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Continued: St. Paul's fields of All-Star dreams

  • Article by: DENNIS BRACKIN , Star Tribune
  • Last update: June 29, 2014 - 6:39 AM

St. Paul Mayor Coleman said the city’s success in producing athletes traces to “the playgrounds, it goes back to people like Billy Peterson,’’ a legendary Legion coach for Attucks Brooks who is still coaching teams in the city’s RBI youth program.

“I attribute a lot of [St. Paul’s success] to the coaching we had at the youth level,” Morris said. “We had coaches who were fundamentally sound, and they pushed us. It wasn’t ‘everybody gets a trophy’ back then. Winning was very important, and they pushed the hell out of us.”

Morris credits one other factor for the development of youth talent from that era: the arrival of the Twins before the 1961 season.

“The Twins meant so much to us when we were kids,” he said. “They had great teams in the mid-to-late ’60s, and that’s when we were kids. We had this dream of being one of them someday, and we had coaches who helped us get there.”

The trailblazer

Peterson was a no-nonsense ex-Marine whose Attucks Brooks Legion teams put St. Paul on the national map and set the bar for the players who followed. Peterson’s first great Legion teams were led by Winfield and his one-year-older brother, Steve.

“A lot of people pat me on the back and say, ‘What a great coach,’ ” Peterson said. “I was learning right along with Dave and Steve. I had no idea how good David was — there was nothing to gauge it by. Back then, we had the mentality that if you were from Minnesota, you must not be very good on a national level.”

That started to change, Peterson said, after Dave Winfield’s sophomore year, when Attucks went to Omaha to compete in a regional tournament. That’s when major league scouts first discovered Dave Winfield, who would ultimately be a first-round pick in baseball’s amateur draft.

By the time Molitor was playing for Attucks Brooks a couple of years later, Peterson said he “could tell what I had, because I had [Winfield] to gauge it by.”

Molitor and Morris were contemporaries, competing against one another throughout their amateur careers. Morris played Legion ball for Christie, and was frequently reminded that “if you want to be good, you’ve got to beat Attucks Brooks. There was always that competition among us.”

Having Winfield, Molitor and Morris paving the way helped beget the next generation of St. Paul talent.

“Growing up, a lot of my friends had dreams of playing in the big leagues,” Mauer said. “I know I did, and seeing guys from this area achieve that goal, it was like it made it possible. It’s pretty neat to have those caliber of players right down from your street.”

It’s what makes that photo from the 1985 All-Star Game so special to each of the players in it.

“I don’t know if we’ll ever see something like that happen again, with three guys [from the same cold-weather city] on the same All-Star team,” Molitor said.

“The NHL All-Star Game, maybe.”







 

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