Museum in St. Cloud recognizes state’s great

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The 2013 Minnesota Baseball Hall of Fame inductees include Norman “Red” Jones of Raymond/Litchfield.

Not many families have a baseball team living under their roof.

If you know any baseball history, you may have heard of the Fredrickson Brother’s Baseball team. The 12 sons of Norwegian immigrants, Nels and Emelia, formed their own baseball team and played traveling amateur baseball in the 1920s. Baseball gave the brothers a break from the long, often-grueling days spent milking cows and working on their parents’ farm near Eidswold, south of Lakeville. Their parents never saw their sons play because they believed it was a sin to play baseball on Sunday. (The Fredrickson Brother’s team was honored along with 21 other “all-brother baseball teams” in a display at the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y.)

This bit of baseball trivia is just a sample of what you can learn at the Minnesota Amateur Baseball Hall of Fame Museum, located on the second floor of the River’s Edge Convention Center in downtown St. Cloud. The museum is free and open to the public whenever the convention center is open.

The museum’s display cases are filled with photos, jerseys, autographed balls and bats and other artifacts that tell the story of baseball in Minnesota during the past 100-plus years. The walls of the museum are filled with photos of the American Legion State Baseball Championship teams. There is the 1929 team from Cottonwood, the 1976 St. Cloud team, including Jim Eisenreich, and a number of championship teams from New Ulm and St. Paul, among others.

The state high school baseball champions from 2013–BOLD (Class A), Kasson-Mantorville (AA) and Mounds View (AAA)—are all featured in one of the displays. There is also a list of all the high school teams that have made an appearance at the state tournament from 1947 to 2012.

The VFW baseball program began in 1955, and there have been some well-known names among their players. Paul Molitor, Jim Eisenreich. Kent Hrbek, Dave Winfield and Terry Steinbach all wore VFW uniforms at one time before they made the leap to the big leagues.

Eisenreich, grew up in St. Cloud and played baseball at SCSU for three years before being drafted by the Twins in 1980. He spent 15 seasons in the major leagues and he made it to the 1997 World Series where he and his team, the Florida Marlins, became world champions. On display is the Honey Nut Cheerios box with the celebrating team, Eisenreich included, on the front of the box. The collection also contains his glove, his jersey from St. Cloud Truck Sales and an autographed bat. Eisenreich and his wife are also known as founders of the Jim Eisenreich Foundation, to increase awareness of Tourette’s Syndrome, a neurological disorder.

The Amateur Baseball Hall of Fame Museum was established in 1963 by St. Cloud Sports, Inc. under the leadership of Glenn Carlson, for the purpose of honoring those dedicated to the advancement of baseball in Minnesota. It has been located at its current site since 1992 when the Civic Center opened. Each year there are four to six new inductees to the Hall of Fame. The museum displays baseballs with the names and hometown of each of the inductees.  The 2013 inductees include Norman “Red” Jones of Raymond/Litchfield, Joe Jarvis of Hinckley, Gary Porter of Maple Lake, Joe Driscoll of Arlington and John Richter of Granite Falls. Members are chosen for the Hall of Fame because of their contribution to the game.

One of last year’s inductees, Norman “Red” Jones, grew up in Raymond, where he played baseball for Raymond High School and for the American Legion team during the summer. He also played amateur ball with the Raymond Rockets for 14 years. After moving to Litchfield, Jones coached Babe Ruth teams and helped with the American Legion and VFW programs. He also initiated the Cal Ripken youth baseball program for kids, ages 10-12. In an interview with the Litchfield Independent Review, Jones said, “You have to give something back. I played my years and had fun. This was my way of helping them have fun.”

BaseballMuseumMinor league baseball has entertained Minnesotans for decades. The St. Cloud Rox, Duluth Dukes, Minneapolis Millers and St. Paul Saints have given fans opportunities to cheer their team and to see some outstanding talent. The museum has photos of Ted Williams and Willie Mays playing for the Millers before the two “made it big,” both eventually getting into the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

Professional baseball is not excluded from the museum. The Twins came to Minnesota in 1961, and they made it to the World Series just a few years later in 1965. The thrill and excitement of that era can be seen in the front page headline of the St. Paul Pioneer Press from Sept. 27, 1965.  “There’s Joy Today in Twinsville,” the headline read, after the Twins won the pennant. A large photo captures Bob Allison’s diving, backhanded catch in left field during game two of the series. There is an autographed ball by Tony Oliva and a World Series ticket for a first- deck box seat at Metropolitan Stadium, which sold for $12. There is also a display of the World Series Champion Twins in 1987 and 1991, which includes homer hankies, programs, a Kirby Puckett jersey and an autographed bat with everyone’s signatures.

The first issue of Sports Illustrated, published on Aug. 16, 1954, featured Wes Westrum, of Clearbrook, located in northwestern Minnesota, on the cover. Westrum was known as a superb defensive catcher for the New York Giants, where he played 11 seasons. Eddie Matthews of the Milwaukee Braves is at the plate in the photograph. The magazine’s cost was just 25 cents.

The Minnesota Amateur Baseball Hall of Fame Museum has something for everyone who enjoys the game. Baseball enthusiasts planning a visit to the museum should go to the second floor of the River’s Edge Convention Center, located at 10 Fourth Ave So., St. Cloud. Parking is available in the ramp or in parking lots nearby.

The deadline for nominating a candidate to become a 2014 inductee to the Hall of Fame is June 1.