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Saturday, Apr. 30, 2016

Halsey Hall, Larry Rolfes, and Some Very Lucky Kids

Monday, May 16, 2011

Iconic and irreverent Minnesota sportscaster Halsey Hall had a radio show and also did a great deal of play-by-play announcing. He came up with the now familiar nickname of "Golden Gophers." Later he would be voted the top sportscaster of the 1970s in Minnesota even though the poll was taken two years after his death.

Hall called the Minnesota Twins baseball games on radio from the beginning in 1961, until 1973, with Ray Scott and Herb Carneal. He passed away in 1979 at the age of 79. Carneal broadcast Twins games for 45 seasons. Scott was with the Twins for a few years before going national and becoming better known as a football announcer. He once appeared in Le Mars as the guest speaker at a KLEM sponsored sports banquet.

Yankees broadcaster Phil Rizzuto and Harry Caray (Cubs) are famous for their excited expression "Holy Cow!" but Hall was the first to use that call. His copious consumption of green onions, his cigar smoking, and the ever present bottles gave co-workers grief. Afraid of flying, his buddies once arranged to have the pilot walk past him with a seeing-eye dog.

Once a member of the old Western League, the roots of the Minneapolis Twins major league baseball team go back to 1894 in Kansas City. In 1901 that team moved to Washington, D.C. as one of the eight original teams of the American League, becoming the Washington Senators, or Nationals. Remsen native, and former Le Mars barber, pitcher Johnny Niggeling won ten games for the Nats in 1944.

In 1961, the Washington franchise was moved to Minnesota as an expansion team, playing at Metropolitan Stadium in Bloomington for 20 years. Then they moved inside, playing in the Metrodome until last year when they moved to the new outdoor Target Field.

Off to a very slow start this year, the Twins have a reputation as one of the best small market franchises in major league baseball, having won the Central Division pennant six of the last nine years. They have a limited budget but a good minor league system and excellent management.

One rating of the best sports announcers of all time (Halsey Hall didn't make that list) includes Harry N. Kalas, winner of the 2002 Ford C. Frick Award, whose father was Harry H. Kalas, president of Westmar College from 1956 to 1968. Kalas broadcast Philadelphia Phillies games from 1971 to 2009. Others on that impressive list include Harry Caray of the Chicago Cubs, Ernie Harwell, Detroit Tigers, Chick Hearn of the LA Lakers, and Vin Scully who called Dodgers games for more than a half century.

I'm getting to the good part -- it was about 1971 when Lawrence "Larry" Rolfes was asked to coach the Little League Minor Astros team. Ever the optimist, he told his boys that if they had a good season he would see about getting tickets to a Minnesota Twins game. "Ya-Ya," one of the dads said, "Twins tickets!" Well, Larry, like Forrest Gump, has never given into the "you can't do that" philosophy and he did get tickets for the whole team!

Mike Feller, Kirk Baldwin, Dave Klein, Jeff Ronsiek, Jeff Driggs, Tim Wolterman, Tom Sauer, Paul and Steve Hopkins, Fritz Miller, Scott Wittkop and Randy Ronsiek were the Astros. Larry, Fred & Nancy Miller, Bernie & Pat Klein and Julie & Jim Hopkins accompanied the group to Minneapolis.

Larry asked an usher about how to get autographs (Ya-Ya, autographs!) He was told to take the elevator to the top floor (the usher may have been playing a trick on the Iowa boy), for that took Larry to the press room. He opened the door (a less confident person might have turned around) and there was the legendary Halsey Hall. Larry introduced himself, probably as if Hall should have heard of him, and told about his LL team. Hall told him to take the elevator down to the locker room after the game to try for autographs.

Back with the kids, Larry told them they would get autographs after the game - "Ya-Ya," again, said Mr. Hopkins!

At the elevator after the game, who was there? "Hi Larry, get in" said Halsey, to the amazement of everyone. The kids did get their autographs, just as the optimistic Larry had told them. Forrest Gump couldn't have done it better. The versatile Larry also has been in charge of the chain gang for the Sioux City Bandits Arena Football team from the git-go.

Remembering those Hamm's Beer Dancing Bear commercials. "From the land of sky blue waters, Hamm's, the beer refreshing......"

Don Paulin, 7557 30th AV, Norwalk, IA. 515-201-7236. 2carpenterdon@gmail.com

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By Don Paulin
Been There, Done That


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