The State Amateur baseball tournament started in 1924. It went through several formats through the decades. By the 1960s, there were complaints about the unfair advantage of access to players for Twin Cities teams. There was also the problem of those teams not bringing fans to the smaller towns that hosted the tournament.
The Minnesota Baseball Association Board settled on this format for 1987: The Twin Cities teams (those located within the Interstate 494-694 corridor) would be a separate entity in Class A, and the outstate teams would have their tournaments (B and C) in the outstate towns that make successful bids to the MBA Board.
Class A currently involves 38 teams in four Twin Cities leagues. The state tournament has settled in at Red Haddox Field, a well-kept ballpark in Bloomington.
The deciding game was held last Tuesday night. The Minnetonka Millers were going for a third straight championship and a 14th in 21 seasons dating to 1997.
St. Louis Park had beaten the Millers twice in the Riverview League, and then again two nights earlier in the double-elimination tournament. Brandon Broxey, an important part of the Millers’ success in this era, started and shockingly didn’t get an out.
It was 8-0 for St. Louis Park after the top of the first. And Joe Shallenberger, the Millers’ 6-4 shortstop and four-time MVP of the Class A tournament, was suffering back spasms.
“Joe was really hurting, but when we got down 8-0, he had stay in the game if we were going to have a chance for a comeback,’’ said Kevin Hoy, the manager and general manager of the Millers.
Veteran pitcher Donny Erdall relieved and held Park to one more run through seven innings. Casey Jacobson pitched the final two — and wound up getting the win.
The Millers kept coming back, and then Mike Davis, the No. 4 hitter to Shallenberger’s No. 3 for years, ripped a deciding three-run double into the left-field corner in the bottom of the eighth.
Three outs later, the Millers had a three-peat with an improbable 11-9 victory accomplished in front of a good crowd. It was a fine showcase for Class A baseball, with one caveat: They don’t sell beer.
PATRICK'S PLUS THREE
Other notes from the Millers’ ongoing dynasty:
• Joe Shallenberger, 37, played two seasons for the St. Paul Saints (2002-03). “Joe is always clutch … the best amateur player that I’ve seen play in Minnesota,’’ Kevin Hoy said.
• Blaine Rutledge, a Chaska standout who played at Central Missouri, is another veteran star. He was named the MVP for the 2017 tournament.
• Donny Erdall became the career strikeout leader this summer. He surpassed the record of another Millers pitching legend, the late David Bigham.
Read Patrick Reusse’s blog at startribune.com/patrick. E-mail him at email@example.com.