We made a visit to Maple Lake for three hours on Saturday -- in this case, the "we'' being radio colleague Judd Zulgad and an astute baseball observer named Chris Reusse.

I had heard great things about Maple Lake's Irish Stadium and wanted to take in the atmosophere of the state amateur tournament.

I also had it on the authority of Joe Kreger, the Green Isle baseball man and State Amateur Board member,  that the "pig wings'' being sold at Irish Stadium were worth the hour-long commute from a first-tier Minneapolis suburb.

And, I was taking a shot on running into Joe Driscoll, my town-team baseball hero and set to be inducted into the Minnesota Amateur Baseball Hall of Fame on Sept. 14 at the Kelly Inn in St. Cloud.

All of these matters proved correct.: Irish Stadium is outstanding ... a ballyard of fair dimensions and of beautiful green.

Dale Decker, the head of Maple Lake's tournament committee, said the baseball boosters employed a young man who has studied to be greenskeeper to prepare for being the co-host with Delano for the state tourney.

"He wanted to use this field as his showcase for getting a job,'' Decker said. "What he did for our field was tremendous. It looks great, doesn't it?''

Yes, it does.

The capacity also was increased with a new set of bleachers. If Maple Lake was larger than 2,000 people, Irish Stadium would be more than qualified to house a team the Northwoods summer collegiate league that continues to expand in this area.

As for the pig wings, they are large pork ribs, with lots of meat and little fat. You get two in an order and one does the trick.

Judd was impressed with his pig wing -- and ever more so with the price of a can of ice cold beer: $3.

And, yes, Driscoll was in attendance, along with his traveling companion from the LeSueur-Henderson area ... Lon Berberich, another baseball man.

There was thick, ad-filled program at the ballpark and it included tributes to this year's Hall of Fame inductees. Driscoll's page had several ads at the bottom, including one alleged to be from a Women's Prison. The ad offered congratulations to Joe from the residents, and included the punchline, "It's all about going over the fence.''

"What prankster was responsible for this?'' I asked.

"I haven't figured that out yet,'' Druscoll said.

One of Driscoll's most-famous moments in his illustrious town-team career came in 1979, when he hit a game-winning, last-inning home run for Arlington in a first-round win over Maple Lake. Arlington wound up winning the tournament and Driscoll was the MVP.

Driscoll's first-round game-winner became known as the "Holy-Ta-Moley'' home run, since that's what Jim Bartels from KNUJ-AM in New Ulm bellowed into his play-by-play microphone as the ball left the park in St. Cloud.

Decker noticed Driscoll and came over to offer congratulations on the Hall of Fame. He also said: "I don't care what you say in the acceptance speech; just don't mention that home run in '79, OK. I was the pitcher.''

Joe said, "That's right ... it was you.''

I asked Decker if he had thrown a ":hanger'' to Driscoll.

"A fastball ...,'' he said. "Remember, Joe, right before the home run, you hit that roller down the first-base line and it went foul by two inches?''

Driscoll remembered.

Kreger was nearby and suffering through the last couple of outs in Green Isle's 2-0 loss to Howard Lake in Class C's round of 16. When a potential ninth-inning rally ended, Joe shrugged and said: "You can't win with zero.''

The next game was Luverne, from deep in the southwest corner, taking on Maple Lake, the home team and defending champs. The ballpark was full. The $3 beers and pig wings were moving across the concenssion counters at a brisk pace.

And then Luverne rallied for two in the ninth and scored in the 11th to win 3-2, to advance to today's quarterfinals and take a bite of attendance as the tournament continues today and winds up Monday. You can check minnesotabaseball.org for brackets and schedules in Class C and B.



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