And then I wrote...

by Dick Schilling, Editor Emeritus

... that notice of the obituary for Jack Dittmer in this morning’s Gazette brought back memories.
Jack was a star athlete at Elkader in the late 1940s. He was born in 1928, which made him six years older than I am, but I read the sports pages in those days and then followed his career at the University of Iowa in Iowa City.
There was no television in my home in those late 1940-early 1950 days, but both my parents were basketball fans and we listened to the Iowa games which featured such players as Maury Wier, Jack Spencer, Dick Ives, the Wilkinson brothers, etc. faithfully on radio. Dad liked football, and Dittmer also was a three-year (freshmen did not play varsity in those days) letter winner in football as well as basketball. He was a conference all-star in both sports. But it was baseball in which he really starred at Iowa, and he may have been the last Hawk to earn nine varsity letters. I don’t think baseball games were broadcast in those days, but the newspapers carried his story.
And I got to see him play baseball at the fairgrounds in Waukon! My dad was at the game, too.
It was the summer when his team came here to play the Waukon Vets of the old Scenic baseball league. Even university athletes did not train in a sport year-around in those days. I think he hit a home run. I know he hit a double which reached the old snow fence in the outfield on the fly and seemingly never got more than ten feet high! He played second base, which was his position when acquired by the Boston Braves after university graduation. Lots of local fans got to see him play professional ball when he was with the “new” Milwaukee Braves in the mid-1950s.
About that time, my dad had acquired a 1951 Studebaker. Jack’s dad had the Studebaker dealership in Elkader, and the car had to go there for some repair. Dad got to visit with Jack’s dad, and I don’t think he even minded the bill!
Waukon, and the Scenic league, played very good baseball in those years. One Waukon team, either in ‘47 or ‘48, made it to the state championship game, losing to the Des Moines Merchants 1-0, if memory serves me well.
I was quite familiar with the league, because one summer while I was in high school, the late Leslie Hull, who ran the Waukon newspapers, was league secretary. One of the secretary’s duties was to collect phoned-in results from home teams Sunday evening after games, then call the Dubuque Telegraph Herald and sometimes La Crosse Tribune with league results. Les paid me ten bucks to sit at the newspaper office for a couple hours Sunday evenings and do those chores.
I would have done it for nothing!

 

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