WINSTED Gordon Kubasch is many things: husband and father, lifelong Winsted resident, local businessman, and a war veteran. He also has one other claim to fame local baseball.
Before the Winsted Wildcats adopted the name in 1956, the town baseball team was initially known as the Warriors. Kubasch was the backup catcher when they won the 1948 State Class A Amateur Baseball Championship.
Kubasch was born near Watertown in 1929. His family moved to Winsted six years later, where his father, Herb, started an excavating business.
Kubasch attended high school in Lester Prairie, where he first became interested in playing baseball. When he was a sophomore, Kubasch recalled the catcher on the school’s baseball team got a minor injury that prevented him from playing. An announcement was made seeking a replacement but no other students expressed interest, so Kubasch volunteered for the position.
“I guess it’s up to me,” Kubasch said. “Out of the blue sky, that’s how I started catching. I just adored it.”
He soon joined the Winsted town baseball team, the Warriors, as a backup catcher. He stayed with the team for four years, and was there for the historic 1948 state championship game. After winning, the Warriors were invited to a celebratory banquet at the St. Paul Pioneer Press, where each team member was presented with a trophy. Today, Kubasch still has the warm-up mitt he used and the trophy he was given.
“Baseball was the biggest thing in town,” Kubasch recalled. “My job was to warm up pitchers. We had people from Minneapolis come see Winsted. It was well known that we had a good team here.”
Kubasch entered the Army Dec. 21, 1952. Initially, he was sent to Oklahoma for artillery training. Transported overseas on the USS General C.C. Ballou, Kubasch was stationed near the front line as a member of the Service Battery 196th Field Artillery Battalion, in what turned out to be the final year of the Korean War. Though he was trained to fire Howitzer cannons, Kubasch was asked to operate a bulldozer once his captain discovered he had excavation experience.
While using heavy equipment for things like road construction, Kubasch’s skills were put to the test in more dangerous situations. Kubasch described how he was instructed to excavate a steep mountainside near a combat zone to create a stable location for artillery.
“I used the bulldozer blade to cut a big platform, a shelf,” Kubasch said. “I think we were in enemy territory and I had a flak suit. It was the closest thing I came to being in combat.”
Though the Korean Armistice Agreement was signed July 27, 1953, Kubasch remained in Korea six more months until his military duty was fulfilled. He still has an original copy of the Stars and Stripes newspaper in his home display. The headline reads “Truce Signed.”
“I was there,” Kubasch said.
Kubasch, an Army corporal, was given a commendation ribbon and citation for “meritorious service rendered,” acknowledging his hard work, dedication and “courage under adverse and critical conditions.”
Today, Kubasch continues to run the family business, Kubasch Excavating, alongside his wife, Lenora.