Many baseball fans who attended the Minnesota Twins Winter Caravan Tuesday evening, Jan. 22 at the Bigwood Event Center in Fergus Falls not only talked about big league baseball.
They also spoke about town team baseball in Otter Tail County, prompted in part by the recent passing of Roland Harlow.
In 1963, the third year of the Minnesota Twins, Harlow played town baseball at Underwood. He had formerly been a member of the Fergus Falls Red Sox which in the early 1960s was transitioning to become the Fergus Falls Eagles.
Also playing for Underwood in the summer of 1963 was Dave Wilde, another former Fergus Red Sox player.
Both Harlow and Wilde had played for the 1960 Fergus Falls Red Sox which took second at state in Class B.
Wilde had coffee this past week with two other members of the 1963 Underwood town team, namely Underwood natives Curt Walvatne and Ron Shebeck.
“Town ball was really something special in those days,” said Wilde, who was a center fielder for the Underwood town team.
Harlow played second base, right field and did some pitching.
Curt Walvatne played third base, catcher and was a pitcher, as was his pitching brother and teammate Dick Walvatne. Shebeck was a catcher.
Other Underwood town team members in 1963 included left fielder Al Larson, outfielder and first baseman Mark Pederson, second baseman Gerry Rubink, first baseman Don Dose, second baseman Dale Solin, outfielder Ken Kothe, catcher and pitcher Don Gamber, right fielder John Soby, left fielder and pitcher Chuck Howard, outfielder Gene Donley and shortstop Loren Kern.
Underwood was a member of the Western Star League as were Hoffman, Battle Lake, Elbow Lake, Ashby, Evansville, Henning and Alexandria.
Distinguished Battle Lake players included pitcher Lefty Christenson, the Freeman brothers Ken and Donny, Barry Johnson and Roger Olson.
Starring for Ashby was pitcher Lou Boe and top performers for Henning included Bob Thiel and Jim Peterson.
Underwood’s baseball heritage
Mention Underwood town baseball and the name Otto Kester quickly comes to mind. He is pictured with his 1921 Underwood teammates in a book compiled by Underwood historian Ron Shebeck.
The elder Kester’s son, Marvin, was an outstanding Underwood baseball player in his own right and was elected to the Minnesota Baseball Hall of Fame in 1958.
In 1959 the Fergus Falls Red Sox did not field a team. Two Fergus players, Dave Wilde and Milt Hysjulien, were welcomed by Underwood players to join them for the 1959 summer season.
Roland Harlow and other Fergus players, including future San Francisco Giants minor league pitcher Roger Sinner and George Sawyer, opted to play for Dalton in the summer of 1959.
In 1959, the Western Star League All-Star Game was played in Ashby, in front of more than 1,600 fans. Hysjulien and Sawyer homered in the game.
Other all-stars included Wilde, Harlow and Sinner. It was East versus West with the Eastern all-stars winning 4-2.
Town ball in Underwood and other area communities, in the 1950s, was a time when people stayed closer to home to cheer on town baseball teams.
The number of teams and leagues operating in Minnesota peaked between the end of World War II, in 1945, until 1961.
Dick Durrell, founder of People Magazine who played with the Fergus Falls Red Sox in the late 1940s, referred to his town baseball days in west central Minnesota as “Camelot.”
The story of Rudy Regalado
Rudy Regalado was a member of the Fergus Falls Red Sox in 1952, played minor league baseball for Cleveland in 1953 and made it to the major leagues in 1954.
Regalado hit several home runs with Cleveland during spring training in 1954.
The Indians had no choice but to keep Rudy in the big leagues. He played in the World Series, just two years after playing for the Fergus Falls town team.
Tom Hintgen is a longtime Daily Journal columnist. His column appears Saturdays.