Gooselaw Baseball Team

by

Margaret Gooselaw

 

It was right after supper, the late afternoon sun warmedthe ball field as the air grew tense in waiting for the game to start. Itwas the day of rest and everybody gathered around in the town of Lancasterwith excitement. Someone in the crowd shouted, "Wire, on the mound."As he approached the mound and turned around you could see his face clearly.He was the one and only cousin of the Gooselaw Brothers' Baseball Team,Dave Gooselaw, the pitcher of the team nicknamed Wire.

In 1923, Fred Gooselaw, one of the brothers and son ofMr. and Mrs. Xavier Gooselaw, had asked his brothers and a cousin to puton benefit games. His son, Pershing, about the age of 3, had fallen andchipped a bone in his knee. He required an operation which was performedin Warren, Minnesota. The operation had cost approximately $600.00. It doesn'tseem like a lot for an operation, but in those days money was scarce, eventhough it went a lot further.

The team was made up of mostly Gooselaw brothers: Edward,Daniel, Fred, Lawrence, John and James. Samuel Lapp from St. Vincent andPercy Thompson from Orleans were fillers. Eli Gooselaw, one of the olderbrothers, also pitched a few games. This team played their first game atLancaster. From this, a beginning of a team developed which became knownthroughout the county and northwestern area. In fact, just a few years agothe Warren Sheaf, the Marshall County paper ran this article:

"Several months ago we ran an item discussing famousold time baseball players in this area now comes additional informationon the Gooselaw "team" from Cliff Bouvette, editor of the KittsonCounty Enterprise at Hallock.

The Gooselaw team which played in the 20's was made upof entirely Gooselaws - eight brothers and a cousin. The team played allover northwestern Minnesota, northeastern North Dakota, and even playedsome semi-pro clubs.

Eli Gooselaw, the pitcher, was especially outstanding,having tremendous speed and perfect control. The Hallock editor quoted HappyChandler, former Governor, saying, "I would say no man ever walkedin shoe leather who could throw faster and with greater control than EliGooselaw." (1)

They won the game that day in Lancaster 4 - 3. They alsobrought in about $30.00. The admission was 50 cents a person. This led tomore benefit games. During the months of June and July, 1923, they playedLancaster, Orleans, Hallock, and Drayton.

Every night, right after supper, the guys got togetherat the ball park in St. Vincent, Minnesota. The park was straight north,just beyond the dike, where the dump grounds use to be, near the Red River.The Fair Grounds was also there.

This practice helped the fellows perfect their baseballtechniques, and it was worthwhile for only seven years ago this articleappeared in the Minneapolis paper:

"Last week a Bloomington, Minnesota research teammade inquiry about a reported baseball team which existed in Kittson Countyin the era of the 1920's. The team they were interested in was known asthe Gooselaw Team. Bloomington has the Minnesota Twins Ball Park.

The Gooselaw team played surrounding towns such as Hallock,Humboldt, Stephen, Argyle, Kennedy and Warren. Also, teams in Canada atEmerson, Morris, Dominion City and in North Dakota at such places as Drayton,Neche, Cavalier, Langdon, Walhalla. All these towns in those days had good,fast ball teams.

Dave said the outstanding game they played in those dayswas one played against Hallock when it had a semi-professional ball team,hiring some players while the local talent played without pay. Among thehired players was Happy Chandler, who played ball to earn money to attendCollege during the summer months. Happy Chandler became Governor of Kentuckyand also served his seat for a number of years in the United States Senate.Chandler's ball playing ability might be attested to when we point out thathe became Judge of organized baseball in this country and in that capacitypresided over disputes in the major leagues.

Eli Gooselaw was probably the outstanding player on theGooselaw team. He pitched for Hallock for a number of years. He had enormousspeed and perfect control.

The editor of this newspaper recalls that when he was inWashington, D.C., while Happy Chandler was serving in the U.S. Senate, hecalled on him at his Mayflower apartment. He asked Chandler whom he thoughtwas organized baseball's pitcher. He said he would not venture a guess buthe added: 'If you want ball, I would say no man ever walked in shoe leatherwho could throw faster and with greater control than could your own man,Eli Gooselaw.'

Eli is now 76 years of age. Two years ago we saw him playcatch with a local townsman and he still had amazing speed. He is in goodhealth today and lives at St. Vincent, this county." (2)

They also had their bad experiences - for example: In 1923,they all got in the car and drove to Bronson to play against them. In thosedays there was no lake. The lake was constructed in 1937. They drove 35miles per hour, and it took them about an hour and a half to two hours toget there. They got there all right but had to turn around and come rightback because it rained all day.

Like all of life's adventures, the team's glory did notstop completely but gradually faded. The players moved elsewhere, got tooold or had other interests. However, many players kept in touch. Today severalare deceased. Samuel Lapp 1957, Daniel Gooselaw 1956, and Fred Gooselaw1943. Percy Thompson ran the elevator in Orleans but he was originally fromIowa. About 15 years back, he returned to Iowa. It is not know if he isliving.

Like most pioneer families, the Gooselaw family was large.There were eleven boys and three girls. Mr. and Mrs. Gooselaw farmed a smallpiece of land near the cemetery in St. Vincent. There was hardly a needfor a store. They had a garden and eight milking cows. They would separatethe milk from the cream and from that they would get ice cream, butter,sour cream, and cottage cheese. This was all kept in a small cellar dugin the ground of the milk house. This was their refrigerator. Life wasn'teasy but when everything was yours and you did it, you enjoyed your work,appreciated it and strived for a better day.

This family team was formed to help a child. People cameand supported the games and their teams. This is people helping people.But this also had another side. they benefited the crowds of people whowatched the games. Times were a little harder then, they had no TV or moviesto go to. This small spark of entertainment brought laughter to childrenand a smile on the face of an old man. They have memories that live on,not only for them, but are to be shared by generations to come.

(1) Clipping from the Warren Sheaf.

(2) Clipping from the Minneapolis Paper, 1967.

Bibliography

Gooselaw, Edward, Correspondence, December 17, 1973

Gooselaw, James, Interview, January 13, 1974

Gooselaw, Lawrence, Correspondence, December 15, 1973

Lapp, Lillian, Interview, January 13, 1974

 , Lawrence, Correspondence, December 15, 1973

Lapp, Lillian, Interview, January 13, 1974