The History of the Dundas Dukes
Front Row: George Harris, Leo Kolb, Warren McKinnon (Kais), Walter Kiviatkoski, William McKinnon (Bus), Samuel Freeman
Back Row: Eylmer Code, Ralph Sommers, Charles Butterfield, George Zaner, Carl Mienke, Walter Thielbar, Charles Thielbar (Manager)
Dundas has fielded a baseball team for well over 100 years, and has had an impressive history of success, both locally and at the state level.
The earliest known reference from a Dundas team comes from an article in the Northfield Independent on July 10, 1890. In a game played on July 4 at the Union Lake fields, the Dundas Red Caps were defeated by the Brush Prairie Clippers by a score of 21-20. The game must have been one of particular interest to local residents, because the paper did a full-fledged story about the contest (very rare for those days). The winning team received two baseball bats and a league ball as a reward for their victory.
Apparently, the ballfield must have faced Union Lake. The article mentions that "the ball has been knocked into the water and consequently so wet that the Red Caps' pitcher was unable to control it." Brush Prairie scored five runs in the ninth after two were out for the victory.
The Dundas roster that day included the following players: Wilson, Grau, Donaldson, Swartwondt, Hamblin, Thielbar, Gatzke, Babcock, and Ellms.
The Red Caps put up and gave up quite a few runs in those days, as evidenced by scores of other games played during the 1890 season: Dundas 51, Faribault 9; St. Olaf 27, Dundas 19; Dundas 63, Prairie Creek 17.
The game of baseball in the late 19th century and early 20th century had a more central position in everyday life. Baseball was seen as a game that helped keep old men young, and that provided a healthy social outlet to the citizens of the towns. For a long time, baseball games have been played in the Dundas area on Memorial Day and on the Fourth of July, although not always versus Northfield.
Many times, pick up games were arranged for both fun and entertainment. An 1890 article from the Northfield Independent talks about a game between the "marrieds" and the "unmarrieds" (the unmarrieds won 14-6). Another game from 1910 was between the "lawyers" and the "bankers". The teams made up names using the names of famous players; for example, "Ty Cobb Wilson, CF", "Johnny Evers Seeley, 2B", and "Hans Wagner Remele, SS".
Many of the small communities around Dundas had excellent teams in those days. One game from 1900 had Dundas defeating Dennison 21-20. According to the Northfield News, this was Dennison's first loss in three years. Vermillion and Castle Rock also had strong teams.
The earliest known photo of the Dundas baseball team is from 1910. The photo was taken on the steps of the Dundas schoolhouse. One of the players is holding his child in his lap. In that year, the Northfield News reported scores from five games: Dundas 11, Faribault 3; Dundas 9, Northfield 8; Dundas 19, Hampton 6; Faribault 9, Dundas 0; and Northfield 18, Dundas 0. Some of the players on the 1910 team included Ollie Weston, Frank Freeman, Tony Schultz, Jack McKinnon, Frank Gallagher, Ancil Revier, Fred Hansen, Beaver Gallagher, Paul Thielbar.
During the war years, the papers have little to say about baseball in Dundas or the surrounding communities. There were more important issues to deal with than baseball, and the papers coverage reflected that sentiment. Once in awhile, there is reference to a ballgame, but mostly played by high school kids and/or younger.
The team of 1929 was a formidable squad, and was led by longtime Dundas resident, Warren "Kais" McKinnon. Kais played for Dundas for about 20 years, from the mid-1920's to the mid-1940's. Walter Kwiakoski and McKinnon were the start pitchers; the catching was done by stalwart Ralph Summers. The teams had several impressive wins during the summer, including a 4-3 victory over the St. Paul All-Stars. In August, Dundas faced the "St. Paul Colored Gophers" in a game at Dundas. According to the Northfield News, the Gophers were a very quick and experienced team, and probably included either collegiate or semi-pro caliber players. Of course, these were the days of the Negro league and non-integrated colleges, so the Gophers were probably the opportunity most of these players had to play. In front of 700 fans, St. Paul squeaked out a 5-4 victory.
At the end of the regular season, Dundas (called "the best Rice County has to offer" by the Northfield News) faced off against Drover's State Bank, the winner of the Dakota League, in a best-of-three series. Dundas won the first game 5-2 behind 10 strikeouts from Kais McKinnon. However, Drover's came back to win the next two games, and the series, by scores of 8-0 and 12-2. All three games were played in Dundas. Just two months later, the stock market crashed and sent the country into panic.
By the early 1930's, Dundas was officially in the "Rice County League", along with Nerstrand, Lonsdale, Owatonna, Faribault, Cannon City, Morristown, and Waterville. The Dundas teams in those days weren't very successful, often finishing near the bottom of the league. For instance, the 1933 team suffered a 24-2 defeat at the hands of Hampton, and a 14-1 loss to Castle Rock. Lonsdale and Morristown usually fielded strong teams in those early days of the League.
During the WWII years, again very little was said in the newspaper about town team baseball, either in Dundas or elsewhere. Once again, international matters seemed to be of much greater importance than a mere game of baseball. Although baseball was probably played in the area (Northfield was known to have a town team in the mid-40's while Dundas probably did not), there is little coverage of the events in the Northfield News of that era.
However, by the late 1940's, the Cannon Valley League had been created, and Dundas was one of the teams along with Lakeville, Randolph, Lonsdale, Northfield, West Concord, and Castle Rock. The 1950 squad was managed by John Gibson, finished 4-8 in the CVL, and lost two games to Castle Rock in the playoffs. It seems to be a common theme for Dundas teams in the late 1940's & early 1950's.
However, Dundas fortunes began to change in 1954. In that year, the Dundas team, led by pitcher Ed Dusbabek, won the Cannon Valley League with a season-ending sweep of Northfield by scores of 3-1 and 10-5. Dusbabek pitched both games, going the distance, while striking out a total of 16 batters.
In regional play, Dundas defeated Hampton 8-3 thanks to a 6-run second inning. Dundas then beat Lake Crystal 16-7, and Veseli 10-7 (in 10 innings), to advance to the state tournament. 1954 is the first Dundas team to participate in the state amateur tournament. Sauk Rapids put an end to Dundas run in the first game of the tourney by a 12-3 score. However, a sizeable number of Dundas locals boarded buses and followed their team to St. Cloud to watch the game. The tradition of following the team to the state tournament is still very popular with the locals (just check out any Dundas state tournament game!).
The 1960's began to see further improvements in the quality of baseball played by Dundas teams. More often that not during this decade, Dundas found itself at or near the top of the Cannon Valley League. Northfield was another strong CVL team in those days, and a good competitive rivalry developed between the two communities. While Dundas did not make it to the state tournament during the 1960's, they had a number of ballclubs that came close.
For a brief time, during the early 1960's, the team was known as the "Dundas Cardinals". The manager of the 1960 club was Duwayne Howie. The 1960 ball team finished 13-3 in the Cannon Valley League, good for second place behind Northfield. Fritz Vosepka was the star pitcher for Dundas that year. The two teams had the same record 13-3; however, Lakeville had to forfeit their wins for the season due to an ineligible player. Since one of Northfield's losses was to Lakeville during the season, the Knights record was changed to 14-2, good enough for first place.
Then, more controversy came once the playoffs started. Northfield was originally "booted" from the playoffs for using an ineligible player, then was reinstated after a protest by the Northfield manager. All the playoff games that had been played up to that point were "scrapped" (including Hampton's 9-6 win over Dundas). Given a reprieve, Dundas beat Hampton 4-3, before losing to Miesville 3-1, and Northfield 7-4. Miesville beat Northfield to win the league championship. Some of the players on that Dundas team included Gordie Day, Francis Turek, Roger Cook, John Bickel, Larry Lundberg, Pete Isaacs, Bill Beaupre, Jack Morris, Jerry Griffen, and Fritz Vosepka. The bat boys were Daniel and Dennis Howie.
In 1965, the team name was changed to the Dundas Dukes, which is what the team is still known as today. The team was still managed by Duwayne Howie and finished with a 10-3 record, good enough for first place in the Cannon Valley League. However, they were defeated by Northfield in the Cannon Valley playoffs. Northfield seemed to often be a stumbling block to the Dundas fortunes.
By the late 1960's & early 1970's, Dundas was playing good team ball and were very competitive in the Cannon Valley League.