BELVIEW, MINN. – Sportswriter and everyone’s friend, the late and much-missed Mike Augustin had numerous tales that were worth repeating. One of our favorites involved his matchup with Jon Hagen, a legend of small-town basketball in the mid-1950s.
Augustin played for the Springfield Tigers and they had a date with Hagen’s Belview Blue Jays. Augie was not a vital part of the Tigers offense, so the Springfield coach came to him early in the week with a special assignment:
“Mike, I want you to get on top of Hagen defensively and stick to him like glue. He’s all yours, and I know you can hold him down.”
At this point, Augie would take a dramatic gulp of his beer and offer the punchline: “Hagen scored 52. When he released one of his jump shots, he’d say, ‘Two,’ and he would be right.”
Disclaimer: I can’t remember if the point total in the punchline was 52 or 56, so I’m giving Augie the benefit of doubt for his gritty defensive effort.
On Friday, I was on a mission from the sports editor and wound up driving through Belview, home to 358 residents, without a high school for decades, with a wide, clean main street and a gas station/convenience store.
I stopped for a 16-ounce Diet Coke, the nectar of life, and asked: “Anyone ever hear of Jon Hagen?”
Soon, I was inside the Odeon, a beautifully maintained “opera house” dating to 1902, with Joanne Aamoth, the volunteer head of the Belview Preservation Commission, and Lori Ryer, Belview’s city clerk.
The Odeon has been a national historical landmark since 1974. According to a summary of its history, the Belview Dramatic Club had outgrown previous venues by the turn of the 20th century and lobbied successfully for a proper home.
Weddings and all matter of area events are still held in the Odeon. It also was the home of Belview Blue Jays basketball until the new gym (now gone) opened in the winter of 1956-57, Hagen’s senior season.
The Odeon’s excellent acoustics surely allowed Jon Hagen’s “two” to echo many times. And it would have been worse for opponents 30 years later. It would’ve been “three.”
Read Reusse’s blog at startribune.com/patrick. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thoughts while driving Hwy. 212 and beyond:
• The Odeon needs a new roof for an estimated $50,000. Wanted: Wealthy Minnesotan with an admiration for the state’s small-town heritage.
• Driving through Danube: Reminder of the grievous oversight that all-timer Bob Bruggers was not among the original 14 inducted into a Minnesota prep basketball hall of fame in March.
• Driving through Brownton: Reminder of Dick Peik’s deadly jumper launched from behind his head, with leg kick, for the Brownton Bears in the 1958 state tournament at Williams Arena.