June 19, 2006
Mayer Blazers: baseball tradition continues
By Jenni Sebora
Seventy-one years of baseball tradition continues at the Hoese Field at Lutheran High School as the Mayer Blazers town team baseball season is underway once again.
Although there was baseball in some form in Mayer prior to the 1930s, the Mayer baseball team officially started league play in 1935 with a roster of some players who had never even owned a baseball glove.
By the late 1930s, the Mayer team’s competitiveness changed greatly with even some hired players to fill the roster talent. By the 1940s, the team had made its name in baseball talk around the state, earning state berths in 1943 and 1945.
Beginning with the 1940 season, the Mayer teams accumulated a regular season record of 61 wins and just 18 losses, a .772 pace, according to the Mayer Centennial Book (1886-1986).
With four playoff appearances during that period, the team advanced to the regional championship game in 1941 and 1942, losing to Chaska both times. And in 1943, they made their first state tournament appearance in Owatonna.
In 1945, Mayer played its way to the coveted top, the state championship game, earning second place and statewide attention.
The members of that Mayer Blazers team were: Douglas Lenz, bat boy; Dave Gongoll, Harold Boehner, Ed Hoese, Charles Sell, Virgil Belter, Orville Koehler, Earl Gongoll, Martin Hoeft, Stanford Lenz, Harold Kuntz, Martin Rolf, Oscar Rolf, Ray Bleedorn, Gordon Hoese, Wilford Hasse, Douglas Dibb, Bob Karels, Raymond Kuntz, and Harold Kusske, manager.
The 1970s rivaled the same success as the 1940s for the Blazers. During this time frame, the team earned four Crow River Valley League North regular season championships (1972, 1974-76), two North playoff championships (1973-74), and two Region 7B championships (1973-74), which earned them the right to compete in the state tournament in the 1973 and 1974 seasons.
Most recently, the team blazed themselves to three state tournament appearances in 1991, 1992 and 1995.
Although the Blazers have not earned a trip to the state tournament in the new century, the team remains competitive.
With the 2006 season underway, the team yields a young squad consisting of many players who are recent Mayer Lutheran High graduates. The Blazers are aiming for a .500 season, current manager Harvey Baumann noted.
“We have a young team we hope to stay together and improve,” Baumann said.
The team boasts a Crow River Valley League top pitcher in Josh Anthony. Anthony is also a strong fielder, playing shortstop position when not pitching, and a top hitter for the Blazers.
“When Josh is pitching, we’re always in the game,” Baumann said.
Although the Blazers have racked up a few losses, they have had some close games with some tough top CRVL teams.
They lost a close one, 3-1, to neighboring rivals New Germany Dutchmen; bowed to a strong Hamburg Hawks, 6-5; and were narrowly defeated by the Winsted Wildcats, 4-3.
In the match-up with Hamburg on May 16, the Blazers were trailing by one run in the final inning, with the tying and go ahead runs on second and third bases.
“We couldn’t have had a more ideal situation (if a team is trailing) with Anthony up to bat, but it just didn’t happen,” Baumann said of the loss to the Hawks.
“Everything needs to come together (as a team),” Baumann said of the Blazers’ defensive and offensive play.
In the past, the Blazers have also boasted other talented baseball players.
Ray Kuntz was the first Mayer player to sign a professional baseball contract when his performance in the 1945 games brought an offer from the St. Louis Cardinals for the 1946 season.
On Sept. 13, 1950, Mayer draftee Ed Hoese pitched Lester Prairie to a 5-0 win over Bloomington in the second round of the state tourney. The team went on to win the Class B title.
In 1975 and 1976, the Blazers were gifted with consecutive league batting titlists Larry Heldt took the crown in 1975 with a .426 average, while Bill Grams followed with a .475 mark, rivaling the 1940 effort of Willie Hasse, the centennial book noted.
In 1976, Clarence Guetzkow was elected to the coveted Minnesota Amateur Baseball Hall of Fame in recognition of his tireless allegiance to Mayer baseball, the Crow River Valley League, and to Minnesota Amateur baseball as a whole.
Beef Sunday is always a highlight for the Blazers as the proceeds from the promotion go to help fund the Blazers baseball organization.
Tickets are sold and many different prize drawings are awarded to the lucky winners between the innings of the Sunday game.
“It takes about $3,000 - $5,000 to run a (amateur baseball) team,” Baumann said.
Although proceeds from the Beef Sunday promotion go to the Blazers baseball organization, the team is also good at raising money for other organizations.
Over the past six years or so through charitable gambling, the Blazers baseball organization has raised and donated over $200,000 to the city of Mayer for various activities, events and organizations, such as the new park in town.
Beef Sunday this year is Sunday, July 16 when the Blazers will take on the New Germany Dutchmen at Mayer.