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Minnesota Sports Memories: Susan Arndt

Posted on by Minneapolis Institute of Arts

Unknown photographer, Untitled (Young baseball player from Longfellow School yells encouragement to his team), c. 1930. Gelatin silver print. From the Collections of the Minnesota Historical Society.

“My childhood summer days were spent playing softball in the long, narrow vacant lot located next to my parents’ house. All the kids in the neighborhood gathered at the lot as soon as they could sneak away from their chores. The tradition of the game started with our declaration of which professional ball player each of us represented. Only a few of us never wavered on which player we favored. My brother, John, always declared he was Mickey Mantle, Mark was always Ron Santo, and I was always Ernie Banks.

Once the declarations were out of the way, everyone was reminded of the scoring rules. Hits to left field would either be an automatic out or automatic loss of the game. There was a house with aluminum siding in deep left field. If the ball hit the house, Mr. Linton would come out, pick up the ball, and take it back into the house without saying a word. We never saw those softballs again, so all the kids learned not to hit to left field.

Hits to right field were limited to a two-base advance. My Mom’s strawberry patch was in right-field territory and that meant any hit to right caused the game to be suspended until the ball could be found among the strawberry leaves. Also nobody who went into the patch to retrieve the ball ever left without telltale strawberry seeds in their teeth.

A couple years ago, the firm I worked for was negotiating a spokesperson agreement with Mr. Banks, so I had the opportunity to meet him when he arrived for a meeting with senior management. Upon seeing Ernie, the seasoned professional businesswomen I had become disappeared and was instantly replaced by an awestruck little girl who so loved to play ball.”

—Susan Arndt

In 1895, Lewis Rober, a lieutenant for the Minneapolis Fire Department, invented what is now known as outdoor softball as a way to keep his firemen fit during their off time. Played in the vacant lot adjacent to the firehouse, the game instantly became popular and spread to other local firehouses. Rober called his team the Kittens and the league became known as Kitten Ball.

Unknown photographer, Untitled (Kitten Ball played by women’s team fromNorthwestern Bell at St. Clair Playground, St. Paul), 1948. Gelatin silver print. From the Collections of the Minnesota Historical Society.

What’s your favorite Minnesota sports memory? Share it in the comments below.

Be sure to catch “The Sports Show” and “The Sports Show: Minnesota” at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, through May 13 and September 2, respectively.

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