Star Tribune: Elko’s first family of baseball remembered as manager wins 900th game

Posted on July 1, 2015

Story courtesy of Ron Haggstrom, Star Tribune

Photo by Carlos Gonzalez, Star Tribune

The baseball-playing Fredrickson ­family of Elko has one of Minnesota’s deepest bloodlines when it comes to the time-honored tradition of town ball.

So deep that one of its descendants, Terry Fredrickson, recently won his 900th game as the Elko amateur baseball team manager.

Fredrickson and his feat will be honored on Wednesday when the Express host New ­Market in a historic Scandinavian vs. German matchup at 7:30 p.m.

“It’s been a lot of fun. That’s why I continue to manage,” said Terry, who started coaching the club in 1976. The Express is 25-2 this season, bringing Fredrickson’s career record to 913-466.

The ceremony comes nearly 90 years after the Fredricksons formed a traveling amateur baseball team of 12 brothers in 1927.

“We have a lot of baseball history in our family,” Terry said. He is the fourth generation of the family who grew up playing the sport.

The 12 baseball-playing brothers — Arthur, Axel, Edwin, Fred, Herman, Joe, Martin, Nels Jr., Otto, Soren, Walter and William — were from a family of 18. Their parents, Nels and Emelia (Elvestad), migrated to Minnesota in the early 1880s.

It was Otto who persuaded his ­siblings to form the traveling amateur team. The Fredricksons are among 22 all-brother teams recognized by the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y.

“Playing baseball was the only enjoyment my brothers and I got out of life,” Arthur said during an interview for the July 11, 1994, issue of Sports Illustrated. More than 100 descendants of Nels and Emelia have gone on to play youth or amateur baseball.

The Fredrickson brothers grew up on a farm in Eidswold, near Elko. When the brothers weren’t playing baseball every Sunday from spring to the first snowfall, they were busy with chores on the 220-acre family farm.

Today’s generation involves plenty of construction workers. Terry is a mason.

“Sometimes when I get home it’s like, ‘Do I have to go to the field?’ ” the soft-spoken Terry said. “Once I get there, I enjoy every minute of it.”

The ballpark in Elko is named Fredrickson Field, in honor of that first team and succeeding family history. The family and a group of community activists purchased the park for $2,000 in 1963. The movement’s leader was Myron Fredrickson, son of Soren, father of Terry. Myron and his wife, Donna, were involved with amateur baseball for over 110 years between the two of them.

Terry guided Elko to its first of 14 state tournament appearances in 1985. His brother Brad and cousin Stan played on the fourth-place finishing squad.

“I remember our first state tournament in 1985 and Red Wing referred to our field as a cow pasture,” Terry said. “When you look back, that’s what it was.”

Current family members have been gradually working to try and turn the ballpark into one of the state’s finest. It now gets fertilized four times a year and watered every other day with an irrigation system put in place about 15 years ago.

“When we started, there wasn’t even a fence,” Terry said. “We weren’t too far from just being a hay field.”

It costs $60,000 to $70,000 to maintain the field on a yearly basis. Most of the funds to pay for it come from charitable gambling. It started with 5-cent bingo.

The ceremony on Wednesday for Terry, who picked up his 900th win in a 7-4 victory over Hampton, also will be used as a fundraiser for two new dugouts (approximate cost of $45,000). Park supporters recently received a $5,000 donation from the Minnesota Twins Community Fund.

“We used to be at the park every day of the week,” Terry said. “Now other people have stepped up and are helping us out.”

Terry guided the Express to the Class C state championship in 2008. It is currently a Class B team that competes in the 13-team Dakota, Rice, Scott (DRS) league. There are 299 amateur teams competing in three classes (A, B and C) in the state.

“Town ball is a phenomenon,” said Brad, who played for 33 seasons. “It brings people, as well as towns, together. It’s a social gathering.”

One that occupies plenty of the ­family’s time. “It’s been part of my life,” Terry said.

He was quickly trumped by his wife, Debbie. She can be seen on a consistent basis around the ballpark, running the concession stand or keeping track of team funds. She previously mowed the field, where her daughter, Denae, would ride along and occasionally fall asleep. Denae now also works in the concession stand and helps keep the field tidy.

“It’s been part of your life,” Debbie said. “It’s been all of our lives.”

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