Mike Augustin was the sports editor at the St. Cloud Times and arranged my hiring as his full-timer in May 1966. This came after Jon Roe decided to take on part-time duties, in order to conclude his relentless pursuit of a degree at St. Cloud State.
Frank Hyland was doing the same and also was hired as a part-timer. Later, he covered all matters of pro teams for the Atlanta newspapers, including a turn on the Falcons' beat that included coach Norm Van Brocklin trying to choke Frank with Frank's tie.
We covered a considerable swath of central Minnesota, but the main beats for the full-timers were these: St. John's and St. Cloud Tech for Augie, and St. Cloud State and St. Cloud Cathedral for me.
The summer was a true offseason for high school and college athletics then. In this void, Augie and I gave extra-large coverage to the St. Cloud Rox, the Twins' affiliate in the six-team, short-season Northern League.
The schedule called for 70 games. The rival teams and affiliates in 1966 were Aberdeen (Orioles), Huron (Phillies), Sioux Falls (Reds), Duluth-Superior (Cubs) and Bismarck-Mandan (Astros).
Mankato came in as a Mets affiliate in place of Bismarck-Mandan in 1967. Duluth-Superior was a co-op team in 1967 and became a White Sox affiliate in 1968.
Ken Staples was the Rox manager in 1966 and 1967. Kenny didn't embrace the idea that it was all about developing 18-to-20-year-old pro novices for future glory.
"Stapes" was the Tom Thibodeau of low-minor baseball: He wanted to win tonight, minutes (in this case, innings) be danged.
He was the terror of the two-umpire crews just getting started in pro ball. For road games, Augie or I would get Staples on the phone early the next morning for a story in the afternoon Times.
One of us: "Stapes, there's a note here in the wire story that you got thrown out of the game, and then were standing on the roof of the bus outside the fence, offering instructions."
Staples: "It was a terrible call. And I was watching, not managing."
When the Rox were home, Augie and I would send the copy to the composing room, and have breakfast at 9:15 a.m. with Staples at the drugstore restaurant next door.
These would be interrupted by Staples' "quick call" to George Brophy, the Twins' farm director. Brophy's temper was notorious in the Twins' offices. Staples was more than a match.
The trip to the pay phone often became a shouting contest, as Staples lobbied for older, wiser players.
Staples won two Northern League pennants. Carroll Hardy, famous as the left-field replacement for Ted Williams on Ted's final day in Fenway Park, managed another pennant winner in 1968.
We loved Rox Park, on 25th and Division Street. The press box was on the roof. You could stand out there and see all of this growing city. You could have Dick Statz announce on the P.A., "1-1-4, please report to the press box," and vendor Albie Peckskamp would know to have four beers delivered.
The city sold the site and Rox Park was torn down in 1971. St. Cloud's original Lunds & Byerlys still stands there.
My first Northern League summer, in 1966, Larry Hisle batted .433 for Huron before being promoted. Gary Nolan struck out 163 in 104 innings for Sioux Falls, then won 14 games for Cincinnati a year later.
The 1967 Rox had Charley Walters, a gangly righthander from Minneapolis Edison, going 7-2 with a 1.94 ERA. Twins manager Billy Martin had him in the big leagues for a few weeks in 1969.
The real public service this young man performed came at the St. Paul Pioneer Press, where he developed into a sports notes columnist receiving enough chirps from "little birdies" to frequently agitate Sid Hartman.
And we always enjoyed Sid more when he was frequently agitated, didn't we?