Billy Peterson has left his impression on Saint Paul baseball for more than five decades.
It is a good collection of boys, my son’s Midway baseball team. They won their share of games, but the biggest victory came with the biggest loss for one of Sid’s teammates. It was an unparalleled profile in courage, not just for him but for all the boys.
My Hamline-Midway neighborhood is the kind of place where childhood memories are made. Sure, Wisconsin Dells, a Caribbean cruise to the Bahamas, and Disney World all have their fair share of excitement and joyous wonderment. But nothing can compare to the warm feeling you get as sticky chocolate ice cream drizzles down your fingers, while you watch your sister try to feed the dog some of hers.
I was living on the street . . . had used up all my clean undergarments . . . and did not have any money or place to wash. One day I was taking what is called a “sponge bath” in the White Castle on University and Lexington, feeling really low . . . hours passed, 2 p.m. . . . traveled down to the Loft Teen Center and filled up on penny candy, sitting on the corner of Oxford and Carroll Avenue. A grey four-door car pulled up slowly . . . right next to me . . . my head was down, very close to the street gutter entrance . . . I could smell the stench of whatever was down there. I heard a deep, smooth, radio personality voice saying, “What’s the matter, man?” I was like, “What?” I couldn’t believe it. “I need some clean draws . . . and socks!” I answered. This voice replied, “Get in.” Wow! My angel on Earth. Steve bought me a pack of clean boxers and socks. Then he allowed me to shower at his house so I could go to school . . . clean.
The only time I ever lost my wallet was at a Twins game in 1972. When I discovered my back pocket was empty, I remember my brother Tom and I running across the parking lot and crawling under a half-open service door to get back into Met Stadium. As we walked through the bowels of that venerable sports palace looking for help, my stomach was in knots thinking about losing over sixty dollars, my driver's license, credit card and student discount card for Burger King. Suddenly, we spotted a burly figure coming towards us. Was this my angel of mercy?
Tennessee Williams. Arthur Miller. August Wilson. When you list the playwrights of American theater whose work transcends all others, those three names stand at the top. Much of Wilson’s defining ten-play saga of African American life in the twentieth century, a massive undertaking with a play for every decade, was written right here in Saint Paul. That includes the first to hit Broadway (Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom) and the Pulitzer Prize winners Fences and The Piano Lesson.
In 1975, a team of blind baseball players in Saint Paul competed against a team from Arizona in the first World Series. Our Minnesota team was called The Saint Paul Gorillas, and they won the game 15–10. Rules of the game changed from year to year, but the game had beeping “kitten balls” and buzzing bases, as it does today.
Unlike the horror stories about parents gone bad at Little League games that occasionally appear on the evening news, Midway has a strong tradition of respect and civility, due in large measure to Jim Kelley, the energetic co-founder of the Midway Baseball program.
By Donal Heffernan ● 2009
As our Saint Paul Saints begin another season this year, here are a couple of stars from a bit ago. Ila Border, the first woman to play in organized baseball, and Darryl Strawberry, down on his luck from stardom from the Yankees. Both players earned the applause and joy of Saints fans in 1998.