THE "BIG INNING"
was 1979 and a group of men who had once played baseball in Jordan got
together for an "old-timers" game.
age 39, Duane Gaulke, like many of the others, had not yet reached
middle age. However, for the youth dominated amateur leagues 39, was
considered "old". Gaulke, who had himself quit playing amateur
ball two years earlier, realized how much fun everyone had playing in
this "old-timers" game. "I had this fear that we'd not be
able to experience this good feeling again," he said. "There
was a lot of talent out there that was just a couple of years too old to
compete evenly in the regular amateur baseball programs. My feeling was
that as long as they WANTED to play, there should be a PLACE for them to
play." That winter, he and some acquaintances, after much
discussion, worked out plans to start a special program for older
met with his brother, Dave Gaulke of Bloomington, Irv Coleman of Savage,
and Mark Jacobson of Prior Lake. Taking into account that some players
would still be fairly young and others might be able to play into their
60's, they developed a plan to shorten the innings to two outs and
abbreviate the count to three balls and two strikes for each batter.
"We never wanted to compete with the top state amateur leagues, but
rather only complement them by offering something for the players who
may now be slowed a step or two."
Minnesota Senior Men's Amateur Baseball Association started from those
humble beginnings. Originally there were no lofty illusions, no
expectations regarding expansion, but expansion followed. It began
gradually at first with the addition of a second league and ultimately
blossoming into four leagues in an 11-year span.
"2-out/1 and 1 count" rule modification startled some die-hard
purists, but the first decade proved the idea to be sound. Top heavy
scores caused by big innings and long games were curtailed because two
outs would retire a team quicker. Furthermore, an aging pitcher found he
could still "go the distance" because the batter's starting
with a count of 1 and 1 could ill afford to take a strike.
some brief experimentation, the four originating teams (Jordan, Savage,
Prior Lake and Bloomington) played a season and organized a state
tournament. Bloomington, the forerunner of the current Eagles, defeated
Prior Lake in the inaugural 1980 final game.
1981, a second Bloomington team, known as Green and later as the A's,
joined the league as did Shakopee. In 1982, a second Shakopee team and a
third Bloomington team as well as new teams from Burnsville and
Chanhassen, also joined, prompting the Association to form 2 leagues.
the ensuing decade growth spread to encompass the entire Twin Cities
area. From the North, Shoreview and later Anoka. From the West came Eden
Prairie. From the East, Woodbury and Cottage Grove. And, from the
downtown areas, came Minneapolis and St. Paul. In recent years, the
rural areas of Union Hill, Montgomery and Belle Plaine have joined the
ranks. In 1992, the St. Louis Park Cardinals were added as well as a
group of teams from NW Minnesota representing the towns of Dent-Vergas,
Pine Point, and Brainerd. In 1995 the Minneapolis Brewers joined the
Metro League, the Waconia Islanders the River Valley League and the
Urbank Goldtimers came on board in the
NW Minnesota league. In 1996, St. Peter Saints and the New Prague
Eagles to the River Valley league and the Minneapolis Hackers to the
Metro League. The year 1997 saw the emergence of the Oakdale Blue
Diamonds and the Veseli Vulcans. This past year, 1999, the growth
continued as we welcomed the Mayer Mudcats, and New Market-Elko-Webster
Rookies to the River Valley League and the Perham Silver Pirates to the
Each year more and more
35-year-old players are expressing an interest in Senior Baseball and
with "the old guys still hanging on", further expansion seems
inevitable. And it all goes back to that empty feeling Duane Gaulke had
in 1979. He didn't want his life to be without baseball and a whole lot
of guys anxious to prove "they too aren't so over the hill"
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