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BASEBALL -A PASSING MANIA

'Twas in the spring of '55

When thoughts of baseball sprang alive; It's ERICKSON for whom we'll cheer, Bring on our foes from far and near.

Andy Alexiuk

Lured by the promises on an above average baseball team, made by fellow teachers, Dennis Clym and Don Smith (Smitty), I broke loose form a one-room school situ­ ation, to a Junior High position at Erickson in January 1955.

The following is a description of my memorable initi­ ation into the Erickson Baseball Club. It happened on a Friday evening of my first weekend in my new locale. Evidently, my three future team-mates, Norman and John Stone and Walter Luczka, had made a trip to Brandon that Friday, visited the liquor store, and brought home a 750 ml. bottle of lemon gin.

Since Bill Roshka's billiard hall and bowling alleys were the town's focal point of entertainment, Dennis and Smitty arranged to meet me there. On my arrival, there they were, all five of them. I graciously shook their grub-hooks. Without any prior cues, I immediately sensed that Walter was the catcher, judging by his steel-like grip, but all this time there was mischief in their eyes and smiles.

'Let's retreat'. And then the bottle of gin came into play! Their original scheme was to divide the gin into six equal portions. Since when was one-sixth the same as one­ third? Anyhow, I proceeded with their directive. The bottle in question was stuck in a snowbank behind the Co-op Service Station. The entire contents were mine. In -30 degree Fahrenheit, the drink bordered on Sprite. Upon my returu into room temperature, strange visions precipitated. When the red snooker balls appeared totally white, I knew it was time to make an immediate exit, and that I did!

Before I proceed into the principal segment of my recollections, herein I offer all due respect to our fore­ runners, who played baseball in the earlier years and represented Erickson as best they could. They were the hardy pioneers, who begged no team uniforms, and perhaps thrived with only several balls and bats. None the less, they possessed the courage and zest to be the best, and defeat the rest. Such names as Eruie Gusdal, Paul Paulsen, Albin Paulsen, Sigurd Berg, Harold Paulsen (Harry), Edwin Hall, Gunnar Hall, Algot Hall, Leonard Neva, AlfSundmark, Bill Anderson, Art Gusdal, Gilbert Gusdal, Hugh and Walter Stone, only a few I recall from this group.

The team that Ijoined in 1955 already possessed a fair number of competitors. Teams from Brandon (Cloverleafs), Cardale, Dauphin, Eden, Neepawa, Newdale, Rapid City, they were a distinct force to be reckoned with.

Headed by a superb executive of Richard (Dick) Paulsen, Harold Stitt, and Norman Stone (Big Norm) who was a capable playing field manager who had few concerus regarding the team's finances.

As already mentioned, Walter Luczka did the catch­ ing. He was a sturdy receiver, a strong hitter, and not a pushover by a base-runner trying to steal home. The infield consisted of the following: right hand hitting, Big Norm, was at first base; he also hit in the clean up spot. Big Norm's nephew, Normie Stone (Li'l Norm) was at second base; a fast lead off hitter who always sprayed his singles to all parts of the field. At short-stop, Onanole's Billy Piett filled the bill. Billy practiced the 'Good eye! Good eye!' trait at the plate, as well as a good baseball sense, as a result he often gained few passes. At third base, invariably Big Norm's choice, Smitty, rounded out the infield. He was tall and quick, possessed a strong arm and was an able clutch hitter who hit with consistency. (How come Smitty always plays third base? Fundamental, dear Andrew, fundamen­ tal. His talents exceed yours!)

Yours truly, initially played the role of utility infielder.

Not ever wishing any harm to either Li'l Norm, Billy or Smitty, an inexplicable power interceded often enough to give me a full playing season. I prided myself in being a fleet base-runner but rarely did I showcase that ability. There was one priority! One must first occupy a base.

The outfield was comprised of the baseball-oriented Gusdal cousins - from Allan and left, Leonard at centre, Orville at either and John Stone in right field. All four exemplified most typical rural players by hitting hard and often. Providing offensive power at the plate, depth in fielding and explosive throwing arms, the team always demonstrated a challenge to all comers.

A solid staff of pitchers is a basic ingredient of all successful unity. In that respect Erickson was very fortu­ nate. The likes of Dennis Clym, Merril Gusdal, Frank Arksey (with whom I never played), Don Wilkinson, and Cliff Eden presented an awesome corps. Dennis, Merril and Don were fireballers, each with an added mixture of curves, drops and knuckle balls. Cliff was primarily used as a reliever. When the going became tough, Cliff became tougher.

In 1955 and 1956, Erickson remained a firm organ­ ization through it's well established personnel. League and touruament records compiled by the team were enviably pursued by others, but it appeared that 'All good things were coming to an end.' Both Dennis and Smitty sought teaching positions elsewhere, while several others blamed too many birthdays as the reason for retirement.

And so an era ended. But memories remain, and I can recall four standouts:

l.An under the lights exhibition tilt at Brandon's Kinsmen Stadium against the Cloverleafs.

2. A fruitful July 1 touruament at Elphinstone.

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