GIBBON, MINN. – The Jordan Brewers, defending Class C champions in state amateur baseball, were here to play the Gibbon Reds last Sunday. The crowd was around 250 and the long-awaited ballgame was robust, with the Brewers winning 9-5 over the plucky Reds.
Beyond baseball on a glorious afternoon, there was another mission: To discover further details on the events of June 8, 1954, when the Gibbon Wildcats finished second (14 points), between St. Paul Central (17½) and Minneapolis Central (13), in the track and field state meet at Memorial Stadium.
One class, qualification as individuals, 13 events (including one relay at 880 yards) and points awarded to the top five, 5 for first place to 1 for fifth.
Gibbon was consolidated into GFW with Winthrop and Fairfax in 1987. The Wildcats’ trophies weren’t part of the merger, so Dr. Edgar Taggatz, Gibbon ’53 and still the town vet, snatched the hardware and keeps it in his downtown office in a cooler that no longer works.
Included is the trophy the Gibbon janitor made for the ’54 Wildcats, since there was none presented either for finishing second in the state or second to Minneapolis Roosevelt (by one-tenth of a second) in the relay.
“It was two heats, no final, with places awarded by time,’’ Bart Stadtherr said. “We’re convinced to this day we would’ve beaten Roosevelt if we had run against it.’’
Stadtherr ran leadoff, George Olson second, Stadtherr’s younger brother Pat third, and Ernie Ohland was the anchor. Ohland stands mighty in Gibbon lore, as the winner of both hurdles — 120 highs and 180 lows — in 1954.
Gibbon didn’t have a track and Ohland built four adjustable hurdles for practice. Ernie had another training technique: Running up and down the half-mile driveway at the family farm with sister Sandy on his back.
It’s a feat not forgotten, not by Doc Taggatz, the protector of Gibbon athletic lore, and not by the four state entrants and coach Dale Keck — all living and still proud of the Tuesday they took on the powers from both Twin Cities.
• Gophers coach Jim Kelly and other Big Ten coaches tried to recruit Ohland for his hurdle skills. He wasn’t interested and enlisted in the Navy, as did Bart Stadtherr.
• Bob Esser was a 6-5 center and star of the 1952 Gibbon basketball team that lost by one point to Glencoe in the Region 3 semifinals. He was also Sam Bradford’s great uncle.
• Taggatz hosts “Happy Hour’’ on Fridays — at his office or on the lawn. “Everybody brings food and there’s usually a beverage,’’ Stadtherr said. “Doc keeps the Wildcats spirit alive.’’
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