Hulne: Marcusen Park will have familiar visitor at VFW State Tournament – Austin Daily Herald
It’s been 62 years since Robert Mathias set foot in Marcusen Park, but he hasn’t forgotten the memories the stadium left him with.
Mathias, who now lives in Duluth, was part of the Austin Post 91 Legion baseball team that won a state championship in 1953 and now he will return to Austin to watch his granddaughter’s Duluth Lakeview VFW baseball team. son playing in the state tournament this week.
Mathias has many fond memories at Marcusen as he used to watch the Austin Packers play in the Southern Minny League with Emil Scheid at the helm. Mathias remembers sitting on the playing field near the outfield fences as crowds swelled to 4,000 fans on summer nights to watch a Packers team that included a handful of future players from the MLB.
“It was really the only show in town,” Mathias said. “Baseball was big back then. It was the golden age for that.
Mathias, who played infield, outfield and pitcher, had many great teammates at Post 91. He remembers playing with Dave Ploof, who later coached the Rapid City Post 22 for 47 years, the pitcher Gary Underhill, who earned a pro contract with the St. Louis Cardinals and played minor league baseball for four seasons, as well as Terry Meyer and Dale Beckel. The team was coached by Matt Gowdy.
Almost every town had its own baseball team during the summers in the late 1940s and early 1950s. Lansing, Waltham, Brownsdale, Hayward, Blooming Prairie, Adams and Hayfield all had their own town teams and there were lots of local rivalries to excite the fans.
Mathias is thrilled to return to Marcusen Park and see what has changed over the past six decades as he takes a fresh look at the stadium that was once so dear to him and at baseball in southern Minnesota.
“It’s been a long time since I’ve been to Marcusen,” Mathias said. “I guess some things have changed.”
Mathias has worked as a lawyer for 56 years and is due to retire soon. He also played baseball and basketball at Hamline University after graduating from Austin High School.
He’s ready to see his hometown again, and he credits Austin for helping shape him as a young man.
“Austin was the best place you could ever grow up,” Mathias said. “There was a lot of money invested in youth sports and a lot of enthusiasm. We had excellent support. It was as good as it gets.