The introduction of Little League baseball in the late 1950s was reason to celebrate in SuperiorMay 8, 1956. It was spring in Superior, so you know what the weather was like, but the headlines in the Telegram screamed out “City Youth Ball Entries Now Ready.” The baseball season was ready to begin and the Superior Youth Organization was in its infancy, having been formed in the spring of 1956.
By: By Don Leighton and Mike Granlund, The Daily Telegram
The following is another “Have Fun or Get Out of the Way” column in the “Fields of Dreams” series by Don Leighton and Mike Granlund and their alter egos, Lance Boyle and Billy Pirkola.
May 8, 1956. It was spring in Superior, so you know what the weather was like, but the headlines in the Telegram screamed out “City Youth Ball Entries Now Ready.” The baseball season was ready to begin and the Superior Youth Organization was in its infancy, having been formed in the spring of 1956.
The organizers behind the SYO were Ernest LaLonde, George Budnick, Joe Goldfine, Casey Campbell, John Hennessy, Mertz Mortorelli, Steve Bachand, William Axt, Bill Finn, Morrie Arnovich and Joe Leszcynski. Games were to be played at Municipal Stadium for leagues with players 13 and older. Younger players would hold their games at Wade Bowl, Pattison, Cooper and Franklin schools. Each age group had a quaint name, such as the Cadet, Midget and Cub. There was a $2 entry fee per team. It was 1956.
Times were equally exciting in 1957. A new car cost around $2,100 and gasoline was 31 cents per gallon. A new house cost about $18,000, bread was 19 cents a loaf, milk was $1 per gallon and a postage stamp was 3 cents. The number one song in America was Patricia by Perez Prado. I was 6 years old and glad to be here.
If all of that good stuff wasn’t enough to get excited about, Superior also began a partnership that benefited baseball and the young boys of the city.
With Bill Finn leading the way, the SYO joined Little League Baseball in 1957. The first game took place on June 3 between the Red Sox and Yankees at “newly remodeled” Pattison School. It was a special day for Superior and those who played in the newly-joined association. The Little League celebration actually began June 1 with a parade of Little League teams and their “minor league” teams. John Hennessy was the parade marshal. Hundreds of people lined the parade route and a band accompanied the boys.
When the big night arrived, opening ceremonies were held at the Pattison Field with Dennis Murphy, of WEBC radio, serving as the master of ceremonies. Andy Borg and Edward Nelson were the featured speakers and threw out the first pitch. Murphy introduced the players and coaches of the Yankees and the Red Sox, and the call of “Play Ball!” rang out for the first time in Little League history in Superior.
The Red Sox won that first game, 7-6, in seven innings. Ross Amundson was the winning pitcher. Bernie Tomzak, with Chuck Ericson as his coach, managed the Red Sox. Team members were Mark Fitzgerald, Larry Raymond, Dennis Abrahamson, Ross Amundson, Don Steen, Jamie Ross, Frank McManus, Norm Lier, Tony Coda, Anthony Bukowski, Mike Fonger, Bob Lien and David Larson.
Ron Schultz and Jack Evens managed the Yankees. Players were Dick Raymond, Bruce Blank, Jerry Maas, Roger Anderson, David Olson, Steve Armstrong, Robert Gotelaere, Dennis Mortorelli, Mike Kruger, Tod Chadwick, Richard Carlson and Bill Bloss.
The Red Sox finished first in the American League, and the Braves won the National League. This led to the first Little League World Series held in Superior, with a two out of three format, August 5, 1957. The Red Sox beat the Braves in two straight, 12-1 and 4-1, and were World Series champions.
There was more excitement ahead in 1958. A brand new baseball field for the Little League players of Superior was built behind the Red Owl Store on 17th Street and Pine Avenue. The new field was engineered by Joe Leszcynski, city park and recreation director, with the help of local volunteers who constructed the dugouts, fence and playing field. Financial aid came from the Junior Chamber of Commerce and the Jaycettes.
The first game was scheduled for June 2 and pitted the Cardinals against the Dodgers. Just as in 1957, there were dedication ceremonies at the field with Dennis Murphy serving as the emcee.
Pregame speakers were James Sauter, president of the Junior Chamber of Commerce, and Mrs. Dean Merrill, president of the Jaycettes. City Building Inspector Thomas Thompson, supervisor for the SYO, threw out the first pitch to catcher, Jack Lynch, chair of the Douglas County Board of Supervisors. Joe Leszcynski was the batter, and the Superior State College Air ROTC color guard and uniformed members of all eight Little League teams participated in the festivities.
This is where the 50-year-old picture gets a little fuzzy. We cannot find the results of the June 2 Cardinal-Dodger game. The first Little League game of 1958 reported to the Telegram was the Red Sox and White Sox on June 5. We speculate that our lovely spring weather may not have cooperated, and the first ever game at Little League Number One was the game between the Red and White Sox.
The Red Sox won 3-2 on a two-run homer by Ross Amundson in the top of the sixth inning. Amundson also pitched the bottom of the sixth, holding the White Sox scoreless to and earning the win. The Red Sox won the mythical World Series in August, defeating the Dodgers two games to one.
Before the Series, the American League All-Stars and the National League All-Stars qualified for sub-district tournament action to be hosted by Superior at the new stadium. The American All-Stars advanced to the district tournament in Bessemer, Mich. by defeating Montreal in the championship game, 6-2. In Bessemer, Superior faced Rhinelander in the title game and lost, 8-1. Superior was done for the season while Rhinelander moved on to the state tournament, held in Wausau.
Members of the Nationals were John McKenzie, Marshall Hanson, Dennis Midbon, Bill Greenberg, Dennis Wojciehowski, Gary Genovese, Don Ely, Jim Murray, Gary Arseneau, Bill Finch, Dave Frazer, Bill Goodwin and Bill Johnson. The team was managed by Ray Somerville and Herman Hammerbeck.
Members of the American League All-Stars were Ross Amundson, David Larson, Chuck Mahaffey, Larry Raymond, David Olson, Bruce Blank, Mike Kruger, Gerald Maas, Tony Depta, Edward Mileazeski, Gerald Peck, Gary Regenfuss, Pat Walsh and Thomas McCauley. They were coached by Bernie Tomzak and Ed Stranko.
The years 1956-58 provided a lot of history in the baseball world for Superior. Little League Field Number One is celebrating its 50th birthday this year. Many greats played ball on the field, and there will be many more.
Thank you Bill Finn, Mertz Mortorelli and Steve Bachand for the leadership and vision you provided a fledgling youth baseball program. Ironically, and sadly, Field Number One and the complex itself have not been honored like Arnovich, Parenteau and Liebaert Fields. More to come, in a future column, regarding this.
Since there is no name, this field does not meet the stringent requirements established by Lance and Billy to qualify for a Field of Dreams. Aw, the heck with it. Mr. and Mrs. Billy are on vacation, again, so I will determine what is a requirement. Tell all of the young kids here that played, and still play, that this is now a Field of Dreams. It more than qualifies.
Now, let us listen to a little Patricia by Perez Prado.
Boyleing in the Perkolator
• What do Britnee Blake, Ashley Martin, Amanda LeBard, Taylor VanDamme, Chelsey Jarzin and Ashlee Olson have in common? They all played softball at Superior High School and now are members of the Duluth Aerials, who defeated the Minnesota Explosion 5-0 last Sunday to qualify for the Northern National Tournament July 30-August 3 in Rochester, Minn. LeBard was the winning pitcher in the championship game. In the tournament, held in Duluth, the Aerials went 5-0. Another example of hard work, dedication and sacrifice paying off. Congratulations and good luck!
• Speaking of hard work and dedication, the Don Leighton School of Climbing has turned out another world champion. Alex Johnson, granddaughter of Don and Shirley Johnson of Superior and daughter of Duane Johnson and Patty (Johnson) Hope, took home the gold medal and earned the title of world’s best climber after winning the 2008 Climbing World Cup. Climbers from 23 countries were represented.
Johnson, who is from Hudson, Wis. and only 19, was competing in her first World Cup bouldering competition. She has never had a coach or trainer and has taught herself. Johnson has been climbing since the age of 7n and demonstrated her skills at the Superior Middle School when she was 14.
The competition was held June 6-8 in Vail, Col. in front of 7,500 spectators. Johnson became the first American to win a Climbing World Cup. Pretty impressive!
“Have Fun or Get Out of the Way” runs semiweekly in The Daily Telegram. Opinions and/or story ideas can be e-mailed to firstname.lastname@example.org.