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Column: Brace yourself for memories of a former sportswriter

WORTHINGTON — I said, “Sports.”

A man from a metropolitan area — a man who, like most Americans today, has spent his life in a metropolitan area — is considering a move to Worthington. “What do people do?” he wondered. “Where do you turn when you’re not at work?”

I had conceded we don’t host “name” professional entertainers or commercial productions. No Justin Bieber. We don’t even see much of big-name politicians any longer. That’s when I said, “Sports.” I think we are more focused on sports than people in metro areas.

The conversation set me thinking of Daily Globe sports coverage through passing years, Daily Globe sports editors and sports writers. Don Trunk, a Worthington native and a combat veteran of World War II, was the first sports editor. Don finally moved with his family to California, and I really believed the Globe did not treat him fairly. Most of Don’s work was at night, of course. The basketball games and the football games. He had much to do but — because he was “free” through most afternoons — Don was assigned to drive a route delivering papers to towns in the area.

Don Trunk. Then Corky Brace. Bill Brower. Doug Wolter — the evidence is you are keeping busy, Mr. Doug.

I was remembering Corky in particular. Charles Brace, but he was Corky to everyone.

Corky was selling shoes before he started at the Globe, but he was known through all the town for his passionate interest in sports. Corky and three pals made arrangements to attend a state high school basketball tournament in that time when Minnesota crowned but one state champion. When the foursome left Worthington, Corky was suffering appendicitis. While he was watching the tournament, his appendix burst. We can appreciate the pain he must have suffered, but that did not stop him from making the trip to the tourney.

Corky’s father was F.C. Brace, something of a pioneer retailer who had a jewelry store in a frame building on (about) the site of Top Asian Foods. When phonographs became popular F.C. Brace became Worthington’s phonograph man, the Victrola man. On summer days when the sky was clear and t he sun was beaming, F.C. would roll three or four phonographs to the sidewalk outside the store. Corky, school boy, would turn cranks as the phonographs ran down and play concerts for passers-by.

“Here’s a new Al Jolson record.”

While he was still a boy, Corky was brought down by polio which shriveled his right leg. He walked with a significant limp but for all of this he enjoyed dancing, and (partners said) he danced well. Corky did not like Lawrence Welk. There were weekly dances in that time on the drill floor of the National Guard Armory on Ninth Street. Tiny Little, Guy DeLeo, Lawrence Welk brought their bands.

Corky recalled Welk would walk from couple to couple while they were dancing, tap a young man or young woman on the shoulder and say, “Would you like some Hawaiian Fruit Gum?” Hawaiian Fruit was a Welk sponsor. Corky remembered, “I told him, ‘Get out of here.’”

The Daily Globe sports assignment in Corky’s tenure was much lighter than it is today. There were no organized sports activities for girls, for women. Sports reporting was reporting on boys football, basketball, baseball and, a bit more year by year, boys wrestling. Corky balanced his load by writing a daily sports column — Brace’s Bits — which had a sketch of a brace and bit in the column heading.

Corky had strong sports opinions — “The Yankees are buying championships. “Worthington’s Trojans were sleepy last night.” “This isn’t going to be a great year for the Blue Jays.” Of course, sports fans were offended and many were looking for an argument. Corky took some verbal abuse, but he never backed down. Readers were eager to, “See what Corky’s got to say today.”

It became urgent for Corky to have abdominal surgery, something probably related to the burst appendix from many years gone by. He never recovered, never left the hospital. He died several days after the surgery.

Corky was not married. He is buried at Worthington Cemetery. I try to bring flowers to the grave on Memorial Days.

Ray Crippen is a former editor of the Daily Globe. His column appears on Saturdays.