QUAMBA, MINN. - Social life in Quamba suffered a serious setback in the mid-1980s when the Cougarville Supper Club closed its doors.
"A fellow named Hans Larson opened the club in the '60s," Stan Peterson said. "People came from everywhere on the weekends. There was live music and great food. It was unbelievable for a little town like Quamba to have a place like that."
Helping to stretch the believability were three cougars Larson had raised from cubs and were penned outside the supper club.
The supper club building now houses the Cougarville Transmission Shop. It is the only commercial business in Quamba, population 98, and located 85 miles directly north of St. Paul on Hwy. 23.
Stan Peterson was born in 1952. He lived two miles out of town and, by age 5, his heroes were the stars of the Quamba Cubs: the Oslin twins, Howard and Harold, and the Telander brothers, Kenny and Johnny, and other names in a lineup Peterson can recite more than 50 years later.
The Cubs were following a tradition of town-team baseball that dated to the late 1800s -- and a Minnesota State Amateur Baseball Tournament that began in 1924.
"We had great teams; never could make it to the state, but great ballplayers," Peterson said. "When I was a little kid, throwing a rubber ball against the barn door, the players coming to bat weren't Yankees or Dodgers ... they were Quamba Cubs."
The Cubs folded after the 1966 season. There was a Mora-Quamba team in the Eastern Minny League for a few years. Eventually, the diamond became overgrown.
Peterson left the Quamba area in the mid-1970s. He returned in the fall of 1988, saw the diamond again was in use (temporarily by Mora High School) and became devoted to the idea of bringing back the Cubs.
He turned it into a reality by the start of the 1990 town-ball season. As teams have folded in much-larger towns, reducing the Eastern Minny to a mere five teams, the Cubs have survived.
"We even made it through the 89-game losing streak from 1996 to 1998," Peterson said. "We ended that by winning a close game against Mora, our archrivals. Man, that was a great day."
The spirit always has been willing and the victories elusive for Stan's Cubs. And prospects were not great last Sunday, with the East Bethel Bandits -- a Class B team from the Metro Minny Red -- in town for a doubleheader.
Asked if he knew his all-time record as Cubs manager, Peterson said: "I added it up late last season. I think it was 665 games and 92 wins.
"And you know something? We have more guys wanting to play for us than ever. I have 30 players on the roster already, and last week, three or four more guys called, saying they wanted to play for us. The ballplayers in the area know we have a nice field here, and we have fun playing the game."
Stan's son, Quinn, was the starting pitcher for Sunday's first game. Quinn and his wife, Nancy, were married at home plate of the Quamba ballpark. Nancy remains the Cubs' leading fan, as well as supervisor of the concession operation.
Stan's grandkids were scattered about, including 2-year-old Aiden. He was wearing a T-shirt that read on the back, "I've wov'ed the Quamba Cubs my whole life."
Stan nodded toward the T-shirt and said, proudly, "That was my creation."
The same could be said for most everything with this generation of the Quamba Cubs. Peterson has salvaged posts and boards for the outfield fences and bleachers. His greatest find were the lights and stanchions that surround the ballpark.
"The Sandstone high school was closing for a new consolidated school," Peterson said. "They had lights at the football field. I ran into a guy from the school at a ballgame in Hinckley and he said, 'Those lights have been there a long time. You probably can have them, Stan, if you take them away.'"
Peterson had what he called "a little nest egg" of $20,000 or so. He received an estimate of $25,000 to put up the poles and run in the electricity for the lights.
"I figured, 'OK, that's manageable,'" he said. "And then I got the first bill -- 18 grand, and they were just getting started."
Installing the lights cost a bit more than $50,000. Stan's nest egg turned into a bank loan.
"A few years back, I had this couple tell me they were driving on the highway and they saw a halo over Quamba, and they were drawn here," he said. "They weren't even baseball fans, but they still come to a few night games every year, because the field is so beautiful under that halo."
Last Sunday, the Quamba field was illuminated by sunlight. Quinn Peterson, battling a pulled muscle below his gluteus maximus, didn't look as though he would survive more than a couple of innings, but he started to feature looping, sidearm breaking pitches, and wound up going the distance.
There was an outstanding diving catch by Kendal Bowe in center field, and an acrobatic snare of a popup by first baseman Ryan Gordon, and several nice plays by Matt Becklin at shortstop -- and even 48-year-old Mark Cannon (Quinn's brother-in-law) made a couple of plays at third base.
The Cubs couldn't have played more crisply, in a 6-1 loss, which was followed by a 6-0 loss that dropped Quamba to 2-6 in Stan's 22nd season as manager.
"We've had nine rainouts, but if we play the rest of the schedule, and we get to the second game of the playoffs, that will put me at 700 games as manager," Peterson said.
In Quamba, the games are what counts. The occasional wins are the gravy.
Patrick Reusse can be heard noon-4 weekdays on 1500ESPN. firstname.lastname@example.org