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BASEBALL AND MILROY: A Fifty-Year Love Affair

TABLE OF CONTENTS

1954 Mythical State Champion Picture
Introduction
Milroy the Town
The Milroy Yankees
State Champions and the New Field
The Men Who Played
The Decline of Town Team Baseball
The Survival of Baseball in Milroy

STATE CHAMPIONS AND THE NEW FIELD

            In 1954 the Milroy Yankees achieved the unthinkable, the Mythical State Championship, which is equivalent to today’s World Series in its stature.  In order for Milroy to win the Mythical State Championship, they had to first win the State Class B Title.  Class B was the division in which no players on the team could be paid.  This in itself seemed like a daunting enough task, considering Milroy had only one state tournament game in their short history.

            The Milroy team had now grown up; they had shown a passion for the game that they had only picked up seven years before.  According to Spike, “we went out and practiced at least three times a week, we wanted to become good.  We would hit an then pick up ground balls.”

            They were ready to put Milroy on the map.  Milroy defeated four teams enroute to the Class B State Championship: Perham 2-0, Hibbing 9-5, Warroad 19-3, and St. Joseph 11-2 in the championship game.

            The second step to winning the Mythical State Championship was to defeat the Class A state Champion squad from Benson.  In Class A baseball, teams were allowed to pay two outside players to come in and be pitchers or catchers.  This allowed the Class A teams to have a distinct advantage over the smaller Class B towns.

            Despite the disadvantage, Milroy was able to become the first ever Class B champion to defeat the Class A champion for the Mythical State Title.  Milroy overcame a three run deficit to down Benson 4 to 3 in front of a crowd of four thousand in Madison, Minnesota, on September 26, 1954.

            Baseball was Milroy’s claim to fame after the tremendous 1954 season.  The state champs had brought notoriety to the small community, and Milroy would forever be linked with baseball.

            With pride overflowing, the community of Milroy decided to back the team in a new way that fall by building a new baseball field.  Milroy’s original diamond was on Highway 68, or what is considered main street in Milroy.  Home plate on the old field rested where Kirsh Korner is today, with right field straight south alongside the road.  This location had presented problems for the ticket takers because the park was not enclosed, and people would wander in from any direction.  According to the 1951 manager of the Milroy Yankees, John Kagel, “with the old field right along the highway you would have a problem collecting tickets.  You needed six to eight guys, I mean you would not believe the crowds.”

            The old field not only presented problems for the ticket takes, but parking was a problem as well.  Many stories were told of people going to church at ten o’clock, and parking their car alongside the field, going to church and then walking home, just to have a parking spot for the game later that afternoon.  Another story, probably a tall tale, had people parking their cares on the highway the night before to insure a spot.

            In the fall of 1954, the town of Milroy took donations from thirty-five people and some businesses and purchased a plot of land from Carl Rolland.  The plot is located on the southern edge of Milroy at the intersection of Highway 68 and Redwood County Road 32.  The donations the team received ranged anywhere from ten to one hundred dollars.

            The money raised was enough to buy the land, but much work was still needed to be done.  Once again the community pitched in and formed work groups to supply the labor. Louis Dolan remembers:

 

            The baseball players were up there [at the site of the new field], the townspeople were there and then after six farmers would come in.  They would get together in groups and decide on a time and a whole bunch of them would come on up.  The farmers would work in their fields until six, and then a group of twenty or so would meet at the field.  There was people that hadn’t played baseball a day in their life up there helping.

 

“It was a community thing as far as the work on the land,” recalls John Kagel.  “I know that my part of it was sodding the infield.  And I got a group of businessmen together and we rented a machine and went out about six miles south of town.  Then from a farmer by the name of Hicks, we got sod out of his pasture, and the local implement dealer had trucks and trailers and we hauled it in.  This was in the spring of the year and us amateurs laid the sod and watered the infield like crazy, that was the year we had a really dry spring, but it stayed.”

            The entire field, the grandstand, and the wooden outfield fence, with painted on ads were all built within six months.  “The old diamond was a fair diamond, but nothing like this.  It sits out here by the road where everybody can see it, and everybody was proud of it coming through on the highway.  The whole community was proud of it,” remembers Louis Dolan.  Even today, the field stands pretty much as it did that spring of 1955.  The adds on the fence have been repainted and the scoreboard is different, but the field still brings smiles to the face of the originators of Milroy baseball.