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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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Salute to Ostrander Fastpitch, one of the lone survivors of Minnesota men’s fastpitch

Sunday, January 29th, 2017

MARK MOHAR of Ostrander Fastpitch pitching in the 2014 North American Fastpitch Association World Series. Photo By BOB OTTO

OSTRANDER, Minn.- While hundreds of men’s fastpitch teams have disappeared, little Ostrander, Minnesota (pop. 256) keeps churning out a ball club year-after-year, at least 51 years.

Newspaper records show Ostrander played in the 1965 ASA Class A State Tournament.

  • And on April 7-9, Ostrander will be playing in the 10th Annual 2017 Las Vegas Road Trip.
  • How many teams are still playing today besides Ostrander from this Minneapolis Star clipping of state tournament scores dated Sunday, Sept. 4, 1966? You tell me.

      1965 ASA Class A

    Ostrander 4, Elk River 2
    Osseo 7, Elenco 0
    Hutchinson 4, Harris 2
    Silver Lake 7, Conger 6
    Wakefield 14, Alexandria 3
    Mid-Central 7, Cerro Gordo 0
    Chisholm 2, Lucan 0
    Grand Rapids 5, St. James 3
    Aurora-Hoyt Lakes 8, Worthington 0
    Canby 2, Silver Bay 1
    Lake Lillian 9, Waconia 7
    Swakopee 3, Missota 2
    Ostrander 8, Silver Lake 2
    Osseo 9, Lake Benton 0
    Hutchinson 5, Lakefield 3

      1965 ASA Class AA (Major-Open)

    Scandia 4, Columbia Heights 0
    Faribault 4, Robbinsdale 2 (10 innings)
    Coon Rapids 6, Red Wing 0
    Willmar 1, Rochester 0
    Winona 12, Albert Lea 0
    Virginia 2, Mankato 1
    Owatonna 5, New Ulm 2
    Rural Ramsey 15, West Hennepin 4
    Scandia 4, Austin 3 (8innings)
    Faribault 3, Hibbing 2
    Duluth 6, Coon Rapids 0

    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.”

    For the Olson’s and Duluth, a thriving time of men’s fastpitch

    Tuesday, December 27th, 2016

    1988 ASA NATIONAL CHAMPION DULUTH STEWART TAYLOR PRINTING. Top from left: Dick Olson Manager, Jim Olson, Randy Hill, Mike Thomas, Brian Langeland, Corey Thomas, Paul Friesen, Brad Emanuel and Tom Olson. Bottom from left: Jerry Strange, Mike Morrissey, Bill Olson, Clay Kerr and Casey Frank. Team helper Mitch. Courtesy Photo

    DULUTH, Minn. – Once upon a time a man could stand in the center of Minnesota and point to the east, west, north or south and as surely as the sun rises and sets, men’s fastpitch was being played in most cities and small towns of the state’s 87 counties.

    That was the thriving times of the 1960s to 1980s.

    Owatonna, St Paul, Minneapolis and Mankato? Booming. Winona and Rochester? Hot beds.

    Scandia, Hastings, Red Wing, Lake Crystal, Wanamingo, St. James and Geneva? Teeming with teams, leagues and tournaments.

    And up in the northern reaches of the state snuggled up to the western shore of Lake Superior, the game in Duluth was at its peak. That was back when Bill Olson started playing in 1973, barely a teenager.

    “I started at 13 at Ordean Jr. High School,” said Olson, 56. “That was when they had fastpitch in the junior high schools. There were a lot of good teams in my era.”

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    Minnesota ASA men’s fast-pitch state tournament at Prairie Island

    Thursday, June 26th, 2014

    morellis.bunter.15
    Click on the link for a listing of dates and locations for Minnesota state and national ASA men’s fastpitch tournaments: Minnesota Men’s Fastpitch

    9th Annual Preston Men’s Fast Pitch Tournament

    Sunday, April 14th, 2013

    preston.fp
    Courtesy Preston Merchants Facebook

    PRESTON, MINN – The 9th Annual Preston Men’s Fast Pitch Tournament will be held on July 27-28 and hosted by the Preston Merchants Fast Pitch Team.

    We know it’s pretty early for some of you to commit, but if you can just let us know of your intention to consider playing in our tournament, we will get you on our list. That way you’ll be sure to get more information when we send it out.

    And if you know of a team that would be a good fit for our tournament, please feel free to pass on this invitation.

      TOURNAMENT BASICS:
  • When: July 27-28
  • Where: Preston, MN
  • Format: Double elimination
  • Class: ASA B, C, and D
  • No. of teams: 14
  • Entry fee: $225
    • TRAVELING EXPENSE (based on 14 entries)
  • 1st place – $500
  • 2nd place – $350
  • 3rd place – $200
  • 4th place – $100
  • Contact: Barb Scheevel at 507-765-4948; email scheevel77@gmail.com

    “Let us know as soon as you know if we can put your team in our bracket,” said Barb Scheevel, who directs the tournament along with husband Lynn and sons Ryan and Brett. “More tournament information will be sent out shortly. We are looking forward to seeing you at our tournament!”

    Be sure to visit the Preston Merchants Fastpitch Facebook page for more information and pictures from previous tournaments.

    Thank you,
    Lynn and Barb Scheevel, and Ryan Scheevel and Brett Scheevel
    and the Preston Tournament Crew
    scheevel77@gmail.com
    507-765-4948