"You'll never get ahead if you don't take care of what you have." - Doris Waddell, RIP

A historic building on our U of M-Morris campus - morris mn

A historic building on our U of M-Morris campus - morris mn
The multi-ethnic building was the original home of the music department at UMM. (B.W. photo)

Monday, June 13, 2016

"I Miss the Mighty St. Cloud Rox" of baseball

The good old days! 
St. Cloud is a vibrant city right in the middle of Minnesota. I had a professor at St. Cloud State who, for the purposes of an assignment, made up the mock name "Dead Center University" with the reference being to SCSU.
Vibrant though it is, the city's college has never had more than a modest type of athletic program - nothing resembling Division I. That's a shame. If any city were a candidate to field a program to challenge the U of M Gophers, it would be St. Cloud.
As it stands, SCSU has an old reputation of a party school that has been a target for eradication the last few years under President Earl Potter III. What took so long? SCSU has even been in the news for cutting some athletic programs.
Oh, but there was a true glory era in St. Cloud for sports, specifically baseball. It was in the years leading up to the creation of our Minnesota Twins. St. Cloud had the "Rox" of the Northern League. St. Cloud was to be commended getting this institution established and built up. The Rox alumni included some of the best in big league ball: Lou Brock, Orlando Cepeda, Gaylord Perry and Matty Alou.
At the start, the Rox were made up of local talent along with players cast off by the Minneapolis Millers. You might need some reminding who the Millers were. They were the very high caliber minor league team that preceded the Twins. Once Calvin Griffith brought the Twins here, the Twins totally commanded our baseball attention. This might have contributed to the Rox's eventual demise.
The Rox in their prime were a spectacular Central Minnesota sports attraction. The name "Rox" came from a naming contest. Many submissions were "Rocks," inspired by the area's reputation for granite. The judges chose that name but with the spelling adjusted. The fledgling team played on a converted cornfield on Division Street between 25th and 27th Avenues. They won the pennant their first year, surpassing the "Twins" of Fargo-Moorhead. The Rox then dispatched those Twins in the playoffs for the league title.
The Rox got an actual stadium on their cornfield site in 1948. America was brimming with post-war prosperity. The Rox opened their home season with six games at Fairgrounds Park in Little Falls before playing their first game at Municipal Stadium on May 25. The place filled up and some fans had to be turned away. But capacity was increased with the completion of a grandstand to go with the bleachers.
Municipal Stadium served the city for more than two decades.
The Rox were affiliated with the San Francisco Giants for a time, then switched to the Chicago Cubs in 1961. Lou Brock was a stellar performer with the Rox in 1961, his first season in professional ball. Brock had a .361 average and stole 38 bases for the Rox in 1961. You'll recall that was the first year for our Minnesota Twins. It was the year that Roger Maris hit 61 home runs for the Yankees. Brock got called up to the Cubs but then bounced to the Cardinals where he won great fame.
Music in tribute to the Rox
I decided to write a song in tribute to the old St. Cloud Rox. Called "I Miss the Rox," it has a polka tempo, perfect for Central Minnesota with its German base. There is a fine line between polka and disco! I don't know if I'll have this song recorded.
Here are the lyrics:
"I Miss the Rox"
by Brian Williams
Back before the Twins
Back before their wins
Baseball had a home
Long before the Dome
Right here in St. Cloud
Fans were cheering loud
In the Northern League for sure
Future superstars
Came from very far
On our welcome mat
They would set their bats
They were getting trained
In the nation's game
And their talent would endure
I miss the Rox
I miss the Rox
I miss the mighty St. Cloud Rox
Their mem-ry lives
Within us still
Those heroes in the batter's box
We saw Lou Brock
His bat did talk
And Gaylord Perry on the hill
Here in that Granite City
We would hear "play ball!"
I can hear it still
St. Cloud is a place
Where we can embrace
All the loving style
That we find worthwhile
Granite is our thing
It just makes us sing
But there's room for baseball too
By the river wide
Mississippi pride
We can feel our oats
Raise a hearty toast
Back in '58
We had a full plate
Baseball had us on the move
(repeat chorus)
When the major leagues
All those top-notch teams
Played so far away
We just had to pray
They would someday come
Entertain us some
Put us in the upper tier
In that bygone time
Baseball was just fine
Right here in St. Cloud
We were very proud
We were in Class 'C'
In good company
All throughout those precious years
(repeat chorus)
From an island place
Came a smiling face
Puerto Rico's pride
Skill a mile wide
Giants had an eye
For this special guy
He was on his way no doubt
"Cha Cha" he was called
Now he's in the Hall
He had quite the bat
With a St. Cloud cap
We were fortunate
He was in our midst
Showing all his class and clout
(repeat chorus)
© Copyright 2016 Brian R. Williams

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