John Anderson (in a 1966 photo) holds the baseball he pitched to Bud Chastek, who hit it into the dog house for a home run. Photo contributed.
Darwin is known worldwide for the “World’s Largest Twine Ball made by one man” but it has another claim to fame that could make the Ripley’s Believe it or Not list. Darwin is also known as the home of the Doghouse Home Run.
This year is the 75th anniversary of this memorable baseball event. It was on Aug. 8, 1940, when the Lake Jennie town baseball team was playing Litchfield on a neutral field in Darwin in a Tri-County League semi-final playoff game. The winner would go on to play St. Cloud 7-Up for the championship.
The score was tied at one apiece for Lake Jennie and Litchfield going into the seventh inning. Rollie Smith, of Lake Jennie and Johnny Anderson, of Litchfield were locked into a pitching duel. Bud Chastek, of Lake Jennie, came to the plate and drilled a ball down the left field line. It was a fair ball and then bounced foul past a shed and directly into Jerry Fitzgerald’s doghouse which was just behind Fitzgerald’s Restaurant adjacent to the ball field. The Litchfield left fielder, Pete Donnay, ran over to the doghouse to retrieve the ball but was, according to one report, met by a menacing pair of gleaming white teeth. The occupant of the doghouse, a mongrel with a nasty temper, resented the untimely intrusion.
Bud Chastek hit the famous Darwin Doghouse Home Run for the Lake Jennie town team. Photo contributed.
While Donnay tried to outmaneuver the dog and grab the baseball, the batter, Bud Chastek, circled the bases for a home run.
The umpires, Rengel and Zapf ruled that the ball was in play, and the hit was a home run. Lake Jennie ended up winning by a score of 2-1.
The doghouse home run was the difference, and Lake Jennie would advance in the playoff . . . But hold everything . . . this doghouse home run was far from being over!
Litchfield felt it should have been a ground rule double and took their protest to league officers. The next day at Annandale, president Bill Brose and secretary Ray Yaeger of the Tri-County circuit held court. They ruled in favor of Litchfield and said “bats, backstops, bases and ball players, mitts, cleats and even umpires are legal targets for hit baseballs. But doghouses — emphatically NOT!”
The game was replayed with another nine innings, and Lake Jennie won again, this time by a 5-4 margin. And, yes, they did move the doghouse before the game started.
1940 Lake Jennie baseball team. In the front, from the left, is captain Warren Johnson, Eugene Anderson, Bob Regal, Lindsey Rotten, Roland Smith, and Al Pancake. In the back is Walt Settergren, Earl Schramm, Ron Johnson, Sherman Chastek, manager Wes Asplin, Bud Chastek, Roy Hultman, Clarence Anderson, Curtis Carlson and Donald Carlson. Photo contributed.
The 1940 town team season reminds us there are plays made that you will likely never see again — such as that Darwin Doghouse Home Run.
On July of this year, a special celebration will be part of the annual Darwin Night at the Dassel Ballpark. They plan to introduce a family member of Johnny Anderson, the pitcher that served up the Doghouse Home Run, Bud Chastek, the batter who hit the home run and a family member of Jerry Fitzgerald, the doghouse owner. Old-time doghouse music will start at 6:45 p.m., and the game between Buffalo Bulldogs and the Dassel-Cokato Saints (renamed the Saint Bernards for Doghouse Home Run Night) will begin at 7:30 p.m. Oh, yeah, there will also be a replica of that locally famous doghouse.