St. James Band Box

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Wonderful discovery of the green Band Box fastpitch jacket

Thursday, September 21st, 2017

Over the 53 years I’ve been involved with fastpitch softball as a player, writer and photographer, I’ve collected a sizeable number of jackets. These are my favorites. From left, the photographer jacket the ISC issued me in 1996; the St. James, Minn. Band Box jacket I received in 1976 when I pitched for the team; the 1996 ISC commissioner’s jacket, my Yucaipa jacket of 1983, and I’m wearing my NAFA apparel from the 2017 World Series. But the green Band Box jacket is my prized fastpitch possession. Photo By NANETTE OTTO

YUCAIPA, Calif. – My wife has been on a cleaning binge of late. She’s pulling boxes off shelves, inspecting the contents, and more often than not tossing most of the things on the pile designated “yard sale stuff.”

Yesterday, she asked me to haul down from the rafters in the garage a large, heavy, blue toter. I followed her orders without complaint. As long as I’m free of decision making, I’m OK with her mission to unclutter our lives.

So I did as I was ordered and set the toter on the garage floor. I didn’t bother to open it. My job was finished.

Well, later in the day after she had opened the toter, she came back into the house and said:

“Bob, you better come and look at this stuff.”

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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.”

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Minnesota Softball Hall of Fame missing some great players

Thursday, October 9th, 2014

Jolstad.Leroy.3web The great LeRoy Jolstad was inducted into the Minnesota Softball Hall of Fame in 2008.

YUCAIPA, Calif. – I searched three times and still couldn’t find Walt “Nellie” Nelson’s name anywhere on the hallowed list.

A list that includes some of the greatest men’s players and contributors in the history of Minnesota men’s fastpitch softball.

The Minnesota Softball Hall of Fame.

The 2014 Hall of Fame induction takes place Nov. 1 at the Rochester International Event Center.

But Walt “Nellie” Nelson’s accomplishments in the pitching circle won’t be recognized at the event. To me, that’s a shame.

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Reconnecting with “Brownie”

Tuesday, June 19th, 2012

FLORIDA – I met Craig Brown in the fall of 1973, while we were both freshmen at Mankato State University (now Minnesota State). We were in our early 20s and fastpitch fanatics. Pitching was our passion.

But Craig was much more talented than I.

His left-handed risers, drops and his great change-up far exceeded my much slower “junk pitches” from the right side. Craig went on to become one of the greatest pitchers in Minnesota fastpitch history. I challenge anyone to say he wasn’t.

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