AND MILROY: A Fifty-Year Love Affair
TABLE OF CONTENTS
1954 Mythical State Champion Picture
Milroy the Town
Champions and the New Field
The Men Who Played
The Decline of Town Team Baseball
Survival of Baseball in Milroy
THE MEN WHO PLAYED
men who played town team baseball came from different backgrounds, and
had varying levels of skill, but they were all brought together by the
game of baseball. These men
and often their families, spent many of their summer days at the baseball
field playing, practicing, and talking baseball.
of the most vocal baseball players, and now supporter, is Bob Zwach Sr,.
Zwach was born on a farm outside of Milroy, and growing up would
practice playing ball in the yard until it was too dark to see.
When Bob was twelve, his brothers would employ him as the ball
chaser during their games and even allow him to ride to several games
with them. When no room was
available inside the car, he rode in the trunk.
It was from these humble beginnings that Bob became attached to
baseball. He became very
sports minded and eventually played every sport he could.
1936, while a sophomore in Milroy High School, Zwach was the leading scorer
on the football team that was undefeated, untied, and unscored upon.
He also wrestled in the Minnesota State Wrestling Tournament in
1936 and 1937.
a time in which Zwach felt the young men of the era were cheated, because
they were away fighting in World War II.
Zwach felt cheated as well, so gathered up all the men he could
find, and put together one of the most fabled teams in Minnesota history,
the Milroy Yankees. During
his baseball career, Zwach played mostly outfield, but also pitched a
two-hitter at the age of forty-six.
The high point of his career was managing the 1954 Mythical State
Championship team. Perhaps
the only bashful moment of Zwach’s career occurred after the Class B Championship
game. He was handed a microphone into which he promptly responded, “it’s
damn cold and I’ve never talked in one of these damn things in my life.”
has a love for the game, and at times that seemed to be his top priority.
His wife Doris recalls, “we were about to have our first child
and the due date was June 1 which was a Sunday, and Bob said that’s the
day we play Wanda. It wouldn’t
be right on that day would it? Well,
no, I said, but of course it was.
We went in the night before and were done by about noon, so Bob
had enough time and he made it to the game.”
Milroy baseball went, invariably there was John Dolan Sr. leading the
way. John Dolan began playing
in 1906 for Lucan, which is seven miles east of Milroy, and did not quit
being a baseball man until the day he passed away in 1988.
There were many players that John would hear about and he and the
Milroy manager would drive up to see him play.
Dolan was the eyes, ears, and heart of Milroy baseball.
He took care of the ball field, and the concessions stand well
into his eighties.
had a passion for baseball to exist in Milroy and went the extra steps
to ensure that it would. According
to Bob Zwach, “when you talk Milroy baseball, you talk about John Dolan
and Bob Zwach, we were there in the beginning, and we’ll be there in the
Dolan was the first of John Dolan’s seven sons, six of which played baseball
for Milroy. He played in
Lucan (1930), Seaforth (1931), Wanda (1932-1933), and Marshall (1939)
before joining the Milroy team from 1945 to 1953. During this time the Dolan name loomed large in Minnesota.
Louis Dolan was the eldest member of the famous all Dolan infield
in 1947 and 1948. Louis played
second base, Spike was at shortstop, Joe at third base, and Jack at first
base, all were brothers.
Dolan remembers, “even during the busy times, when we were thrashing and
shocking, my dad used to pitch to us, pretty near every day.
A big accomplishment would be to hit the red barn, which was about
350 feet away.” This dedication to the game produced an outstanding baseball
Dolan, also one of John Dolan’s boys, was the youngest member of the Dolan
infield. Spike played shortstop
and became known for his terrific fielding.
Dolan played on the state tournament teams from 1947 to 1950, but
was drafted into the Korean War in 1952.
While in the service he played on a regiment team that once played
in a three game series against baseball Hall of Famer, Ernie Banks.
He returned home in 1954 and became one of the leaders of the championship
team, before eventually managing the team in 1969.
best of the all Dolan infield was probably Joe Dolan.
Joe came back from the service in 1946 and at age twenty-seven
became the sparkplug for the Milroy team.
Joe was acknowledged by most to be the best athlete of the Dolans.
According to Louis Dolan, “Joe was a heckuva athlete, he was just
so quick.” During the 1954
state tournament, Joe Dolan knocked out ten hits in fifteen at bats, and
became known statewide for his blazing speed.
Dolan and his wife, Evelyn, raised thirteen children, including
eight boys, all which later played for the Milroy Yankees.
1946, as a member of the Seaforth town team, John Kagel played a talented
young Milroy team. The impression
it left led Kagel to Milroy, where he and his wife, Maureen, bought and
operated Kagel’s Grocery from 1948 to 1978.
Kagel played for Milroy from 1947 to 1951, managing the team in
his last season. Kagel, a
catcher for the team, later became treasurer for the baseball organization.
Reed Lovsness was a young boy he remembered that, “I never owned a bicycle.
I put up a square on our machine shed and threw, and threw, day
after day. I was pretending
that I was in the big leagues, and I was pitching seven innings.”
age twenty Lovsness, living in rural Cottonwood, had his eye on a brochure
for Joe Stripps Baseball School in Orlando, Florida.
He took the chance, and that winter took a bus to Florida and participated
in the school for the cost of seventy-five dollars.
The gamble paid off and Lovsness was signed by the Pittsburgh Major
League Baseball Organization for two thousand dollars.
played three years of minor league baseball before entering the service.
When his father passed away Lovsness decided to retire from Pittsburgh,
move back home, and help on the farm.
That winter Zwach signed Lovsness, and he played for the Milroy
team from 1953 to 1955. Along
the way he had eighteen wins and no losses during the 1954 season, including
a twenty-strikeout performance in the state championship game.
This is still a record today.
the most notable Milroy Yankee of all-time would have to be Rich Kramer.
Kramer is said to be the best hitter that Milroy has ever had. The left-handed hitter was a natural. His long fly ball would routinely land behind the wooden fences.
Kramer it was said stood at the plate with a total blank look.
According to Lovsness:
pitcher looked in at Rich, and all he saw was a pair of big eyes, a crooked
hat, and an easy out, he thought.
Rich could hit them long flies that just seemed to keep going.
In fact one time in Milroy the other team put an extra guy on the
right side of the field (where a left hander like Kramer would hit) for
Rich. Then someone in the
Milroy crowd yelled that they better put him on the other side of the
fence if they want a better chance of catching his ball.
may have been a natural, but he also was the source of many stories.
Bob Zwach was said to carry two extra uniforms in case Kramer forgot
something. It was not uncommon
for Kramer to bring along two left shoes, wear argyle socks while playing,
or even eat his lunch during the game.
Spike Dolan recalls, “I was playing shortstop and Rich was in right
field that day. And out of
the corner of my eye I saw someone walk out into right field.
Anyway, the next pitch was thrown and I looked out there (to right
field) and saw Rich eating a sandwich in between pitches, funniest thing
I ever saw.”
1967 an eighth grader named Pat Dolan signed a contract to play for the
Milroy Yankees. Although
he was only going to play in an emergency, this player would end up being
the next in a long line of Dolans to sustain Milroy baseball.
Dolan did many things on the field, and yet it was his off-the-field
accomplishments that kept the team going.
While growing up Pat remembers, “there was always a bat and a ball
around, and it just seemed natural to play.
Eventually I was able to play with my brothers (on the Milroy team)
and that was really nice.” In
1975, Dolan became manager of the Milroy Yankees and would end up playing
in four decades before retiring in 1990.
Dolan and the baseball board, which consisted of Larry Zwach, Terry Ousky,
Russ Sanow, Kenny Dolan, Jerry Edwards, and Greg Debbaut, put together
some of the great fund-raisers that led to the various field improvements
during the early 1980’s. One
of the improvements that the baseball board made was the addition of lights,
which still stand today. The
lights added another dimension to Milroy baseball. Games could be played at night, letting the day open for other
activities. “I think the
lights were a nice draw, they (fans) would see them on at night and come
to the field. Now they could
go to the lake and come back at night to watch the game.” Said Pat Dolan.
of the players that played against Milroy during their careers were Art
Marben, Bill Bolin, and Dean Tate.
Marben was one of the best players to ever play in southwest Minnesota
during the 1940’s. After
playing several years of Class A ball, Marben moved to Tracy, Minnesota,
where he played many games against Milroy. Bill Bolin came to Tracy in 1957, he also played baseball.
“We both really respected Milroy, and I think they respected the
teams that played hard. They’ve always had good baseball, they play to win and they
play the game right,” recalls Marben.
Dean Tate was drafted by Milroy for play-offs one season and remembers
the dedication the players had, “It was hell playing in Milroy, they would
practice after church, and all during the week.”
long time local umpire, Sheridan “Shorty” Young, was impressed with the
enormous amount of pride Milroy put into their team, “when I did a game
in Milroy the whole gang (town) was there, that was entertainment on Sunday.
They like their baseball in Milroy, no ifs, ands, or buts about
baseball fans were notorious for being vocal in the support of the players.
Opposing teams knew going into the game that Milroy’s manager Bob
Zwach would make sure that the fans were intensely involved.
“In fact I remember Bob Zwach before the game setting up a fight
[between the two teams players] so the crowd would get into the game,”
baseball over the years has accumulated a rich and colorful history, built
on the men who played, their families, and the town that sustained it.