Fuzzy Memories

"Fuzzy Memories" is a term that I coined for the memories passed on to me by grown up Minot Kids and former players. I call these "fuzzy memories" for two reasons. First, they aren't always that clear and accurate, and secondly, people have a "warm and fuzzy" feelings about them. People that have read the Minot Mallards book or visited this website often comment that these memories are the best part of the work.

Frazier Robinson - Winnipeg Buffalo catcher from the Negro Leagues

Even though the ManDak League was an integrated league, the Winnipeg Buffaloes were an all-black team. That was because Stanley Zedd, the guy that got the Winnipeg team up, was the big shot of the town, and he had the money to get the good ballplayers, and that’s the way he got the Winnipeg Buffaloes real fast. All the players he got on that team were from the old Negro Leagues. That’s the reason I already knew most of the guys on the club before I got there. From Frazer Robinson’s book ”Catching Dreams”. Frazer Robinson was a long-time Negro League star that played catcher for the first three seasons of the ManDak League.

Marly Strong - Catcher for the 1950 Mallards

Ted Strong, our third baseman, was driving the team bus from Brandon to Winnipeg and the bus went off the road and got stuck. We could not get it out of the ditch. Canadian Mounties brought out a team of oxen and pulled the bus out and back onto the road. The Mallards hired Satchel Paige for $100 to pitch three innings of a game. When the National Anthem ended, I asked Paige if he would like to warm up. He replied that he been warmed up since 1936 when he pitched for the Bismarck, North Dakota team.

Bill Guenthner - Grown-up Minot Kid

The Mallards wore uniforms of major league quality. They were off-white flannel wool and had the team name “Mallards” in green script lettering with red trimming across the jersey, running diagonally upward. The number on the back was also green with red trim. The players wore green sleeved baseball undershirts that extended past the end of the jersey to the mid- forearm They also wore green stirrup baseball socks over white socks and the old style black, low cut baseball shoes with metal cleats. The caps were also green the color of the bills were red some years and green other years. The 1950 Mallard jerseys had the word “MINOT” in block letters. The 1951 jerseys had “Minot’ in script with a mallard duck insignia. Some players wore this style in later years when the team was short of uniforms.

Beginning in 1952, around the third week of May, the Minot Daily News would publish  photographs of the Minot Mallards players. I started cutting them out of the newspaper and collecting them. As new players were added to the team, their photographs were often published and I would add them to my collection. However, some players’ photographs were not. I started taking my own photographs with a Kodak Brownie camera and had my own collection. All the players that I asked were more than willing to pose for me. Somehow I have lost track of these during my teen years.

Minot Municipal Ball Park was enclosed by a zigzagging concrete fence, about 10 feet high. In the outfield area, billboards were erected over the concrete fence. The billboards formed open triangular areas with the concrete fence. We would come to the park early on game days and climb up through the triangular area and jump down onto the field during batting practice. Sometimes we would stay sitting on the top of the concrete fence with our backs against the billboards. Just before the game started the PA announcer would scold us to get down of the fence before we got hurt. Then he would add that we should come down into the park. If we came in during batting practice we would go out onto the field with our gloves and “shag flies” with the Mallards. They would give us pointers to help us learn to be better. There must not have been any concerns about lawsuits back then. Sunnyside Elementary School was across the street behind the right field fence. There were always kids hanging out there during batting practice hoping to get a free baseball. There was quite a scramble when one landed there.

I like to think back about those zigzagging walls and how the outfielders must have had a tough time when a ball flew past them and rebounded off the wall. In most ball parks the ball would probably rebound more or less straight back but at Minot it would bounce to the right or left depending where it hit. This along with the outfield lighting with the light towers inside the fence and the spacious outfield must have made a difficult playing field for the outfielders. Sometimes the ball would land or bounce into the light tower and the outfielder could not get at it. When this happened, there was confusion about ground rules and that led to some pretty good rhubarbs. They tried installing barriers to keep balls out of the tower but the ball  sometimes got over or through the barriers anyway.

Brad Tolson - Right handed Pitcher for the 1950 & 1951 Mallards

It was a drag, those long bus rides back from Canada on Saturday night and then a game day in Minot on Sunday. But the Minot fans gave us great support and were always friendly.

Norm Felde - Outfielder, First baseman for the 1950 & 1951 Mallards

I remember going downtown in Minot on Main Street and handing out all kinds of merchandise donated by the Mallard merchants and boosters. Also, playing tournaments all over Canada. We played on all kinds of ball diamonds – pastures, the dim lighting at Osbourn  Stadium in Winnipeg. I remember Ted Strong grinding our bus into gear and the long rides back to Minot and then a day game the next day. It was dirty, dusty and cold. We slept in our uniforms. The Brandon Greys spoke “Cuban” and we wondered what they were saying.

Ted Fowler - First baseman  for the 1950 Mallards

I remember a big fight in Winnipeg one night, when I tossed the ball over to our pitcher Anderson. He touched first base and the umpire called the runner safe. Anderson hit the umpire and a big fight erupted. Also, when the opposing managers went out to the mound to talk to their pitchers, Minot fans would whistle with each step the manager took, to the tune of “The worms crawl in-the worms crawl out, etc”

Rolling into Winnipeg one time we blew out a tire on the team bus right in the middle of the main intersection. We tied up traffic with players wandering around outside the bus. On another trip we were on the way back to Minot when someone made a nasty remark about the “Queen” in front of the customs people at about 2:00 AM. We were ordered off the bus while they went through all our stuff, even counting baseballs. Sometimes a couple of our guys who had female friends in Winnipeg would be AWOL getting back to the bus on time and we had to “round them up” or customs would give us a real hassle at the border

Caroll Rasch - Grown-up Minot Kid

 I remember being with the knot hole gang along the third base line and seeing Othello Renfroe come out of the dugout. I believe he was managing as he was walking out to talk with the pitcher. I also remember a big rhubarb. A ball went to the deep right field and either hit the top of the wall and bounced back onto the field or it hit a tree just outside the park and bounced back in.  The arguments became heated and intense. I have never seen anything like it. The officials began removing people from the game. So many had to leave, and other players had to come in from the infield to pitch. I remember Renfroe putting a team together to finish the game.  I think he might be one of the first Black managers of a "white" team in a "white" league. We all saw a little bit of history and an amazingly charming guy. I remember his clowning.  The Mallards were behind and there was a heavy overcast and he kneeled in front of the dugout with eyes to the heavens and prayed for rain to end the game. Note by Bill Guenthner: Othello Renfroe did manage the Minot Mallards for at least one game. In 1954, after the Mallards won the 1954 ManDak League championship, they scheduled an exhibition game at Minot against the Indian Head team. Zoonie McLean had departed Minot for his coaching duties in Plentywood, Montana and Dean Scarborough, who filled in for McLean in the final game of the championship series, had left for home. So Othello Renfroe was acting manager for this game held on Thursday night, September 9, 1954. Ron Bowen of Brandon played first base for the Mallards in place of Scarborough. The Mallards won the game 7-6 on a bad-hop single by Renfroe with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning. Renfroe played for the Mallards in 1951, 1953 and 1954. That is the only game that I have come across that he managed. But he was a "grandstander" and he may have acted as if he were the manager at other times.

I grew up in Minot and was a member of the Mallards "Knot Hole Gang" in the mid 50’s. I remember a pitcher named Cliff Lemme. He and his family lived up the block and we would beg his son, David, to let us see his dad's baseball glove. He would bring it out into the yard and we'd fight over who could wear it for playing catch. We would treat it like a holy relic, but when bored, would leave it lying out in the yard. More than once his dad had to go looking for it in a panic.  All of us thought we were Don Corcoran or Zoonie McLean. The ballpark was only eight blocks from my neighborhood. We would walk past it every day and, in summer, would grab our baseball gloves and hang out near the park, sending somebody in to see if we could hang out in the outfield and shag balls for them during batting practice. One of the Mallards would often hit us a few towering fly balls to chase as a reward. I remember getting under one and catching it and feeling as if I was the greatest. I also remember being invited to stand in the batter's box as one of the Mallards pitched. I was urged not to take a swing at the ball but I recall them coming past me at 60 to 90 mph.

Jim Adelson - Mallards radio and TV sportscaster)

The following is from Jim Adelson’s book Two Rolls…No Coffee published in 1990:

In my second year doing the radio broadcasts of the Mallards games, the radio station decided that it was too expensive for me to travel with the team. So I had telephones installed in the press boxes at Brandon, Carman and Winnipeg. I hired a guy in each city to do the play-by-play of the game to my assistant in the studio at Minot who would listen and type the game in condensed version. As the game progressed, I would color it up and broadcast it over the local radio station. One evening after about three innings we lost our telephone connection and I soon caught up with my assistant. As he was frantically trying to re-establish the telephone connection, I decided to make up a fight. Since Duke Bowman was easy-going and slow to anger, I thought it would be kind of startling to get Duke involved. So I went on to describe a fictitious fight between Duke Bowman and the Winnipeg pitcher with both benches clearing. I managed to keep things going until we got re-connected and back to the game. So a day or so later Duke Bowman and the Mallards were back in Minot and Duke was at a local watering hole on Main Street when a guy came up to him and remarked to Duke that he looked pretty good considering the big fight he had in Winnipeg. I had some explaining to do when Duke caught up to me the next day at the ballpark. Note by Bill Guenthner- On June 17, 1952 which was Adelson’s first year in Minot, the Minot Daily News reported the following: Fists flared between Manager Ted Radcliffe [known as Double-Duty Radcliffe] of Winnipeg and third baseman Duke Bowman of Minot in the sixth inning of a game here. A Winnipeg base runner attempted to steal third base and was hit in his back by a throw from Mallard second baseman John Kennedy. The runner then collided with Bowman and there was some grappling and grumbling before they untangled. Then according to Bowman, Radcliffe, coaching at third base, told Bowman that he would hit him if Duke would remove his glasses. Bowman said he removed his glasses and was grazed on the ear by Radcliffe. Duke then punched Radcliffe in the nose as both teams rushed into the melee and fans dashed from the third base seats. Both were ejected from the game and fined by the league.

Dennis Bommersbach - Grown-up Minot Kid

I have many fond memories of the good old baseball days in Minot. I used to pester the Mallards to death to let me be the “bat boy” for a game. If I didn’t succeed I would go pester the visiting team. What great excitement it was to sit in the dugout with the players. I had quite a collection of broken bats that I took home and nailed together and then used them in neighborhood vacant lot games.

Mark Rasmuson - Grown-up Minot Kid

Duke Bowman stayed at our home when he was a Mallard. His brothers Ed and Wally also stayed with us. There was a vacant lot next to our house where we played baseball and the Mallards were our baseball idols. When we went to the games we always sat on the third base side of the field close to Duke. I still sit in about the same place when I go to the American Legion games today. l still have Ed Bowman’s Mallard jacket and two autographed baseballs.

Larry Zeiszler  - Grown-up Minot Kid

I lived three blocks from the ball park and have fond memories of the Mallards. My friends and I would sometimes sneak into the ball park to play ball when the Mallards were out of town. Several times we were caught by the groundskeeper. He would kick us out and threaten to call the police. We liked to attend the games. Sometimes I would sell sodas and candy during the game. Other times we would sneak into the games or hang out outside hoping to get a foul ball or home run ball. There were times when the Mallards would let us onto the playing field during batting practice and we would shag fly balls. They let us have broken bats which we would take home and tape up so we could use them in our vacant lot games. I also remember the house just across the fence on the first base side of the field. There was an apple tree in the back yard and we would climb over the fence during games and help ourselves. We never were caught. During winter, the ball park parking lot was turned into an ice skating rink with a warming house. There were always dozens of kids hanging out there.

Jim Stadick  - Grown-up Minot Kid

We lived near Roosevelt Park where the park ball fields are now located. My brother Mike and I would walk over to the Mallards’ ballpark for games by ourselves. We were about six and eight years old. I remember a guy we called “old leather lungs” protesting just about everything. The ballpark was so big that there were no “cheap” home runs. During one game, Yogi Giammarco hit a homerun over the centerfield fence at the 460 foot mark. It seems he hit a lot of homeruns. Sometimes around the middle of the game we would move to empty seats in the grandstand and maybe even find a seat cushion to sit on. We liked to hang out in the parking lot hoping to get a free baseball fouled over the grandstand. After the game, we liked to go to the Keg restaurant adjacent to the ballpark.

Ron Baldner - Grown-up Minot Kid

 The Mallard games were a great source of entertainment for me as a kid. We lived about six blocks from the ball park. Several years my parents bought my brother and I Knot Hole Gang memberships. Other years we would climb up on the fence in left field and watch from in front of the signs. One game we foiled an attempt to pull the wool over the umpire’s eyes. I believe the team that played the Mallards that night was from Winnipeg. One of the Mallards hit a ball that just barely cleared the fence for a homer but the left fielder had a ball in his pocket for warm-ups and he threw it against the fence sign just as the homer went over. He caught it and threw it to the infield. Several of us fence sitters jumped off the fence onto the playing field and raced in to the 3rd base ump. The grounds keeper came racing onto the field trying to intercept us but he could not corral all of  us and a couple made it to the Ump. We told him what we saw and then we were ejected. There was a big to do when Zoonie McLean, the manager, heard our charges but we were out of there. We were scared and thought we were in trouble when we got thrown out as it was not our first run in with the groundskeeper. We were keeping practice balls hit over the fence. He even came to our house to try to get some of the balls back and my Dad told him to leave. We never gave the balls back; we had an apple box full.

Mel Reierson - Grown-up  Minot Kid

 I found your Minot Mallards site this morning and what memories! I spent 40 or so seasons watching the teams from the first base bleachers starting in 1949 with the Merchants and teams in the Minot Amateur league. I especially remember the Bowman brothers. My father-in-law was a transplanted Arkansas native and had a bunch of coon hounds and the Bowman boys and he would spend many nights coon hunting along the Souris River. I remember one Sunday afternoon game against the Winnipeg Buffalos with the Buffaloes leading by a couple of runs late in the game and the Mallards with the bases loaded. A hard thunderstorm went through the park and the umpires were considering calling the game. Ed Albosta was hauling sand to fill around home plate and Willie Wells, the Buffalos manager, was down on his knees praying for rain. These guys were not only stellar baseball players but top showman and filled the stands night after night. Thank you for the memories.

John Connors - Grown-up Minot Kid

Sunnyside Grade School was still there and the ball park where we watched, from the left field bleacher "Knothole Gang Section", the Minot Mallards play other  teams in the Manitoba-Dakota League. Guys like outfielder Zoonie McLean, Lyman Bostock, Yogi Giammarco, who hit a record 11 home runs in 1952. Joe Massero, catcher, Duke Bowman, second base, Don Corcoran, outfielder, Sugar Cain, relief pitcher, my favorite and one of the few black men in the league.

Yogi Giammarco - Right Fielder for the 1952 & 1954 Mallards

 “There was a boy in the hospital there, maybe 15 years old, all crippled up. He was so happy to see us. He said to me “Yogi, will you hit a home run for me? Will you do it?” I said “Wow! Well Davey , I can’t promise you that, but I’ll tell you this – I’ll try. Would you believe it, The Good Lord made me hit one out for him. They got the ball and gave it to him. That’s the greatest thrill I had in baseball.”

Jim Gavett  -Grown-up Minot Kid

I don't remember a whole lot about the Merchants and Mallards except that I did get to go to many games.  Most of the time me and my pals were either behind the grandstand waiting for foul balls or outside the wall in left field waiting for a home run ball.  Since I lived on the corner of Soo and Hiawatha street the lights from night games lit up my neighborhood.  Some of my favorite players were Zoomie McLean, Sugar Cain and Yogi Giammarco.  I remember little Bob Tiller who was a catcher but not for long. He was a local guy. Also, third baseman Ted Strong from the Harlem Globetrotters basketball team.

I remember the Merchants and Mallards and went to many games.  Most of the time my pals and I either hung out behind the grandstand waiting for foul balls or outside the wall in left field waiting for a home run ball.  I remember that one of my friends, Richie Larson, lived in a house just beyond the left field wall. My cousin, Mike Nelson, lived just about 4-5 blocks from the ballpark on 14th street.  The three of us would get together at Richie's house before the games in anticipation of catching some home run balls over the left field wall.  Well there were several kids with the same idea so whenever one of the Mallards hit a home run there was a real scramble with all of us going for the ball. We thought that because Richie lived so close to the left field wall we had priority on home run balls.  It didn't seem to work that way however.

Marilyn Bohn, one of my classmates at St. Leo’s School, worked in the concession stand at the ballpark. I tried to convince her that she should give me some free goodies but she never would. She came from a big family of nine kids and our parents were good friends. Patty, one of her sisters, was a good friend and classmate of Bill Guenthner.

We built our own ball field in the coulee just behind Soo Street and called it the “over the hill” field. We ran uphill to first base, down to second , up to third and down to home. There was a pit out in left field. If you hit the ball into the pit it was a “ground rule” home run. We put up a make shift outfield fence. The baseballs we used were the ones we got at the Mallards games. Some of the neighborhood kids that I remember playing there were Keith Shelton, Darryl Urban, Doug Frost, Roy “Punky” Hauglie, Ray Pederson and Dennis Torno. We played there almost every day that we weren’t playing midget league baseball. When we grew older some of the younger kids took over our ball field. My younger brother Joe, John Connors, Ron Baldner and Gerry Flom were some of them.

When I was a kid playing "midget league baseball" there was a field inside of the Mallards ballpark.  It was probably the Merchants then but the field was in the left field corner.

Later, I played American Legion Baseball.  We were having a American Legion practice at the ballpark and I put my class ring in a hanky and put in my back pocket. I pulled my hanky out to wipe my face.  Well from that time forward my class ring was gone.  If metal detectors were available back then I might have been able to find it.  It could be several inches in the ground by now.

Jerry Mikel - Mallards Batboy

I was the batboy for the Minot Mallards for the 1953 season. What an experience! I even warmed up the Mallards pitchers while catcher Joe Massaro put on his catcher’s gear between innings. I kept the locker room clean and polished all their shoes after each game. They were really a bunch of messy guys and spit tobacco and sunflower seeds that mixed together and stuck to everything in sight. Even though I had to cleanup after them, I loved every moment of it.

I remember Zoonie McLean, Ed Albosta, The Bowman brothers, Sugar Cain and Othello Renfroe. The players were good to me and looked after me on the  road trips to Manitoba. They made sure I ate well and always gave me a good seat for the long bus rides. I remember we would put on our uniforms at the YMCA in Brandon and we just piled our clothing around the swimming pool. Meal money was $2 a day. I thought that was a fortune. My batboy pay was $2 from each player every two weeks. I think there are still a couple of players that owe me money.

In 1954 I gave up the batboy position and took a fulltime summer job shinning shoes at Elmer “Swede” Johnson’s shop next to Harry’s Tire Service. When I shined Sugar Cain’s shoes he would tip me a half dollar. I was on top of the world.