AH, SUMMER IN MINNESOTA. It is, unequivocally, a season packed with outdoor activities. Like baseball. I’m not a fan. But many are.
My community of Faribault, along with neighboring Dundas and Miesville, is currently hosting the Minnesota Baseball Association State Amateur Tournament in Classes B and C. That means lots of teams and fans are in town on the weekend to watch baseball at Faribault’s Bell Field.
My husband, Randy, was among the spectators Saturday evening when his hometown team, the Buckman Billygoats, faced the Cannon Falls Bears. In the end, the Billygoats defeated the Bears 7-1. They will be back at Bell Field at 4:30 p.m. Saturday to play the Luverne Redbirds.
Even though 48 years have passed since Randy left the family farm southeast of Buckman, he remains forever rooted to this small town in Morrison County in central Minnesota. He is connected to the baseball field there, just south of St. Michael’s Catholic Church. Not because he played ball. No, not that. There’s a story, though…
In the summer of 1972, Randy joined a team of teenagers in painting a new outfield fence. When I write fence, I mean 4 x 8-foot plywood panels pieced together. The six teens went through lots of barn red paint, purchased in 5-gallon buckets.
Local businesses could pay to advertise. Randy and his co-workers, employed through a summer community action program for low income families, stenciled, then painted the business names onto the fence panels. Cindy and Marge traced the stencils, then they all (including Randy’s older sister Vivian) brushed the letters in with white paint.
But as Randy tells the story, the owner of the local grocery store deviated from the plan and decided to craft his own bold advertisement. He removed the two centerfield panels, painted them green and stenciled his business name thereon. And, remembers Randy, those fence sections stuck out like… Exactly as intended.
Randy holds other memories from that summer of working at the ballpark in Buckman. He remembers a homemade sign labeling the field as Bottle Cap Stadium. Somebody (he has his suspicions) picked up beer and bottle caps from the grounds, formed the identifying words from the caps and then nailed them onto plywood.
He also recalls a sign tagging the ball field as “The Home of the Buckman Saints.” Whether the ball team was ever called the Saints is uncertain. But it makes sense given St. Michael’s Catholic Church and School just to the north.
On rainy days when the team of teens couldn’t work at the ballpark, they painted classrooms. Randy recalls the day he and the rest prepared to paint Mrs. Weber’s classroom. Rose Weber, mother of Minnesota author and forensic psychologist Frank Weber, was Randy’s fifth grade teacher and is likely related to current Billygoats player Aaron Weber. She chose pink and blue for her classroom. “Who picked these colors?” Reuben at the hardware store asked. Mrs. Weber was later called in to assess a section of newly-painted wall in her chosen color combo.
“She looked at it, didn’t like it and picked green and yellow, John Deere green and yellow,” Randy said. I can only imagine how those farm kids viewed the tractor colors chosen for the fifth grade classroom.
Circling back to the beginning…, if not for Randy’s attendance at the Buckman Billygoats’ baseball game last Saturday evening in Faribault, I never would have heard these stories from the Summer of 1972. Nor would I have learned this about my husband of 40 years: “You wonder why I don’t like to paint,” he said. “I was sick of painting that summer.”
But, my sister-in-law Vivian noted, “We sure had a lot of fun!” Some Buckman ballpark-related stories shall remain unwritten…
© Copyright 2022 Audrey Kletscher Helbling