|Posted by romeraiders on July 11, 2011 at 11:26 AM||comments (0)|
As I have said, small town roots can run deep. When one grows up in a town where you know who the 300-400 community members are, well that is pretty unique.
Growing up in the 60’s were like the Leave it to Beaver Days. In the fall when the skies could be black with blackbirds, if you wanted to , you would just walk out behind the house with your dad’s 12 gauge double- barreled Montgomery Wards shotgun like I did and see how many you could knock down. You could even go down to Tine’s Rome General Store and look at the Remington and Winchester catalogs and order which ever gun you wanted.
Times have changed. The Memorial Day programs haven’t changed much, it is taken quite seriously and it is well attended. Who can forget the story the former Vietnam POW from Stoughton told one year of his cellmate in the Hanoi prison. The guards found a crude homemade American flag in his cell and then beat him to within inches of his life. When he recovered, the cellmate started right at it again to make another flag. There weren’t too many dry eyes in the Rome gym after hearing that story on that Rome Memorial Day Monday.
After the program and parade, the old school, now the museum, is open. The museum even has a Rome baseball section which is interesting. You can see some of the old team photos, uniforms , trophies and etc. There is even a table in that room where many of the old teacher grade books are sprawled out including their comments about the kids in the class and what library books they had read for the year.
One year, my four kids sat down and found my fifth grade information, they had a lot of fun with that and still do. So when I would get after their spelling or math grades or what have you, they would remind me of my scores, which really weren’t that bad. I think today that would be called Freedom of Information Act, Lawsuit in the Making or something.
Back to the gym for the food on Memorial Day. My kids would almost fight over getting the last piece of Gladys Hoffman’s red raspberry dessert. Gladys is Keith and Kent’s mom, she was a great lady and great next door neighbor. She is missed. The march up to the cemetery by the softball park would also be a solemn event for all. The 21 gun salute at the bridge by the mill and the cemetery would find kids scampering for the spent shells afterwards. We’d all admire and be proud of the vets who’d march in the parade. For our family this included seeing my dad Ken march with his other Rome buddies.
The cemetery includes some of my relatives, there’s even the grave of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s grandmother of Little House on the Prairie fame located there. On the backside of the cemetery is a Frank Lloyd Wright designed home that overlooks the Rome Pond.
The Fire House would host the lemonade. Bob Auerbach, his son Ronnie and Donnie Barnes and others would help keep that needed Fire service going through all the years. My dad was a fireman as well. As kids it would be common to jump in the car with someone and go out and see what the fire was all about.
One time as a kid, there was a period when someone was going around and burning down area barns. The Jefferson County Sheriff’s office eventually caught the guy after doing some stakeouts. People out in the area were kind of wondering if their barn was going to be next before Roger Reinel and Fire chief Bob Auerbach and their crews came through.
In the school classrooms are the old teacher books on display, it reminds me of the book of Revelation chapter 20 where the bible says that the books will be opened. Verse 15 says that those not found in the book of life will be cast into the lake of fire. Jesus would say in the gospels, “For What shall it profit a man if shall gain the whole world and lose his own soul.” According to the bible, what a person does with Christ determines one’s destiny.
I was a great sinner, as we all are, and I needed to repent and put my complete trust in Christ as my sin bearer. I’m still not by far perfect and I still struggle with sin, but now I’m forgiven. John 3:16 is seen in a lot of venues, even sports, study it out, read the entire chapter. Don’t be concerned about what others may or may not have done with these things, no one knows for sure what is or was in another person’s heart. Make peace now yourself with God as Romans 5:1 says, “ Therefore being justified by faith (complete committed trust) we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ." I know this talk may rub some people the wrong way, but I want to love people enough to share these things.
Next time, the team spark plug.
|Posted by romeraiders on June 27, 2011 at 10:05 PM||comments (0)|
Oh yes, Wayne Kroll the area legend. Many of us were introduced to him as a history teacher and coach at Jefferson High School. In history class we used to ask him how he thought the Brewers would do in the upcoming year and he would say in his characteristic way, I think they will win a game. Who has a big broad smile like Wayne Kroll?
He was in the Braves organization as a minor league pitcher, you can find his stats online. He grew up in Cecil, Wisconsin at the edge of Shawano Lake where for years his dad ran a small gas and service station. He was in the system with Sandy Alomar Sr. whose two sons went on to have quite the Major League careers for themselves.
I think Wayne may have pitched a few games way back for Hebron or someone else in the area after he settled in the Hebron area. He literally most likely saved my life. He was a football assistant coach and our last game of my junior year was at home against archrival Fort Atkinson. It would be the last football game at old Fisher Field and Head Coach Pennewell's last game for Jefferson. We had only won a few games all years and if Fort won they were the Badger Conference Champs.
Well we beat them 12-6. Late in the 4th qtr. on a 4th and 2 I met the Fort fullback, who was being trailed by their halfback in the hole over center and guard. I was the linebacker, I reached over the fullback and grabbed the running back and the three of us all went down. Fort was stopped and we kept hanging on to win. I went off the field holding my side. I had gotten speared and received a ruptured spleen. Could see everything on film later. I got to the bench and began to pass out and would be revived by smelling salts.
This went on during the short bus ride back to the school and also in the locker room later. The head coach and team doctor checked me and went home. Only a few guys and Coach Kroll were left, I could barely walk and stay awake. Wayne Kroll said something is definitely wrong and had one of the guys find my parents and told them to get me to the hospital in Fort.
On Sunday noon they removed my spleen after thumping my stomach area (like one thumps a watermelon to see if it is ripe, no MRI's back then) for two days. I love Wayne Kroll. That was almost 40 years ago now.
Wayne has helped just scores and scores of guys out with baseball skills especially pitching. About six years ago I took a young guy who was pitching for Maranatha Baptist Bible College in Watertown to meet Wayne for a pitching session at Fisher Field. My youngest Kyle also went along who at the time was playing Teener ball. Wayne worked them both out good, going about 2 hours, even in the light rain.
Next game out Eric threw the first no hitter in Maranatha's history. Some buddy of Wayne's in the Watertown area saw it in the paper and called Wayne and said you better check this guy out. Wayne just smiled and said I know all about it. It's a great story and memory for a number of us. My son Kyle would also go on and throw a no -hitter in a Teener game not to long after that .
One time at a workout I had my daughter along and he said, hey, she throws pretty good for a girl! I called Wayne up a few years ago and asked him if he wanted to go down to Beloit to watch the Snappers play the last game of the year when they had Prince, Ricky and Tony Gwynn Jr.
He said sure. So he, his wife, my daughter Emily and I went. He timed the runners, he timed the releases etc. We were sitting next to a major league scout. Prince made the last out of the game with runners on, if he had gotten a hit I think two would have scored and they would have been Midwest Champs, but it didn’t' happen.
I asked him once if he ever signed anyone who made it big time. He said he and another scout signed Jim Thome years ago, yeah, I guess we'd say he hit it big with that signing.
Many high school and college players owe a huge debt of gratitude to Wayne for his personal help. It's been what has made some of the Jefferson teams better teams as well as individuals in the area, college players of course included, much improved as players. A shout out and salute to Wayne Kroll.
PS Lukas H., way to go Buddy in that last game.
|Posted by romeraiders on June 27, 2011 at 9:56 PM||comments (0)|
Keith thinks we won one game that first year in 73. I couldn't remember if it was one or two, probably one. Keith says he remembers Bud Messmer shaking his head and saying after the game, “How in the world did we ever win that game?" We beat Genesee down there. They had a good team with mostly older guys. Steve Messmer pitched another good game and we probably won 2-1 or something like that. Keith remembers Bob Gramling cracking one pretty good to give us the lead.
The second year wasn't much better. We wouldn't always get blown out, we just couldn't score runs. The third year was coming and guys knew we needed to take a jump somehow. Most everyone was getting a bit discouraged, including the fans.
A few stepped aside including me, I couldn't hit much anyway. We did pre-season work in the Rome gym, if Walter Alston said it in his baseball handbook, we tried to do it.
We picked up a player here and there and tried to get better at some things. We ended year three at 8-8, a real nice improvement. Steve was pitching and Jerry Carnes could pitch in those early years as well as the backup or spot starter, Jerry would be the starting shortstop for quite a while.
Any idea where the old scorebooks went? Arlis Kramer did a great job as scorekeeper for quite a few years. Dale Tietz, Gary Kramer and John Allen were some of the batboys. Almost 30 years later my youngest was going to Saturday morning basketball in Cambridge and one of the instructors said to me, hey are you Ron? He said he was John and used to be the batboy and I'd give him rides to the game in my 73 olive green Vega. Sad to say a few yeras later John took his own life while in despair. There is always hope in Christ, Mickey Mantle found this truth out at the end of his life. It's better to find it out sooner.
Quite a few years ago I got a call from a few of the Rome guys asking me if I could meet at the funeral home as Udo had been killed in a truck rollover accident. At the memorial service in the Rome gym, some said there was close to 500-600 people there, I was able to share some passages from the bible. It's important that we all know where we are going when we die. The New Testament is clear on this, it can be seen in John chapter three, as well as throughout the entire New Testament.
Out in Rome it seemed like we were always playing whoever we could in something, another group of guys from another town in tackle football, or basketball in the winter time, or softball. One time years ago we were at the hardball diamond playing a softball game against a team that I think was from the Campground. The dad , who was tall, was on first base, he had a son or two playing on the field with him. In an instant the dad keeled over and it was said that he was probably dead before he hit the ground. The rescue truck from the fire house came but it was too late. This is some serious stuff, but as the old bumper sticker says, Prepare for your finals, read the Bible.
God was getting my attention and drew me to Himself in 1980 at the age of 26, He wants all of us to know Him personally by having a living relationship with His Son. I didn't mean to scare anyone off or upset anybody. If you believe in God, to be honest you need to believe in the devil. If you believe in heaven, to be honest, you need to believe in hell. The good news is that the bible says that He is not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance, 2 Peter 3:9.
And even some of the best verses about knowing about eternal life are found in the book of, get this, Romans !!
Back to baseball next time. The era of Meats, Moon, Doug and Dennis, the Dick Clark or ageless one of the Land O Lakes himself.
|Posted by romeraiders on June 27, 2011 at 9:51 PM||comments (0)|
The swimming holes. Behind the mill with the plank diving board, down the chase behind the mill about halfway towards the pond, and the bridge out in front of the mill. The best part was jumping off the bridge, landing on your behind of course so no one would get killed. Quite a site for people driving by who didn't know what was going on.
Ud had a nice spot right behind his house to jump in and cool off in the gentle flowing bark. Older guys were always being watched. Where and when Bill's melons were ripe to be hocked and Ed's grapes were to be tasted. In reality it's called thievery. I think I heard Bill's shotgun go off one time late at night.
Tipping over outhouses was also a ritual, sometimes there'd be the snickering of someone in it when it went over. Football games on the corner lot downtown when the Packer game would end. Ray Scott would announce the final score and bikes and cars would head for the corner lot for a game to re-enact the winning plays. These games would have quite the age span, one time on the field I turned and there was Gene Walton who was about twice my size, he just flattened me and he felt pretty bad about it. Gene was a super nice guy, I survived.
It seemed like the corner lot games went on for years. The corner lot was right next to the old barber shop run by Joe. Can remember going there with my dad and brother, three flat tops and a jar of honey. He raised bees on the side. Sometimes we'd throw bombs under the downtown streetlights at nights after paints the rings on the football with flourescent orange paint. If you are old enough you can remember the soda fountain in the general store downtown when Joe Clark ran it.
You'd probably also then remember Walt Trebitowski , Chet, Mike,and Butch's dad, he ran the other general store. Louie Kostrowski ran one gas station and repair shop and Art Pinnow had the other. Way back some would tell how Capone or one of those gangsters of the day, would hang out at the Bark River Lodge, which was a half mile or so out past the ball park by the bridge.
The sounds of the stock car revving downtown the night before the Jefferson races was also common. It was in the garage behind Trebitowski's store. The guys would tune on it constantly to get it ready for the big race. Every Friday night meant fish Fries offered at all three of the establishments.
And Sunday afternoon always meant a Rome game, either at home or away. It was a sad day for many when the team shut down in the 60's. Many didn't think it would start up again or if it did, it would fold pretty quick. That was 73, many have come and gone since 73, guys have still kept it going since.
|Posted by romeraiders on June 27, 2011 at 9:46 PM||comments (0)|
For Pony league season it meant the yearly trip to Watertown to Saniters Sports Shop to buy new baseball equipment. Bats, catchers gear, first baseman’s mitt, catcher’s mitt, and balls. Picking out the bats was the best part. The thick handled Nelson Fox, medium Hank Aaron, Eddie Matthews, and Mickey Mantle styles, and the thin handled Frank Robinson were some of the popular ones.
Fixing cracked bats became a serious art. Getting them at the last Rome games before they shut down and it got going again in 73 was where it started. Can remember Dickie Higbie looking over a cracked bat and then giving it to one of us kids to work on. Glue it, drill it, stick in a wood screw and then tape the daylights out of it, and hope it worked.
Tom Pinnow from Rome was a great ball player, don't think he played beyond high school though. One of the nicest older guys for a younger guy to be around. Tom was a great pitcher and a great hitter, big guy but he had a bad knee. I remember playing left field as the youngest guy on the team and Tom being on the pitching mound. If anything was hit out to me he'd simply yell to me, right, left, up, back and direct me to the ball. It worked just about every time.
Fear is a great motivator, I didn't want to have a pack of older guys screaming at me for a mess up. But Tom was a good guy, he wouldn't do that, at least not within earshot.
Early spring also meant it was time when the lilacs bloomed and the red horse ran. And Udo knew this. Down to the river below the dam and by the mill we'd go. Udo had a long net and we'd string it all the way across the river and start grabbing and throwing red horse and suckers out on shore by the bucketful. Udo's dog, Phipps, we'd call him the wonder dog. would plunge in and grab them with his mouth and carry them back to the shore and then dive back in for more. They were a rough fish, so no one cared.
We learned in 4th grade Wisconsin history that the Indians used them for fertilizer. And so for a while every potato hill and tomato plant in Udo's and Martina's garden had a fish buried at the bottom. It reminds of one summer when the Van Valin boys all got neat mohawk haircuts from their dad, which was pretty neat especially with their bright red hair. Poor Reed the oldest with black hair, always had a hard time keeping the three younger red haired brothers in line.
|Posted by romeraiders on June 27, 2011 at 9:36 PM||comments (0)|
Father's Day - Baseball and dads. First of all, young Jeff Boos from Rome also played in those early years, just a nice great kid. Trying to remember those names of the early players in those first 5 years or so.
Jeff's dad was Bouncer Boos. A lot of the kids and the dads had nicknames. Not sure why Bouncer - Ralph - was called Bouncer, but that was and is his nickname; another great guy. Remember Bob, the retired guy that used to kind of be our extra coach in those early years? His health was kind of frail, never wanted him to get overly excited because we didn't want to see what might happen. He was really an encourager and for us.
Dads and baseball can be an interesting mix. Most dads were real friendly, curious to see what the boys would be up to next. Some dads were nice before the game started and then would go thru this radical transformation after the first pitch was thrown. Some dads were ornery before the game, during the game, and after the game was over. Thankfully I don't think we had any of them, but we'd see them sometimes with the opposing teams.
Spike Hoffman was another Rome dad - that was his nickname. He got me one time to try his chewing tobacco. For the next few hours I thought I was circling around the solar system. I never tried that again.
Some of the other dads that were with us were Art, or Bud Messmer, he as I mentioned was an early coach. Lee Linse was a lot of fun as well as Ira Adsit. Ira had just a little bit of Patton in him, you kind of wanted to storm the opposition when you were around him, but he also was a lot of fun. You could just tell that sometimes when we weren't doing so well, which was quite often in those early days, the dads wished they could just strap it up for a bit and get out there and try to give us some help.
Some dads were supportive by just being there, that was how my dad Ken was. One time at a little league or Pony League game the ump didn't show up so it was announced that unless a volunteer came forward there would be no game. So my dad put on the gear and got behind home plate and did his best.
Poor Steve Messmer had to strike one guy out with four strikes because dad lost track of the count. We all laughed about it later, even my dad and Steve got a good laugh out of it. Ron Sdano's dad was a real encourager as well.
Some dads weren't able to be involved because or work or what have you. A few of the guys had lost their dads. I think of Keith or Skeeter and Kent Hoffman, their dad Carrol was a wonderful man who had fought in WW2. Kent was quite young when he lost his dad to the dreaded disease of cancer. That's tough.
I thank God that my wife is now a six year breast cancer survivor. And yes Kent has been blessed with survival in regards to his own personal battle. My dad passed away about seven years ago and I miss him.
So men, be the man, God first and family second. It was the life slogan of Vince Lombardi. If you are able to, wish your dad a happy Father's day, better yet give him a bear hug if possible, but don't crack any of his ribs.
|Posted by romeraiders on June 27, 2011 at 9:29 PM||comments (0)|
Chief Ciske was probably a nice guy, it just seemed that he never liked us and we could have been nicer to him too. He was the Chief of Police of the Fort Atkinson Police Department. So their umpiring crew was kind of like the good cop, bad cop routine. At least that's the way it seemed when they came to Rome anyway.
Chief would just let us have it and Gene would smile as he gave us the poison. We just all hoped we wouldn't get a speeding ticket in Fort and have to go before the Chief because we knew that there would probably be no mercy.
Baseball, what a game of woulda, shoulda, coulda. I don't think any sport has the second guessing that baseball has. It's just one of the things that makes baseball - well baseball. Everyone can be an expert on what should have been done after the fact.
The fans on the other side of the fence could be pretty vocal about that as well. But we deserved everything that we got - I think. Ray Jacquith played on the early team too, he was from Palmyra, Denny Polzin from Hebron, Skip Zehms from Rome and Rocky Zellner played as well. Denny Adsit and his dad Ira would come and Ron Sdano came later, now we actually had almost too many good young pitchers.
We all understood when Ron left, he needed to be playing. Even Larry Emerich played in the late 70's, after we started winning. Larry may have been the oldest rookie of all time, a graybeard rookie, people were wanting to jump on the bandwagon.
But a wave came in which we'd pick up a pair of brothers, the Linse's and Moyer's, and the kid, young Kent Hoffman would start working his way into the mix, he just had to hurry up and get a little older.
And then the team started coming together and literally took off running. Kent had to harnass and tune the physical abilities and when those things came together along with the other guys who were now in place, we had a team. Kent started out as a centerfielder who'd throw rockets to the middle of the top of the backstop. After a year or two he got dialed in and the rocket would now rope to the catcher's mitt. We had a young center fielder with a no kidding major league arm, the guys that would test him earlier and find the ball sailing into the backstop, would now come around third and get about 3/4 of the way home and see the catcher waiting with the ball in his mitt. His hitting just got better and better as each year went by.
The Moyer bros and Linse bros - more about them later. In the mean time I had been for the past few years reading cover to cover Walter Alston's complete handbook on baseball. It said if you have athletic players who are not yet peaked in hitting then let them run and do things like perfecting the bunt and using the suicide squeeze. So that we did and pretty decently at that.
|Posted by romeraiders on June 27, 2011 at 9:26 PM||comments (0)|
Rome's right field in the early days before the fence was both tempting to hitters and challenging to play, especially if somebody decided to go for a drive while the game was on and a possible ball could be hit out there, because in the early days, well the road was in play.
One time the right fielder was tracking a high fly while back pedaling and the back of his cleats caught the lip of the blacktop and just like that he was heals over head backwards as the ball bounded off the middle of the road and was long gone. The current right fielders don't know how safe they have it !
That's a reminder of one of the best, if not the best, little league songs of all time. I'll try to post the link, if it doesn't show, google --- youtube right field Pete Paul and Mary. It's a classic. Remember how we had the water hose hook up behind the pitcher's mound in a pit covered by a wooden cover with a layer of astro turf over the top? We thought we were big stuff on that one, not sure how long that lasted, a little tricky going from grass to wood on a defensive play. That one might have been banned.
And then the years of Chief Ciske from Fort and his partner Gene Cardinal from Whitewater as the umps. It seemed like we had them for every home game for like two years in a row. There wasn't a nicer guy around than Gene Cardinal. He had coached UW - Whitewater baseball for yeras. One time I came out and pitched a fit and tried my hardest to get run out and Gene just smiled at me and said, "Ron, I'm not going to kick you out just go back to the bench and sit down." So I turned around and walked back to the bench and sat down. I had him for a few classes at Whitewater with my coaching minor, once again, he was just a great guy.
The Hebron Hornets and their green uniforms, they were playing home games behind the Hebron school before we got things going again in 73. Jeff Boos from Hebron kind of was the leader of that pack if I remember right..
|Posted by romeraiders on June 27, 2011 at 9:22 PM||comments (0)|
The fire house had the old trophies and pictures of the past Rome teams. The Ley brothers and others. It was said that Tine was the best of the lot.
Well, it had been long enough and we wanted to get it started back up. The first couple of yearrs saw Steve Messmer as pitcher, he was good, we just didn't score runs for him. Keith Hoffman, he was better than he gave himself credit for. Dan, Myron and Hans were brothers, cousins of Keith and his younger brother who was waiting in the wings. I'll say more about him later.
Dan batted left handed and mastered knocking the ball down the left field line, he had a nice batting avearge. Myron would send it when he connected, he was strong. Hans, pound for pound was just a great athlete. Hans was the kind of player that could excel in just about any sport that he particapted in.
Bob Gramling came back from the Navy and he played as well. Jerry Carnes, a really good player and a farm boy. The other farm boy was Roger Lindl who was as strong as an ox. Roger hurt his shoulder pretty good in hs football at Fort, before his injury his coaches were thinking he had Saturday and maybe even Sunday potential. When Roger hit it, he sent it. He won a game for us against ET by sending one over 400 ft. Udo Fuchs also of course was playing. He would just work and work to get better at whatever spot he was playing. In the early years he made himself into a real good 3rd baseman.
Reed Van Valin also played and there were others. A great group of guys but we didn't win many games those first couple of yrs. Steve Messmer could pitch lights out and we just couldn't score enough. Some of the veteran teams would send their old timers with their slow, slower and slowest pitches at us and we'd swing from our heals and come up empty looking pretty foolish. Genesee did this to us a time or two. Things had to get better one way or the other.
|Posted by romeraiders on June 27, 2011 at 9:18 PM||comments (0)|
Growing up in small town leaves a lot of memories. Rome had quite a bit going for a town of what, 300-400? Two general stores,one with a soda fountain that made homemade cherry cokes by old Joe Clark the proprietor, two gas stations with candy bar and pop machines, three taverns, two churches,a grade school with a gym, a bowling alley with a pinball machine and a pool table and a tv sales and repair shop.
Plus a feed mill, three swimming holes,an upper and lower pond for year round fishing and snowmobiling, two ball parks, an old closed down saw mill to explore, a campground, a fire department and the Bark River, which ran right thru the middle of the town, starting up around Dousman and running all the way to Fort. The Boy Scout canoe trips were great, we'd even camp overnight on what we called "Boy Scout Island." We also had the Boy Scout log cabin that was built by the boys and their dads, well mostly by the dads and the scout master Roger Emery.
But oh the baseball memories, even the singing of the National Anthem at Cub Scout meetings with our leader Jay Van Valin and when we'd get to the last line of the "home of the brave," we'd belt out, with Jay leading us, the home of the "Braves!"
In 1964 the Scout leaders took us to Milwaukee for a Braves game. It was my first Braves game and I still have my 64 Braves yearbook, Uecker was a backup catcher and of course Aaron, Matthews, Spahn and Burdette were the headliners. It was also at about that time that Marvin Moran came to town to sing at the Lutheran Church, he was the one who would always sing the National Anthem at the home games for the Braves. He had a great deep loud baritone voice, I remember him singing the Lord's Prayer that night, it was beautiful.
In the fall of 63 I was sitting in Ida Baneck's upstairs fourth grade classroom in the Rome school when we heard that President Kennedy had been killed in Dallas, the memory of it is still quite clear.
We had the little league and the Pony league. Memories of Mr. Wagie, who ran the bowling alley, driving us to games with his big fat cigar in his mouth in his Buick Riviera, that was like riding in style for a bunch of young guys. He'd put the pedal down and we'd all fly back in our seats and we'd just glide, hop skip and jump like an airliner from town to town. I don't think anyone knew anything of seatbelts back then.
Chet and others helped out too. We learned to take it more seriously against the town teams that were the closest in proximity. The coaches wanted bragging rights too. Like all small and large towns the young guys were learning from the older guys.Sometimes it wasn't the best things to be learning but we'd be learning. The competitiveness was growing from the modeling.
Like the hook being set, things were progressing with the younger guys wanting to have their own experiences to create their own stories and memories. Baseball is like hunting, the stories can get skewed as the years pass by.