Cinderella with spikes: 1958 Drayton Legion to be inducted into NDSHOFLong before “Hoosiers” made nearly $30 million on the big screen, North Dakota had its own version of the famed basketball underdogs, only in baseball. Fifty-two years ago the 1958 Drayton American Legion baseball team bucked Class B and challenged into Class A, where they won the Eastern Division and then the state tournament here in Jamestown. They beat Fargo, Grand Forks and Jamestown in the division tournament, before going 3-0 at McElroy Park, with wins over Williston and two against the home team. That 1958 team will be in Jamestown again this weekend when they’re inducted into the North Dakota Sports Hall of Fame.
Long before “Hoosiers” made nearly $30 million on the big screen, North Dakota had its own version of the famed basketball underdogs, only in baseball.
Fifty-two years ago the 1958 Drayton American Legion baseball team bucked Class B and challenged into Class A, where they won the Eastern Division and then the state tournament here in Jamestown. They beat Fargo, Grand Forks and Jamestown in the division tournament, before going 3-0 at McElroy Park, with wins over Williston and two against the home team.
That 1958 team will be in Jamestown again this weekend when they’re inducted into the North Dakota Sports Hall of Fame. Bob King of Valley City, the executive director of the North Dakota High School Activities Association from 1988-99, will also be enshrined.
Nine members of the Drayton team plan to attend Saturday night’s ceremonies at the Jamestown Civic Center, which begins at 5 p.m. with a social hour. The induction ceremonies start at 7 p.m. Cost is $25.
Drayton’s Cinderella run, which transformed into a six-year baseball dynasty has faded from memory through the years. But Dick Johnson, the team’s No. 3 hitter and center fielder, has brought the story back to life in vivid detail through a book he authored, titled “When Cinderella Wore Spikes.”
“When I read the book, it was like relieving the entire experience over again,” said the team’s coach, Richard “Dick” Davison. “Dick (Johnson) is a great writer and a great collector of data. That book really sums up the team, the players and what they achieved. I can’t recommend it strongly enough.”
Johnson, a retired journalist, who now lives in Colorado, spent over a year on the project, which in part was conceived to boost the credentials of the team in order to be considered for the hall of fame.
“It became a labor of love, but I got a lot of help from other members of the team, particularly Myron Albrecht,” said Johnson. “It was such a memorable time. To be able to go back and relieve it, to a certain degree, was great, great fun.”
Albrecht, unfortunately, passed away before the book was complete. But he was integral, Johnson said, in unearthing old newspaper articles, statistics and photographs, 155 of which appear in the book.
“Myron was a good friend and a great resource. He was a real baseball aficionado,” Johnson said.
Same was true of virtually the entire team as Johnson recants it.
All but two members of the team were born and raised in Drayton, population 825, located in the northeastern Red River Valley.
In 1958, Drayton High School began a run of six consecutive high school championships, compiling a 73-1 record over that span. But the highlight came in 1958, when they conquered the best Class A teams in the state, earning a trip to the Legion Region 9 tournament where they defeated the Minneapolis Grain Exchange once and Sioux Falls, S.D., twice to advance to the section tournament in Hobart, Okla., the first North Dakota team to advance that far since 1940.
In Hobart, they lost twice to end their season at 25-5. One of their losses came to a team from Cincinnati, Ohio, which went on to eventually win the national championship. Drayton led much of that game.
There was no secret to their success. They had stars — Tom Knoff pitcher/first baseman — signed with the New York Yankees out of high school and played two years of minor league ball. Frank Brosseau — just 14 years old in 1958 — went on to the University of Minnesota and then the Pittsburgh Pirates.
The standouts were surrounded with good players all over the diamond.
Virtually every member of the team went on to play college baseball.
Clean-up hitter Doug Halcrow played baseball and basketball at Mayville State. Catcher Mike Halcrow played with a handful of independent minor league teams.
Albrecht, Bill Brosseau, Jim Knoff, Jim Brosseau and Mac Halcrow all played baseball at UND. Other team members were Ray Long (second base), Cy Gerou (right field), Dixon Halcrow (left field), Mac Halcrow (catcher), Jim Stennes (outfielder) and Mickey Gerou (pitcher/outfield). Darrell Vollmers was the team manager.
They did things the right way, Davison said, on and off the diamond.
“They were good students and very good ballplayers,” said Davison, a retired college professor. “They worked hard and had very high character. It was a joy to be their coach.”
Baseball seemed to be engrained in their DNA, Johnson said. If they had a spare moment, they were playing somewhere.
“We found time to eat, sleep and play baseball,” Johnson said. “We were devoted to the game. We didn’t have any scallywags or black sheep. It was a great team to be apart of.”
Sun sports editor Dave Selvig can be reached at (701) 952-8460 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org