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Remembering Peters Packers of Eau Claire, one of Wisconsin’s best in the 1960s

Monday, February 13th, 2017

1963 PETERS PACKERS won the Wisconsin State Championship with its roster, front row from left, Don Lee, Ron Buckli, Larry Bergh, Ted Lahner, Jim Peuse, John Schaaf and DeBug Johnson. Back row, left, equipment manager Merrill Semingson, manager Duke Severson, Jim Bollinger Harv Tomter, Jon Wensel, Gene Golden, Al Mitchell, Coach Jim Warden, Don Amundson, Bobo Johnson. Missing is Tex Brooks. Photo Green Bay Press-Gazette / Sat. Aug. 24, 1963

AUSTIN, Minn. – Peters Packers tries for a fourth straight championship in the fifth annual 1965 Midwest Invitational Softball Tournament Saturday and Sunday at Austin, Minn.

Peters faces Loesch’s Bar of Hastings, Minn., in its opening game Saturday at 9:30 a.m. In all, there are 32 teams entered from five states. The tournament is considered one of the finest in the Midwest. Peters won the previous three titles, defeating Scandia in the finals last year.

Peters, 21-8 for the season, will count on the slants of Gary Watland, Al Mitchell and Tex Brooks. Manager Diz Kronenberg is back at the helm.

    TOP TEAMS ENTERED

Some of the other top teams include: Scandia, Austin Moose, Sioux Falls, S.D. Truckers, Ft. Dodge, Iowa Hormel and Minneapolis King of Clubs.

Catcher Don Amundson will miss the tournament due to an injury, but leads the team with 8 home runs, and 21 RBI.

JON WENSEL has taken over the club’s batting lead, rapping .359 on 23 hits in 64 trips. Fred Golden is second with a .353 average and five home runs.

BROOKS, unbeaten in five games, has an 0.23 ERA to lead the pitchers, while notching two, two-hitters. Watland, 9-5, has a 0.83 ERA with 140 strikeouts in 93 inning. He has thrown a no-hitter, one-hitter, and two-hitter. Mitchell is 7-3 with a 1.77 ERA in 76 innings.

Ultimate competitor Dan Nessler twice a Hall of Famer

Sunday, December 11th, 2016
DAN NESSLER of Happy Chef covers second base during the 1995 ISC World Tournament in which Happy Chef finished fifth. Nessler was selected an All-World player four times and was inducted into the ISC Hall of Fame in 2009. Photo By BOB OTTO

DAN NESSLER of Happy Chef covers second base during the 1995 ISC World Tournament in which Happy Chef finished fifth. Nessler was selected an All-World player four times and was inducted into the ISC Hall of Fame in 2009. Photo By BOB OTTO

MANKATO, Minn. – With a grunt and a leap, the pitcher hurls the softball from 46 feet, causing the violently spinning missile to jump or plunge a foot just before crossing home plate and slamming into the catcher’s mitt at 85 miles per hour.

The degree of difficulty of hitting such a frustratingly elusive projectile?

Nearly impossible for batsmen of modest ability. But for the very best, an improbability they handle with great aplomb.

Mark Sorenson was one of the best, as was Bill Boyer, Shawn Rychcik and Colin Abbott. This esteemed class also includes Dan Nessler of Mankato, Minnesota.

Nessler was a magician with the bat from the left-side batters box. He played small-ball as well as anyone, said pitcher Pete Sandman, a teammate with Nessler on the world championship Penn Corp teams of Sioux City, Iowa.

“Dan was a great hitter,” said Sandman, who pitched for Penn Corp and later National Health Care Discount (NHCD) from 1981 to 1991. “He was smart, could slap, drag bunt, hit balls to left, center or right. He was gifted with the bat.”

    ACCLAIMED PLAYER AND LEADER

With the likes of Sandman, Nessler, Sorenson and Boyer leading a stable of stars, Penn Corp / NHCD won four (1988, ’89, ’91, ’92) International Softball Congress World Tournament championships. During that reign, Nessler made ISC All-World twice.

Interspersed in those Penn Corp years, Nessler also played for Happy Chef of Mankato, helping the team finish fifth in the 1995 ISC World Tournament, and claiming the ASA Class A National Championship the same year.

During the Happy Chef years, Nessler earned two ISC All-World honors (1985, 1992), along with being selected ASA Second-Team, All-American.

Nessler took over as player / manager in 1992. A post he held for 10 years. He was a leader and an example to the younger players, said former infielder Scott Christensen, a three-time ISC All-World player with Happy Chef.

“He was always thinking about game situations and our strengths and what the other team might do,” said Christensen. “He was a very intelligent player who could anticipate and be in the right place to make a play. You can’t teach that. He could adapt (at bat) and bunt or hit the other way.”

DAN NESSLER played in 16 ISC World Tournaments. In the four world tournaments in which he was selected All-World, he batted .407 with 15 runs and nine RBI. Photo By BOB OTTO / 1995 ISC World Tournament

DAN NESSLER played in 16 ISC World Tournaments. In the four world tournaments in which he was selected All-World, he batted .407 with 15 runs and nine RBI. Photo By BOB OTTO / 1995 ISC World Tournament

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