Andrea Halgrimson column: Fargo's love of baseball goes extra innings
During my years as Forum librarian, I've had many inquiries about the Fargo-Moorhead Twins. But our files are sadly lacking in sports news. I suppose if Roger Maris had not lived here and played for the local team, there would not be as much inte...
During my years as Forum librarian, I've had many inquiries about the Fargo-Moorhead Twins. But our files are sadly lacking in sports news.
I suppose if Roger Maris had not lived here and played for the local team, there would not be as much interest as there was.
Other questions are asked about Bob Feller, who pitched here in an exhibition game in 1936. And about singer Charlie Pride, who played for Eau Claire. Pride went on to the majors, too, only not in baseball.
According to Forum files, he stayed several times with the Chuck McConnell family. At that time, African Americans were allowed to stay in only one Fargo hotel.
And there are always questions about the Twins' Frank Gravino.
A while ago we received a letter concerning baseball, but it was not about one of the players. The subject was "The Rabbi Who Brought Baseball to Fargo."
"From about 1928 until 1943 or '44, my father, Rabbi Alexander Katz, lived in Fargo and served as rabbi at the Fargo Hebrew Congregation ... I lived in Fargo as a small child, but my personal memories of Fargo are few and dim. Poppa, however, remembered Fargo well and talked about it a lot until he died at the age of 92.
"One story that my father told us often and with great pride was of the time he and a group of Fargo clergymen traveled to Cleveland and convinced the Indians to make Fargo-Moorhead an Indians farm club. This tale my be totally apocryphal, but it always fascinated us to think that our father, the rabbi, was in some way instrumental in bringing baseball to Fargo."
The message was signed by Ozzie Nogg.
According to her Web site, Nogg is a storyteller and performer.
She is a member of the American Jewish Press Association and her columns, which run in weekly newspapers throughout the country, explore Jewish history and customs.
Letter piqued interest
Nogg's letter piqued my interest and while I don't much care for other sports, I have a special place in my heart for baseball.
The baseball I recall was played under the auspices of the third incarnation of the Northern League. It was played at Barnett Field on the southwest corner of Broadway and 19th Avenue North in Fargo
I used to go to baseball games there. I was a "Knothole Gang" member, which meant we got in cheap but had to sit in a roped off area. I watched Maris play. I'd met him some years earlier, but to me he was just one of coach Sid Cichy's football players at Fargo's Shanley High School. Cichy's guys were generally unbeatable.
In my youth, I'd often sit by my bedroom window listening to the sounds of the baseball game drifting through the warm summer evening when it was too late or dark to play outside,
And although we lived eight blocks south of Barnett Field, when the wind was right, I could hear the cheering and singing. I'd hum along with the crowd when they sang "Take Me Out to the Ball Game" during the seventh inning stretch.
Baseball came early to Fargo. The following is from John Caron's Fargo history Web site:
E Jan. 5, 1875, Dakota Legislature passed "An Act to Incorporate the City of Fargo."
E March 31, 1875, Red River Baseball Club members will hold their first annual meeting at Fargo's Headquarters Hotel.
E Two Northern League teams expired before the third league was organized in 1933. Barnett Field, named for Judge W.H. Barnett of Fargo, was built with Works Progress Administration labor. Funds for materials were donated by local businesses. Although games were played there in 1936, the dedication was held on July 29, 1937.
E The Twins played their final game at Barnett Field on Sept. 3, 1960. The stands were razed in the early 1960s and North High School was built on the site.
I have not been able to answer Nogg's question. If anyone is familiar with Rabbi Katz's involvement with local baseball, I would appreciate hearing from someone who remembers the story.
I still live on the north side of Fargo, a few blocks from where I grew up. And on summer evenings when a breeze blows from the west, I can still hear the familiar sounds of the baseball game floating from the new stadium. It comforts and soothes me.
In "An Informal History of the Northern Baseball League," author Herman D. White lists other players who started in Northern League and went on the majors. They include: Hank Aaron, Arnold Anderson, Morris Arnovich, Lou Brock, Gates Brown, Billy Bruton, Ray Boone, Wes Covington, Jim Delsing, Blix Donnelly, Bill Freehan, Ray Katt, Roy Mack, Henry Majeski, Morris Martin, Phil Masi, Norman Masters, Otto Meyer, Russ Meyer, Andy Pafko, Jimmy Pofahl, Charlie Scuche, Stanley Spence, Stanley Sperry, Charles Tanner, Joe Torre, Bob Turley, Wesley Westrum and Bill Zuber.
Forum librarian Andrea Halgrimson writes a monthly history column. She can be contacted through e-mail at email@example.com with questions and comments.