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Posts about Sports

Feb. 8, 1971: Gump Worsley stops 63 shots

Posted by: Ben Welter Updated: January 7, 2015 - 4:09 PM
Lorne (Gump) Worsley, one of the NHL’s last unmasked goaltenders, died in January 2007 at age 77. As a young goalie growing up in the early 1970s, I marveled at this pudgy-looking old man who consistently frustrated the likes of Hull, Esposito and Cournoyer and kept the outmanned North Stars in many games.

I saw only a handful of NHL games at Met Center back then, and don’t recall ever seeing Worsley play in person. My memories are based on radio and TV and newspaper accounts. Minneapolis Star columnist Jim Klobuchar was one of my favorite writers. One week after surviving a Wyoming blizzard, Klobuchar witnessed one of Gump's memorable performances on TV — and managed to eke an amusing column out of it.

He is now

FOR PEOPLE WHO GET their ice hockey over the air waves, the trick is to separate what is merely sensational from that which is truly unbelievable.
Hockey announcers tend to talk in code, particularly when they describe the agonized gymnastics of the goal keepers. I do not accuse them of insincerity or hambone theatrics. The trouble is the English language. There simply is not enough imagery in the old warwagons like “good,” “great” and “incredible.”
As a result, the hockey announcer faces the very real problem of trying to classify the level of incredibility at which the goalie is playing on this particular night.
  Worsley in 1971
  Long johns and a modest amount of padding were all that protected Gump Worsley from 100-mph slapshots back in 1971. Dig the groovy sideburns!
This requires an advanced degree of restrained professionalism and subtle shading. Thus, when the announcer describes the save Tony Esposito has just made – use the workaday “flabbergasting” as an example – we know that Tony may have had to stick out a toe rather strenuously, but that he really wasn’t breathing very hard.
If, on the other hand, the announcer discloses that the stop by Tony “bordered on the impossible and maybe even a little beyond,” we realize immediately that there was character there even if the defenseman wasn’t.
The ultimate challenge in the craft, however, is to make a superman out of Gump Worsely.
It’s not that Gump Worsley of the North Stars is not a good goalie or even a great goalie. On certain nights, in fact, you might very well classify him as an incredible goalie and maybe a little beyond.
The dilemma confronting the announcer is that Gump just does not look incredible. Further, he does not act incredible. Gump is 41 years old. Admitted, this barely gets him out of puberty on the goalies’ scale of longevity. To understand how productive hockey goalies may be at a mature age, you have to imagine Bernard Baruch in pads.
Gump, though, is a soul apart. There are goalies who cast a dramatic profile to the onrushing puck, such as New York’s Ed Giacomin, and others who stand before the onslaught in an attitude of tragic torment, such as Cesare Maniago.
Gump resembles an unfrocked butcher who got mixed up in the neighborhood broomball game.
One of the things Gump does well is to enjoy the bouquet of good rye whiskey, at the appropriate times, of course. This discriminating taste, coupled with his squat dimensions and preference for loose tailoring, gives the impression the Gump may have a faint trace of credit union belly.
I have always considered this a slander on a good man with a low center of gravity. It ill fits one who is required, as a specification of his job, to be astounding and perhaps even incomprehensible on short notice.
SO NOW HERE was Gump Worsley on the screen in Boston last night, and it was a spectacle I would conservatively describe as indescribable. The Bruins took 67 shots at Gump. He should have had a last smoke.
The narrator I listened to on TV was Hal Kelly, a moderate man in these things.
It was a joy to listen to an experienced tradesman at work. Hal opened by freely admitting that after 10 minutes of furious Boston attacks Gump Worsley was the master of the situation.
By the second period Gump was making a spectacular save now and then, and I frowned because I knew the Gumper was going better than that. “There’s one,” Hal erupted suddenly, “that was truly phenomenal.”
Well, now. It was good to see the Gumper finally hit stride.
By the end of the second period Hal was flatly describing Gump as “supreme.” This did tend to take a little of the edge off it when in the third period Gump made a stop on Derek Sanderson. Having used up supreme, Hal had to retreat a little and simply observe that it was the kind of stop not only you and I couldn’t believe, but that Sanderson couldn’t believe, either.
THIS TENDED to make disbelievers of us all, but coming after supreme it seemed something of a demotion for Gump.
Anyhow, Gump is the last of the holdouts against the face mask. So it’s possible to lip-read while he is lying there on the ice spewing and puffing. Hal has just called his last stop fantastic and I looked for a heroic quote from Gump.
“Balls,” he is saying, “of fire. I find it inconceivable.”
Worsley in 1972
Playing goal without a mask was dangerous business. Here, Worsley lay unconscious after taking a puck in the nose in 1972. It’s not clear where the puck ended up. (Minneapolis Star photo by Don Black)

March 17, 1962: Meet the Roosevelt Rockettes

Posted by: Ben Welter Updated: April 11, 2014 - 7:23 PM
This photo by Jack Gillis of the Minneapolis Star sat in a steel cabinet in the Star Tribune library for more than 50 years, along with thousands of other images rarely used a second time. I ran across it in a search of our new digital photo archive. The photo appeared on the Teen Topper page, accompanied by the caption below. As was typical of the era, the caption provided readers with the name, age and home address of each of the young women. You’d think that would make it easy to track down Gail Wittels, the Rockette with the broken leg. But all I can find is a document suggesting that she went to college and earned a graduate degree in economics at the University of California. After that the thin trail evaporates. If you know her, or any of these fine-looking young ladies, post a comment or drop me a line. I’d also love to hear more about the Roosevelt Rockettes. The group was established in 1951 and led “a lively existence through succeeding student generations,” according to a 1967 photo caption. They made their own costumes and did most of their own choreography. Impressive!

Rockette Puts Her Game Leg Forward

When Gail Wittels, 16, 5537 Woodlawn Blvd., shows up for rehearsal of Roosevelt High School Rockettes, she doesn't put her best foot forward -- she puts her game leg forward (right). Out skiing on the season's multistratous snow, Gail suffered a spiral fracture of her right leg. Consequently, she will be on the sidelines when the dance troupe appears at the school's talent show next Friday in the school auditorium. She also will miss the spring fashion show April 5, also at the school. The fashion show will be a salute to spring, with students, parents and members of the school staff serving as models. A quartet, the "Teddy Tones," will present song fashions. Rockettes (above, from left) are Dawn Peterson, 15, 4213 18th Av. S.; Pam Filmore, 16, 3940 17th Av. S.; Kathy Nelson, 17, 3120 Wenonah Place; Mary Keohane, 17, 5156 30th Av. S.; Lynn Scheele, 16, 4252 Nokomis Av.; Joan Johnson, 17, 5429 31st Av. S.; Kay Kwakenat, 16, 5337 Nokomis Av.; Nora Monahan, 17, 4916 Aldrich Av. S.; Diane Franzen, 17, 4104 20th Av. S.; Lani Greenfield, 17, 3916 29th Av. S.; Jacquie Spence, 15, 4933 Nokomis Av.; Mary Jo Kunz, 16, 5256 45th Av. S., and Gail cheerfully resting her weight on her good leg. [Pictured separately were Pam Anderson, 18, 3900 18th Av. S.; Karin Wakefield, 17, 4151 24th Av. S.; Frances Malmsten, 17, 4740 17th Av. S., and Jerilyn Johnson, 18, 3504 43rd Av. S.] 

Feb. 20, 1924: Gophers’ last outdoor hockey game

Posted by: Ben Welter Updated: January 20, 2014 - 6:09 PM
The University of Minnesota added men’s hockey as a varsity sport in 1922. In the early years, the team played at three indoor rinks: the Lexington rink at Lexington and University Avenues in St. Paul, the original Hippodrome at the State Fairgrounds and the Minneapolis Arena at 29th and Dupont. Back then, the Gophers occasionally played home games at the “university rink,” an outdoor sheet of ice behind the Armory. Here is the Minneapolis Tribune’s account of what appears to have been the Gophers’ last outdoor home game of the 20th century.  

I’ll spare you the box score, except for these tidbits: The visiting Wolverines brought only one substitute; the Gophers had three “spares” on the bench. And the goalies made only nine saves each.

Gophers Beat
Michigan Six
Again, 2-0

Wally Youngbauer Scores Both Points for Minnesota Team.

The University of Minnesota hockey team continued its string of unbroken victories when it defeated the University of Michigan six in a conference hockey game at the university rink Tuesday night, 2 to 0.

Wally Youngbauer, Gopher center, was responsible for both of the Gophers’ scores. The Minnesota pivot man also played a brilliant checking and passing game.

Minnesota’s first counter came in the initial period after a Michigan rush up the ice was halted by the Minnesota center, who took the puck through the Wolverine defense and shot a fast one past the Wolverine goalie. Toward the close of the period Youngbauer, after Olson had taken a short shot from the side, took the rebound and pushed the disc into the net for the second and final tally of the game.


Light padding, a short stick and lots and lots of tape: A hockey player of the 1920s showed his form at the "university rink" behind the Armory at the University of Minnesota. Can you identify this young gentleman? (Photo courtesy
The University of Minnesota also had a "girls" hockey team in the mid-1920s. Far better dressed than their male counterparts, these young women looked ready to tear up the ice. Can you identify them? (Minneapolis Journal photo)

Dec. 21, 1981: Met Stadium's violent goodbye

Posted by: Ben Welter Updated: December 27, 2013 - 1:43 PM
In a column given prominent play on the front page of the Minneapolis Tribune, Joe Soucheray captured the hooliganism that took hold after the Vikings' final game at Met Stadium on Dec. 20, 1981. What inspired the madness that afternoon? A few days before the game, Minneapolis Star columnist Jim Klobuchar interviewed the team's ticket manager, Harry Randolph, about crowd control for Sunday’s game. This quote attributed to Randolph suggested the Vikings were taking a hands-off approach to souvenir hunters:

“All we want to do is to hold down the self-inflicted injuries to minor concussions and treatable fractures. If they are going to carry off their seats, we prefer handsaws to the standard Black & Decker ripsaws in the commercials. If they are going after the goal posts, we suggest they come wearing helmets and hard-toe boots.”

Klobuchar’s column drew complaints from the team, which disputed the quote and said it had to hire extra security for the game. By Tuesday, the Star acknowledged the humorous quote was a fabrication and Klobuchar was suspended for two weeks without pay. But the damage, whatever the proximate cause, was done. Here was Soucheray’s take on Met Stadium's messy final act:

Destructive fans bid violent adieu to Metropolitan Stadium

Metropolitan Stadium officially expired at 3:10 p.m. Sunday. By then, hooligans had scaled the northern wall of the big red and blue scoreboard, yanking so many wires and popping so many bulbs that the clock stopped dead in its track. It was frozen at 3:10 and will be forever.
A great deal of Metropolitan Stadium was destroyed yesterday by thousands of people who never displayed any similar enthusiasm for the games that were played there. And the racket made by those souls who ripped out their own memories of the ball park that has been condemned was louder than any cheer issued for the Vikings yesterday.
  The trouble begins: Fans in the center-field bleachers hauled down the American flag in the fourth quarter. (Star Tribune photo)
The Vikings went out losers, 10-6 to the Kansas City Chiefs, failing to achieve the milestone of a 10th victory in the only home they have ever known, a home that began to fall down around them in the game's final seconds. And afterward a terrible rending took place, the stomping of thousands of boot heels on chairs, the cracking of wood, pounding and tearing and pulling.
The Vikings had promised an increased security force for yesterday's game, but you knew there was a hole in this plan when a man in an extremely obvious gorilla suit waltzed by the enforcers and onto the field with five minutes still to play. It was about then that seats began to disappear from their moorings in the right-field bleachers, whole sections of plank were lifted out and passed down the row.
And at the final gun thousands of people stormed the field. The goal posts came down first, on both ends of the field. Set upon and devoured, components of the goal posts were then paraded around the turf as the thieves wondered what in the world to do with such bounty. Or what to do with the iron railings that were worked on by gangs who bent them this way and that until they broke? Or what to do with toilet seats or trash barrels?
The field itself was attacked, but it is virtually impossible for even the foulest perpetrator to tear frozen sod from the earth. No one was bold enough to bring a jackhammer into the stadium. Smaller instruments of destruction included wrenches and industrial strength wire cutters.
Vikings authorities who witnessed the Met's last act were reluctant to place a dollar value on removed seats. But it became clear that what perhaps began as an act of sentiment turned into random acts of destruction. The scoreboard, for example, was scaled by a hundred or so fools for no apparent purpose other than to destroy the thing. Scoreboard lightbulbs were popped. Lettering was ripped out and thrown to the ground. Speakers atop the scoreboard were yanked out and dropped to the ground.
“There is certain sentiment in trying to take a seat home,” the ticket manager of the Vikings, Harry Randolph, said yesterday as he watched the destruction from the press box. “But people climbing the scoreboard are sick. They endanger themselves.”
“There must be more destruction than you anticipated,” somebody said.
“Our main concern was that people didn't hurt each other,” Randolph said.
It did not seem possible that long-standing season ticket holders led yesterday's chase to ruin. Over the past couple of seasons, the Viking crowds have become as dull as the Vikings, and yesterday's game might have been the dullest ever played at the old ball park. Randolph said nearly 4,000 tickets are sold for each game on an individual basis, tickets that might attract a “transient” crowd. And other customers could have sold their season tickets to yesterday's game, perhaps anticipating cold weather. But Randolph did not dare venture a demographical profile of those customers who went slightly mad for about an hour after the conclusion of yesterday's game.
As usual, the entertainment proceeded at its own crawling pace, with only scarce clues as to what would follow. Patrons in center field bleachers did haul down the American flag and cut loose its halyards in the fourth quarter. And the St. Louis Park Parkettes wisely vacated the premises earlier than they ever have, to preserve their 21-year virtue, not to mention hide and hair.
But no one could really have anticipated the mob reaction that followed. By comparison, the crowd after the last Twins game at the Met conducted itself as though on a tour of the Louvre.
By dusk yesterday, the Met was empty of all creatures. The field remained uncovered in the sleet that began to fall. In the failing light, some merciful electrician pulled the plug on the scoreboard. Those bulbs not destroyed flickered and went out.
The Met is closed.
Minnesota nice: One Vikings fan brought a sign to show his displeasure with the stadium's demise. (Star Tribune photo)
The oh-so-frozen tundra: The sun set on Metropolitan Stadium and its snow-covered parking lot in 1981. (Star Tribune photo)

Nov. 30, 1900: Husky Gophers too much for Huskers

Posted by: Ben Welter Updated: October 27, 2013 - 10:32 AM
Over the past 50 years, the University of Minnesota has not enjoyed much success against Nebraska in football. The Gophers had lost 16 straight to the Cornhuskers before Saturday's upset in Minneapolis.

The teams first met in 1900 in a game described by a wire reporter as “the best exhibition of football that has ever been seen in Lincoln.”  Sid Hartman was not yet available to document the Gophers’ victory:


Nebraska Eleven Meets Defeat Before the Husky Minnesota Boys.

Best Exhibition of Football Ever Witnessed in That Section of Country.


By Wire From Lincoln, Neb., Nov. 30.

The husky Gopher eleven defeated Nebraska university at Lincoln yesterday after[noon] … It was the best exhibition of football that has ever been seen in Lincoln, and the Minnesota men found opponents worthy of their steel.

Fully 6,000 people assembled to witness the game, of which there were fully 800 Minnesota “rooters.” The good work they did cheering their team opened the eyes of the local men. The combined efforts of the followers of the two teams in the matter of noise resulted in something terrific.


  Dr. Henry Williams, Minnesota's legendary coach, led the Gophers to their first national championship in 1904.

Minnesota was first on the field. It was just 2:15 o’clock when the heavy young men who have been under the care of Dr. Williams since early this fall ran onto the field. They were greeted by the shouts of 800 throats, and the “U” band struck up a lively tune in their honor.

They formed a circle and passed the ball around while the yells and music continued. The whistles of the machine shops added their share to the din, and noise was king.

Five minutes later the Nebraska team came on headed by their band. The followers of the home team tore the air with their shouts, and the band struck up a piece which was answered by the Gopher band. Coach Booth, of the Nebraska team, volunteered the information that the Gophers looked heavier and more rapid than the reports had led him to believe.

Minnesota, with her usual luck, won the toss and took advantage in choosing goals of the strong wind that was blowing from the south goal.

Within two minutes after Nebraska had kicked off it was evident that there was to be a battle founded on two different styles of play. Minnesota resorted to line bucking, with an occasional attempt at end, while the lighter Nebraska team played a more open game, giving a chance for more brilliant playing from a grand stand point of view.


The defense of Minnesota was a puzzle to the Cornhuskers. The tandem formations plunged through their somewhat lighter line at will, and the mass plays carried everything before them.

Knowlton in the first half, with the wind at his back, did some excellent punting that invariably resulted in a gain of from 10 to 20 yards. An occasional dash around Nebraska’s end broke the monotony of the heavy, close play that is effective, but not at all spectacular. When these end runs were tried they were nearly always good for a gain.

Minnesota was quick to recognize the advantage gained in Knowlton’s punts, and he was consequently called into service quite often. He clearly outplayed Cook, who kicked the oval for Nebraska.

He got in his goal from the field in the game yesterday. It was a beautiful placement from the 30-yard line, and more than made up for his poor luck in kicking the goals, all three of which he missed.

For the first two touchdowns the ball was forced within hailing distance of Nebraska’s goal by punting tactics, and then the husky Gophers pushed it over with comparative ease.


The third touchdown was the result of a strong vigorous line bucking policy that forced Nebraska down the field for 70 yards. This was accomplished by the Gophers without once losing the ball.

Pillsbury made the first touchdown for Nebraska, but it is a question as to whether he would have ever reached the Gopher goal had not Doble collided with the officials. The run was a pretty one, however, 65 yards, with good interference. The officials admit that they were in Doble’s way, Referee Allen stating that it was their fault entirely, and there is, therefore, no discredit to Doble for failing to land his man, as he surely would have done had the way been clear.

Pillsbury was the man to make the second touchdown. This was made in the second half and he accomplished it by hurdling the Gopher line. Both goals were kicked by Nebraska, and this gave them their 12 points, which is more than any team has scored against Minnesota this season.

Van Valkenberg, Fee, La Fans, Tweet, Aune and Hoyt were the star ground gainers for Minnesota. There were called on early and often, and each time responded with a few more feet of Nebraska property to the credit of the Gophers.

Van was retired by a blow on the neck, which stunned him for some time, but he is not in serious condition.

Bender, who went in for Montgomery, succeeded in getting around Aune once for 20 yards, but he was downed at that distance.


The game ended with the score 20 to 12 in favor of the Gophers, and the Minnesota crowd gave vent to shouts and yells that will long be remembered in Mr. Bryan’s home city.

The team left at 8 o’clock last night, and the “rooters” about an hour after.

The result of the Iowa-Northwestern game has settled the question of the Western championship beyond a question, and 11 young men, students at the University of Minnesota, and incidentally the best aggregation of football players that has appeared on the Western gridiron for some time are “it.”

The long coveted title has been fairly and squarely won by the sheer hard work and clean, good football, and the team that will arrive in Minneapolis this morning are the undisputed champions of the West.


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