LOOKING BACK: 1948 state tournament marks end of an era and start of a new

By Nick Gerhardt

ScoreMonster Contributor

news@mnbaseball.org

*Photos via Minnesota Historical Society. Photo 1: Albert Lea pitcher Earl Mossor (left) and catcher Spike Gorham chat after a state tournament game. Photo 2: Albert Lea catcher Spike Gorham crosses home plate after hitting a home run. Gorham won tournament MVP honors after hitting four home runs and driving in 19 runs. Photo 3: Fergus Falls shortstop Jim McNulty (left) and Albert Lea player-manager Shanty Dolan watch a coin toss before their game.

The 1948 season signaled the 25th anniversary of the Minnesota amateur baseball state tournament as well as the end of an era and the start of a new one. 

With the end of World War II, amateur baseball began in Minnesota to experience exceptional growth. Armand Peterson and Tom Tomashek chronicled the beginning of the growth in their book, “Town Ball: The Glory Years of Minnesota Amateur Baseball” noting that the number of teams grew to 665, a 30 percent increase from the previous year. Much of that growth stemmed from the addition of a new class in the state. The Minnesota Amateur Baseball Association, the forerunner to the Minnesota Baseball Association, created Class B in 1948 to add to the existing Class AA and Class A leagues in response to leagues threatening to withdraw from the MABA, in part because of the inability to compete with teams who paid players and had players with major or minor league experience. The MABA stipulated that Class B teams could not have any outside nor salaried players on their rosters. Peterson and Tomashek found that 339 teams from 47 leagues opted to play Class B in the first year. The additional class helped set a new state tournament attendance record at the time of 34,263, which beat the previous record set a year before by nearly 6,000 fans. Championship day for Class AA and A drew 7,513 fans. The 1953 state tournament in New Ulm later set a new single-day record for championship day with 7,728 fans. St. Cloud set the all-time attendance mark for the tournament in 1950 with 35,318 people.

What didn’t change in 1948 was Albert Lea’s continued dominance in Class AA as they clinched a record fifth straight state title. A mark that still stands today, though Chanhassen challenged the streak by winning four straight Class B championships from 2018-21.

From 1940 to 1952, Albert Lea won six AA championships and finished runner-up twice. Albert Lea also claimed a state title in 1929. Despite its decade of dominance, Albert Lea started to show signs of fading during the 1948 season.

Albert Lea finished fourth in the Southern Minny League, three games behind Mankato but got hot at the right time to earn a sixth consecutive trip to the state tournament. The Packers upset Mankato in the first round of the playoffs and beat archrival Austin in a three-game series to clinch a spot in the state tournament at Riverside Park in Shakopee. 

Led by legendary manager Shanty Dolan, the Packers gained Austin draftees Earl Mossor and Wandel “Lefty” Mossor after Dolan added former minor leaguers Jack LaVelle and Mel Harpuder. Lefty Mossor pitched as high as the AAA level in the minor leagues while Earl Mossor appeared in three games in 1951 with the Brooklyn Dodgers. Harpuder played with the Minneapolis Millers from 1946 to 1947. 

Albert Lea catcher Maurice “Spike” Gorham earned tournament MVP honors after he hit .533, going 8-for-15, including a two-run home run in the championship. Gorham had four home runs in the state tournament, including a pair of three-run shots against Fergus Falls and drove in 19 runs.

Albert Lea opened the tournament with a 4-0 win over the Rochester Queens, who fought off a protest from Winona the day before the state tournament that Rochester used five players who hadn’t established residency 90 days before the start of the season. Rochester, the Bi-State League champion, defeated Winona 2-1 in a three-game series to clinch a spot at the state tournament.

In the victory over Rochester, Lefty Mossor allowed two hits and struck out 14 for Albert Lea. Gread “Lefty” McKinnis started for Rochester. McKinnis came to Rochester in 1947 after playing with the Chicago American Giants of the Negro American League in 1944 and 1945. He played part of the 1946 season with Zumbrota. Rochester lost its first game of the double elimination state tournament 3-2 to the St. Paul Union Printers where McKinnis started, too.

Minneapolis Banana Distributors defeated the Springfield Tigers, the Western Minny League champion, 6-1 in the first round while Fergus Falls, the North Central League champion, beat West St. Paul 9-2.

In the second round, Minneapolis edged St. Paul 14-13 and Albert Lea knocked off Fergus Falls 9-2. Gorham hit two three-run home runs — one in the first and one in the third inning. Earl Mossor, brother of Lefty Mossor, struck out 16 and allowed six hits in the win. 

Albert Lea defeated Minneapolis 5-2 to advance to the Class AA title game while Minneapolis worked its way back to the championship game by defeating Fergus Falls in what was considered the most thrilling game of the tournament.

In the loser’s bracket games, the Springfield Tigers defeated West St. Paul 5-0 with John Hellendrung striking out 19 and firing a three-hitter. Springfield then defeated the St. Paul Union Printers 6-3 before falling 7-6 to Fergus Falls. Minneapolis defeated Fergus Falls 2-1 to meet Albert Lea again for the championship. Fergus Falls boasted Freddie Copeland, a Baylor University athlete who won his past 13 starts before meeting Albert Lea. 

Gorham hit two home runs in the championship game while LaValle had a three-run home run and finished with four RBIs.

Earl Mossor got the win on the mound after striking out 18 hitters and limiting Minneapolis to seven hits. It marked the second victory of the tournament for Mossor, who allowed 13 hits and struck out 35 in 18 innings. 

Albert Lea later defeated Class A champion Winsted 11-9 Sept. 22 in the mythical championship. Albert Lea claimed a runner-up finish in 1952 and one more state tournament appearance in 1990 but has failed to field a team in recent history.

CLASS AA RECAPS

COMPLETE 1948 CLASS AA STATE TOURNAMENT BRACKET

First Round

Saturday, Sept. 11 — 6:15 p.m.

St. Paul Union Printers 3, Rochester Queens 2

Bob Stoltz drove in three runs for St. Paul with a home run and a single while Stan Partenheimer doubled in the fifth to bring in a run and singled in the seventh for another run for Rochester.

St. Paul 3, Rochester 2

St. Paul     000 020 100—3 7 3

Rochester 000 010 100—2 6 0

St. Paul (3) AB H PO A

Stolts, LF 5 2 0 0

Berberich, SS 3 0 4 5

Guertin, 2B 3 0 1 1

Kueppers, C 4 1 5 3

Yahnka, CF 4 1 1 0

Nentwig, 1B 4 1 11 0

Tuckner, RF 3 1 2 2

Ryan, 3B 3 1 3 0

Weber, P 3 0 0 4

— — — —

Totals 32 7 27 15

Rochester (2) AB H PO A

Anderson, 2B 3 0 4 1

Leak, RF 4 1 2 0

Podjeski, C 4 0 9 0

Hruska, LF 4 1 2 0

McKinnis, P 3 0 0 3

Partenheimer, 1B 3 2 8 1

Davis, 3B 2 0 0 1

Brumm, SS 3 1 0 4

Pafko, CF 3 1 2 0

— — — —

Totals 29 6 27 10

Errors—Guertin, Nentwig, Ryan. Two base hits—Partenheimer, Yahnka. Home run—Stolts. Double plays—Berberich to Guertin to Nentwig. Base on balls—off Weber 2, McKinnis 3. Struck out—by Weber 6, McKinnis 9. Umpires—Shiely and Pickering. Time—1:49.

Saturday, Sept. 11 — 8:30 p.m.

Minneapolis Banana Distributors 6, Springfield Tigers 1

Marley Denzer, a 40-year-old right-hander, allowed seven hits and struck out five for the Minneapolis Banana Distributors, the Minneapolis League champion, in a 6-1 win over the Springfield Tigers, who played in the Western Minny League. Eddie Albertson, a former Detroit Tigers draft pick, hit a 370-foot home run.

Minneapolis 6, Springfield 1

Minneapolis 020 000 301—6 12 2

Springfield   100 000 000—1   7 3

Minneapolis (6) AB H PO A

Newton, SS 5 1 1 4

Maher, RF, CF 5 2 1 0

Kopperud, LF 5 0 1 0

Turner, RF 4 1 1 0

Tomlinson, CF 1 0 1 0

Smith, 1B 5 1 10 1

Hastings, 2B 5 4 5 3

Williams, 3B 4 1 1 4

Myklebust, C 3 1 5 0

Denzer, P 4 1 1 3

— — — —

Totals 41 12 27 15

Springfield (1) AB H PO A

Potter, 2B 5 0 1 1

Albertson, 3B 4 2 4 1

Marban, SS 4 0 0 2

Wagner, LF 3 1 2 0

Woodall, C 4 0 10 0

Vandenberg, P 4 1 0 1

Gisvold, CF 4 1 1 0

Stensvad, 1B 4 2 7 0

Pankonin, RF 4 0 2 0

— — — —

Totals 36 7 27 5

Errors—Hastings, Williams, Marban 2, Potter. Two base hits—Hastings, Albertson. Home runs—Albertson. Double plays—Newton to Hastings to Smith. Base on balls—off Vandenberg 1. Hit by pitcher—by Vandenberg (Myklebust). Struck out—by Vandenberg 8, Denzer 5. Umpires—Olson and Swanson. Time—2:20.

Sunday, Sept. 12 — 6:15 p.m.

Fergus Falls 9, West. St. Paul 2

Fergus Falls tallied 17 hits with Dick Durrell, a former University of Minnesota star, hitting a single, double and triple in a 9-2 win. Harley Oyle also had three hits — two singles and a double for the Red Sox.

Fergus Falls 9, West St. Paul 2

Fergus Falls   400 301 100—9 17 0

West St. Paul 001 100 000—2 9 4

Fergus Falls (9) AB H PO A

Harris, SS 6 3 1 3

McNulty, 2B 4 1 2 5

Baglien, LF 4 1 0 0

Durrell, 1B 5 2 15 0

Olson, 3B 5 2 1 6

Smith, CF 4 1 1 0

Faunce, RF 5 2 0 0

Collias, C 5 2 6 1

Oyloe, P 4 3 1 4

— — — —

Totals 42 17 27 19

West St. Paul (2) AB H PO A

Goff, LF 4 2 3 1

Kaschke, 2B 4 1 5 3

Mayer, 1B 4 2 8 0

Callahan, C 4 1 3 1

Robinson, CF 4 1 3 0

Lee, RF 3 2 0 0

Schaffer, 3B 3 0 3 3

Runge, P, SS 3 0 1 2

Wells, P, SS 3 0 1 1

— — — —

Totals 32 9 27 11

Errors—Kaschke, Mayer, Robinson 2. Two base hits—Durrell, Collias, Oyloe. Three base hits—Durrell, Goff. Double plays—Schaffer to Kaschke to Mayer, Harris to McNulty to Durrell, Oyloe to Durrell, Olson to McNulty. Base on balls—off Oyloe 1, Runge 1, Wells 4. Struck out—by Oyloe 4, Wells 3. Umpires—Maack and Wolden. Time—2:05.

Sunday, Sept. 12 — 8:30 p.m.

Albert Lea 4, Rochester Queens 0

Gordy West tripled and Shanty Dolan hit a sacrifice fly to left field to score him for Albert Lea in a 4-0 win. Lefty Mossor struck out 14 and held Rochester to two hits, both by Partenheimer. Gorham had two hits, including a double. 

Albert Lea 4, Rochester Queens 0

Rochester 000 000 000—0 2  1

Albert Lea 011 110 00x—4 8  3

Rochester (0) AB H PO A

Anderson, 2B 4 0 2 6

Leak, RF 4 0 2 0

Podjeski, C 3 0 9 1

Partenheimer, P, 1B 3 2 4 0

Brumm, SS 3 0 0 2

Hruska, LF 3 0 2 0

McKinnis, P 1 0 3 0

Schwarz, 1B 2 0 0 1

Davis, 3B 3 0 0 0

Pafko, CF 3 0 2 0

— — — —

Totals 29 2 24 10

Albert Lea (4) AB H PO A

Harpuder, RF 2 0 1 0

Blanchard, SS 4 1 4 5

McCabe, 2B 4 2 2 2

LaValle, LF 3 1 2 0

Gorham, C 4 2 13 0

West, CF 4 1 1 0

Dolan, 3B 3 1 0 0

Hougard, 1B 3 0 4 0

Mossor, W., P 3 0 0 1

— — — —

Totals 30 8 27 8

Errors—Partenheimer, Blanchard, Hougard 2. Two base hits—Gorham, Dolan. Three base hits—West. Double plays—McCabe to Blanchard to Hougard 2. Base on balls—off McKinnis 2, Partenheimer 2. Struck out—by McKinnis 5, Partenheimer 2, W. Mossor 14. Umpires—Sammon and Mahre. Time—1:50.

Second Round

Monday, Sept. 13 — 8:30 p.m.

Minneapolis Banana Distributors 14, St. Paul Union Printers 13

Minneapolis and St. Paul combined for 21 hits, 15 walks, nine errors and 27 runs in a wild game. Paul Guertin went 3-for-6 for St. Paul with a home run. Don Smith went 3-for-5 for Minneapolis. Harold Yahnka and Bob Kueppers also hit home runs for St. Paul in the loss.

Minneapolis led 13-7 heading into the seventh inning but committed four errors and St. Paul scored five runs on just one hit.

Minneapolis 14, St. Paul 13

St. Paul       022 021 501—13 10 2

Minneapolis 073 300 01x—14 11 7

St. Paul (13) AB H PO A

Stolts, P, LF 4 1 1 1

Berberich, SS 5 0 1 2

Guertin, 2B 6 3 1 0

Kueppers, C 6 2 7 3

Yahnka, CF 3 1 4 0

Nentwig, 1B 5 2 6 1

Tuckner, RF 4 0 2 1

Ryan, 3B 3 1 2 0

Hoffman, LF 1 0 0 0

Hoium, P 0 0 0 0

Weber, P 3 0 0 1

— — — —

Totals 40 10 24 9

Minneapolis (14) AB H PO A

Newton, SS 4 1 1 0

Maber, LF, RF 3 0 0 0

Tomlinson, CF 4 1 0 0

Turner, RF 4 2 0 0

Monahan, CF 0 0 0 0

Smith, 1B 5 3 12 2

Hastings, 2B 4 1 0 3

Williams, 3B 3 0 3 3

Myklebust, C 2 1 11 1

Hollom, P 3 2 0 2

Curtis, P 0 0 0 0

Denzer, P 2 0 0 1

Kopperud, LF 0 0 0 0

— — — —

Totals 34 11 27 12

Errors—Berberich 2, Newton, Smith, Williams 2, Curtis 2, Hastings. Two base hits—Newton, Smith, Tomlinson, Guertin. Home runs—Yahnka, Guertin, Kueppers. Double plays—Hastings to Smith to Williams, Myklebust to Smith to Hastings to Smith. Base on balls—off Stolts 5, Weber 6, Hollom 1, Curtis 3. Struck out—by Weber 5, Hollom 6, Curtis 1, Denzer 4. Umpires—Drobinski and Bamford. Time—2:50.

Tuesday, Sept. 14 — 8:30 p.m.

Albert Lea 10, Fergus Falls 2

Spike Gorham hit two home runs, both three-run shots, to drive in six runs while Earl Mossor struck out 17 hitters and held Fergus Falls to six hits. 

Albert Lea 10, Fergus Falls 2

Fergus Falls 000 000 011—2  6 1

Albert Lea    304 000 30x—10 8 1

Fergus Falls (2) AB H PO A

Harris, SS 5 1 1 2

McNulty, 2B 3 2 6 3

Baglien, LF 3 0 0 0

Durrell, 1B 4 1 9 0

Olson, 3B 4 0 0 4

Smith, CF 2 1 2 0

Faunce, RF 3 0 1 0

Erickson, RF 1 0 0 0

Collias, C 4 1 5 1

Copeland, P 1 0 0 0

Zarling, P 2 0 0 0

Banholtz 1 0 0 0

— — — —

Totals 33 6 24 10

Albert Lea (10) AB H PO A

Harpuder, RF 3 1 0 0

Blanchard, SS 3 0 0 1

McCabe, 2B 4 1 2 0

LaVelle, LF 2 0 1 0

Gorham, C 4 3 16 0

West, CF 3 1 3 0

Dolan, 3B 3 0 2 0

Hougard, 1B 4 2 3 0

Mossor, E., P 4 0 0 2

— — — —

Totals 30 8 27 3

Errors—Olson, Mossor. Two base hits—McNulty, Harpuder. Three base hit—Smith. Home runs—Gorham 2, Harris. Double play—McNulty to Harris. Base on balls—off Copeland 4, Zarling 2, Mossor 5. Struck out—by Copeland 3, Zarling 2, Mossor 17. Umpires—Gravelle, Mebust, Rasmussen. Time—2:00.

Third Round

Thursday, Sept. 16 — 8:30 p.m.

Albert Lea 5, Minneapolis Banana Distributors 2

Albert Lea used a three-run eighth inning to upend Minneapolis to remain undefeated in the tournament. Don Opperman scored on an error following a single from Red Hougaard for the go-ahead run, then Mel Harpuder tripled to add a run and Don Blanchard singled to score Harpuder.

Albert Lea 5, Minneapolis Banana Distributors 2

Minneapolis 010 000 010—2 8 6

Albert Lea    200 000 03x—5 10 3

Minneapolis (2) AB H PO A

Newton, SS 5 2 1 3

Kopperud, LF 3 0 3 1

Tomlinson, CF 4 1 1 0

Turner, RF 4 1 1 0

Smith, 1B 3 0 5 0

Maher, CF 1 0 1 0

Hastings, 2B 4 0 3 2

Williams, 3B 3 1 3 1

Myklebust, C 4 2 5 1

Denzer, P 2 1 1 3

Monahan 1 0 0 0

— — — —

Totals 34 8 24 11

Albert Lea (5) AB H PO A

Harpuder, RF 5 2 1 0

Blanchard, SS 3 1 0 4

McCabe, 2B 5 1 3 3

LaVelle, LF 3 1 2 1

Gorham, C 3 1 9 1

West, CF 4 1 1 0

Dolan, 3B 4 1 0 2

Hougaard, 1B 3 2 11 1

Opperman, P 4 0 0 2

Mossor, P 0 0 0 0

— — — —

Totals 34 10 27 14

Errors—Hastings 2, Williams 3, Myklebust, Blanchard, Hougaard, Opperman. Two base hit—Newton. Three base hit—Harpuder. Double plays—Myklebust to Hastings, Newton to Hastings to Smith. Base on balls—off Denzer 3, Opperman 2. Struck out—by Denzer 4, Opperman 4. Umpires—Manthey, Magnuson, Stanton. Time—1:48.

Sunday, Sept. 19 — 1 p.m.

Class AA Championship

Albert Lea 11, Minneapolis Banana Distributors 0

Bananas   000 000 000—0

Albert Lea 020 033 12x—11

Bananas (0) AB H PO A

Newton, SS 2 0 3 0

Maher, LF 3 1 0 0

Kopperude, LF 1 0 0 0

Tomlinson, CF 4 0 2 0

Turner, RF 4 2 0 0

Smith, 1B 4 2 12 1

Hastings, 2B 4 1 0 1

Williams, 3B 4 0 2 2

Myklebust, P 2 1 5 1

Curtis, P 2 0 0 3

Denzer, P 1 0 0 0

Stemming, P 0 0 0 0

xMonahan 1 0 0 0

— — — —

Totals 32 7 24 8

x—Fanned for Stemming in ninth.

Albert Lea (11) AB H PO A

Harpuder, RF 3 0 0 0

Blanchard, SS 2 1 2 1

B. Dolan, SS 0 0 0 0

McCabe, 2B 2 0 3 3

LaVelle, LF 5 2 2 0

Gorham, C 4 2 18 1

West, CF 4 2 0 0

S. Dolan, 3B 4 3 0 0

Hougaard, 1B 3 1 2 1

Turner, 1B 2 0 0 0

E. Mossor, P 4 0 0 1

— — — —

Totals 33 11 27 7

Errors—Newton, Williams, Curts. Runs batted in—LaVelle 4, Gorham, S. Dolan, Hougaard, Mossor. Two base hits—West, S. Dolan 2. Home runs—Gorham 2, LaVelle. Stolen base—Gorham. Double play—Gorham to McCabe. Left on bases—Bananas 9, Albert Lea 9. Bases on balls—Mossor 3, Curtis 4, Denzer 2. Strikeouts—Mossor 18, Curtis 3, Denzer 1. Hits off—Curtis 4 in 41/3; Denzer 4 in 2 2/3; Stemming 3 in 1. Wild pitch—Mossor. Hit by pitcher—Mossor (Myklebust). Passed ball—Gorham. Losing pitcher—Curtis. Umpires—Maack, Gravell, Thompson, Seeley, Litfin. Time—2:25.

Loser’s Bracket 

Monday, Sept. 13 — 6:15 p.m.

Springfield 5, West St. Paul 0

Jack Hellendrung, a former University of Minnesota pitcher, held West St. Paul to three hits and struck out 19 hitters in a 5-0 win. Eddie Albertson hit a home run and had two hits. Bassie Wagner, Hy Vandenberg, who played professionally with Boston, the New York Giants and Chicago Cubs, and Jake Stensvad also had two hits each.

Springfield 5, West St. Paul 0

Springfield      020 010 110—5 9 1

West St. Paul 000 000 000—0 3 4

Wednesday, Sept. 15 — 8:30 p.m.

Springfield 6, St. Paul Union Printers 3

Eddie Albertson hit two two-run home runs for Springfield to bring his tournament home run total to four. Albertson finished with four RBI with a 2-for-4 game.

Springfield 6, St. Paul Union Printers 3

Springfield 201 100 200—6 8 1

St. Paul     000 000 300—3 5 1

Friday, Sept. 17 — 8 p.m.

Fergus Falls 7, Springfield 6

Duane Baglien, a former University of Minnesota star, drove in the game-winning run in the bottom of the seventh inning with a triple for Fergus Falls in a 7-6 win. Fergus Falls trailed 6-1 after the top of the third inning.

Fergus Falls 7, Springfield 6

Springfield    204 000 000—6   10  2

Fergus Falls 101 201 20x—7     9   4

Saturday, Sept. 18 — 3 p.m.

Minneapolis Banana Distributors 2, Fergus Falls 1

Considered the best game in the tournament, Minneapolis rallied past Fergus Falls with a two-run seventh inning. Fergus Falls, considered a favorite in the matchup, scored a run in the top of the first inning with Dick Durrell’s single. But Minneapolis pitcher and former University of Minnesota player Bill Hollom limited Fergus Falls to seven hits to clinch a spot in the state championship game. Minneapolis managed just four hits in the game and went the first 7 1/3 innings without a hit as Fergus Falls starter Ron Zarling cruised.

But Don Smith singled with one out in the seventh and Zarling walked the next three batters to force the tying run in. Dick Myklebust, a future University of Minnesota player, laid down a perfect bunt to score the winning run.

Minneapolis 2, Fergus Falls 1

Fergus Falls 100 000 000—1 7 0

Minneapolis 000 000 20x—2 4 2

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