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Oh, Brother, What a Team
Chad Millman
July 11, 1994
The barnstorming Fredrickson boys were a baseball sensation of the 1920s
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July 11, 1994

Oh, Brother, What A Team

The barnstorming Fredrickson boys were a baseball sensation of the 1920s

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Nels was set in his ways and slow to change. When one of his sons tried to teach him how to drive a car, he tried pulling back on the steering wheel, as though yanking the reins of a horse, and yelled "Whoa!" in an unsuccessful attempt to stop the car from crashing through the back of the shed in which it was housed. Although Nels believed that playing baseball on Sundays was a sin, Bentson says, "To the boys, baseball was a religion; it wasn't just a game. They were such fun to watch, not because they were that great, but because they loved it so much."

The family's passion for baseball increased as more members joined the fold. Fortunately for the latest generation of Fredricksons, there has been more support for ballplaying than Nels and Emelia offered. Nowadays it seems there are as many Fredricksons in south central Minnesota's organized baseball programs as there are lakes in Minnesota. In the past few years the number of Nels and Emelia's descendants playing youth league and amateur baseball has passed 100. The last family reunion, in 1988, had more than 500 Fredricksons in attendance, and here were eight softball teams of 10 to 15 people each.

But no team of Fredricksons has gained he fame of the original 12, and the pinnacle of the family's sporting accomplishments came that Saturday in 1929 against he House of David. Crammed into five black Model-T Fords, the brothers, their sisters and other Fredrickson fans and fanatics made the 20-mile trek from Eidswold to Jordan. Four thousand others jacked the fairgrounds, many undoubtedly attracted by the ball game. "We had a following," Edwin says, "and they were passionate. Some of them used to fight in he stands more than we did on the field."

Walter's fastball tailed away from the righthanded-hitting Davids, and his natural curveball—"I never threw it on purpose," Walter once said—went unsolved. Arthur played capably at short, Martin wasn't forced to make any game-saving tackles at third, and the brothers prevailed 4-2.

Better than the win against their more famous rivals, though, was the $400 prize money. "We stopped in New Market on the way home, and that was a mistake," Arthur remembers. "We got happier as the night went on, happy enough to take two days to drive the 20 miles home. I think we left most of the money in New Market."

The brothers no longer played together after that season. The combination of sibling rivalry and the common infighting that often follows success proved fatal to the team. "Basically we couldn't get along anymore," Arthur says. "We all wanted to be managers, so we had to break up."

Despite disbanding as a ball club, the brothers never drifted apart. None of them moved farther away than North-field, 13 miles southeast of Eidswold. Herman bought his father's farmland and built his Fredrickson Lumber & Construction business on it in 1958. And Edwin, who retired from the lumber business three years ago, still lives in a white house next to a grain silo on his parents' original property.

Arthur, peering out a window at an oak tree where his father's log cabin once stood, pauses a second when asked to tell his best memory of those summers. "It's impossible to think of just one, and it's real sad to think of any at all, because it's been hard to go to the funerals of everyone in our family," he says. "I was with my brothers, and those were the best days of my life."

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