Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Baseball memories from rural Minnesota July 14, 2014

FOR BABY BOOMERS like myself, summertime memories of life in rural Minnesota are as much about consuming pitchers of sugary Kool-Aid, picking rocks and walking beans as about baseball.

Memorial Park Baseball Field, home to the Dundas Dukes.

Memorial Park Baseball Field, home to the Dundas Dukes., an amateur baseball team.

When I think back to the 1960s, I hear the static buzz of my older brother’s transistor radio as he dials in ‘CCO. Play-by-play with Halsey Hall, Herb Carneal and Ray Scott. Names familiar to my generation as the voices of the Minnesota Twins.

A carving of a Dundas Dukes baseball player stands just outisde the baseball field in Dundas.

A carving of a Dundas Dukes baseball player stands just outside the baseball field in Dundas.

And then the players themselves—greats like homerun slugger Harmon Killebrew and Tony Oliva and Rod Carew.

My brother, when we played pick-up games of softball after the evening chores, role-played Killebrew. There was no arguing the choice among us siblings. He was always Killebrew as we pulled on our worn gloves or thwacked the grimy softball with a wooden bat or sped across loose gravel, rounding the discarded disc plates that served as bases.

This plaque, by a baseball player sculpture at Memorial Park in Dundas,

This plaque, by the baseball player sculpture at Memorial Park in Dundas, summarizes well thoughts on baseball.

Such are my memories, along with remembering the stacks of baseball cards my brothers collected. They chewed a lot of bubblegum.

My interest in baseball, like the demise of the transistor radio, has faded through the decades. I don’t watch the game and occasionally catch only wisps of a radio broadcast.

Looking through the fence toward the Dundas Dukes' dug-out.

Looking through the fence at Memorial Park Baseball Field in Dundas.

But this week, when all eyes focus on major league baseball’s All-Star game at Target field in Minneapolis, the memories rush back.

I hear the static. The cry: “Batter up!” I see ball connecting with bat, my older brother slamming a homerun over the milkhouse. I race toward the bouncing ball, feet pounding across gravel. I scoop up the ball. And, as always, I fail to throw with any force, landing the ball far short of upheld glove. And my brother sails across home plate, arms flying. It’s another homerun for Harmon.

© Copyright 2014 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


20 Responses to “Baseball memories from rural Minnesota”

  1. treadlemusic Says:

    I remember the St Paul Saints and the Mpls Millers. I attended so many of those outdoor games (same names for the hockey teams of that era). I, too, have lost interest in that level of sports……due, in part, to its commercialization and the loss of personal sensibility/responsibility for being roll models that some of the players exhibit. I know I sound very negative, but sports/athletics seem to be given outrageously elevated status. (If it weren’t for sports, the “Winona Daily News” wouldn’t have anything on its front page!!!)

    • You summarize well how I also feel about sports on all levels. I never played a sport and sports do not interest me. Like you, I always wonder why so much media coverage and adulation is given to athletes.

      • treadlemusic Says:

        Unfortunately, our students go through school where, in many cases, athletics, and those who participate, are esteemed more than those who choose academics. Balance……we need balance!!!

      • That’s a major problem–too much emphasis placed on the accomplishment of athletes and too little placed on those who achieve academically. You are spot on correct in stating that a balance is necessary.

  2. Dan Traun Says:

    I am not a huge professional sports fan period – especially watching them on TV. It is too commercial the amount of $ involved is insane in my opinion. I have enjoyed an occasional pro event live and in-person (Vikings, Twins, Wild & Timber Wolves). Even better if is isn’t a pro event. The St. Paul Saints games are a good time. I think sports are like many other things; if you don’t grow up doing/playing them it doesn’t really stick. This weeks activities barely register with me other than the potential traffic issues they may cause. The people watching might be interesting though 🙂

    • I don’t have an athletic bone in my body. Never played sports except for those pick-up games on the farm with my siblings and Luther League softball. I don’t watch the Vikings and I have never watched a Twins game. It doesn’t interest me.

      I agree 100 percent with you on the commercialism aspect. And might I add that the high level of attention and adulation given pro athletes also bothers me greatly.

      That all said, I do have fond memories of playing softball as a kid and of my brother’s transistor radio broadcasting those Twins games.

  3. Thread crazy Says:

    Some of my fondest memories are of my Dad taking my brother and I to the Cleveland Indians games…what a great time we had. Best of all, we got to ride the subway all the way to the stadium. Then when I worked I would often have the opportunity to visit St. Louis and yes, thankfully, the Cardinals were usually in town. One of the office workers would get us tickets to the games – great memories! Good post Audrey…

  4. I enjoy watching sports in person or getting involved in playing sports – there is just something about being in the action 🙂 I had a lot of cousins, so it was not hard to form a team – ha! Sometimes the Aunts and Uncles would play too – lots of fun and fond memories. Happy Week – Pllllaaayyyyy Baaaaalllllll!!!!

    • Oh, yes, I forgot about the ball games we played each July at the annual Kletscher reunion. Plenty of cousins to field teams. Sounds like you have some of those same family memories.

    • Yes I do 🙂 BIG Midwest family and married into a BIG Midwest family too. I remember being old enough to finally play and not get tricked into shagging balls for my cousins – ha! Sometimes we would play with rocks because the balls were missing in action – did a number on the wooden bats though. Always had a rock pile on the farms.

  5. Oh, man, seeing the names of the guys whose voices we could hear on WCCO radio in the late 60s brings back my own memories of sitting on the back step with my dad while he had his transistor radio tuned to the Twins game on a summer night. That is a memory that never fails to make me feel good and just a little sad that I can’t do that very thing right this minute.

  6. Jackie Says:

    Such great memories indeed! I was right there with the boys, only girl on the baseball team. We played against the country schools since we were 5 miles outside the city limits. Game night was a big night for the games and for the social time too. Parents took turns bringing hotdogs, koolaid and chips. I think it was .50 for all three 🙂

  7. I do like sports, but not baseball really. It’s kind of fun to go to a game (although I haven’t been in many years) but never watch on TV or listen on radio. But when you mention picking up rocks, do you mean out of the garden? Because, boy, I had to do that as a pre-teen/teenager. Pick rocks out of the garden and pull weeds. I wouldn’t have imagined that I’d later find weed pulling very therapeutic!

    • Picking rocks means walking the farm fields, acres and acres, to pick rocks from the soil. We did this each spring so the rocks would not damage/break the farm equipment. Nope, not picking rocks from gardens. Not at all. Fields. It was very hard work.

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