Chanhassen Reunion Night

Former Chanhassen Red Birds from left, Harry Bongard, Cy Kerber, non Red Bird Ken Smith, former principal at St. Hubert’s and close friend, and Ron Roeser. Sports Editor Eric Kraushar is also pictured far right.

Ron Roeser sat behind home plate, a perfect view of the 2019 Chanhassen Red Birds on display June 21 at Storm Red Bird Stadium.

A member of the Chanhassen amateur baseball team in the 1950s, asked if he would have made the starting line-up, Roeser, known more for his statistical genius, was candid.

“Goodness no. I couldn't make the starting line-up for the Red Birds back then. I played second base when I played. There were three of us brothers, and I was definitely the third-best," Roeser said.

The middle child of three, his brother Stan was the shortstop. Both brothers were dedicated baseball players. Ron, a local historian and lifelong resident of Chanhassen, knew his role on the team. He played when the team was in a pinch.

There was "Home Run" Harry Bongard, also in attendance for an alumni reunion. Roger "The Horse" Pauly was the team's ace arm. Bob Meuwissen, Harry Pauly, "Bogie" Raser, Frank Schneider Jr. and Eden Prairie's Henry Bartel were among the other top players in the early 1950s.

“Quite a few guys were from Chanhassen, but some of our best players were from Eden Prairie High School," Roeser remembered. "We had a lot of great players. It was good baseball, but watching this here, there is no comparison.”

The old field was just north of where St. Hubert's currently stands. Many of the players were Catholic, but that didn't mean when games were tense, the players were on their best behavior with the men in charge.

"Umpires took a beating," Roeser chuckled.

An average attendance may have been 200 or so, but by the playoffs it was over 1,000. Games with teams in the Crow River Valley League brought in extra fans and extra excitement.

“We had a pretty good infield. We didn't bother to put up a fence in right field with the hill. In left field was a road and cornfields, so there was no need for a fence," Roeser said. "It was good for the town, and good for the kids that played."

Roeser spent two years in Korea fighting in the war, when he returned he played a few more seasons, his final at-bat likely in 1957.

A MATCH MADE IN BASEBALL

Attending church every Sunday, the Kerber boys of Chanhassen would go out to all the chicken dinners around the Catholic churches. They were searching for girls.

Cy Kerber, a member of the Chanhassen Red Birds in the 1950s, found his girl, Madonna.

"We were at St. John's in Excelsior, she ended up waiting on us four Kerber boys. I took one look at her and thought, 'There goes the priesthood,'" Cy Kerber said.

Their first date was to the Red Birds' end-of-the-season banquet. She wore a red dress. Sixty-six years later, they were back at a Chanhassen ball game on alumni night at Storm Red Bird Stadium.

"She tells people she was waiting on our table and now she's been waiting on me her whole life," Kerber said. The couple was blessed with eight kids and 20 great-grandkids now.

Kerber spent much of his time at third base as a substitute. Harry Pauly was just a bit better.

"But I had a lot of fun and I learned a lot about baseball," he said.

Like Roeser, Kerber was drawn to baseball by his brothers. Farm chores on the dairy farm got in the way of practice some days. And only the players that practiced played on Sunday.

Watching the game now, Kerber was amazed at what he saw in Chanhassen's 6-2 win over Hampton. He could see why the Red Birds were state champions last summer.

"These guys are so good. They would have clubbed us. (Harry Bongard) agrees with me. This is a lot better baseball," Kerber said.

FIFTEEN WINS, JUST ONE LOSS

Down at Athletic Park in Chaska June 23, the Cubs continued their early-season winning ways, a 3-2 extra-inning walk-off win over Shakopee.

The Cubs are now 15-1 overall.

A J.T. Canakes double followed by a Tony Lane single and Jon Leighton walk set the stage for a four-pitch walk to Justin Johnson to cap the three-run rally.

Chaska, down 2-0 early on, got a run back on an RBI-double from Kyle Geason and a bases-loaded sacrifice fly off the bat of Dylan Peterson to tie the game in the eighth inning.

Leighton got four outs in relief for the win after Drake Kilber pitched into the 10th inning, recording six strikeouts in scattering nine hits. Geason, Chase Hentges and Lane each had two hits for the Cubs.

Six runs over the first two innings led Chaska to a 7-4 win over Champlin on June 18.

Canakes, Peterson, Hentges, Lane, and Johnson each collected extra-base hits as Pete Ohnsorg threw eight solid innings, allowing three earned runs with seven strikeouts for the win.

Chaska hits the road on Friday at Prior Lake (7:30 p.m.) with a contest at Chanhassen at 6 p.m. on Sunday, June 30. The Cubs host Rochester before the Fourth of July break on July 2 at 7:30 p.m.

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