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Aboard That Minnesota Cannonball
Gerald Holland
July 30, 1962
Rollie Reynen of Devils Lake, N.Dak. sings loud and clear as he helps to keep the party lively on the special railroad car taking a delegation 400 miles to the ball game. Fans came by train, bus, car and plane from all over the Northwest and parts of Canada to see the hot Minnesota Twins take on Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle and the rest of the hated New York Yankees
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July 30, 1962

Aboard That Minnesota Cannonball

Rollie Reynen of Devils Lake, N.Dak. sings loud and clear as he helps to keep the party lively on the special railroad car taking a delegation 400 miles to the ball game. Fans came by train, bus, car and plane from all over the Northwest and parts of Canada to see the hot Minnesota Twins take on Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle and the rest of the hated New York Yankees

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Meanwhile, out at the bar, men were getting acquainted, for the party would include not only the Devils Lakers but others from the towns of Cando, Minnewaukan, Lakota, Petersburg and Munich. The introductory form called upon a man to "shake hands with" Lars or Victor or Adolph, as the case might be, and the response was always a "Howdy." Finally, when everybody knew everybody else, Gravy McPhail said, "Well, now that we've been all howdied and shook, let's have a drink."

The plan was for both the Shriners' crowd and the radio station delegation to assemble on the day of departure at the Mayer Hotel at 6 a.m. The Mayer Caf� moved back its opening to 5 o'clock to accommodate these who would want breakfast, and the overflow was handled by the Happy Hour restaurant down the street. Quite a few of the wives were on hand to drive their husbands to New Rockford to catch the Western Star. There were some jokes made about husbands cutting up away from home, and one wife said, "Oh, not my Harry. He's the kind of husband a wife never worries about." "Ho, ho," scoffed Rollie Reynen, who is the local man for the Great Northern Railway. "They're the worst kind!"

Everybody was in high good humor. Harry Kosieracki had brought along a fishing net to catch foul balls. Balzer Kurtz showed up wearing a baseball uniform and announced he was going to keep it on all through the trip. He lost his nerve before the party took off and changed into slacks and a sport shirt. Gravy McPhail wore his umpire's cap and gave a sidewalk demonstration of how he calls "stri-i-i-i-ke" with a thrust of the arm and the kick of a leg. "I give the crowd showmanship," said Gravy. One fellow said Gravy was the best umpire in North Dakota and he just wondered why he hadn't concentrated on it and gone on up to the big leagues. "Oh," said Gravy, "I'm good, but I'm not that good."

Everything went on schedule. The Shriners got off on the dot, and the radio station people were at New Rockford in good time for the Western Star. Once aboard the train, Paul Lange broke out the beer and the ice, and pretty soon the special car was ringing out with songs from the mimeographed sheets. One fellow wept over the lyrics to I Want a Girl Just like the Girl That Married Dear Old Dad and another got misty-eyed as he sang a solo version of I Only Want a Buddy, Not a Sweetheart that ended with the lines

Don't stroll down lover's lane,
Just keep right on a-sayin'
I only want a buddy, not a girl!

It somehow seemed an appropriate theme for husbands on a holiday, and a cheer went up for the soloist, who dissolved into tears at the tribute and was inconsolable until somebody brought him a fresh can of beer (460 cans were consumed during the seven-hour train ride). As the singing continued, there was a violent reaction against buddy songs by another fellow who got up and shouted: "Hey, gang, I know a hot spot in Minneapolis where they have dancing every night and don't admit anybody under 29 years of age!"

"Oh," cried Gravy McPhail, "that must be a lonely hearts club!"

"Well, so what!" retorted the other fellow. "Show me a man away from home in a big city who ain't lonely!"

Between songs, baseball debates went on all over the car. John Jensen went around getting up jackpots on the total number of runs to be scored in the series. There were admiring sentiments expressed in favor of Sam Mele, the Twin manager, and Rich Rollins, Camilo Pascual and Harmon Killebrew. Most of the travelers were personally acquainted with Roger Maris' father, who works for the Great Northern Railway in Fargo. Many of them remembered Roger himself as a basketball player around the Fargo-Moorhead and Devils Lake area. Al Dawson stirred things up by printing a card and hanging it over his seat. It read "Yankee Dugout." He was roundly booed. By this time everybody was getting hungry and Paul Lange started passing out sandwiches and potato chips. The sandwiches had thawed out fine.

The Western Star pulled into Minneapolis on time, and as the Devils Lake crowd rode to Hotel Maryland by special bus the chimes atop the Northwestern Bank building were playing That Old Gang of Mine. There was time for naps before the night game started, but the gang was too wound up for that and there was some horseplay in front of the hotel as one of the Devils Lakers—a bachelor, of course—starting chasing girls with the big fishnet that had been brought along to catch foul balls. The girls took it as good fun and allowed themselves to be netted. A few fellows went on up to their rooms for a short snooze, and one of them (he was the fellow who knew about the hotspot catering to folks over 29) slept right through the ball game and the lonely hearts dance as well. When he finally did awaken, he swore off drinking for the balance of the trip and didn't miss a play during the second and third games of the series.

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