Looking back: Legion team wins 1964 state championship
Editor’s Note: As summer winds to a quick close, we want to share with readers the history of Rugby’s Junior American Legion baseball state championship 50 years ago. We know some in the community remember this fondly and we look forward to hearing more from readers next week. Please consider sharing pictures and insight. This unattributed article ran, exactly as below, in the Aug. 13, 1964, issue of the Tribune. Frank Hornstein was editor and publisher.
Rugby’s Junior American Legion baseball team Sunday afternoon at Hettinger, put the frosting on an undefeated season by winning the state championship with a 6-5 victory over Langdon.
The end came in a tense, dramatic manner. The scoring had all been in clusters. Rugby had scored 4 runs in the first inning on only 2 hits. A lead-off single by Joey Heintz and a single by Jim Drege, 3rd in the batting order, stolen bases, a walk and 3 errors, 2 by the third baseman and 1 by the first baseman, accounted for Rugby’s 4 runs.
Jim Limke, pitching for Rugby, breezed along until the 6th when the roof fell. Two errors; 2 walks and a passed ball gave Langdon 5 runs and the lead.
Limke, a pick-up from Lansford (two are permitted but he was the only one used by Rugby), had little trouble retiring Langdon in the 9th. He fanned Nikkelson, the lead-off man. Brewer got a hit but he struck out Westphal and got the clean-up man, Sillers, to fly to right field.
Duchscherer, Rugby’s right fielder, was first up in Rugby’s half of the ninth (Rugby played as the home team). Delby Hager was sent into bat for Duchscherer who had whiffed all three times at bat and got a walk. Heintz got on as the third baseman overthrew first on the bunt. Torgerson was out, pitcher to first and the men advanced to 3rd and 2nd with one out. Drege, 3rd man in the order, walked to fill the bases. That brought up Rugby’s clean-up man, Tom Kraft, who had been walked twice in the game and six times in the three games. Kraft, on the first pitch, hit the ball sharply into left field near the foul line. Heintz, an excellent base runner, who was on second, followed Hager to the plate and Rugby was the new champion of Class B.
Rugby had 6 hits to 5 for Langdon. Langdon pitchers struck out 13 Rugby batsmen but Limke whiffed 16. Limke walked two; Langdon’s pitchers, Bruers (3), Laxdal (5) and Westphal (1) walked 5. Rugby committed three errors but Langdon erred twice as often.
Rugby had a little luck, too. You always need some but it was a break to play the first game. That made it possible for Limke to pitch the final game. The rule says a pitcher may not work in more than 12 innings in three calendar days. Langdon, playing the second day, got caught. Its Laxdal came on in relief in the 4th but because of the rule, had to bow out with one inning left to play. Westphal pitched the ninth. Laxdal had held Rugby to one hit in the five innings he worked.
One of the best games of the tourney was the first one, Rugby and Oakes. Rugby coaches and players thought Oakes was one of the better clubs at the tourney.
Oakes, at bat first, scored a run in the first inning without a hit. Jay Mauk, the second baseman, was the first man up. He walked and scored with a stolen base and two passed balls.
Rugby also scored a run in the first. Heintz led off with a hit, stole second and scored on succeeding outs in the infield. The winning run was scored by Rugby in the 5th. Heintz got on as the second baseman erred. He went to second as the pitcher, Tom Walloch, made a bad throw on a pickoff attempt and scored, after two were out, on Kraft’s second hit of the game.
As Rugby was the home team, it didn’t bat in the 7th. Limke allowed only one hit, by catcher Jack Gomarko, and whiffed 11. Rugby had five hits and had 12 hitters who fanned.
Joey Heintz, whom coach Ralph Weber calls the sparkplug of his team, pitched the scond game against Hettinger. Joey shut them out 6-0 on a 4-hitter. He walked only 1 man and fanned 4. Heintz, unlike the tall Limke, is not blessed with great speed. He relies on control, change-ups and keeping the batters off balance.
Coach Weber thought Heintz had the best control of any pitcher in the tourney. Limke also had good control but occasionally, he would throw one that would get away from the catcher. When Heintz wasn’t pitching, he would be at second where he and Kraft made a fine keystone combination. He is also a superb baserunner. Rugby scored a run in the first after two were out. Donner, pitching for Hettinger, walked Drege, Kraft and Ricky Schaan. Drege scored as the shortstop erred on Ray Giesinger’s grounder. Larry Volk struck out to end the scoring. Rugby scored on a run in the second without a hit.
Rugby scored 4 times in the 4th on 3 hits and 3 walks. Donner walked 6 Rugby men in the game. Hettinger had 3 errors and Rugby 3, all by one man.
Rugby had a weird double play in the 7th. With one out and first and second occupied, the batter hit to short right field. Apparently, the Hettinger base coach though Duchscherer had caught the ball. He had not. Duchscherer fired the ball to first where one runner was tagged out coming back to the bag and the other was caught sliding into third. So, a double play on a base hit!
Footnotes: Hettinger, people report, went all out with accommodations and entertainment. Each member of the winning team will get a jacket bearing the legend, “State Champions, etc.” Mike Kraft, who has assisted with the team all year in various capacities, made the trip to Hettinger with his family.
When Weber was hired he was told, “You’ll have a young team. We don’t expect any miracles. Do the best you can.” The best, it turned out, was the best in the state. Nobody expected much of this team. But they practiced, worked together and got some good pitching from Duchscherer and Heintz and good defensive play.
When Heintz was at second, the team was strong where it should be, down the middle. Torgerson, catching; the pitcher; Heintz and Kraft at 2nd and short an in center, Jim Drege, a wide-ranging outfielder.
The team was a sort of “Hitless Wonder.” Aside from Heintz and Kraft, everybody else was more apt to strike-out or goof it up some way than to hit. But they could field. Schaan at third; Giesinger at first and outfield, were tremendous glove men. Weber says one of the most improved players was Dennis Ziegler at first. He had a long way to go and he went much of the distance. He also had a word of praise for the reserves, Delwyn Hager, Tim Paul, Roland Schaan and Freddie Bonn.
A crowd gathered at the Memorial Hall shortly before 5 p.m. Monday to welcome the team home. Legion Post Commander Bud Adams presided. He introduced coach Ralph Weber, who in turn introduced the boys of the team. Pitcher Jim Limke didn’t come to Rugby. His father needed him for harvest. The kid had pitched a couple of great games.
Coach Weber hobbled thru the tourney with a painful ankle. A line drive hit him as he stood by the batting-practice pitcher the day before leaving for Hettinger.
Mike Kraft claims not a home run was hit in the entire tourney.
In the first round Rugby beat Oakes 2-1 and Hettinger beat Mayville 9-1.
Friday Wing beat Mohall 5-4, and Langdon beat Hazen 12-0.
Saturday, Rugby beat Hettinger 6-0 and Langdon beat Wing 4-1.
There were no consolation games.
Westphal, 1b, p510
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