When the annual Princeton American Legion baseball tournament takes place in July it will be the 50th one as the tournament continues its run as the longest-running American Legion tournament in Minnesota. And this column is the start of an effort to get as many former players to return to Solheim Veterans Field for the tournament in the third week in July. The hope is that social media will help in spreading the word for those players to be present and be introduced to the crowd before the Princeton game on the opening night of the tournament.

The times were simpler in 1970 when Princeton's American Legion coach Howard Solheim (for whom the field is partially named) hatched an idea to hold a tournament in the first year of Princeton's new field, a field that was built with volunteer help that was led by Solheim's direction. Our quest for entertainment wasn't quite as pronounced as it is today. There wasn't as much money around and a couple nights at the local ballpark seemed a good way to spend time, along with spending very little money to do so.

It was June of 1970 and the disaster in Vietnam was ongoing. We were less than a year removed from man's first walk on the moon and every takeoff and landing of every U.S. spaceship was followed closely on radio and TV. The haircuts were a lot different, the clothes a lot different, and Princeton as more of a smalll town than it is today. The sports editor (yours truly) of the Princeton Union wrote glowingly about the tournament that had just taken place, as did city editor Tom Meinz (now a local attorney). And it was your duty, as a local resident, to follow and support the Princeton team in its battle against the evil forces (metro teams) that were here.

That tournament took place when there were only a couple other Legion tournaments in the state, and certainly none of them outstate (called Greater Minnesota by some today). And we had this brand new field, with lights (unusual in the area at that time) so some of the games could be played at night. Hours and hours of volunteer labor had gone into producing what is known today - as it was then - as one of the finest fields around.

Never mind that there wasn't yet a press box, permanent bathrooms, concession stand, drinking fountain or electric scoreboard. The local lads were playing baseball and some of the best teams from around the state were in town - that was enough of an attraction to bring out the townsfolk, and for the local radio station to broadcast 9 of the 11 games of the tournament. The Union ran a front-page aerial view of the ballpark and when the games began the stands were filled with fans from Princeton, whether or not Princeton was playing. True, it was something new and the stands have not been nearly as filled as in the early years. But the stands were packed back then.

Union editor Meinz wrote after the tournament about a Princeton youth getting the loudest applause of the evening session on Saturday when he caught a foul ball with a megaphone he was using to cheer loudly for Princeton as it played powerfulEdina. Can you imagine the ridicule that would likely be heaped upon a PHS student today if he or she brought a megaphone to a baseball game and actually used it?

But it was 1970 . . . and the times were simpler . . . and our needs were fewer. I had agreed to be the announcer and official scorer for the tournament and, despite baking in the hot June sun for four days, I never left my post. It was important. It was something new.

Edina won that first tournament, beating Little Falls 1-0 when a player who later made the major leagues as a pitcher, hit a home run and pitched the win.  (Edina had beaten Princeton in the second round of the tournament.) The tournament brought prestige to Princeton, something that only grew as the years went by. A few years later Princeton beat St. Cloud (one team then, not three like today) for the title in a memorable game and that helped people around the state hear about the great tournament being held in Princeton. At one of the tournaments many years later, seven of the eight teams were ranked in the top 15 in the state.

And it all happened because Howard Solheim had a dream of having a nice field in Princeton, rather than the field that was situated between South Elementary and the high school swimming pool, with a short left field fence because of the location of the pool, a snow fence in center, and a right field fence that was actually the fence around the football field and track. His dream, the hard work of volunteers, and the financial support of the local American Legion post gave the town a wonderful field, and tournament, that exists a half century later.

This is the first call for former players to be here in July for the tournament, with the hope that word of mouth, Facebook and any other outlet will help bring back players of the last five decades, as well as Legion players from prior to 1970. If you're a former player, contact those with whom you played. There's been a great tradition of Legion baseball in Princeton after its beginning in the 1930s and it will be a good time to celebrate that tradition. There will be more details in this space in the weeks ahead. The tournament committee would appreciate any help with spreading the word to get former players here for the tournament.

Contact Luther Dorr at luther.dorr@ecm-inc.com, or 763-202-5718, for more information.

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SPORTS SHORTS

The unexpected passing of Jim Twetten a few days ago at age 73 has left a hole in the Princeton sports world. Jim had moved to Arizona a number of years ago but still had ties to many, many friends and fellow golfers from Princeton and around Minnesota, and came back each year to orchestrate the Golden Cup, a golf tournament he dreamed up and held each year in northern Minnesota. Jim began attending the Masters more than 30 years ago, making the pilgrimage every year since then, including this one. He was deemed one of the best putters around. He also loved baseball and we had some discussions  about the Twins through the years. His sons Matt and Dan, both former PHS athletes, did a good job at Thursday's funeral talking about their father and his generosity . . . The Minnesota Twins are doing well so far, although it's early. And the front office is getting some good reviews, although it's early. That front office made a couple moves last year, though, that aren't locking good at this point. They got rid of Ryan Pressly to the Astros, for a minor leaguer, and all Pressly has done since then is be unhittable. He has an ERA of 0.00 in 9 appearances this year and has 42 strikeouts in 33 innings with Houston in the two years, while being unscored upon in his last 30 appearances over the two seasons.They also sent Crosby, Minn., native Nick Anderson to Miami last fall for a minor league infielder, despite Anderson being 8-2 with an ERA of 3.30 at Triple A Rochester where he struck out 88 in 60 innings. So far with the Marlins this season, he has a 2.45 ERA in 11 innings and has struck out 22 — that's 2 per inning — and walked only 2. Anderson played three years for St. Cloud State and then pitched at Mayville State in North Dakota his final year. Pressly is a proven commodity, Anderson isn't. And maybe the minor leaguers traded to the Twins will make it to the majors (not likely). But right now, with Minnesota relievers struggling a bit, those two moves don't look very good.

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PRINCETON SPORTS MEMORIES

April 29, 1959 - Earl Stottler, a state champion wrestler from PHS the year before, earned freshman numerals at the University of Minnesota (freshman were not eligible for varsity competition in that era).  

April 30, 1964 - Marv Top won the high jump at 6'2", a school record, at the Bloomington Trackorama meet where more than 1,200 participated. The meet was later shown on WCCO-TV, with Top being interviewed. 

 

April 30, 1969 -  Keith Grow got six straight hits and reached base10 straight times as PHS won four straight baseball games . . . The track team beat Cambridge 83-44 and also beat Braham as Lee Steinbrecher won the shot put and discus in four straight meets. 

May 1, 1974 - Doug Froelich won the 100, 220, 440 and long jump in a 102-29 win over Milaca. His 220 time was :22.6  . . . Trish Reiman won the mile and Pati Beck the 880 in a triangular meet at Princeton.     

May 3, 1979 - Princeton won at Monticello in golf, 153-161, as Steve Lodien shot a 36 and Greg Dery, Mark Bornholdt and Todd Dery each shot a 39. It was the first time four players had been under 40 at Princeton in the same meet . . . The girls track team won a triangular meet, winning the 100, 220, 440 and 880. Wanda Zabel had three first places.  

May 3 1984 - Marc Johnson and Ward Thompson each won two events as Princeton beat North Branch in a dual track meet at Princeton. Nathan Murphy had a first, second and third . . . Dan Voce, Chad Campbell and Brian Dorr all had two hits in an 11-3 win over Mora, including a homer by Dorr . . . Sarah Sheehan and Karry Schimming each won two individual events as Princeton beat North Branch in track. Schimming, a sophomore, also had a second and ran on a winning relay team.  

May 4, 1989 - Elk River edged Princeton by four strokes in the Elk River Golf Invitational as Judy Bornholdt (ranked second in the state in Class AA) shot an 83 and Karen Bromberg (ranked third) shot an 84 . . . Princeton beat Foley in softball22-6, Rachel Brown losing a no-hitter with one out to go on a check-swing single.

May 5, 1994 - Paul Anderson tied for second with an 80 as the boys golf team placed fourth in the first-ever Princeton Invitational that included 40 teams . . . In a week that found almost every event postponed by bad weather, the boys golf team won a triangular, led by Anderson's 39, and the girls beat Pine City by 124 strokes, led by Nicole Koskey with a 47.  

April 29, 1999 - The PHS softball team beat Foley 11-1 as Shannon Miller got the win as Jill Beattie and Miller each drove in two runs . . . The PHS baseball team beat Mora 4-2 and Foley 8-6, Eric Deglman getting both wins, the second as a reliever . . . Darren Cotter and Tim Sanborn each shot a 42 to lead the boys golf team to a second-place finish in a four-team meet.    

May 6, 2004 -  Grady Milesko was named athlete of the meet as PHS won the eight-team Big Lake Invitational. He won the long jump, anchored a winning really team and had a second and fourth . . .  The girls track team was second at the Big Lake meet as Tara Lemke won the high jump and the4x100 relay team of Lisa Pearson, Brittaney Thorsett, Sarah Kent and Katie Trunk won.

April 30, 2009 - Katie Loberg went 5'6" in the high jump to win that event at the Hamline Elite meet and Kadie Savage placed seventh in the 300 hurdles . . . After starting the season 0-5, the baseball team had a 3-3 week, beating Zimmerman, Becker and St. Francis, Josh Vickers picking up two win as a starting pitcher.

May 1, 2014 - Ben Pauly shot a 93 to tie for 27th as the boys golf team finished eighth among 10 teams at the Staples Invitationa … Jason Friend had a 2-1 record at NO. 2 singles for the boys tennis team as the Tigers placed fifth at the eight-team Rochester Century Invitational.l

Dorr is the former editor of the Princeton Eagle (2 years) and Princeton Union-Eagle (31 years), and has covered sports in the Princeton area for 52 years.

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