Younghans led baseball team by examplePublished 6:26am Monday, February 24, 2014
Playing shortstop as a member of 1950 state champion Fergus Falls Red Sox town baseball team would, in itself, be enough of a legacy for most people. Hal Younghans, who died Feb. 8 at the age of 92 in the Twin Cities, will be remembered for much more than just his baseball playing days.
Younghans also taught physical education in the Fergus Falls public schools system. Kids looked up to him.
“I remember Hal as one of our childhood heroes back in 1950 when the Fergus Red Sox won the Minnesota Double-A baseball title,” said Dayton Soby, a 1957 FFHS grad and current resident of the Twin Cities. “As the shortstop he was very quick and a was a good fielder.”
Mike Sigelman, another 1957 FFHS grad and a resident of the Twin Cities, also has fond memories of Younghans.
“Hal was one nice guy,” said Sigelman. “He always had a smile on his face and always was friendly. He really appreciated the athletic success of his teams.”
Many Otter varsity basketball players learned their skills from Younghans at the grade school level.
Younghans, a Marine Corps pilot during World War II, went on to teach and coach hockey in the Twin Cities.
He coached Minneapolis Patrick Henry to the boys state hockey tournament in 1959 and 1960.
In Fergus Falls, Younghans will always be best known as a member of the state championship Red Sox town team. Team members, in addition to Younghans, were Fergus Falls retirees Harley Oyloe and Roland Harlow, and Duane Baglien, Jim McNulty, John Kelly, Fred Kroog, John DeWitt, Joe Colasinski, Don Blasius, and Eddie Piacentini. Future FFHS grad George Sawyer was the batboy.
Team members preceding Younghans in death were Baglien, McNulty, Kelly, Colasinski and Blasius.
“It’s sad realizing those great players are no longer with us, but we’re happy to still have the remaining guys from that team,” said Sigelman.
Soby never forgot the baseball glory years in Fergus Falls in the late 1940s and early 1950s.
“Double-A baseball was pretty good in those days,” said Soby. “Major League baseball had not yet come to Minnesota, and there was no television for folks in Fergus to watch. So the Red Sox were a big deal in Fergus, and they drew big crowds, sometimes 3,000 people per game, as I recall.”
Soby and Sigelman both remember the parade in downtown Fergus Falls after the Red Sox won the state title in 1950.
“After the parade, I walked up to Hal and asked for his autograph,” said Soby. “I was a thrilled kid when he smiled at me and signed his name for me.”
At least 30 years later, Soby was riding his bike in Golden Valley and passed by a man working in his yard.
“I immediately recognized Hal, who looked the same to me,” said Soby. “I circled back and we reminisced about the 1950 Red Sox, including the autograph session. He was clearly pleased by the recognition.”
Oyloe said that Younghans was a key player on the championship Fergus Red Sox team.
“Hal played professional baseball with the St. Paul Saints and was in the Brooklyn Dodgers organization,” said Oyloe. “Later, in the 1980s, he was the Midwest baseball scout for the Chicago Cubs. Hal was an avid golfer his adult life.”
It’s also noteworthy to point out that another person in the Brooklyn Dodgers organization, during the 1940s, was Chuck Connors who later became a star on “The Rifleman” TV series during the 1950s.
After his passing, Twin Cities residents praised Younghans for his work as a teacher, coach and principal.
He is survived by his children, Jane (Rich) Reinholdz, Robert (Kim) Younghans, Barbara (Mike) Wigley, Judith (Jerry) Stanke, Paul (Laura) Unruh, Denise (Jeff) Cohn, and Nanette (Mike) Sawyer; 16 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.
Memorials for Younghans are preferred to the Alzheimer’s Association.