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Former Fergus baseball star McNulty dies at 85

Published 10:47am Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Jim McNulty, 85, a World War II Marine who was a second baseman and star player on the 1950 Fergus Falls Red Sox baseball state title team, died Saturday in Hawley, Pa.

McNulty came to Fergus Falls to play baseball in the late 1940s at the urging of Dick Durrell, a Marine buddy and Fergus Falls Red Sox player. Previously, McNulty played minor league baseball in the Brooklyn Dodgers organization.

In the minor leagues, McNulty was reported to be as good an infielder as Dodger sensation Jackie Robinson. Unfortunately Mac, as he was known, was weak at the bat. He did, however, find baseball glory in Fergus Falls, playing at the fairgrounds field which now is a practice field north of Kennedy Secondary School.

McNulty quickly became a friend of Fergus Falls Red Sox pitcher Harley Oyloe. They kept in touch for over 60 years.

“It was a very special friendship,” Oyloe said. “Jim was a hard-nosed player with a great personality.”

McNulty threw the ceremonial first pitch in a game at the Metrodome in September 2006 when the Minnesota Twins honored former players from the 1950s who played town baseball.

Another player on the 1950 Fergus Falls Red Sox state title team was current Fergus Falls resident Roland Harlow. George Sawyer, team batboy, later coached high school baseball in Wheaton.

The 1950 Fergus Falls Red Sox defeated Austin 3-0 in the state championship game in St. Cloud. A member of the Austin team was future New York Yankee star Bill “Moose” Skowron. McNulty was player-manager for Fergus Falls.

McNulty and Durrell first met when both of them were Marines nearing the end of their World War II tours in Japan, part of the occupational force serving a country ravaged by war. McNulty was in the Iwo Jima invasion, where he witnessed the legendary flag-raising ceremony atop Mount Suribachi.

He was born Dec. 7, 1925, in Brooklyn. He proudly served in the U.S. Marine Corps “5th Marine Division” on Iwo Jima. After returning from the war, he was recruited by Branch Rickey to play in the Brooklyn Dodgers farm system.

McNulty, in addition to his playing days in Fergus Falls, also served as player-manager at Fairmont in southern Minnesota. He later returned to the East Coast and was owner/operator of a limousine company. He was a lifetime member of the VFW and the Marine Corps League.

McNulty was the last member of his family from what many Americans refer to as “the Greatest Generation.”

His wife, Mildred, died in 2007. Surviving are a son, James McNulty, Jr., of Lawrenceville, Ga.; a daughter, Pamela Klusko of Woodhaven, N.Y.; seven grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.

The funeral is today at Queen of Peace Roman Catholic Church in Hawley, Pa. Memorials can be sent to Marine Corps Heritage Foundation, 3800 Fettler Park Dr. Ste., 104, Dumfries, VA 22025 or www.marineheritage.org.

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    RIP… Condolence to his family.

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