Saturday, September 13, 2014

"Terrible Swedes" -- Andover's community baseball team of the 1930s, 40s and 50s, and a truly remarkable home run

Very well-written feature story by Stephen Elliott in the Dispatch and Argus when the team was honored in 2007. Elliott's lede and nut graf:

ANDOVER -- They played on ball diamonds with no fences, where collections were taken up to pay for bats and baseballs.

They traveled to small towns around the area, where farm kids could watch their heroes round the bases. Cheers came from people standing outside the dusty ballfields.

They were known as the Andover Terrible Swedes, and they played baseball in the open fields, in rain and sunshine, sometimes into darkness. The players came from farms and factory jobs to share a little of their youth with each other and the fans who came to watch.

Eugene Carlson started his career with the Andover Junior Swedes back in 1939.

When he puts his fingers around a baseball today, the 84-year-old still has a firm grip after all these years.

The eyes squint a little in the sun. The smile seems to reveal memories of a time when crowds came out to see a young boy standing in the open spotlight on a dirt field.…

This, on the local team's origin:

Andover historian Ron Peterson said the Terrible Swedes came about after one of the Swedish players, "Stripes" Johnson, saw a local basketball game with a team called, "Olson's Terrible Swedes," in the 1920s. "Stripes" thought it would make a good name for the baseball club.

And a good deal of history about the team, the players and their service in WWII, and the post-war years, including this:

"One time, a guy hit a ground ball past second base, and it went into a gopher hole in the outfield," Mr. Carlson said. "The guy got a home run."

And this, for a kicker at the end:

But, the Swedes faded out in the late 1950s to early '60s.

The ghosts of the Terrible Swedes are being honored this weekend. Mr. Carlson and Mr. Johnson will be there, along with former teammate and Milan resident Vergene Samuelson.

"I see them now out there running around in the dust," Mr. Carlson said of today's baseball players. "I think, `isn't that a bunch of crazy people?'

"I did it. But, when you're younger, you do a lot of crazy things."

Stephen Elliott, "`Terrible Swedes' played for the love of baseball" Dispatch-Argus 31 May 2007,

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