The bride and I have traveled west for some distance on Hwy. 12 on several occasions during our decades of wedded bliss. When approaching the tiny burg of Darwin, I always say, “We have to see the Twine Ball,’’ then take a left, drive into town, make a U-turn and gaze admiringly at Francis Johnson’s world largest ball of twine.
My wife stews and offers descriptive commentary on my idiocy. In other words, making a four-minute detour to see the Twine Ball gets her every time.
I wrote a column in July 2008 on Darwin’s baseball history and the great pitcher, Fred “Lefty’’ Miller, from early in the 20th century. Dave Kelly, a Darwin native, provided the research, and now Kelly has sent along information of more Darwin baseball history to be celebrated.
Darwin hasn’t fielded a town-ball team since 1957, but the memories remain, and Darwin Night will be celebrated on July 8 at the Dassel ballpark. This is a special occasion because it will mark the 75th anniversary of the “famous 1940 Darwin doghouse home run,’’ as the flier states.
Lake Jennie, a stop on the road near Dassel, and Litchfield were involved in a playoff game at the neutral site of Darwin on Aug. 18, 1940. It was a 1-1 tie in the seventh, when Lake Jennie’s Bud Chastek hit a pitch from Litchfield’s Johnny Anderson down the left-field line.
The ball reached the outfield and then took a strange hop to the left, and rolled into an adjacent doghouse of the Fitzgerald family. There were varying reports as to whether the Fitzgerald dog was home, but all agreed Litchfield left fielder Pete Donnay approached cautiously, and Chastek circled the bases.
Chastek’s home run was decisive in Lake Jennie’s 2-1 victory. Litchfield protested. The protest was upheld, the game was replayed that week, and justice prevailed with a 5-4 victory for Lake Jennie.
The tale of the doghouse home run was offered often by Halsey Hall on Twins broadcasts in the 1960s, with embellishments as to the orneriness of the Fitzgerald dog.
It was the dog from “The Sandlot’’ in Halsey’s retelling.