FORT MYERS, FLA. – I was attempting to track down individuals involved in Wayzata’s 1959 state basketball championship and discovered that starting forward Ray Zitzloff had a place here in The Fort, as well as back home in Minnesota.
Ray was better known to me as a Gophers football end in the early ’60s. Like so many U athletes from that era, Zitzloff has had an interesting and successful career in the business world.
He was raised in Wayzata when it was a village, when the rich kids lived in grand homes in the Ferndale area and went to Blake, and the other kids went to the small local high school.
Ray was one of the latter. His father died when he was 3. His family lived in a little home a few blocks from Lake Minnetonka. He started fishing and later in life would turn it into one of his businesses:
North of Sixty, a fly-in fishing service that took clients above Manitoba and beyond the 60th parallel to Canada’s endless waters. He bought a large hunk of land for camps and built a 6,000-foot air strip.
Ray’s a pilot, although he employed others to fly in the fishermen. “I had 14 planes at one time; now, I’m down to two,’’ Zitzloff said. “The price of fuel and restrictions on getting it into that part of Canada eventually made it unfeasible financially.’’
Anybody need a 6,000-foot air strip in the wilds of Canada? I didn’t ask, but Ray might make you a deal.
As it always does when I’m face-to-face with a Gopher from the 1962 season, the conversation turned to the officiating calamity in Madison at season’s end that cost the Gophers a third straight Rose Bowl.
Don’t get Ray (or me) started on those refs. We also agreed on this: Bobby Lee Bell was the greatest Gophers football player of all.
Ray had a better view of Mr. Bell in his Outland Trophy season of 1962 than the rest of us.
“I got to play next to Bobby,’’ he said. “What an athlete. What a competitor. What a privilege for me.’’
PATRICK'S PLUS THREE
Notes discovered while reading sports sections from March 1959:
• Gene Mauch, Minneapolis Millers manager, was hoping a 4-pound iron ball could rehab his ailing right arm and allow him to also play. He’d get eight at-bats.
• The Wayzata hairstyles weren’t “ducktail or anything like that,’’ but the Trojans had passed on the crewcuts worn by the players from other tournament teams.
• The Kalmikoff Brothers defeated Butch Levy and Karl Karlsson in a tag-team main event at the Minneapolis Armory. The Russians also cheated.
Read Patrick Reusse’s blog at startribune.com/patrick. E-mail him at email@example.com.