The Battered Bastards of Baseball

I am not a baseball fan. I enjoy listening to a Twins game on the radio but that is because I appreciate the art of the broadcaster. I am a fan of a good story and there exist many good sports stories. One of the best I have seen is a documentary about a single-A baseball team from the seventies titled “The Battered Bastards of Baseball.”

“Battered” is the tale of the Portland Mavericks baseball team which existed form 1973-1977. The most unique fact about this team and probably the reason it was different from the other single A teams was the fact it was an independent team. Most of the minor league teams of the time were owned by a major league franchise. The minor league team was simply a proving ground for players who hoped for promotion to a major league team. As such, most of these teams were very professional and regimented. The Portland Mavericks were not owned by a major franchise and so were neither regimented nor professional. They did have one major difference with the other minor league teams; they won, baby-consistently.

The Portland Mavericks were owned by Bing Russell.  Russel was an actor who played the part of Deputy Clem Foster on the hit television western “Bonanza.”  Russell had spent much of his non-acting life working at the skills and techniques of baseball. As a child, Russell was a bat-boy of sorts for the New York Yankees which probably developed his love of baseball. He even produced a film about developing baseball talent that was broadly accepted. The star of that instructional movie was Russell’s son, Kurt Russell.

Kurt Russell has been in many movies from his time at Walt Disney to starring as Herb Brooks in the feature about the 1980 Olympic hockey team “Miracle.” Kurt Russell also played for the Portland Maverick’s and was its vice-president.

This is a story of a team less interested in impressing people and more interested in playing the game. The Maverick’s sincere love of baseball lead to an independent team that was embraced by its fans and reviled by the powers of major-league baseball because of their winning record and swashbuckling attitude. Most of these ballplayers were acquired during an open tryout in 1973 that drew people from across the country. Most of these folks were not currently involved in baseball and so left jobs and families to drive to Portland, Oregon to pursue a dream. These were unique players who didn’t keep their hair cut neatly or lead squeaky-clean lives off the field. For this reason, their stories are really interesting.

I watched the “Battered Bastards of Baseball” on Netflix. I also watched it on one of the ESPN channels. If you are unable to catch it, I will tell you that the Portland team was eventually bought-out by major-league baseball but not before they blazed a trail of wins and wild stories across mid-seventies triple-A baseball. This is a documentary most will enjoy even if they are not fans of baseball.

Rural Reflections Radio

Click here or on the web link for this week's program.Here is this week’s Rural Reflections Radio program, Letter to Dave

Letter to Dave

Click here or on the web link for this week's program.Dear Dave,


I took last week off because of the death of our brother, Steve. I needed familiar surroundings in which to write my column so I decided it would be a letter to you.

I miss Steve a lot. The prayer service and funeral helped me a lot but I still miss him. Steve was a private person so I guess I won’t say anything else. I just felt like I needed to mention it, a little. I would like to thank all of those people with kind words or just their presence who made it all a little better.

I am so near to the end of my shop project, Dave. Not a project performed in the shop but the shop as subject of the project. I started in the middle of July as I pulled off all of the old wood siding. I don’t know why but I always take pride in filling a demolition dumpster. Even when we moved dad out, I had to drive by several times just to admire the huge dumpster load. Anyway, I filled a large roll-off dumpster about two-thirds full with wood siding and tar paper. I considered taking a picture.

When this little shop was built back in the sixties or so, it was covered in buffalo board. Buffalo board is a little better than cardboard but really quite useless. I recovered the whole building in oriented strand board (OSB) and used screws instead of nails to make it extra solid. I then wrapped the whole structure in TYVEK and am now slowly covering the Tyvek with barn-red steel. I have completed both gable ends and one side but await windows before I can complete the north side of the building.

I have been waiting about 1 ½ months for the windows but they seem no closer than when I ordered them. The nice thing is that the excuses used to explain why my windows are not here have become increasingly more creative which is almost as good as actually having the windows.

Dave, the happy note to this project is that the high work of covering the gable peaks is complete. I can’t express how much I hate heights and although this shed is only about fourteen feet high at the peak, each ascension up the ladder is a new excursion in terror. Lisa was watching me at the peak while she mowed the lawn one day.  I could feel her eyes on me and I found it hard to concentrate. I thought that I would rather not have her watch any of my unplanned, rapid descents from high on the ladder to the concrete below. Luckily, she was on the same page in her own thought and so left the area to mow in a separate locale.

Folks are combining grain here, Dave; however they aren’t making a lot of dust. It has rained enough to make harvest kind of mean and even the sunny days have often been humid. Raking hay and swathing grain have been a popular activity among farmers this summer. Hopefully the sugar beet harvest will be nice and dry; I still have my memories of endlessly cleaning the harvester from last year.  It was nice seeing you and your kin last week even though the reason for the meeting wasn’t nice.

You’re little bro’

Rural Reflections Radio

Rural Reflections RadioHere is this week’s Rural Reflections Radio program, Two-trip Tuesday

My brother’s obituary

Steve Wayne Nelson, age 57, of Viking, Minnesota died August 25, 2014 at home from cancer. Steve died surrounded by his family, his cattle and his land.

Funeral services will be 10:30 am on Friday, August 29th, 2014 at the Zion Lutheran Church in Viking with Pastor Dale Knotek, Pastor Ollie Urdahl and Pastor Marlene Anderson (aunt) officiating. Burial will follow at the Viking Cemetery of rural Viking, MN. Visitation will be held at Johnson Funeral Service Thursday night from 5-8 pm with a prayer service at 7 pm.

Steven Wayne Nelson was born June 13th, 1957 to Alice (Zavoral) Nelson and Victor (Gene) Nelson in Thief River Falls, MN. Steve attended elementary school in Viking and graduated from Marshall County Central in Newfolden, MN. Steve was always involved in athletics and was a letterman in football, wrestling, basketball and baseball-he was also all-conference as a football player. Later he played in the softball league in Newfolden and bowled with Rundell Electric. “Bear” was a good athlete and a good sport when he played.

Steve was first married to Carol (Nelson) in 1978 and to this marriage was born one child, Jamie. Steve married Jeana Anderson on December 6, 1986 at Zion Lutheran Church in Viking. Steve was very proud of Jeana as they partnered to blend their two families into one. Steve loved Lynel and Andy and counted on them to make his family complete.

Steve had a special relationship with his son, Jamie. It was very much like the relationship he’d enjoyed with his own father. Steve and Jamie formed a bond out of work, respect and love. Steve is gone but this relationship is still very present.

Steve was a life-long farmer. He milked Holstein cattle from his youth until 1999. He raised beef cattle from 1976 until earlier this week. He built-up every bit of land he ever farmed using good practices which left the soil in better shape for his efforts. If you ever saw Steve tousle the brow of a cow or spend the better part of a month bottle feeding a calf so it could have a life, then you would know that Steve was not an “agri-businessman.” He was a farmer. He never took the easy way through anything, he relied on his own work-ethic and accepted life and lived it on his own terms even when things got tough.

Steve worked at Excel dairy for a period of time after he quit dairying. Later, Steve and Jeana owned and operated Town and Country Meats in Newfolden until just recently. Steve used the same principles in his business as he did on the farm. He made many friendships in the locker and did a lot of good, hard work.
Steve was a good person. As children, each of us had one drawer for cherished possessions. One day, two of the younger boys were going through Steve’s drawer and even broke some things. Steve sat there, crying, but wouldn’t stop us because he saw we were having fun. Steve was so determined, even when he was sick. Just last week, he changed a tire himself even though he was so weak that he had to stand on the tire wrench to tighten the studs. He was kind to people and animals; if you were Steve’s friend, part of his family, a cow, a dog or any part of his world-then Steve loved you.

Steve liked to have fun, always engaging nieces and nephew in games.
He was competitive and loved to stand in the barn alleyway opposite a brother and exchange body blows. He insisted on games of one- on- one basketball in between throwing loads of hay bales and would encourage or coach any of us in any sport. Steve was a quiet, private person but had a sharp, ironic sense of humor and liked to laugh.

Steve Nelson is survived by his wife of 28 years, Jeana, his sons Jamie of Viking (special friend Amber Efta,), Andy (Brigitte) Anderson and Lynel (Brad) Svir, of Thief River Falls. Steve is survived by a sister Deb (Michael) Waterworth, brothers Dave (Mary) Nelson, Darrel (Melanie) Nelson and Grant (Lisa) Nelson. He is also survived by grandchildren Casey, Clay, Aarron, Tevin, Justin, Madison and Nicholas. Steve is also survived by brothers-in-law, Bob Anderson, Roger (Lindie) Anderson and Ronnie (Laurel) Anderson; and several aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, relatives and friends. Steve is preceded in death by his parents; brother, Douglas; grandparents, Emil and Hannah Zavoral and Victor and Tilda Nelson; father and mother-in-law, Richard and Jean Anderson.

Steve told us that he wasn’t as concerned about death as he was about finishing his work. He also said he had no “bucket list” and that he simply wanted to live the life he’d created; to spend time with Jeana and his family, work on his farm and care for his cattle until he was gone. He was accomplished in death as in life.
He did it!

Two-trip Tuesday

Click here or on the web link for this week's program.I started Tuesday morning like every morning; a scoop of Metamucil in
water, stir vigorously then swallow. This morning was like few
however in that it was two-trip Tuesday.
I was up about two-thirty in the morning. I had planned a trip to
Princeton, Minnesota to pick-up a small fertilizer spreader for my
Brutus. A Brutus is a UTV-very similar to a Polaris Ranger. I had
packed a few small meals and snacks for the trip and programmed the
coffee maker so I would have “acrid-black-liquid-to-go” at my
immediate disposal.
I am always suspicious of other drivers who share the road with me in
the early morning hours. I drive through many small towns and no one
is awake, not even convenience stores. I always wonder why that one
car is skulking about in the dark. I don’t skulk but I am on the road
in the early hours so perhaps they also find me suspicious.
I purchased the fertilizer spreader form a young man who had just
come back to the world after fighting cancer for about five years. He
was nice but we spoke for only a bit as I had to get on the road and
get home.
I got home about twelve hours after I started the trip and prepared
for the second half of two-trip Tuesday. I also took a fifteen minute
nap with Magoo.
An eclectic group of tourists met at Oakland Park for the Pennington
Soil and Water Conservation District Project Tour. I am a supervisor
for the SWCD and got an invite for that reason only and not the fact
the tour’s organizer and I share a last name.
We made thirteen stops that night at projects whose purpose is to
keep your water clean. These are all projects that reduce sediment
and fertilizer in water. Sometimes we use strips of grass around the
outer edge of farm fields to grab sediment or fertilizer run-off as
it attempts to enter waterways. In other cases, we pile sharp rock
into the bank of waterways so the motion of the water doesn’t erode
the sidewalls. Other times, we use culverts to control the tempo and
other destructive habits of ditch water as it enters streams or
The project included the Ralph Engelstad Arena rain garden. This is
an attempt to reduce erosion, run-off and some minor urban flooding
in a facility that sees a lot of people. It is public place and so is
an excellent chance to see a project and take the time to see exactly
what several agencies have worked together to accomplish.
Part of our trip also included a ride through the country to see some
excellent tree planting projects. Planting trees reduces erosion,
serve as natural snow fence and just look really nice. It seems
lately that trees have been replaced with piles of dead trees. I
guess it looked like progress when we had eight dollar corn but now
they just look like dead trees. I really enjoyed the rows of Red
Derosier and Poplars.

Two trip Tuesday ended about eighteen hours after it started. It was
a good day but ended like it began; a scoop of Metamucil, stir
vigorously and swallow.

Rural Reflections Radio

Rural Reflections RadioHere is this week’s Rural Reflections Radio program, Letter to Dave

Rural Reflections Radio

Rural Reflections RadioHere is a special night-time edition of Rural Reflections Radio. It is titled Wilson’s Traveling Sprinkler

Rural Reflections Radio

Click here or on the web link for this week's program.Here is this week’s Rural Reflections Radio program, Full Circle

Letter to Dave

Click here or on the web link for this week's program.Dear Dave,

My last month has been spent ascending and descending a ladder, Dave.
I have assigned myself the task of removing all wooden siding from my
shop, replacing it with oriented strand board (OSB) and then covering
it will steel. It seems to me that if I could just stay on the
ladder and work, the task would be soon complete. As it is, I have to
descend to cut boards or retrieve a fallen hammer then face a fear of
heights that creates great tension when I return to the ladder for my
ascent. After about three weeks, I have now removed all siding,
covered the structure in OSB and finally wrapped the structure in
Tyvek. I think my greatest satisfaction came when the truck arrived
yesterday to remove the demolition dumpster. We are now ready for
I mentioned my fear of heights, Dave. I also fear water and the
drowning that is always only six feet away whenever water is present.
Now if you fear water, you can learn to swim and that should
alleviate the fear. So if I fear heights, should I learn how to fly?
I would suggest that both fear of heights and water are distant
cousins however they both have more to do with human frailty than the
human ability to exist in either medium. It is a comfort that
although I fear the sky and fear the water, I do not fear what lies
in between.
Dave, I read that people have a 1 in 11.5 million chance of being
attacked by a shark. They also have a 1 in 24 million chance of being
killed in an amusement park ride. I’m not great at math percentages
however if you crunch these numbers it either means SeaWorld is
incredibly safe or incredibly dangerous. When it comes to worthless
bits of contemplation, Elmer Crump ain’t got nuthin’ on me.
On the agriculture front, harvest seems to me much like football
practice. You prepare both combines and young men over several days
in August for just a few days of performance. In any event, both will
soon take the field. I’ve get some of Steve’s cattle at my place this
year and they’ve done well. The only problem has been a few incidents
of foot rot although I understand it is pretty common this year.
Steve just brought a nice-looking little bull over last week so love
is definitely in the air. The cows still have little calves with
them which should spell r-e-s-p-o-n-s-i-b-i-l-i-t-y, however the bull
doesn’t seem to connect the dots. I suspect every cow will settle
although to say any more of the matter would cause me to blush.

A note for those reading over your shoulder this morning, Dave; Good
Old Days is on this week-end in Viking. ( It’s always a good show and
the parade starts Saturday morning at eleven. Tell everyone I know
in Carrington hello.
Nanu, Nanu