Loesch’s Bar

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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.

Great players spur Hastings Loesch’s Bar to championship run in the 1960s

Friday, February 3rd, 2017

Loesch’s Bar of Hastings, Minnesota won two state championships during the 1960s, along with numerous tournaments. Team members holding the tournament trophies they won are from left, Jim Schnieder (deceased), Walt Nelson ( deceased), Clayt McNamara, Dave Amy ( deceased), Pat Orman, unknown player, Dick Bacon, Curt Thalburg, Don Amy, Gene Hageman, Larry McNamara, Dave Bacon and Tom Niederkorn. Bat boys, Kirk Van Guilder, left, and Tom Schneider. Missing are manager Red Van Guilder (deceased) and Tom Swanson. Photo Courtesy of Steve Nelson.

HASTINGS, Minn. – It takes talent to make a fastpitch team great, and back in the 1960s Hastings was brimming with it.

Located 25 miles southeast of the Twin Cities, small town Hastings (pop. 8,000 in 1960) produced outstanding players such as twins Don and Dave Amy; brothers Jack and Tom Swanson, Curt Thalberg, Gary Kordosky, Larry McNamara, Gene Hageman, Tom Niederkorn and Walt Nelson.

They put Hastings on the ‘fastpitch’ map by winning big games and big tournaments throughout the state.

But the biggest prize was winning the Amateur Softball Association state tournament. And in 1961, 1964 and 1965, Hastings teams brought home the championship trophy, along with finishing runner-up twice, 1962 and 1966.

However, one Hastings team stood out: Loesch’s Bar which won the 1964 and 1965 titles and finished runner-up in 1966.

    NELSON MANS THE RUBBER

As the team’s catcher, Gene Hageman marveled how good the team was – from its solid hitting, 1-through-9 lineup, to its defense and pitching. Though each player filled a vital role, Walt Nelson – the ace of the pitching staff – was the integral cog that made winning championships possible.

“Walt had grit,” said Hageman. “No one was going to beat him. I would set the glove and he would hit it. His best pitch was his drop ball. In some tournaments, we played up to seven games and Walt would pitch most of them. He could throw all day.”

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Bob Thurmes Relives Memories of Loesch’s Bar and Its Roster of Fastpitch Stars

Friday, January 6th, 2017

BOB THURMES circa 1970s when Thurmes played for The King and His Court that featured fabled pitcher Eddie Feigner, who barnstomed throughout the world for 55 years, before he died Feb. 9, 2007. Thurmes played for the four-man team in 1971 and again 1974-’75. Bob Thurmes / Courtesy Photo

HASTINGS, Minn. – Bob Thurmes’ fastpitch travels have taken him far during a career that started as a teenager in the early 1960s and lasted until 1980. He played for such legendary teams as the Clearwater, Florida, Bombers – 10-time Amateur Softball Association national champions.

And he played for the fabled King and His Court, one of the great barnstorming softball teams that featured the incomparable pitcher Eddie Feigner, who much like the Harlam Globetrotters thrilled fans with his skill and showmanship that included pitching behind his back, through his legs and even blindfolded.

No doubt, Thurmes once pitched and played for some great fastpitch teams.

But Thurmes, who grew up in Hastings, also pitched for Loesch’s Bar, the hometown team that won two Amateur Softball Association (ASA) Class A state championships in 1964 and ’65, along with second, third and fourth place finishes during the ball club’s reign from the early 1960s into the 1970s, when the team disbanded.

NELSON AND LOESCH’S PUT HASTINGS ON FASTPITCH MAP

Loesch’s featured primarily local talent. However, the team came into prominence when talented pitcher, Walt Nelson, moved to Hastings from Ohio in 1962.

Nelson’s prowess soon made an impact in the Minnesota state fastpitch tournament.

The powerful right-hander led the Hastings American Legion to runner-up in the 1962 state tournament, and in 1964 and 1965, he hurled Loesch’s Bar to back-to-back titles. Thurmes got a close-up look at Nelson in his formative years.

“Walt Nelson was one of my fastpitch heroes,” said Thurmes. “I grew up across the street from Wilson Park and I would watch Loesch’s Bar play for years and beat the best teams from the Twin Cities (such as) Whitaker Buick and Al DeWall, 7-Up, and Peter’s Meats from Eau Claire.”

Thurmes briefly teamed-up with Nelson to form one of the stronger pitching staffs in the state: a young, up-and-coming star, along with a proven veteran in his prime.

STAR STUDDED ROSTER

“I was a senior in high school when they took a look at me,” Thurmes said. “I was young and the first tournament I pitched for them in was in Rochester. Walt and I were the pitchers and in my first game, I went up against last year’s champs and we won 2-1 in 15 innings. The Amy brothers (Don and Dave) had at least six double plays. They were really great players.”

Thurmes also got the nod when Loesch’s had to face Mankato, rated in the top-three of Minnesota elite teams with Dale Root in the circle, one of the up and coming young pitchers in the Midwest.

“(The manager) asked Walt about me pitching and Walt said, ‘let the kid pitch,’” Thurmes said. “I went five innings and it was 0-0, but Root hit a two-run home run off me.”

Thurmes says Loesch’s was loaded with talented ball players back in the 1960s, including the likes catcher Kurt Johnson, Don and Dave Amy, Kurt Thalburg, Jim Beattie, Pat Orman, Larry McNamara, Gene Hageman, Tom Swanson and Tom Niederkorn.

“Niederkorn was a great player and ended up with Whitaker Buick,” Thurmes said, “and Swanson, a shortstop, was one of the best.”

Getting the great “Nellie” into the Minnesota Sports Federation Softball Hall of Fame.

Tuesday, November 1st, 2016

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HASTINGS, Minn. – When I was 17 years old in 1967, I pitched against one of Minnesota’s all-time best pitchers, Walt “Nellie” Nelson of Hastings, Minn. Nellie pitched Loesch’s Bar of Hastings to back-to-back state championships in 1964 and ’65; a second place in ’62, and fourth in ’66. (See related story: Remembering my idol, Walt “Nellie” Nelson

When my good friend Craig Brown was nominated and subquently inducted into the Hall of Fame, Oct. 29, I thought: surely Nellie must have been inducted. But in searching through the Minnesota Sports Federation Hall of Fame records, I found he was not.

So, I contacted the Hastings Star Gazette newspaper to run a brief asking anyone connected with that team to contact me. Low and behold, Steve Nelson, Nellie’s son called me. He had some sad news, though. His father passed away in 2003 at the age of 72.

But on the bright side, we are on a mission to get Nellie inducted into the MSF Hall of Fame in the next round of induction in 2018. Fortunately, some of the Losche’s guys he played with are still with us: Tom Niederkorn, Tom Swanson, Gene Hageman, and Don Amy, among others.

So, they are going to help piece together a resume of Nellie’s career.

What I’m asking is, if any of you Minnesota fastpitch players on this group played in the era of the early 1960s to 1972 when Walt Nelson retired, and you remember playing with or against him, and can furnish information of a particular game or tournament or league in which you recall his skill, please contact me. Email: botto3@verizon.net.

Unfortunately, career records are not kept for many players, so it will take recalling “memories” of Nellie for a chance to get him inducted. We’ve got two years to get this done, but as we sadly know, we are losing more and more of us older guys as the years pass by. And then, of course, the history of a player or team is lost forever.

That’s why I’m stressing the urgency to do this as quickly as possible. Thank you.