And then I wrote...

by Dick Schilling, "Editor Emeritus"

... that I have been doing my best to keep up with the baseball team at the University of Iowa this spring, and was happy to see they qualified for the Big (whatever) tournament.

Part of what made it difficult is that baseball does not get the coverage that sports such as football, basketball and wrestling do. Crowds are smaller and fan interest isn’t high.

I think I am right in saying Iowa is the only one of the major universities in the state to still offer the sport. Conversely, all have softball for coeds. In fact, that is part of the reason why others dropped baseball, the need to keep up with Title 9 rules that both sexes have the same number of varsity sports in which to compete.

Iowa high schools still field teams and Iowa gets some, but not all by any means, of the better high school players.

The “Reflections” page which is a weekly part of this newspaper frequently has a paragraph about high school games from years ago, and in season from the old semi-pro Scenic League games played on Sundays in the summer. Lots of towns had “town” teams in the league, including such as Waukon, Lansing, Harpers Ferry, New Albin, Prairie du Chien, and others.

The year 1948 was featured recently, which jogged my memory. The league named a secretary each year, revolving around the towns. One summer, when I was in high school, it was Waukon’s turn, and Les Hull, publisher of the two Waukon papers at the time, was secretary. Main chore was to receive score reports from league teams with home games late Sunday afternoon, and record minimal information from each. When all or most were “in” the secretary then called the La Crosse Tribune and Dubuque Telegraph-Herald with standings and results. Les had better things to do Sunday evenings, so he paid this high school kid ten bucks to man the phones each week.

I looked forward to it, because I had been a fan of the Waukon Vets team. My dad and I rarely missed a home game, and on those Sundays when Waukon played at Lansing, we could sit on the porch of a neighbor of my grandmother’s in Lansing and watch across the swampy low area to the home of the Mudcats.

Some of the Waukon players were so familiar that we recognized them from that block away. Frank Plein was often the pitcher and Bob McDonald caught him. Dick Dasher was unique at first base and Joe Tysland in the outfield. Third baseman Jack Griffin teased runners by timing his across-the-infield throws to arrive just in time at first base.

I could name a double handful of others from that era who were good players on the town’s team.

Baseball was really America’s game in those days.

Rate this article: 
Average: 1.1 (28 votes)