St. James

...now browsing by tag

 
 

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.”

Click to continue reading “For the Olson’s and Duluth, a thriving time of men’s fastpitch”

Will to win boosts Craig Brown into Minnesota Softball Hall of Fame

Saturday, November 26th, 2016
Minnesota Softball Hall of Fame members, Dan Nessler, left, and Craig Brown, who were inducted in 2016, and Jeff Nessler, Dan's brother, who was inducted in 2004. Courtesy Photo

Minnesota Softball Hall of Fame members, Dan Nessler, left, and Craig Brown, who were inducted in 2016, and Jeff Nessler, Dan’s brother, who was inducted in 2004. Courtesy Photo

St. James, Minn. – His speed wind-milling a softball? Average. His spin to make it rise, drop or curve? Good but not great. His physical stature? Not imposing.

Craig Brown may not have had all the physical tools to become a great fastpitch pitcher. But what Brown did have speaks to the internal rather than the external.

Call it what you may: guts, drive, intense desire. As his former teammates would attest, Brown possessed the one quality all great athletes have: a relentless will to win.

No one knew Brown any better than Dennis Johnson, St. James’ softball statistician, historian, and devoted fan of the town’s fastpitch teams.

“He was an intense competitor,” said Johnson, who holds memberships in the International Softball Congress and Minnesota Softball Federation hall of fames. “He wanted to prove that he could beat the good teams and prove his skeptics wrong. That motivated him. He just hated to lose.”

Click to continue reading “Will to win boosts Craig Brown into Minnesota Softball Hall of Fame”

Minnesota loses one of its great fastpitch pitchers

Tuesday, June 30th, 2009

By Dennis Johnson / ISC Commissioner Emeritus

(Stan Noren, one of the all-time great Minnesota ASA Class A pitchers in men’s fastpitch softball passed away on May 13 from cancer. Johnson wrote this narrative about Noren’s pitching accomplishments in his 25-year career for his Minnesota Softball Hall of Fame induction.)

ST. JAMES, MN – Stan Noren started pitching in 1954 at the age of 14 for Sveadahl. He pitched 11 years for the small village in southwestern Minnesota and carved out an outstanding record.

Stan was drafted by the St. James VFW team and threw three no-hitters, including one in the ASA Class A state tournament in 1964. In 1965 he pitched for Godahl and was drafted again by the VFW for the ASA state tournament. He lost to eventual state champion, Hasting Loesch’s Bar, which scored 8 unearned runs off Stan.

In 1966, Noren joined full time with the VFW’s pitching staff, and beat the always tough Vernon Center twice in league playoffs’ finals by 2-1 scores in each game. These two games drew great crowds as Noren bested one of Minnesota’s all-time great ASA Class A pitchers in Wayne Hohenstein. Noren finished the season with an 18-8 record.

Noren followed his inaugural season with the VFW by having a breakout year in 1967 with a 32-11 record. “His team only gave him five runs in nine of his loses,” said Dennis Johnson, former ISC State Commissioner and leader in St. James men’s fastpitch softball.

Click to continue reading “Minnesota loses one of its great fastpitch pitchers”