Quick, what news item was featured on the front page of the Bigfork Times every single week from mid-May to the end of September 1925?
If your guess was baseball, then you are correct. But if your guess was local baseball you hit a grand slam!
It started with an article about the newly formed Itasca County Baseball League. The league was comprised of eight teams: Bigfork, Blackberry, Bovey, Deer River, Grand Rapids, Keewatin, Nashwauk and Warba. A schedule of 14 games for the season was agreed upon. Each team would play each of the others twice, one game on the home diamond, and one on the visitors’ diamond.
The year 1925 was not a very good one for Babe Ruth; in fact, a mysterious illness and hospitalization prompted a British newspaper to printa premature obituary! [wikipedia.org/wiki/1925_New_York_Yankees_season.] But it was an exceptional one for the Bigfork team. My own research began with a poem entitled “Bigfork Ball Team,” which was published in the Bigfork Times following the wins of their first two games. It wasn’t until I read the subsequent papers that the success of the team unfolded. All notes in italics are extracted from the Bigfork Times.
Deer River ~ “Took them to camp to the tune of 10 to 0 at the end of the game. Pitcher Dan Burman striking out 17 men at bat.”
Bovey ~ “Defeated Sunday by score of 9 to 0. Over 400 spectators at the game.”
The June 4 newspaper carried the result of the Bovey game and also this poem, which has no author.
Bigfork Ball Team
Emil in centerfield has golden locks,
Shortstop Bert is short and quick,
Dan is there in the pitcher’s box
And Max is behind the stick.
Louis takes rightfield without a word
Charlie’s in left puts a grin on every face,
With Henry at first and Joe at third
And Perry at second base.
Upon the field so green,
Where the grass is kept mown,
They play a game that can’t be seen
On every afternoon.
And then you hear the mighty shout
That reaches to the sky
The third man up to bat was out
When Charlie caught the fly.
And when their gallant work is done,
Some say it is a shame,
The visitors didn’t make a run
And therefore lost the game.
They say that baseball is all luck,
But this is not the case,
For all opponents get their muck
When they can’t see second base.
They sometimes get a hit or two
And then again a walk,
But chances are very few
When they play against Bigfork.
The full names of the players in the order mentioned are: Emil Felstet, Bert Peloquin, Dan Burman, Max Addington, Louis Burque, Charlie Bebeau, Henry Burque, Joe Burque and Harold Perry.
Blackberry ~ “Defeated by a score of 12 to 6. The game was close and interesting up to the seventh inning where the score was tied at 6 to 6. Henry Burque made three two-base hits…clever base stealing of H. Perry.”
Hill City ~ It appears that Keewatin has been replaced by Hill City. “Bigfork lost its first game for the season Sunday. The game was close from start to finish with a final score of 8 to 6.”
Grand Rapids ~ “Defeated by a score of 4 to 3 in an interesting contest Sunday. Good ball playing was exhibited by all the players on both sides during the progress of the game. As well as the game being interesting, it was free from rag chewing and much credit due to both teams for the good clean baseball spirit that prevailed.”
Warba ~ “Clean snappy ball playing on Sunday made an interesting game for spectators. The game was played in one hour and 45 minutes and was interesting from start to finish and was witnessed by a large crowd considering the bad condition of the roads. Effie was well represented at the game as usual and also Craig.”
Standing of Teams: Bigfork 5-1, Hill City 4-2, Deer River 3-2, Nashwauk 3-2, Grand Rapids 3-3, Jesse Lake 2-4, and Warba 0-6.
The communities of Deer River and Bigfork took turns hosting the 4th of July celebration. It was at Bigfork in 1925 and, of course, included a baseball game (not part of the league schedule). Bigfork won with a score of 10 to 2.
Deer River played Hill City the following day, and a large number of Bigfork folks attended the game. In the third inning, Gene LaVoy of Deer River was at bat, and was struck near the temple by the pitched ball. He was knocked unconscious and taken to the hospital. Final score for the game was Deer River 18, Hill City 3. Census records indicate that LaVoy recovered and lived a long time.
Bigfork and Deer River were the two top teams at this point, and Bigfork manager Pete Evenson, hoping for a strong show of support, placed an ad in the paper regarding the upcoming game: “Deer River will present the strongest line up that Bigfork has faced this season having acquired the services of a league twirler and three new fielders. Come out and help keep Bigfork in first place. A defeat Sunday means a tie with Deer River for the league championship.”
Deer River ~ “The ball game was close and very exciting from start to finish and was largely attended, the gate receipts reaching past the $100 mark. An exceptional large crowd of fans were at Deer River and judging by the generous bets that were placed on the game, the visitors had high hopes of winning. The final score was 4 to 2 in favor of Bigfork.”
Jesse Lake-Wirt ~ Bovey dropped out of the league and Jesse Lake took its place. “Defeated by a score of 17 to 1. Taking into consideration the fact that the Jesse Lake-Wirt team is made up entirely of home boys and with their poor chance of sufficient practice they deserve credit for putting up a good game, and as for clean ball players they are all that and met defeat in a pleasant manner.”
Blackberry ~ “The Bigfork team climbs another notch. Heavy rain right before the game affected the condition of the diamond somewhat. The final score was 12 to 1.”
The first game of August at Hill City had the Bigfork team a little worried when their first baseman was nowhere to be seen.
Hill City ~ “The way the Hill City boys showed up on the diamond while practicing and the bet spoils that were so lavishly flourished before the game started caused the Bigfork fans to have just an inkling of a doubt as to the results of the game as their first basemen Henry Barque did not put in an appearance till just before the game started when suddenly he appeared on the scene all ready to fill his position at first. In the end Bigfork won to the tune of 11 to 0.”
Standing of Teams: Bigfork 9-1, Deer River 7-3, Nashwauk 6-3, Grand Rapids 6-4, Hill City 5-5, Warba 4-6, Jesse Lake 2-8, Blackberry 1-9.
Grand Rapids ~ “Won the game with a score of 8 to 5. With this win of 10 games won of 11 played, and three more to go, it is quite evident that the Bigfork team will still hold their position as leaders of the Itasca league at the close of the season. Since the beginning of the season very little has changed in their line up and by keeping together in the way that they have has added considerable strength in their playing since the opening of the season.”
Manager Evenson placed another ad in the paper: “Baseball Nashwauk vs Bigfork at Bigfork Sunday Aug. 23. This is the last league game at home and also the deciding one for the league championship, Bigfork has not yet met Nashwauk who is considered their strongest opponents and therefore this promises to be one of the peppiest games of the season. Let everyone see this game and show our boys your support by being there.”
Nashwauk ~ “As was expected, this team was the strongest one that Bigfork has contested this season, and after quenching some wrangling in the start of the game, the large crowd of spectators were treated to a clean snappy game all the way through, winding up with a score of 5 to 2 in favor of Bigfork. There was a large number of fans from Nashwauk and other towns on the range.”
Bigfork Team is Itasca League Ball Champions!
Bigfork Times 8-27-1925
If you are related to the Bigfork champion baseball players, or think you have a photograph of the team, I would love to see it. There was a picture of the 1939 baseball team on display at the Bigfork City Hall Open House. firstname.lastname@example.org.