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BLAST FROM THE PAST: Baumgartner brothers key '69 Wilmont playoff run

WILMONT -- Tonight, there will be an amateur baseball playoff game at Butts Probst Field in Wilmont, as the First Nite League champion Jackson Bulls tangle with the Gopher League runner-up Wilmont Cardinals in the second game of a best-of-five se...

Wilmont's Baumgartner brothers
File Photo Growing up near St. Kilian, the four Baumgartner brothers -- sons of Andrew and Cecelia -- played baseball for several years together for the Wilmont Cardinals. They were featured in a 1969 preview story about Wilmont's trip to the state amateur tournament. Oldest to youngest (left to right) are Virg, Bob, Pat and Don.

WILMONT -- Tonight, there will be an amateur baseball playoff game at Butts Probst Field in Wilmont, as the First Nite League champion Jackson Bulls tangle with the Gopher League runner-up Wilmont Cardinals in the second game of a best-of-five series that will determine which team advances to the this year's Class C state tournament.

The hosting Cardinals -- fresh off a 4-0 Wednesday victory at Jackson -- hold a 1-0 lead in the series.

In the winter of '84-85, Bryan Adams recorded his famous "Reckless" album, featuring the song called "In the Summer of '69" -- which peaked in June of 1985.

On July 20 of this year, I wrote a "Blast-from-the-Past" that included some of the local sporting events that happened on the days of Apollo 11's epic journey to the moon.

Let's now "flash back" to August of 1969 and the amateur baseball playoffs when songs like "Soul Deep" by the Boxtops and "Ruby Don't Take Your Love to Town" by Kenny Rogers were getting air time on pop music radio stations like KOMA in Oklahoma City, WLS in Chicago and WDGY in Minneapolis.

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Yes, it was the "Summer of '69" and the Wilmont Cardinals and the Fulda Giants were battling each other for the Gopher League championship, while the Windom Pirates and the Pipestone Indians were "duking it out" for the top spot in the First Night League.

Fulda won the opener over Wilmont, 6-3, as the trio of second baseman Dean Shaner (4-for-4), catcher Rich Meyer (3-for-5) and first baseman John Bunkers (2-for-3) paced the Giants' 12-hit attack.

Fulda pitcher Gary Grothe helped his own cause by tagging a one-out triple that sparked a five-run fifth inning for the Giants.

Meanwhile, Windom was sweeping Pipestone, winning both the first and third games -- at Island Park -- by identical 8-2 scores.

Former Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback and Windom High School head football coach Ron Meyer had a banner game for the Pirates in the opener, as he pitched a shutout into the ninth inning and kept his batting average above .400 by going 4-for-4 with a pair of doubles, a triple and four RBI.

In the third game, former St. Cloud State College three-sport star athlete Jack Kelly -- the head basketball and baseball coach at WHS -- was 3-for-4 at the plate, while Pirate teammates Greg Rossow, Jim Lange, Rich Bullard and Ron Meyer each had two hits in the game.

Jim Nelson pitched a five-hitter through eight innings for Windom before Dean Jaacks tossed the ninth.

The sweep by the Pirates advanced Windom to the 1969 state amateur baseball tournament.

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Wilmont wins three straight to clinch first state tournament trip

Exactly 40 years tonight -- August 7, 1969 -- which was a Thursday, the Wilmont Cardinals gave their large following of fans a lot to cheer about, as their home-town team won Game 2 by an 11-3 score.

Playing on the home field, Cardinal lead-off batter Jim Broich went 3-for-3 and scored three runs, while brothers Pat and Virgil Baumgartner both had two hits.

Wilmont's winning pitcher was Bob Baumgartner, who went the distance with Richard "Yogi" Bell doing the catching.

With the series tied at a game apiece, Wilmont traveled to Fulda and claimed a 7-3 win to take a one-game edge.

John Timms picked up the pitching victory for the Cardinals, while slapping two hits at the plate. Bell, Virgil Baumgartner and Pat Baumgartner also each had two hits for Wilmont, while Grothe and Junior Severson both ripped three hits for Fulda.

Back home on the evening of Tuesday, August 12, 1969, the Cardinals clinched a state tournament trip with a thrilling 8-7 win over the Giants.

Storden natives Rich Meyer and Don Sorenson each had two hits to help Fulda earn a 5-1 lead heading into the bottom of the sixth.

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Sparked by a three-run homer by center fielder Ray Brake, the Cardinals tied the game at 5-5 in that frame.

Then -- three innings later with the score tied at 7-7 -- Wilmont won the game in the bottom of the ninth.

Timms started things with a lead-off single and Pat Bamgartner -- who had belted a two-run homer in the seventh -- followed with a double, moving Timms to third.

One batter later, winning pitcher Bob Baumgartner stroked an RBI single -- sending the Cardinals to the state tournament.

"That was our one and only trip to the state," recalled Pat Baumgartner, who played with the Cardinals for 24 seasons from 1957-1980. "I started playing for Wilmont when I was 14 and I guess I was 38 when we moved to St. Joseph, Missouri (job transfer) before the 1981 season."

Globe article lauds Baumgartner's exploits

In the Wednesday, August 13, 1969 edition of the Daily Globe, sports reporter Lynn Hohensee gave lots of credit to the Baumgartner brothers and their role in helping Wilmont achieve its championship.

"Wilmont wins berth in state tournament," was the headline.

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Here are the first three paragraphs of Hohensee's story:

"The willows were swinging and the crowd was overflowing with numbers and excitement.

"There is no other way to describe the final game of the Gopher League playoffs at Wilmont Tuesday evening. Wilmont took the championship, three games to one, over Fulda on an 8-7 victory that will send them to the state tourney at Jordan, Minn.

"If there is a person that the Wilmont team and fans should congratulate for the greatest contribution to the team it should be Mrs. Baumgartner for giving them a shortstop, first baseman, left fielder, and pitcher. The "B-boys" collected six hits, three RBI's and scored three runs themselves. In the field, they had five unassisted putouts and assisted on 14 others without an error."

That was quite a description by Hohensee, and of course -- Mr. Baumgartner deserves credit too.

For the four sons of Andrew and Cecelia Baumgartner, were all playing for those 1969 Wilmont Cardinals.

Virgil, who graduated from Fulda High School in 1949 was Wilmont's first baseman.

Bob, who graduated from Wilmont's Our Lady of Good Council in 1959, was the team's pitching ace and would become the Cardinals' player-manager. After finishing up his playing days, Bob would continue as Wilmont's manager, completing 32 seasons of involvement with the Cardinals.

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Bob's son, Sam, began playing with Wilmont after his sophomore season at Worthington High School in 1986. Sam Baumgartner has followed in his father's footsteps and is now the player-manager for team, completing his 24th season with the Cardinals.

"I idolized my dad so much when I was growing up and going to all those games," Sam said about his attachment to Wilmont amateur baseball. "It just seemed like something I always wanted to do -- play for the Cardinals and be involved with the team anyway that I could."

Pat, who graduated from OLGC in 1961, was Wilmont's shortstop and primary power hitter in 1969.

Pat was featured in my July 20 "blast' for hitting three home runs in a 12-9 victory against Slayton on the same day that Neil Armstrong and "Buzz" Aldrin walked on the moon.

Injured -- broken jaw in three places -- while playing in a pick-up softball game with relatives at his dad's farm near Iona, Pat did not let the injury slow him down.

"I got hit with a water-soaked ball and broke my jaw," he recalled. "I remember in that Slayton game -- a week or so later -- that I struck out my first time up. I asked Virg what I was doing wrong. 'Try watching the ball,' was his response. That's what I did and the next three times, I hit home runs."

Pat and Barbara, who recently moved from the area to River Falls, Wisc, have eight children -- including Worthington's Julie Gerber (Jay), who -- along with twin sister Jenny -- graduated from WHS in 1985.

"We all would pile into the van and go to those Wilmont games when we were kids," remembers Julie. "We would chase foul balls and collect pop cans under the bleachers. I was so proud of my dad and remember that I would really chase after those home run balls that he hit."

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Julie's dad hit lots of home runs for Wilmont -- and for Farmer's Elevator of Worthington, a fast-pitch softball team.

"I think that between softball and baseball, I hit 29 home runs one summer," said Pat. "We played so many games. Sometimes, on the weekends, we would play in a softball tournament in the morning, play a baseball game in the afternoon, and then go back and finish the softball tournament in the evening."

Martin Oil, with its ace pitcher Ron Bulick, was the Farmer's Elevator's biggest rival in the Worthington fast-pitch league in the '60s and '70s, according to Pat, who played third base for the softball team.

The fourth Baumgartner brother -- Don, who graduated from Wilmont's OLGC in 1963 -- just finished up a stint in the U.S. Air Force in time to join the '69 Cardinals.

"I just got out of the service in July and was able to get enough games in to make the playoffs," recalls Don, who usually manned right field for Wilmont. "I remember that playoff series against Fulda and I also have a memory of hitting my first home run for the Cardinals the next summer in 1970."

Windom vs. Wilmont, Summer of 1969

Both Windom and Wilmont earned advancement to the state tournament. But then -- as now -- a playoff was held for seeding purposes.

Windom won the opener at Wilmont, 9-6, and also won the second game at Windom by a 5-3 score to win the best-of-three series.

Managing the Cardinals was Lawrence "Butts" Probst, for who the field in Wilmont is now named.

"He was a great manager," recalled Pat Baumgartner. "Butts really knew baseball and he treated you right."

Here is another paragraph from the Daily Globe story describing Wilmont's 8-7 win over Fulda:

"We get to choose three players from the league now to play with us at the state tourney," Butts explained. "We choose Gary Grothe and Rich Meyer of Fulda and Steve Bassett of Rushmore."

With Grothe and Bassett as pitchers and Meyer as a catcher, the Cardinals headed into the Windom playoff and to the state tournament with an expanded roster.

"It was an honor getting drafted by Wilmont," said Bassett, who had just finished a sparkling high school pitching career for the Worthington Trojans. "Wilmont had a nice power team with a lot of strong hitters and they always played good defense. When I pitched against them -- you either had to blow it by them or somehow trick them."

Bassett, in fact, later pitched for Wilmont in the 1970s after completing his military obligation and pitching another season for the Worthington Community College Bluejays.

Cardinals faced Loretto at Jordan on Aug. 31

With the starting line-up of "Yogi" Bell behind the plate, "Sarge" Bassett on the mound, Virg Baumgartner at first base, Jim Broich at second base, Pat Baumgartner at shortstop, Ray Team at third base, John Timms in left field, Ray Brake in center field and Bob Baumgartner in right field -- the Cardinals played against Loretto in a 6 p.m. scheduled game at Jordan in the opening round of the '69 state amateur tournament.

Ed Herrig, Don Baumgartner, John Larson, Tom Lais, Bob Petrich and Marv Spartz were among the other Wilmont players that made the trip to Jordan.

Mike and Dave Baumgartner -- Virg's sons -- were the team's batboys.

Loretto scored five runs in the second inning and ended up with an 8-2 victory over the Cardinals.

"I remember that it rained most of the day," said Virg Baumgartner. "We were behind 7-0 after the first two innings, but we came back and won the rest of the game, 2-1. It just took us awhile to get going."

Timms and Pat Baumgartner both had two hits in the game, while Virg Baumgarnter and Team had a hit each.

Windom outhit Hamburg, 6-5, but was outscored 4-3, also losing its opening game.

Rossow -- the Windom shortstop and lead-off hitter -- had two hits for the Pirates, while Jaacks, Nelson, Don Dulski and John Michelau had a hit each.

Nelson and Lakefield draftee Ken Wilson did the pitching for Windom in its '69 state tournament game, while Michelau did the catching.

So, tonight -- at Butts Probst Field -- the quest for those state amateur baseball tournament memories continues.

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