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Blast from the Past: Suddenly, it's all over

HERON LAKE -- A couple of weeks ago, Zach Hacker -- who correctly picked nine out of 10 football games this past week -- wrote a blog about late fall being the best time of the year.

HERON LAKE - A couple of weeks ago, Zach Hacker - who correctly picked nine out of 10 football games this past week - wrote a blog about late fall being the best time of the year.
I read Zach’s column with interest and agreement. My colleague was correct, late fall - especially when the weather is as nice as it has been this year - is a great time of the year. But, sadly and suddenly, it sure winds down quickly.
While college football and the NFL will continue for a couple more months, the World Series - which capped a month of Major League playoffs - is over. So is the fall high school sports season for most athletes.
It all comes to a screeching halt in a hurry.
That’s the way it is with playoffs or tournaments. You lose and the season is over.
It sure was a memorable and fun-filled fall for most teams. It doesn’t really matter how successful the season was in terms of wins and losses. It’s the striving to achieve and the team fellowship - camaraderie - that makes a high school sports season such a special thing.
For me, personally, I will miss the special bond that developed over the past 11 weeks with the Heron Lake-Okabena High School cross country runners. Through thick and thin, these kids worked together and experienced both good things and disappointments.
Eleven years ago, I wrote my first column for the Daily Globe and mentioned that as a long-time high school coach in several different sports, including - eventually - 34 seasons as a head girls’ basketball coach, I had encountered mixed results, a variety of experiences and a treasure of memories.
Last week at the Section 3A cross country meet at Madison, I had an example of that as our young boys’ squad heard the reverse countdown of the team standings. After finishing last - among 17 complete teams - two years ago, we had improved to 14th last year (19 teams total) and had set our goal to finish in the upper half (12th or better) in this year’s 23-team meet.
Our lead runner had a disappointing day, finishing one place from a repeat individual state-meet qualification. But his low finish number (12) certainly helped our team reach its goal. As the countdown started at 21st (there were two incomplete teams), HL-O was not called and not called. When the announcer got to 14th, then 13th and we were still not called, we knew that we had succeeded. Then, when we were not called as the 12th-place team, we had done even better.
Yes, we were next with a score of 352 (12-58-90-95-97), putting us in 11th place. We were clearly 11th, 26 points better than 12th and 79 points behind 10th-place Canby/Minneota, the defending champion.
So while the HL-O boys were a long ways - 242 points from Redwood Valley’s second-place total of 110 - from advancing to state as a team, they collectively were enjoying the moment of reaching their objective. The team had one junior, two sophomores, three freshmen and one seventh-grader - who all came to practice yet on Monday to help provide some competition for our one state-meet qualifier, sophomore Rachel Salentiny, who will run at the state meet for a third consecutive year.
1992 countdown was dramatic
Speaking of mixed results, last week’s countdown was reminiscent of a somewhat similar one that I experienced with a different group of boys - 23 years ago at the 1992 state meet.
In that countdown, the Heron Lake-Okabena-Lakefield Silver Bullets, had one of the most unique countdowns ever, as a total of eight teams scored between 168 and 188 points. Defending champion St. Paul Academy was a clear winner with a score of 89.
We knew we had 168, but we didn’t know what place that was. But, when the announcer called ninth at 188 and said “listen to how close these point totals are,” our excitement grew. Then when Fairmont - which we had not finished ahead of all season - was called (184, seventh) and we weren’t, we became ecstatic. That enthusiasm magnified as Sartell (181) and St. Cloud Cathedral (180) were announced next.
Then when Paynesville was called next, fourth with 175 points - our guys went wild. We were in the top three and those boys were going to go up on the podium (in the fieldhouse before the awards were moved to the big gym with the stage) and receive medals. White and bronze turned to red and silver when Delano (173) was announced next as third.
The tears of joy flowed as those guys - in just their second year of existence as a cross country program - had accomplished something truly remarkable, a second-place finish at the state meet.
While these two comparisons are at a much different level of success, there is certainly some similarity. It fits in with the mixed results, variety of experiences and treasure of memories scenario.
Springman’s talk was a treasure
Nearly three months ago - Aug. 14, to be exact - I sat with many other area baseball enthusiasts at the Heritage Hall on the Murray County Fairgrounds and listened to Mike Springman’s well-documented presentation entitled: “First Night League Baseball in Murray County: 1949-1956.”
Springman, a 1969 Adrian High School graduate and the son of First Night League legend Clair Springman, organized the well-attended presentation, compiling lots of information which was greatly aided by the research efforts of Marty Krogman, a 1977 AHS grad, who like most of us in attendance is intrigued by the events of the past.
I learned a lot from Mike’s talk and will feature much more about those glory years of the First Night League when amateur baseball - it wasn’t always completely amateur - was a big, big thing in Minnesota during the decades of the 1940s and 1950s. Watch for more about Springman’s research next summer.
Speaking of the late 1940s, I have become keenly interested in finding out more about this era - those post World War II years when things were booming in rural America. I had a great chat with Worthington’s Russ Rickers (a 1949 WHS graduate) last March and became fascinated with the events of his senior year of high school. Classmate Don Frerichs went on to become a genuine track and field star at Mankato State College. I would like to research his “story” and write about his exploits with the Indians (MSC’s nickname back then).
Speaking of the Murray County Museum, where you can view highlights of Springman’s presentation - along with several articles written by former Daily Globe sports editor Bill Brower, there is a big picture and story about New York Yankees ace George Pipgras and his pitching victory in Game 2 of the 1927 World Series.
Pipgras, who grew up on a farm near Ida Grove, Iowa, spent his high school years near Slayton where he finished high school. He pitched for several area towns, including Woodstock and Fulda before impressing scouts enough to get signed by the Boston Red Sox in the spring of 1922.
Pipgras, dubbed the “Danish Viking,” had his best season with the Yankees in 1928, going a league-leading 24-13 with a 3.38 ERA. He later pitched and won the legendary 1932 World Series Game 3 when Babe Ruth allegedly “called his shot.”
After a successful 13-year career (1923-1935) with the Red Sox, Yankees and Red Sox, compiling a 102-73 win-loss record with 714 strikeouts, Pipgras became a Major League umpire through the 1940s, working the 1940 All-Star Game and the 1944 World Series. He died in Gainesville, Florida, in 1986 at the age of 86.
I had never heard of George Pipgras before walking into the Murray County Museum three weeks ago.
Flip played U of M intramural baseball with basketball pal Carlson for Clint’s “Frat Poison”
The entire state was saddened 10 days ago when Timberwolves coach Flip Saunders passed away. Fulda native Patrick Reusse had an excellent column about Flip and his days as a Golden Gopher basketball player from 1973-1977. At the end of Reusse’s story, there was mention of the fun that Saunders had playing intramural baseball at the U.
Well, it seems, Flip played several games one spring with Clint Garoutte’s “Frat Poison” team, along with fellow Gopher basketball players Craig Carlson, Dan Kosmoski and Chris Weber.
Kosmoski is currently the men’s basketball coach at St.Olaf College in Northfield and Carlson recently retired after a highly successful stint at the women’s basketball coach at Iowa Central College in Fort Dodge, Iowa.
Garoutte, a principal research scientist (food science technology) for Land O’Lakes near Elk River, graduated from Heron Lake High School in 1973 - one year after Carlson, who played basketball with Saunders at the U during both the ’74-75 (Bill Musselman’s last year) and ’75-76 (Jim Dutcher’s first year) campaigns after a two-year stint for Arlo Mogck at Worthington Communtity College.
Garoutte’s classmate Bede Mathias and Round Lake natives Denny Johnson and Brent Baumgard also played on the team, which won the championship game that season - with third baseman Mathias coming on to pitch in relief of Carlson in the pouring rain at Siebert Field.
“Flip played center field and he was really fast,” recalled Garoutte. “He could get from home to second in no time.”
“We had a lot fun,” remembers Carlson. “It was a different time. Basketball players could do things like play intramural baseball in the spring. Flip was a great guy and really enjoyed playing baseball with us.”
Look for more on “Frat Poison” and University of Minnesota intramural baseball in the future after I do some more research, along with memories of Carlson’s days as a Golden Gopher basketball player.

What To Read Next
Thursday night high school sports roundup:
The Worthington Trojans girls’ and boy’s hockey teams both played home games on Thursday night. The girls’ team celebrated Senior Night and played the non-conference Austin Packers. Austin beat Worthington 6-1.
Trailing at halftime, the Worthington High School girls basketball team outscored Albert Lea 49-27 in the second half Thursday night in Worthington
The Minnesota West men's basketball team was defeated by conference opponent Rochester Wednesday night. Bie Ruei had a big night with 26 points and four assists.