragons, too, only walking two, while scattering six hits.
Edgerton’s run came in the top of the fifth when Daryl Stevens reached on an infield hit, stole second and scored on an RBI single by catcher LeRoy Graphenteen.
Oh, by the way — Wiarda, Stevens and Graphenteen had all been celebrating five weeks earlier when Edgerton claimed its famed state basketball title at Williams Arena.
Wiarda and Graphenteen were both starters, while Stevens was the Flying Dutchmen’s “sixth man” and an important team leader.
Apparently, the spring of 1960 was not nearly as nice as the spring of 2010.
That shutout performance by Wiarda came in Edgerton’s first game of the season, and was just the second contest for Adrian.
Frequent rains during April postponed many of the early-scheduled games.
The area’s third one-hitter of the 1960 season came on Monday, May 9, when Young twirled a gem against Fulda, helping the Trojans improve to 4-2 with 9-1 victory.
Young fanned 12 Raiders, while not giving up a walk. Fulda center fielder Mike Fisher’s RBI single in the bottom of the fourth — scoring Bob Freetly, who had reached on an error — was the only hit off Young in that game played at Fulda.
Sanderson leads Trojans on golf course
While Puhl, Wiarda and Young were making news with their pitching performances, Worthington senior Paul Sanderson was winning golf meet after golf meet, while leading the Trojans to seven straight team victories.
On the same day that Young tossed his one-hitter, Sanderson shot a brilliant 33 — his fifth consecutive medalist performance — and Worthington defeated Sheldon, 159-167, on the local course.
Tom Larson, Tom Hallin and Wayne Radenbaugh were the other members of Coach Ken Thompson’s top four that day.
A couple of weeks earlier, on the same day (Thursday, April 27) that Short made his official announcement, saying — “I wanted to stay in Minneapolis, but could find no way of making it a financially sound investment.” — Sanderson (34), Larson (38), Hallin (40) and Larry Soderholm (42) combined for a 154 as the Trojans dominated the season-opening meet against Windom (184) and Spirit Lake (191).
Roger Anderson fired a 39 to lead Windom, while Charles Lynn led Spirit Lake with a 44.
As the spring progressed, Sanderson and the Trojans continued to win meets, including repeating as conference champions on Friday, May 20,
Sanderson won individual medalist honors by an amazing eight strokes, shooting an incredible 34 on the always-challenging Jackson course.
Gerdes, Ridge, Voss, Flaming, Rohwer among top track performers
While Sanderson was carding low scores on area golf courses, there were many top-notch track and field performances that caught my attention as I scanned the April–June, 1960 Daily Globe sports pages.
A pair of Jasper athletes — Duane DeCroock and Paul Steen — were both double winners at the annual running of the eight-team Ellsworth Invitational (Friday, April 22), each setting two new meet records.
DeCroock cleared 9-9 in the pole vault and 5-7 in the high jump to set new marks, while Steen streaked to meet-record times of 17.4 in the 120-yard high hurdles and 23.5 in the 180-yard lows.
Magnolia’s Lloyd Voss won the discus with an impressive throw of 137-10, while that same day, Worthington’s Lyle Gerdes won the discus (137-6) at the huge Spencer Invitational, featuring 16 teams, including a trio of Sioux City High Schools (East, Central and Heelan).
As the spring of ’60 progressed, Voss and Gerdes would dual against each other several times.
Fresh off his win at Spencer, Gerdes — who earned all-state honors in football for the Trojans the previous fall — won both the discus (145-6) and shot put (52-½) as Worthington defeated Rock Rapids, 73-65, in a dual meet in northwest Iowa.
But Gerdes, who later won the 1960 state title in the discus, was just warming up.
In a dual meet at home against St. James on Tuesday, May 3, Gerdes set a new WHS school record with an incredible throw of 165-2½.
Gerdes also won the shot put that day and Trojan teammates Gary Ridge (both hurdles, leg on the mile relay) and Leon Zevenbergen (220, broad jump, leg on the 880 relay) were triple first-place finishers, as the Trojans whipped the Saints, 75½ to 30½.
Zevenbergen, just a sophomore, also placed second in the pole vault.
As May continued — and “Stuck on You” by Elvis Presley topped the charts, while the Everly Brothers “Cathy’s Clown” was climbing to the top and Percy Faith’s classic “Theme From a Summer Place” was still lingering on — Voss, Windom’s Jerry Flaming and Okabena’s Steve Rohwer were among the area track athletes that made headlines.
Voss, who later starred as an offensive tackle for the Nebraska Cornhuskers and played with the Green Bay Packers, continued to excel in both the shot put and discus, setting a new District 8 record in the discus with a distance of 163-11, bettering — by more than 21 feet — his 1959 record of 142-4.
Over in District 7, Flaming — who also won the broad jump (18-8) — broke his own meet record in the 880-yard run with an excellent time of 2:01.6.
Rohwer, an outstanding all-around athlete for the Bluehawks, set a new District 7 record in the 440-yard dash, clocking a winning time of 53.8.
Another notable all-around performance from the spring of 1960 — when Gov. Orville Freeman appointed Walter Mondale as Minnesota’s new attorney general — was the triple individual first-place finishes by Sioux Valley’s Eldred Lorenz in the first-ever Southern Star Conference track meet held at Okabena on Friday, May 13.
Lorenz won the 100, 220 and pole vault, while leading the Warriors to the team title, edging Welcome, 53½ to 49.
Ridge, who later set Southwest Conference meet records, while winning both hurdle races (15.6 in the 120 highs and 21.0 in the 180 lows), joined Gerdes, Voss, Flaming, Windom’s Phil Johnson and Jackson’s Bob Anderson in qualifying for the state track meet after excelling at the Region 2 meet in Mankato on Saturday, May 28.
Gerdes won both the shot put and discus titles, while Flaming won the 880.
Voss was second in the discus, Ridge was second in the high hurdles, Johnson was second in the 440 and Anderson placed second in the high jump.
Gerdes won the discus at the state meet with a throw of 157-0, while Voss placed fifth (146-8½) and Flaming raced to a fifth-place finish in the 880.
That’s a look at some of memorable area track and field performances in the spring of 1960 — a half century ago.