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Amateur baseball: Cubs baseball: 'It was all good'

WORTHINGTON -- Back in what old-timers call the heyday of Worthington Cubs baseball, games were important events. Entire towns organized their summers around the sport. Baseball mattered in the 50s in ways that fans wouldn't understand 60 years l...

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TIM MIDDAGH/DAILY GLOBE Former Worthington Cubs baseball player Pete Suby talked about team history on Friday and reminisced about the 70s.

 

WORTHINGTON -- Back in what old-timers call the heyday of Worthington Cubs baseball, games were important events. Entire towns organized their summers around the sport.

Baseball mattered in the 50s in ways that fans wouldn’t understand 60 years later.

Even in the 70s, amateur ball was a big deal.

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“The whole town would come out,” said Pete Suby, who enjoyed a successful 13-year amateur baseball career 40-odd years ago. “When we played, there was a lot of competitive games. I remember Lake Wilson brought a busload of people (to a playoff game), and there were a couple of kegs with ‘em, too. They were a rowdy bunch.

“But after the game, everybody would sit down and have a couple of beers. It was all good.”

Suby, who made his reputation as a swift outfielder with a dependable bat, still resembles the player who helped the Cubs -- who were managed then by his brother Tom -- to state tournament berths in 1979 and 1980. Though there are a few more creases in his cheeks, his handshake is still firm and he looks to be in good-enough shape to take another turn in the batter’s box.

Not gonna happen, however. Today “Soob” is the keeper of the old Cubs records. He stopped by the Daily Globe on Friday to re-live some of the old times.

Record sheets from as far back as 1946, when Cubs baseball began with Earl Smith as the manager, are dutifully archived by Pete. The 1946 Cubs posted a 23-7 record. Not bad for the first season after the end of World War II.

In the early days, the Cubs existed as something like a low minor league franchise. Top players were paid, or had jobs lined up for them so they could participate with the local team.

Suby was never paid. By the time he arrived on the scene, that era had passed. But his memories still seem fresh.

“We played Dundas,” he recalls of his state-tournament days against one of the state’s most storied teams at that time. “It came down to pitching. We had good pitchers with Marlin Wasko and Randy Sieve.”

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It was a close game. Dundas won.

“Should’ve beat ‘em actually,” Suby explained.

In 1946 the Cubs maintained a roster consisting of Nutt, Gardner, Smith, Hensen, Curran, Gerdes, Griffith, Grien, Hogan, Osterberg and Krohn.

Duane Krohn was a great pitcher in the 40s and 50s. There were other great pitchers, some mostly forgotten. There was a guy named Krommenhoek who struck out 22 Luverne hitters in 1962. Elmer Kuhl struck out 21 in a game against Balaton in 1961.

LeRoy Kuhl, said Suby, was one of the best Cubs players from his own era.

“He was one of the purest hitters you’d ever want to see. He was a natural lefty. You didn’t want to play first base when LeRoy hit. You’d get a rocket down the first base line.”

Tyrone Wacker, who years later made a name for himself coaching highly successful Jackson High School football teams, managed the Cubs for a few years in the 70s. He, too, was an outstanding hitter.

The Cubs had a fine outfield in the 70s and early 80s consisting of Suby, Todd Jensen and Les Johnson.

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“You couldn’t get it through us. Jensen and Les would always cut it off before the ball could be hit to the fence.”

Wasko was always tough to hit. “He had one of those arms that never threw straight. The ball was always moving,” Suby said.

There are old-timers who still recall, with more than a hint of sadness, the era when Buss Field was the closest thing to a Worthington baseball shrine. Located on the southeast part of town, it was inset like a jewel with a tall, wide grassy bank behind home plate and first base where fans could spread blankets and see ball being played from the perfect vantage point. But Buss Field was abandoned in the 1980s and later turned to soccer fields.

“They were actually talking about having the state tournament there one year,” Suby remembers.

He also remembers all the fans.

“They’d line up on the hills at Buss Field,” he said. “They’d line up the cars by Cheapskate Hill, is what they called it (in right-field). During the game they’d pass the hat to try to collect some money. Those people who didn’t want to contribute parked out there.”

In Suby’s day, amateur baseball was played with aluminum bats. They’ve gone back to wood today.

Other things were different 40 years ago, too.

There were more fights in the 70s. Adrian and Lake Wilson seemed to be involved in more than their fair share of skirmishes. And, yes, beanings were not all that uncommon.

“The good teams played the good teams and that’s when it usually got heated,” Suby said.

Amateur baseball today seems so much more friendly now. The rivalries no longer seem to be so hard-core.

“The competitiveness is what stood out,” Suby said, “Seemed like everybody took it harder when they lost back then.”

When Pete Suby finally set his baseball glove aside, he said it was difficult. But it was time.

“I had babies. And we moved. We moved up to the Alexandria area, and actually I got calls to play up there. I kind of regret not doing it. But we were busy.”

After returning to Worthington, he played again for the Cubs briefly in 1993 and 1994.

Then he retired for good.

“It was hard to go watch games, ‘cuz I wanted to go out and play,” he said. “It was hard to sit there and feel like you should be out there.”

Doug Wolter joined the Worthington Globe in December of 1983 as a sports reporter. He later became sports editor, and then news editor and managing editor. In 2006 he moved to Mankato with his wife, Sandy, and served as an editor at the Mankato Free Press. In 2013 he and Sandy returned to Worthington to take up the job of sports editor at The Globe, and they have been in Worthington since.

Doug can be reached at dwolter@dglobe.com.
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