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Posts about Sports

May 27, 1951: Giants call up Willie Mays

Posted by: Ben Welter Updated: August 20, 2012 - 4:49 PM


Minneapolis Millers fans were understandably disappointed to see their hot-hitting center fielder called up to the big leagues after less than a month. But who could blame the New York Giants? Willie Mays, just 19, had hit .607 in his first 14 games at Nicollet Park, and his fielding was equally spectacular. So off he went, making his Giants debut on May 25, 1951. Giants owner Horace Stoneham must have felt some heat from fans of his AAA farm club. He placed this ad in the Minneapolis Sunday Tribune a few days later, explaining to all of Minneapolis that the kid deserved a shot.   
[A hearty AAA cap-tip to YN reader Michael Haas for this entry.]




July 24, 1904: Tour de France on the rocks

Posted by: Ben Welter Updated: June 14, 2012 - 3:40 PM
The Tour de France showed great promise in its inaugural year, 1903. But things got a little crazy the next year. Competitors hitched rides aboard trains and drafted behind automobiles. "Peasants and villagers” living near the 1,500-mile course, perhaps inconvenienced by the event, showed their displeasure by scattering stones and nails on the road and firing pistols at the riders. There were, however, no reports of blood doping.
This brief, by the way, is the only mention of the Tour de France in the Minneapolis Tribune in the race's first 20 years.


PARIS, July 23. – The Tour de France bicycle race, for which there were 53 entries, was continued this week, and gave rise to a series of exciting incidents showing the animosity of the French peasants and villagers to road racing.
Between Lyons and St. Etienne the villagers scattered stones and nails on the road, and when the competitors passed fired pistols and revolvers at them to express their disapproval.


Far from Paris, bicyclists raced past spectators lining a Lake City, Minn., street in about 1900. (Image courtesy of


Oct. 22, 1911: Gophers crush Nebraska 21-3

Posted by: Ben Welter Updated: October 22, 2011 - 2:15 PM


For University of Minnesota football fans, it looks like another tough weekend ahead. Minnesota is a 25-point underdog against Nebraska at TCF Bank Stadium Saturday. The Cornhuskers have won the past 10 meetings – by an average score of 49-6.

But the Gophers still hold a 29-20-2 series lead over the Cornhuskers, winning eight of the first 10 meetings, starting in 1900. One hundred years ago this week, the Gophers used bone-crushing blocks, a strong kicking game and a dazzling trick play to beat the men from Nebraska. The Minneapolis Tribune’s Fred R. Coburn captured all the Ski-U-Mah


These lighthearted caricatures topped the Tribune's sports page the day after the Gophers beat Nebraska.


Minnesota Players Find Themselves
and Defeat Nebraskans by 21 to 3

Gophers Excel in the Third
Quarter and Get Two

Captain Pickering Also Boots
a Field Goal in This
Capron Scores First Count
After Sensational Dodg-
ing Sprint.
Nebraska Struggles Bravely
and Holds Minnesota
at Start.
Cornhuskers Unequal to the
Task, However, and
Give Way.
Big Crowd Sees the Battle
and Enthusiasm Is
on Tap.
By Fred R. Coburn.
  Dr. Henry Williams, Minnesota's legendary coach, was apparently an expert on halftime adjustments.
Amid whoops and siren yells, the blare of brass and the full power of 10,000 pair of lungs Dr. Williams' Gophers found themselves yesterday afternoon. They defeated Nebraska, 21 to 3, on Northrop field and gave an exhibition of a varied and puzzling offence and a sturdy and adamant defense in times of stress that vanquished the glooms and brought the joys in every loyal Minnesota heart.
Minnesota made three touchdowns and kicked every goal and Captain Earle Pickering booted a field goal from the 27-yard line for the additional three points. Nebraska was saved from a shutout when Owen Frank drop-kicked a goal from the 25-yard line with only three minutes left to go.
Not until the second half could the Gophers get a man across that last magic white line for a score. The Cornhuskers battled so strenuously in the first two quarters that the intermission came without either team having scored, although the Gophers were heart-breakingly near the desired touchdown upon three different occasions early in the play. But Minnesota looked and acted differently when they started for the third quarter. Then it was rip, smash and tear. Line plunges through wide openings made on the right side of the Nebraska line by Elder and Smith were picked with unerring accuracy by the Gopher backfield. The Maroon and Gold men ran the ends with fair success, but it was their plunges through the line that “brought home the bacon.” Two forward passes worked like well-oiled machinery, a touchdown coming on each one.
One of these passes, the one that gave Minnesota its first score really broke the hearts of the struggling Nebraskans. Pickering flipped the ball to Ralph Capron out on the right end when Minnesota had the ball on the Scarlet and Cream 35-yard line. Capron wriggled and dodged, he squirmed and writhed, stiff-armed and ducked, eluding tackler after tackler in one of the most spectacular runs seen on Northrop field for many a day and one of the most welcome.
Capron Gets Touchdown.
Aided slightly by some quickly formed interference Caron swerved and plunged along until he planted the oval squarely behind the goal posts for the first five points of the afternoon.
Not in years has there been such a demonstration at Northrop field. Some outbreaks may have surpassed that of yesterday afternoon in noise and some, perhaps, in enthusiasm, but not one in whole-hearted rejoicing. The beautiful run indicated to Minnesota supporters that the Gophers were the Gophers of old; not the straggling eleven that performed against South Dakota, but rather the fiery, fighting, spirited bunch of true Minnesotans.
Minnesota stands went wild with joy, Maroon and Gold pennants were in the air with hats, canes and a great blending of hoarse voices. For five minutes the cheering kept up. The noise of the band could be distinguished faintly at intervals but it was drowned out, for all its brass throated instruments, when the human orchestra set itself to playing the tune of thankfulness. On the other side of the field, the handful of Nebraska rooters huddled motionless.
They were stunned: The great Capron stunt struck them like a bombshell. Until that time Nebraska had held the Gophers on fairly even terms, but Capron’s remarkable dodging performance, during the course of which he completely eluded three waiting Nebraska tacklers, caused consternation in the Nebraska stands. They didn’t know what to make of it. But Minnesota did and the outburst was real.
Merrell’s attempt at goal was awaited with some anxiety. In the games against Ames and South Dakota, Minnesota had been unable to convert a touchdown. Merrell played his first game of the season yesterday and the performance at center made himself doubly valuable to the team by his work in kicking goals. He landed that first one fair and true over the bar and Minnesota ran up the field to take the next kickoff.

Minnesota's defense held the Cornhuskers, in striped jerseys, scoreless through three quarters at Northrop field. Apologies for the quality of the two game photos; they're lifted directly from Star Tribune microfilm.

Pickering Does Some Punting.
It wasn’t long until the Gophers again had the ball within striking distance. Pickering’s great punting was responsible for this. Old Minnesota rooters enthusiastically asserted that no such exhibition of punting has been seen on Northrop field since the days of George Capron, the kin[g] of all kickers of recent years. Pickering shot away one kick that went something more than 60 yards and cleared Owen Frank’s head. The Nebraska team lost yards and yards every time Pickering booted the ball and the Gopher captain showed rare judgment with his kicks, invariably doing the long distance stunt at the right time.
Finally Minnesota again had the ball within striking distance. Nebraska had fought and struggled valiantly on every play. They had stopped some and their ends had proved themselves worthy a name in the football hall of fame by their ability to heck Minnesota attacks directed at the flanks, but the weak spot of the Nebraska line at center, right guard and right tackle had been unerringly diagnosed by the Minnesota coaches and Captain Pickering and they made the most of what they found. Elder, Frank and Morrell tore gaps in the Nebraska line and Stevens, Pickering, Capron and McAlmon found them.
With the ball on the 20-yard line Pickering called forth some mystic numbers and then ran out toward the left end. Capron and McAlmon stood back of the line and Morrell passed the oval to Capron. Capron handed it to McAlmon and McAlmon, by an accurate and clever toss, hurled the leather straight into the waiting arms of the Gophers leader. It was a fooler and it worked. The Nebraska players didn’t have a chance to get Pickering and he dashed over the goal line, head down and determination in every movement. The touchdown was again converted into a goal by the accurate right toe of the chubby Mr. Morrell.
It was right here that Nebraska rooters showed of what stuff they are made in the Cornhusker state. They cheered just as loudly for their defeated athletes as before the game. The Nebraska band played the Cornhusker air with spirit and one on the outside might have imagined that Nebraska had just scored a touchdown instead of Minnesota. On the other side of the field the Minnesota enthusiasm had no bounds. The second touchdown practically cinched the game in the minds of every one and it made Minnesota rooters look forward to a possible conference championship once again.
Pickering Kicks a Goal.
The Gophers got another score in this prolific third period and captain Pickering was again the man who produced it. This time it was Pick’s large right foot that counted for Minnesota. He dropped back for a place kick on the 25-yard line. Now nobody ever saw Pickering try for a field goal before, but evidently the husky leader of the Maroon and Gold has been doing some kicking stunts in secret. Anyway, there wasn’t any doubt about the legitimacy of the kick. Stevens held the ball and Pickering’s boot caught it squarely. The goal added three points to the Minnesota score and Nebraska rooters gave up what small hope they might previously have had of a sudden reversal of form.
There wasn’t any more scoring in the third period and when it ended the Gopher rooters indulged in another brief exhibition of their inmost thoughts.
The third and last Minnesota touchdown came in the final quarter. The Gophers worked the ball to the Nebraska 10-yard line. Then they shot McAlmon through the weak Nebraska right wing and the deed was done. The new halfback went over with all the speed of a Mauser bullet. Morrell, of course, kicked the goal, a little more difficult than he had previously tried.
Owen Frank’s kick of a goal, saving the Cornhuskers from an absolute blank, featured the last few minutes of play. The Nebraska star dropped the ball over the bar from a difficult angle. The oval seemed to waver and hang in the air, but it finally squeezed over, and just over. Thereupon the Scarlet and cream folks did some yelling. It saved them from some financial losses, a number of bets having been made on the supposition that Nebraska would not score, the small band of Cornhusker rooters cutting in on the Nebraska end, of course.
It would be a difficult thing, and possibly not at all fair to all members of the Minnesota eleven, to try and pick any individual stars of the game from the Maroon and Gold side. Let it be enough, therefore, to say that Captain Pickering has never played such a good game of football since he has been decked out in the colors of Minnesota. His work at all times, with the exception of a portion of the first quarter, was of wonderful excellence. He displayed good judgment in choosing plays after that period, did some great line-plunging himself and kicked better than any punter of recent years. Playing left end on the defense, Pickering put up some stonewall stuff. He smashed into the Nebraska plays like a young battering ram, and broke up a number of them before they were fully started.
Stevens Another Star.
Capron’s great run entitles him to honorable mention in the list of stars. Louis Stevens made as much ground as any Minnesota player, possibly more. He was dazed for a time because of a blow on the head, but stayed in the thick of the fray and was soon dashing off tackle for his usual consistent gains. On the defense he did royally.
McAlmon was a new man in the backfield. Rube Rosenwald, because of injuries received in the South Dakota game two weeks ago, was not able to get into the game, but McAlmon filled his shoes to the satisfaction of everybody. He played his best game on the defense and many and many a time brought down Cornhusker backs by deadly tackles.
Morrell added great strength to the Minnesota line and his kicking of goals was a feature. Probably the star lineman on the Minnesota team was Leonard Frank, right tackle. On the defense Frank shone with especial excellence. He killed any number of Nebraska plays. He tackled hard and sure and was down the field with the ends on punts. Powers and Elder opened gaps in the Nebraska line and Smith played his usual steady consistent reliable game. Smith seems more at home at guard than at end and his work yesterday was of the highest order. It was between him and Elder that most of the big Minnesota gains were made.
Wallender played hard, fast ball at right end. He played so hard that time was taken out for him several times, but when he was finally removed from the game it was not because of injuries but because of the desire to give Aldworth a chance. The latter acquitted himself with credit, spilling the first Cornhusker play that was directed at his wing. Tobin played a reliable, steady game. As a defensive halfback he had several opportunities to bring down a runner and he didn’t miss.
Chauner Nebraska Star.
On the Nebraska team Chauner and Owen Frank took the eye of the Minnesota fan. The former appears to be one of the best ends in the West. He was in every play and there was nothing much doing around his end. Only Capron’s great dodging ability enabled him to get by Chauner and Capron was the only man who did it.
Lofgren also played good football at the other end but Chauner was the more classy of the two. Owen Frank was the backfield star, but his brother ran him a close second. Racely, too, made quite a hit with the Minnesota rooters because of his sprinting ability. Once he nearly got away, but Stevens downed him after a twenty-yard run.
Shonka, the Nebraska captain, played well at his tackle, but Leonard Frank gave him all he could handle. The other Nebraska men did not shine with any individual excellency.

As far as I can tell from the original text, Nebraska's stripe-shirted defenders held fast at their goal line on this play.

May 2, 1951: Willie Mays ‘torrid’ in Minneapolis debut

Posted by: Ben Welter Updated: April 14, 2011 - 3:52 PM

Just a year out of high school, 19-year-old Willie Mays took the field for the Minneapolis Millers on May 1, 1951, opening day at Nicollet Park. More than 6,000 fans watched the rookie notch three hits and make a “sparkling catch” against the flagpole. Another future Hall of Famer, Hoyt Wilhelm, was the winning pitcher. 

The Minneapolis Tribune’s account of the rain-shortened 11-0 victory over Columbus appears below. Two weeks later, the New York Giants called up the hot-hitting Mays and made him their center fielder.

‘Mudders’ Overwhelm Columbus 11-0

Mays in Torrid Debut,
Dandy Raps Four Hits
Minneapolis Tribune Sports Writer
The Minneapolis Millers captured the first Black Mush Bowl game in Association opening history Tuesday.
Before 6,477 soaked but happy customers, they downed the Columbus Red Birds 11-0 in 6 2/3 innings of cavorting on a diamond that nearly required two successive triples to score a run. The whitewasher was Hoyt Wilhelm.
Willie Mays said howdy-do as bombastically as any newcomer in history. He got three hits, made a sparkling catch against the flagpole, unfurled a typical throw.
Ray Dandridge, just a little worried about his pal, possibly, belted four hits, including a home run that gave him a watch from the National Jewelry Co. Jake Early came along and did the same thing, minus the watch.
Let’s not forget Wilhelm in the penchant to talk about hitting. He gets credit for a five-hitter as he outhurled starter Herb Moford. The seventh inning counts as played, which meant the fourth hit for Dandridge, since the Millers were ahead in their half when umpire Pat Padden called the game.
THEY WEREN’T offering jewelry for walks, a sore spot with Dave Williams. Davey strolled four-for-four, which was the easy way, considering the perfectly abominable condition of the field.
The contest was over right in the first inning, which is about as quickly as you can work for a victory in a home-opening game. The Millers got three. Pete Milne walked, Mays singled to center, the boys moved up as Mike Natisin rolled and the little veteran named Dandridge brought them in with a single to left. Moford grew generous and passed Williams, Johnny Kropf and Early in succession to force Dandy across.
It was slow going. Moford was wild, and Wilhelm was cautious, but you couldn’t be exactly sprightly in the bowl of soup that was Nicollet’s diamond. The Millers aroused themselves again in the third for a foursome with Dandridge opening on a single.
Williams walked and so did Early to load ’em up. Mr. Wilhelm, who sometimes has been known to “pull” a ball as far as second base, didn’t bother about it this time and sliced a runway double to right. Milne’s single to center and his forceout by Rudy Rufer closed the quartet.
MARTY GARLOCK had come in during the round and Marty granted four more in the sixth, when Dandridge opened by home-running for a watch. Once more Williams walked. Kropf doubled and Early, a bit peeved about it all because he wasn’t first with the idea, slammed one clear over Nicollet avenue.
Dave Thomas, the Faribault boy, came in for the seventh after Wilhelm had pitched out of a bases-filled hole by fanning the pesky Howie Phillips. It was over with Dandridge on first and two out in the bottom half.
So tonight there’s an arc light contest at 8:15, which reminds the lights were on yesterday afternoon too for the first time at Nicollet.

All business: Mays got a grip on things in the Millers clubhouse.


Mays slid home -- presumably safe, but the original caption overlooks that detail -- in a night game at Nicollet Park.


During a rain delay that turned into a postponement in mid-May, a game of checkers was the center of attention in the Millers clubhouse. Battling on the board in this Minneapolis Star "Sportsphoto" were Bama Rowell, left, and Hoyt Wilhelm.


Dick Gustafson, 80, of Minneapolis writes:

Thanks for reminding us of what a great player Willie Mays was. I was at the May 1st, 1951, game with the famous "flagpole catch." But that wasn't the whole story. There was a runner on third base with less than two outs. The runner tagged up and broke for home as soon as Willie caught the ball in dead center field. The runner was about halfway home when the ball thrown by Willie bounced once by the pitchers' mound and then to the catcher mitt. The runner reversed direction and had to slide back into third base to beat the throw from the catcher. The fans couldn't believe what they had just seen.

I remember turning to my friend at the end of the play to predict that that young guy would soon be in New York with the Giants. What a thrill to be at his first game in Minneapolis.

June 30, 1950: U.S. stuns England 1-0 in World Cup

Posted by: Ben Welter Updated: June 12, 2010 - 12:18 PM
The U.S. soccer team’s shocking 1-0 victory over England in the 1950 World Cup has inspired several books, a movie and scores of anniversary stories. But the upset generated only a few sentences in the Minneapolis papers the next day. The Tribune’s brief, based on an AP account, inaccurately described the team, the tournament selection process and the U.S. goal, crediting it to the wrong player. The Star took the safe route and didn’t bother to name the scorer at all.

From the Minneapolis Star:


[this was the fifth item in the sports roundup]

ENGLAND lost 1-0 to the United States in the World Cup soccer tournament in Brazil and British sports writers haven’t yet got over their amazement. Said the London Daily Express: “It marks the lowest ever for the British sport.”
From the Minneapolis Tribune:

Yanks Score Big Soccer Upset

From Tribune’s Wire Services
Invited to the world soccer championships as a matter of international courtesy, the Ponta Del Cada team of Fall River, Mass., Thursday upset England 1-0 on Johnny Souza’s first half goal to surprise thousands at Rio de Janiero’s municipal bowl.


The 1950 U.S. World Cup team. Back row, from left: Jack Lyons, Joe Maca, Charlie Colombo, Frank Borghi, Harry Keough, Walter Bahr, Bill Jeffrey. Front row: Frank Wallace, Ed McIlvenny, Gino Pariani, Joe Gaetjens, John Souza, Ed Souza. (Photo courtesy National Soccer Hall of Fame)


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