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Fond memories of the Hollywood Store

Sunday, December 20th, 2015

WATERTOWN, Minn. – The name may have changed to Hollywood Sports Complex, but for many old timers it will forever be known as the Hollywood “Store.” Back in the 1960s and ‘70s, some of the fiercest men’s fastpitch battles in Minnesota were fought on the two ball diamonds at the Store, located near Watertown and about 40 miles west of Minneapolis.

In 1974 the Store underwent a name change to the Hollywood Sports Complex. And in 2008 this historic fastpitch site reached a rare milestone, celebrating its 50th anniversary of hosting men’s fastpitch softball leagues and tournaments.

The fastpitch tradition began in 1959 when Melvin and Esther Littel, who owned the Hollywood Store, started a team and joined a traveling league. And for many years, the Store hosted three league games every Sunday.

“The Store was a beacon for fastpitch on Sunday afternoons,” said Bruce Johnson, 58, who grew up in the area and began playing on the Store ball diamond as a 16-year-old. Johnson retired in the mid 1990s at age 44, but fond memories of the little ball diamond play on.

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A game to remember for the 1966-‘67 Wanamingo Bulldogs

Tuesday, January 12th, 2010


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YUCAIPA, CA – Larry Grove, a friend from Wanamingo, Minnesota emailed me the other day. Larry asked me about a basketball game in 1966 that rekindled a fond high school memory.

Hi Bob, “As a grade school kid I remember watching your game with Randolph (Rockets) that you won 109-69. I was so impressed with that game it seems as though it was yesterday. I would love to hear about your recollection of that night.”

But before I take a dip into nostalgia, a little background about my former hometown nestled in the fertile farmland of southern Minnesota. In 1966, Wanamingo had a population fewer than 500. It’s grown some over the years – a tad over 1,000 now I believe.

My 1967 Wanamingo High School graduating class was small and cozy. There were just 31 of us.

So anyone with a smidgeon of athletic ability was needed to play for the Bulldogs’ football, baseball, and basketball teams. And that included me. At 5-foot-9 and155 pounds, I was a slow, white kid who couldn’t jump, couldn’t handle the ball, and as my former basketball coach, Wayne Erickson would attest to, my rebounding ability was atrocious.

And my defense? Coach Erickson would surely say, “porous and a team liability.”

But the one thing I could do was shoot.

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Odin knocks off defending champs to claim Minnesota state fastpitch title

Tuesday, August 18th, 2009


NORTH MANKATO, MN – In its illustrious 59 year history the Odin men’s fastpitch softball team has won two Amateur Softball Association (ASA) Class A state championships in 1978 and 1982.

Well, you can add another trophy to the trophy case.

On Sunday, August 9, Odin defeated Jordan Realty of West St. Paul, 3-1, to claim the ASA Class B State Championship at Caswell Park in North Mankato.

“This feels great,” said Odin pitcher, Justin Davis, who garnered Most Valuable Player honors by picking up all four of Odin’s wins.

“We played great defense and got the clutch hits when we needed them. I’m not a strike out pitcher and I get a lot of ground balls with my drop ball. The infield gobbled up everything.”

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Norman gives back for the love of the game

Thursday, August 13th, 2009

LAKE CRYSTAL, MINNESOTA – A bum knee forced Jack Norman from behind home plate, but it didn’t force the former fastpitch softball catcher out of the game.

Instead it launched a whole new career.

The 58-year-old Norman began playing fastpitch softball as a 10-year-old in 4-H. And at 17 he was matching his skills against veteran players in the New Ulm League. Then for the next 35 years he plied his trade in the sport he says he loved the moment he began playing as a kid.

And the sport he still loves today.

But in 2003 it all came to an end. Though his mind said, “go,” his bad knee said, “no.”

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The other side of our family

Wednesday, July 1st, 2009

Discovering the other side of my family was long overdue and regrettably late in my life, long after many of them have passed away. But finally I have come to know something of the Wickstrom’s of Alberta, Minnesota.

ALBERTA, MN – My mother had long talked fondly about the other side of her family, but I never came to know them. The Wickstrom’s lived on the far side of the state on the northwestern prairie that boarders South Dakota. My mom’s mom and my grandmother, Ella Wickstrom, grew up in that part of the state and left her family when she married my grandfather, Louie Mortenson.

Grandpa Louie moved his young family to the Randolph countryside after he bought a farm. So traveling the 200 miles to the Wickstrom’s was an infrequent trip. So as I grew up I came to know the Wickstrom’s by name only. That is until my brother John and I took a road trip to Alberta on June 25.

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My favorite elementary teacher

Tuesday, June 9th, 2009

WANAMINGO, MN – She called me Bobby when I stayed in her good graces. But when I heard, “Robert!” that was a warning that I had pushed her too far. And I pushed my grade school teacher Mrs. Lydia Pretzer too far too often at Wanamingo Elementary in the early 1960s.

Mrs. Pretzer was short, plump, spectacled, and wore plain spun dresses that reached down to her ankles. But what I remember most about her appearance was an old-fashioned bun of a hairdo that she wore nearly every day.

Her bun – shaped flat on the top of her head with a circular ridge – became an obsession and a target for my tomfoolery.

My classmates giggled as I sidled up to her at her desk under the guise of needing an answer to some troublesome problem.

“I don’t get this, I need help Mrs. Pretzer,” I would say as I laid my book on her desk. Then as she followed my pointed finger to the imaginary problem, I plopped a spitball into the middle of that enticing bun.

When giggles filtered about the room, Mrs. Pretzer would look up and either shush the class or sternly say, “quiet.”

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