Winter project

It looks as if I will be busy this winter. I have been hired to write a book about the 1952 Halstad basketball and baseball teams. I am going to use the book as an excuse to research and write about life in Halstad at the time.

I have my first interview with a participant this week. I will interview the assistant coach at the time, Larry Macleod, who later went on to be the head basketball coach at Moorhead State.

Last summer, as we were investigating the possiblity of doing this book, I met with the starting five of the 1952 Halstad basketball team. I taped the interview. Last night, I went over the tape. They had good stories. If I can sit down with each of the players, I think I will get a surplus of stories, both about the time and about the phenomenal Hoosiers-like season the teams had.

For the record, the Halstad team got third in the 1952 Minnesota State Basketball tournament. They were weakened a bit by measles and scarlet fever otherwise they might have won the whole thing.

At that time, there was only one class in basketball. And, at that time, the Minnesota State Basketball tournament was the biggest such event in the United States. Over 70,000 fans attended the sold-out games at Williams Arena in Minneapolis.

A couple of months later, the Halstad baseball team, featuring many of the same players by now recovered from their illnesses, won the Minnesota baseball title.

The Halstad team was the darling of the Minneapolis media during the tournament. A photo layout in the Minneapolis Star featured Halstad team members viewing their first television set, looking up at tall buildings, and standing in the immense Williams arena.

Although the newspapers of the time, both small-town weeklies and large city dailies, were more literate in their writing style than they are now, much of what they wrote was contrived clap-trap. They had a nose for a story, but if they didn't find one they'd make one up.

So, I will have to contrast what the papers say with what I find out in interviews.

Other documents can be just as revealing: Somebody gave me a copy of the instructions given band members who went to the tournament. "There are no rules as of yet," wrote the band director near the bottom. He seemed utterly unworried that anybody would go astray. His confidence was probably justified. "The sooner we get registered, the sooner you may move on to more interesting things," he wrote, suggesting that they break up into groups and tour the downtown area.

It was a more innocent time in some ways, but in others it was not. There was a lot of betting on games, for one thing. No evidence that players were ever pressured to lose games, but one baseball player did report that while in the on deck circle, he was offered the princely sum of $5 if he would kindly drive in the winning run.

He whiffed on three straight curve balls.

I anticipate that the book will take about six months to research and write. But I love to look through old newspapers and hear about the old days, so I will be like a pig in slop.