ADVERTISEMENT

A character named Joe enters town-team Hall

  • Blog Post by: Patrick Reusse
  • September 15, 2013 - 5:28 AM

ST. CLOUD -- I was a novice reporter for the St. Cloud Times in 1966. The most-important of my beats was covering the St. Cloud State basketball team. Red Severson was an exceptional coach and a promoter, and the Huskies had a couple of stars in juniors Terry Porter (Marshall) and Tom Ditty (Delano).

Ditty was the athlete. Porter was the shooter.

If basketball had been then what it is now -- namely, go inside and then throw it back out to someone standing behind the 3-point line -- I would have more people agreeing when I say Turk Porter is the purest long-distance shooter ever produced in Minnesota.

I was a year older than Porter and Ditty. We became friends for life, even though the amount of time we've spent together has been minimal.

On Saturday night, Turk and I had a chance for a reunion in St. Cloud. The occasion was the annual dinner to honor new members of the Minnesota Amateur Baseball Hall of Fame. We were drawn there for the same reason:

Joe Driscoll was among the five in the class of 2013.

Turk and I got to know Driscoll in different stages of life. Porter first met him when Driscoll was attending Southwest Minnesota State in Turk's hometown.

"My mother worked at the college, in housing, and Joe became pals with her, of course, and then we all got to know Joe,'' Porter said. "Driscoll was only in town a couple of years, but he was memorable.''

At Le Sueur High School, Driscoll was an option quarterback and a strong-legged punter. He was an explosive scorer in basketball. And he was an outstanding pitcher and hitter in baseball.

He could have played all three sports in college, if it weren't for those dang class schedules they kept giving him.

I first started hearing about Driscoll as a ballplayer when he played for the Prior Lake Jays in the 1970s. A town-team machine was assembled in P.L. and the Jays won a couple of Class B titles, before the always-political state baseball board rebelled and placed them in Class A.

Driscoll wound up in Arlington after that and had a long run with the mighty A's. Eventually, he came home to Le Sueur, finishing his town team career at age 50 in 2001.

I got to know Driscoll best in the '90s, when he was playing with Red Wing in the Cannon Valley Classic. It was an easy friendship ... B.S.-er meets B.S.-er.

Some of Joe's buddies started a campaign to get him in the Hall of Fame earlier this year. I wrote a column for the Star Tribune in support of the pro-Driscoll movement.

It seemed a long shot, since the Hall of Fame was created 50 years by the Sports Inc. organization in St. Cloud to honor amateur baseball activists over great players.

There were outstanding players in the Hall, but they also were managers, or groundskeepers, or organizers. Driscoll's speciality in addition to outstanding play was promoting ... and what he promoted mostly was the camaraderie of a few beers after a ballgame.

Joe's friends were able to make their case -- mainly, "whose done more to create interest in amateur baseball over the past 40 years than Joe Driscoll'' -- and he was voted in.

On Saturday, Driscoll told the audience of crying with his father, who introduced him to the game, as they watched "Field of Dreams'' together. He talked of first putting on a uniform that his grandmother made for him at age 4, and finally taking it off when he quit senior baseball at 61, and he added:

"Those were the best 36 years of my life.''

That was one of the laughs we knew we were going to get from Joe, making light of what apparently was his long-running difficulty with math

My favorite tale during Driscoll's 8-10 minutes at the podium was the information that Joe and his wife Nancy had made a trip to the Black Hills earlier this week. And while there, Joe received a call from Greg Odegaard, a teammate and a star for the Arlington A's.

I don't know Odegaard but he must have a reputation as a malapropist.

"Ode calls and I manage to get a cell signal for one of the few times out there, and Ode asks, 'Did you get to Mount Rushford and see those three guys?' '' Driscoll said. "I said to Ode, 'I think it's Rushmore and that there are four of 'em, Ode.' ''

Driscoll added: "I'm pretty sure one of 'em is Lincoln. He gave my favorite speech, the one that starts, 'Four scores in the bottom of the ninth and the Arlington A's win ...''

That was the gist. I'm not sure if it was Joe's exact phrasing, since Turk and I and the others at our table were laughing too hard.

© 2014 Star Tribune