History from Home Plate: Granite Falls Baseball, Part I

Jess Gorman
Staff Writer
The 1929 Granite Falls amateur baseball team from left to right standing: Manager E.H. Winter, Mark Almli, Murphy Stapleton, Pete Guzy, Harold Anderson, Burt Munson, Chas J. Clark, and Irwin E. Harris. Lower row from left to right: Dwain Aamot, Corliss Hartwick, Ole Heiberg, Bernard Cole, Maurice Klatt, and Leslie Nerdahl.

Baseball is a long held tradition in the United States, 174 years in the making. Much like with many worthwhile ventures, Granite Falls Minnesota is either ahead of the curve or right on the heels of it, and with baseball there is no exception. With the first recorded game in US history taking place in New York in 1846, Granite Falls had its own case of baseball fever by 1875 with its first recorded game. The Granite Falls Eureka Club and the Minnesota Falls Oceola group ran the bases as first documented by the June 17th 1875 Granite Falls newspaper, “The Rock.” Not much has changed in nearly two centuries, just as that game ended with Granite Falls winning 44-39, today our local G.F. Kilowatts are still swinging for the sweet spot, making the hometown field feel like the big show.

The early 1900’s saw an influx in interest, leading with 1900 where an organized team of league Granite Falls players seemed so unstoppable, opponents wouldn't dare step up to the plate, which led to lack of financial support for the team when games couldn't be organized. The 20’s and early 30’s saw popularity in local baseball programming increase with the construction of new fields in Clarkfield and Granite Falls, sometimes bringing out crowds of 4,000+, sadly the Falls field and grandstands were later destroyed in the cyclone of 1942.

Local baseball suffered again in the late 30’s for a multitude of reasons, but local Granite Falls news history shows constant support for the team with weekly season updates. As seen in the Advocate Tribune in July of 1928, story coverage included headlines like “Marshall uses two pitchers in attempt to stop Granite” and “ Home Run Crashes Win-Sunday Game for Granite”. Detailed play-by-play stories carried lines like “Anderson was on the mound for Granite and had his curveball under perfect control, zipping across the plate with an accuracy that had the whiskered boys guessing” as read in a recount of a game against the House of David.

The way the games were managed had to be restructured in 1940 with Granite Falls joining the Golden Valley League. The cyclone must have known its timing was right as World War II put a hold on local ball play all together, with most teams dropping out of league play by 1942 due to lack of players.

In 1946 Granite Falls had a crop of young players eager to come out of the dugout swinging, with a team composed of local legends like Don Dolan, Mickey Keegan, Hoppy Olson, Arden Gullickson, Russ Olson, Bill Brown, Carol Trulock and a name soon to be synonymous with local baseball, Butch Richter.

By 1947 another league changed occurred, bringing Granite Falls into the fold of the West Central League and with many changes a foot, the local field was built back to and beyond its original glory with the construction of eight 80 foot steel light towers installed for a cost of $8,000, grass infields were laid, as well as new bleachers and speakers were put up by 1948. A wooden fence enclosing the park, a refreshment stand and wire protective fencing followed in 1949. These upgrades were an investment into a pastime, a fun time, and a legacy the community wanted to share in.

In 1950 the Granite team was a powerhouse, winning the league and going on to the state tournament where they were defeated by LeCenter 4-3 in the 11th inning. The house name in local baseball, Butch Ritcher was right there in the middle of it all with a team of talented compatriots like Howard Wroge, Curt Dahl, Bob Dalton, Ob Mortenson and Harvey Johnson. More exciting steps forward came in the same year with the articles of incorporation signed to form the Granite Falls Baseball Association, Inc.