FARGO — A reunion party last Friday for a Bismarck softball team that won the prestigious McQuades Charity Softball Tournament 20 years ago turned into a 30-year-old list of legends. Brad Mann pulled from his storage box of softball memories a lineup card from the 1990 Fargo Sports Bar softball team.
When it comes to Fargo and the connections to the NFL, it will be pretty hard to beat this team.
“It was an interesting group, put it that way,” Mann said.
The roster is in Mann’s handwriting, although he had no idea he had the lineup card until a few days ago. The team included players who currently have 78 years of combined NFL experience.
Phil Hansen spent 11 years in the league and is a member of the Buffalo Bills Wall of Fame. Gus Bradley and Todd Wash are still coaching in the NFL as defensive coordinators; Bradley for the Los Angeles Chargers and Wash for the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Trent Baalke is the director of player personnel for the Jaguars. Jim Christman worked in the Chicago Bears organization for 16 years.
“Here’s how good Phil was,” said Mike Reinhiller, a member of that team. “We were playing in a tournament in Detroit Lakes, he hits a nubber to the pitcher and beat it out. He was probably the fastest guy on the team.”
A photo of the roster of the team surfaced over the weekend on Christman’s Facebook page. It’s so old that cell phones weren’t a thing and the players had their home phone numbers listed after their name. Some stories for Reinhiller still stick out, though, like Wash.
“Todd would either hit a home run or strike out,” said Reinhiller, now living in Sioux Falls, S.D. “He was funny.”
Baalke was one of the better players and very intense, he said. With Bradley, the former Bison player wore braces over ailing knees and refused to touch third base when rounding for home.
“He thought he would twist his knee up,” Reinhiller said. “He never touched third base. Ever.”
Reinhiller remembers most tournaments being in Detroit Lakes, Minn. One city the team would never play in was Grand Forks.
It appears the rivalry with the University of North Dakota was still fresh.
There were other NDSU football connections. Steve Ehlert was a former cornerback. Former defensive back and assistant coach Shane Hodenfield was on the team. Curt Erickson’s brother, Pete Erickson, was a standout running back.
Local radio personality Jack Michaels, who played baseball at NDSU, was on the team for a bit.
“Never once have I thought about that team until I saw that post,” Michaels said.
One connection came later. When Mike’s brother, Mark Reinhiller, became a sports information director at Cal Poly Pomona, the Broncos’ athletic director was Brian Swanson, who played on the Sports Bar team.
Swanson is still the A.D. at Pomona.
Mann was the manager of the team, although that wasn’t his plan when he moved from Bismarck to Fargo in January of 1990. He was asked to join the Sports Bar team by Duane Walker, but by March some notable details were absent like uniforms, bats, starting date and team players.
“Then Duane called me and said we want you to manage the team,” said Mann, now living in Bismarck.
He knew a few players, but not the NDSU football guys. Mann said the roster was deep because getting players to games consistently was tough with other commitments.
It played at a Class B level, but competed well against Class A teams. Sports Bar once held power Tharaldson’s to four runs — and lost.
“We beat other higher-ranked teams when we got the guys together,” Mann said. “We typically struggled in early-morning games. Sometimes we would start with less than 10 players. It was a fun group. As the years went on, it was like, wow, that guy is in the NFL, too. I would think about (the team) as I would hear these guys’ names.”