Column: Here's the pitch - flash back to Cubs baseball, 1937
WORTHINGTON — There are 100 players from the Dominican Republic on U.S. Major League Baseball rosters. Is this correct, Doug Wolter? I believe it is. There are more MLB players from the Dominican Republic than from any other land.
This is picking at the scab of a sore for the Minnesota Twins. Miguel Sano has given the Twins as much hope as any player through the last four years. Sano was set to be the Twins’ third baseman, star of the infield. So we start this month with the announcement that Miguel Sano is going to have Tommy John surgery. The Twins are saying there is a chance Sano could be DH late in the season. Don’t count on it.
Are you looking up at the page number just now? Do you wonder if you were looking for a column in the first section and you ended up with the sports section?
I am up to a couple of things. Let me tell you about this.
I have seen worse winters than the winter of 2013-2014. For sure. I can tell you in the winter of 1936 there was a snowdrift so high and so hard-packed that we climbed to the peak of my uncle’s barn with no difficulty. I think there is a snapshot of this. Nevertheless, and be this as it may — I have never been so wearied and so frustrated and so wind-blown so often as I have in this winter still upon us. I never have been more eager for a winter to end.
This is part of what I am up to. I am ignoring winter, or doing my best to ignore winter. I am thinking baseball and sunshine and what a shame it is that the Twins will not have Miguel Sano.
And I am up to something else. I want to recall a perfect summer night, a warm night but not a sweltering night, a night when Worthington was host to more great baseball players than it ever saw on one evening before or since.
I am talking the summer of 1937. July 24, 1937. In that era the Worthington Cubs played on the ball diamond at the Nobles County Fairgrounds that bordered Clary Street — Worthington High School is now on a part of that baseball diamond. The crowds sat on an old, white-painted wood grandstand facing north. That grandstand was like a thousand others across America except it had no roof. A summer storm in 1932 tore the roof off the grandstand, and Nobles County never did get around to replacing it. Never.
Worthington’s pride, the Cubs’ pride, was that circle of tall pine poles around the playing field with lights atop them all. You could see a baseball at night as easily as you could see it in sunlight. This was why we called it First Night League. Minnesota’ first night league.
The light poles got the Sioux Falls Canaries to agree to play a night game at Worthington. The Dominican Republic had three hotshot baseball clubs at that time and the Dominican Republic’s dictator, Raphael Trujillo, was looking for a place to show off his baseball players in America.
Would the Cuidad Trujillos play a game at Worthington in Minnesota? Sure, said the DR. Sure. We will see you under the lights.
They came by train. They were something. Pitcher was LeRoy Matlock. Matlock is listed in all Negro League histories as one of the finest.
Cool Papa Bell played center field. Cool Papa is credited unofficially today as the fastest runner in all of baseball through all time. The old story is Cool Papa rounded the bases in 12 seconds. Papa stole 175 bases in 200 games.
George Scales, first baseman, was inducted into the Puerto Rico Hall of Fame. Pat Patterson, second base. Pat Patterson’s name is carved in the Milwaukee County Stadium Negro League Baseball Wall of Fame. Chet Brewer was in the bullpen. Chet Brewer played big time baseball for 24 years and then became a scout for the Pirates.
They weren’t all Dominicans. No, no. Trujillo paid for talent, no matter. And the Trujillos won 12-6. What a night of baseball.
Ray Crippen is a former editor of the Daily Globe. His column appears on Saturdays.