Herald JournalHerald Journal, March 31, 2003

Springtime means baseball time

By Joe Kieser

This is part one of a series of five articles. Watch next week's edition of the Herald Journal for the continuing saga of the 1946 Winsted baseball season.

The snow was just about melted in the area of Winsted. Some children on the playground found enough dry dirt for a game of marbles.

Folks gathered around the radio at night to listen if boxer Joe Louis could defend his title just one more time. A few people made the long trip to Minneapolis to watch the "Lakers" play basketball.

Brownie's corner and Martin, Mel, and Paul Hertzog's bars were a buzz of conversation. At Dan Rogers' and Cy Seymour's barber shops, the benches were full every morning. This was the gathering spot where you could get anything from bowling and sports scores to if the fish were biting at Lake Mary or Little Boy.

World War II was over and the men and women were returning to their home towns. Families were mourning the injury or loss of a loved one. Everyone wished for a more simple form of life to prevail.

Bub Seymour was pondering over the roster for this year's town team baseball club. How could he possibly take all this raw talent and mold it all into a good baseball team?

They had a good year in 1947, but this year he needed just a little bit more.

In 1946, there was a rumor around town that some new guy named Roman or Chuck might be coming to play for the local team. The league only allowed two players outside the 15-mile radius to play on the team.

The rest of the team members had to be living in Winsted by April 15 of the year that they were playing.

Along with Fred Wallner, Lloyd Lundeen, and the local talent, the team looked very promising.

The whole area support was also very critical. Jobs for the out-of-town boys were supplied by Green Giant, Coast-to-Coast, Keating's, Pure Milk, and George Roufs dray line. With the payroll at $110 per game, and tickets at 50 cents each, you needed 300 fans just to break even.

There was probably even a little behind-the-scenes support. Joe Laxen would bring a dozen eggs and a few chickens for Wallner, because he was such a good ball player. (If a late inning hit or strike out was necessary, a $5 or $10 bill suddenly appeared through a hole in the chicken wire fence!)

Before the 5 a.m. Mass Sunday mornings, the signs would appear on the sidewalks of Winsted. There might be some stranger in town who didn't know that it was game day.

The sun was just coming up in the east when Denny Campbell backed his trailer up to the gate. He soon had the canvas curtains aligned along the east and west sides of the ball park.

With a shovel and a rake, he began his Sunday ritual. The food and beverage stand needed to be stocked, chalk lines laid down and every blade of grass looking just right.

Volunteers were always in big demand ­ ticket takers at the east and west gates, kids to chase after the balls that landed on streets, lawns, gardens, and homes; and the big wooden scoreboard in left field needed the cardboard score cards put up.

Dave Laurance was already sitting by the microphone and ready to give the starting line up. Paul Wolff had his pencil and was ready to be the score keeper. The beer stand was ready for business.

The fans were starting to arrive. Joe Laxen with his box of goodies, Martin Kieser and Frank Gueningsman were the first ones through the gate. Their reserved seats on the bench under the big tree were soon occupied.

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