Don Gutzke was an 'all-around' ball player
By Mike Mitchell
Don Gutzke was born in Cold Springs, Minn., in 1930 and moved to Howard Lake when he was 11.
He attended Howard Lake Public School and participated in baseball, football and basketball. When he was 16 years old, he showed up at the Orphan's spring practice with a first baseman's glove and eager to play ball.
He followed the older players around and joined in their conversations, and "looked up" to them. The manager of the team at that time, Don Mitchell, liked the little guy and decided to give him a try at making the team. The manager found out right away that Don had a weak arm, so he couldn't play the outfield, and his arm was too wild to play in the infield. But, seeing as how he had a first baseman's glove and was left-handed, he was given a try at first base.
This was in 1947 and at that time, the restrooms, or outhouses, as they were called back then, were located under a large oak tree south of the first base dugout. These restrooms were made of wood and I've heard that they were sometimes referred to as "Gutzke's backstop." After several seasons, the restrooms worn torn down because they had taken such a beating from misplayed balls at first base and had become unsafe.
Another story that I've heard about Don during his time with the Orphans was that he had his own cheering section. This cheering section consisted of his dad, Otto, Hank Greenhagen, and Boney Hingle.
When a ground ball was hit to the left side of the infield and was thrown to first base, his cheering section would shout, "Jump, Don, jump!"
Don went on to play for the Orphans until 1954, when he started his career with Dayton's. He continued to follow and support sports of all types, from high school to college and up to professional.
Later, when he moved back to Howard Lake, he was a strong supporter of the Howard Lake school athletic program. During the time that the Orphans were without a team, he continued to follow and support amateur baseball in Winsted and other surrounding communities.
When the Orphans regrouped and joined the North Star League, I remember attending a game where Don gave me a scouting report on each and every player, their past achievements, and how they would fit into the Orphans' ball club. I was amazed that he knew all of them by name, as well as their parents, brothers, and sisters. When we traveled to an away game, he knew most of the opposing players and fans.
Don has taken charge of the grass infield and the sprinkler system which were recently installed and has spent many, many hours keeping the field in top condition. He has also been mowing the grass behind the fences so that the fans will have a nice, clean place to park their lawn chairs.
Baseball is alive and well in Howard Lake and in the rest of the league because of the support and dedication that Don Gutzke has given to amateur baseball.
From the ball clubs past and present, as well as the fans, here's to you, Don..
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