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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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Will to win drove Craig Brown to become one of Minnesota’s all-time great fastpitch pitchers

Thursday, July 24th, 2014

1982-Craig Brown.1web Craig Brown, a left-handed pitcher from St. James, Minn. carved out a great pitching career for the James Gang of St. James, and Mankato Happy Chef. Photo BY BOB OTTO / 1982 St. James Dennis Johnson Field

SEMINOLE, FLORIDA – His speed was good, but not great. The movement on his pitches likewise.

But as for his intestinal fortitude, his work ethic, his will to win? Now that was great.

Craig Brown threw a fast-pitched softball in the 75 mph range. That wouldn’t put him in the high velocity class with ISC Hall of Famers Peter Meredith, Darren Zack and Michael White.

Or even with Minnesota Hall of Fame pitchers Leroy Jolstad, Al DeWall or Dale Root. All these aforementioned pitchers threw in the high 70s to 80s mph.


But the left-handed “Brownie” as he was known in his playing days, certainly is in the same class when it comes to the bottom line:


He was all about that in his 27-year career. A career that began as a 12 year old in 1960 and ended in 1987 at the still young pitching age of 39.

During that span, he didn’t stray too far from his roots in St. James, Minn., where he grew up pitching at Memorial Park for the Merchants and VFW.

And later at the peak of his career, for the best team ever to come from the small town of 5,000 – the James Gang.

Comprised of mostly locally grown athletes, the James Gang was one of the best “small town” teams ever to play in the ISC and ASA Major divisions.


With lefty Brown and right-handed Charlie Engler toeing the rubber, the James Gang was always a threat to win state and regional tournaments. And they were always a threat in the ISC World Tournament and the ASA Major National Tournament.

No big-budgeted team dared take Engler or Brown lightly or the duo would knock them off their lofty perch.

St. James native Dennis Johnson watched Brown mature as a skinny 12-year-old into one of the state’s all-time great hurlers.

“Craig wasn’t scared of anybody,” said Johnson, who helped direct the state ISC travel league for about 20 years, and is an ISC Hall of Fame member. “And he had that change-up as his big pitch. It gave a lot of teams trouble, especially home-run hitting teams.”

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Wrapping up the 2013 California Classic Men’s Fastpitch Tournament

Tuesday, July 2nd, 2013

SANTEE, CA – If you’re a men’s fastpitch fan living in southern California, there’s not much in the way of top-flight tournaments to watch. Except the California Classic. It’s the only big-time tourney being offered south of Santa Barbara where Clyde Bennett hosts the Best of The West.

Now concluding its fourth consecutive year, the Classic offers good competition. This year the Sooke Loggers of British Columbia, CA stopped the California A’s from claiming its fourth consecutive title with a 9-6 victory on Sunday.

Some thought California was heavily favored. That the A’s – loaded with international stars – were a superior team. Especially with Argentine and ISC All-World pitcher Lucas Mata toeing the rubber.

Schellenberg.Kevin.CalifA's.430web Shortstop Kevin Schellenberg is one of several international stars who play for the California A’s. He’s been a member of Team Canada that finished fifth in the 2013 ISF World Championships.

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