Chapter IV: Baseball Continued

-1939 –

The presence of Ernie Sowada, star pitcher and captain on the 1939 baseball squad, was sufficient to raise hopes for first place in the conference. With the exception of Sowada and three other lettermen, the team was made up largely of freshmen. With a record of five victories and four defeats in the conference, the team had to settle for a third place ending to the season. The overall record was nine victories and five defeats.

The 1939 Johnnies were talented ball players, though due partly to immaturity they faltered occasionally in close games. The catching position, in particular, was weakened through the loss of Wayne Kuesel when he re-injured a football knee. Lost also was Gerry Sheehy, the stabilizer of the outfield, through the tearing of ankle ligaments early in the season. Nevertheless, the Johnnies led the conference until May 9. In the last two weeks they lost three of the last four games on the schedule.

The ever-willing but overworked Ernie Sowada was the star of the year. He had a record of seven wins against two losses, one of these to the University of Minnesota. He struck out fourteen Minnesota batters but lost the game by a score of 9-0, mainly because of team misplays for which his pitching was not responsible.

Three members of the 1939 team made the MIAC all-conference team: Ernie Sowada, Norbert Vos, third base, and Jimmy Boyd, first base. Boyd also won the MIAC batting crown with an average of .424. Vos hit four homeruns, one triple and a double; Boyd two homeruns, three triples, and four doubles. The latter was one of the first St. John’s athletes to lose his life in World War II.


Lloyd Perron ’51, cf
James Boyd ’41, 1b
Ernest Sowada ’39, p
Norbert Vos ’41, 3b
Conrad Winter ’39, 2b
Albert Sauerer ’42, c
Wayne Kuesel ’39, c
Jerome German ’41, p, If
Andrew Glatzmeier ’39, ss
John Boerner ’41, p, of
John O’Connell ’43, of
Verne Neer ’41, c
Frank Liewer ’42, p

Coach -Fr. Dunstan Tucker
Captain -Sowada
Stars -Sowada, Boyd, Vos


SJU                 Opponents

5…..St. Cloud T.C. …4



0……U. of Minn. …….9

22….St. Cloud T.C. ..14


10….St. Thomas…….7


4…..St. Olaf………….0

5…..St. Mary’s……….6


11…St. Thomas……..10




Overall: 9 wins 5 losses
Conference: 6 wins 4 losses
Conference-3rd place
Pitchers’ records-Sowada 7-2,
German 1-1, Boerner 1-0, Liewer 1-2

-1940 –

When asked about prospects for the coming 1940 season, the coach replied that this was going to be a rebuilding season. Gone were all the mainstays of the past year such as Ernie Sowada, catcher Wayne Kuesel, first baseman Jimmy Boyd, and Conrad Winter, second base, leaving the infield with only one letterman, the redoubtable Norbert Vos at third base. The rest of the infield would have to be made up of freshmen.

What was particularly lacking was a strong, forceful catcher to handle the very promising freshman pitchers, Francis “Hack” Nierengarten and Edward Claussen. On the other hand, among the new additions to the squad were several potential stars who came into their own in the next two years: Vernon “Chubby” Ebnet, Thomas Paul, Ray Schultzetenberg, and veteran outfielders Pat Freuen, Gerry Sheehy (captain), and John Boerner.

In fact, it turned out to be a real rebuilding year. The team tended to play brilliantly one game and then make a few costly mistakes the next. The very average record of six games won overall and five lost was somewhat deceiving, for the enthusiasm and the desire to win was strong. One of the losses was to the University of Minnesota. Several other losses were in close games. The conference record was four games won, four lost, for fifth place in the MIAC standings-the lowest conference rating in Fr. Dunstan’s coaching years.

The 1940 team placed two men on the all-conference team: Norbert Vos at third base and John Boerner in the outfield. Captain Gerry Sheehy received honorable mention.


Robert Johnson ’40, ss
Norbert Vos ’41, 3b
Edward Claussen ’48, p, 1b
Francis Nierengarten ’41, p,2b
John Boerner ’41, p, of
Gerald Sheehy ’40, cf
John O’Connell ’43, lf
Thomas Paul ’47, of
Ray Schultzenberg ’41, of, 2b
Vernon Ebnet ’47, 2b
Lloyd Perron ’51, 1b
Jerome German ’41, p, of
Roy Chyba ’41, 1b
Vernon Neem ’41, c
John Heidemann ’40, 1b

Coach -Fr. Dunstan Tucker
Captain -Sheehy


SJU                 Opponents

10….St. Cloud T.C. ….3

6……St. Olaf………….4


5…..St. Cloud T.C. ….4



5….St. Thomas………6


4….St. Olaf…………..6

6….U. of Minn. ……..12

(?)…Gustavus……(?) won


Hamline, .778
Gustavus, 7-2, .778
St. Olaf, 7-5, .700
St. Thomas, 5-3, .625
St. John’s, 4-4, .500
St. Mary’s, 2-6, .286
Macalester, 2-6, .250
Augsburg, 0-9, .000


Overall: 7 wins 5 losses
Conference: 4 wins 4 losses

– 1941 –

The big event of the 1941 baseball season was the addition of Vincent Plumbo of Cretin High School, St. Paul, to the team roster, thereby filling a pressing need that had been keenly felt for the past two years, 1939 and 1940. St. John’s did not win the championship, however, though it led the conference until the last game of the season. Max Molock’s St. Mary’s team had been coming up fast during the month of May and nipped the Johnnies at St. Mary’s in a ten-inning contest by a score of 7-6 on May 30.

The consensus of the coaches at their last meeting at the end of the year was that St. John’s and St. Mary’s had the best balanced squads in the conference. Four players on the St. John’s team were put on the all-conference nine. “Hack” Nierengarten was picked as the top pitcher in the conference and Norbert Vos was the leading hitter. John “Jud” Boerner was placed at first base. Vincent Plumbo, though only a freshman, was chosen unanimously as the outstanding catcher in the league.

St. John’s took second place in the conference, one game behind St. Mary’s, with a record of seven victories and three losses.


Edward Simonet, ’47, of
John Oilman, ’47, of
Vincent Plumbo, ’48, c
Albert Sauerer, ’42, rf
Ray Schultzetenberg, ’41, cf, 2b
Vernon Neer, ’41, c
Julian Wolf, ’47, 2b, of
Patrick Freuen, ’42, lf
John O’Connell, ’43, 3b
Edward Claussen, ’43, p
Francis Nierengarten ,’41, p
John Boerner, ’41, 1b
William Sinner, ’43, of
Vernon Ebnet, ’47, 2b
Norbert Vos, ’41, ss, c

Coach -Fr. Dunstan Tucker
Manager -Bob Durenberger
Captain -Vos

SJU            Opponents

6……St. Olaf…….0




3…..St. Thomas…4

6…..St. Mary’s…..7


8…..St. Thomas…9




Overall: 7 wins 3 losses
Conference: 7 wins 3 losses


St. Mary’s, 8-1, .889
St. John’s, 7-3, .700
Gustavus, 6-3, .667
Hamline, 5-4 ,.556
St. Thomas, 4-6, .400
St. Olaf, 4-7, .364
Macalester, 3-7, .300
Augsburg, 3-8, .200

-1942 –

There can be no doubt that the 1942 baseball team was and always will be considered one of the greatest in St. John’s history. It was a happy-go-lucky, fun-loving aggregation made up of enthusiasts like Vincent Plumbo who was a veritable charged battery of energy, never so happy as when he went to bat with men on base or was getting the most out of his pitchers, Ed Claussen and Fred “Fritz” Blenker. The team amassed a total of 123 runs against 30 by the opposition. Claussen won five games, Blenker four, with neither pitcher ever needing relief. It was a perfect season of nine victories and no losses.

The unmistakable star of the team was Vincent Plumbo, with Claussen a close second. PI umbo batted a solid .416 and Claussen .292. The batting averages for the remainder of the team are truly impressive: Henry Ranweiler .375, Otto Schaefer .360, John O’Connell .340, Bruce Frank .333, Vernon Ebnet .243, Pat Freuen (team captain) .210, Fred Blenker .154, Edward Simonet .142.

An unusual feature of the team personnel was that among the 1942 regulars were two freshmen, Bruce Frank, first base, and Otto Schaefer, shortstop. Shortstop was the only uncertain position on the infield to be filled at the opening of the season, but within a week it was apparent that Schaefer fitted perfectly into the line of defense. His batting average of .360 was the surprise of the year.

St. John’s placed three men on the all-conference team, Vincent Plumbo, Edward Claussen, and freshman Bruce Frank. Vernon Ebnet, second base, John O’Connell at third base, and Henry “Lefty” Ranweiler in the outfield received honorable mention.


Vernon Ebnet, ’47, 2b
Vincent Plumbo, ’47, c
Edward Claussen, ’43, p, of
John O’Connell, ’43, 3b
Bruce Frank, ’42, 1b
Henry Ranweiler, ’42, of
Patrick Freuen, ’42, of
Otto Schaefer, ’48, of, ss
Julian Wolf, ’47, 2b, of
Fred Blenker, ’43, p
Edward Simonet, ’47, ss
John Bruggemann, ’42, p

Coach -Fr. Dunstan Tucker
Asst Coach -Eugene McCarthy
Manager -Bob Durenberger
Captain -Freuen

SJU          Opponent


8…..St. Cloud T.C. ..2






9…..St. Thomas……0

11…St. Thomas…….3

14….St. Olaf………..1

18….St. Mary’s……..0


St. John’s, 9-0, 1.000
St. Mary’s, 5-2, .714
St. Thomas, 5-4, .625
Hamline, 4-5, .444
Augsburg, 4-5, .444
St. Olaf, 1-5, .167
Macalester, 1-5, .111


Overall: 11 wins 0 losses
Conference: 9 wins 0 losses
Conference –championship

Pitchers’ records –Claussen 5-0, Blenker 4-0

-1943 –

By 1943 the war-time draft had drained off over three-fourths of the student body and interest in intercollegiate sports declined in the same proportion. By the spring of 1943 track and tennis schedules had been cancelled and it was being debated by the college authorities whether St. John’s should not drop baseball and other intercollegiate programs for the duration of the war. The coaches settled the debate for themselves at the spring meeting of the MIAC by voting to follow a “Sports as Usual” program. Somehow a short schedule was arranged and a call for baseball candidates was issued.

With only four lettermen on campus, spring training practice was devoted mainly to training freshman candidates. It turned out to be a lot of fun, however, and in the five games played several potential stars were molded into a team that in the last two games showed themselves capable of making a good showing even in peace-time competition: especially Bill Osborne, John “Bud” Streitz, Henry “Bruts” Welsch, Jerome Terhaar, and James Sieh.

The “championship race” was a farce, however. At the end of the season the MIAC colleges suspended all conference activities for the duration of the war. Consequently, no championships were awarded for 1944 and 1945.

As for St. John’s, the last three conference games scheduled were cancelled because of bad weather and, probably, lack of interest in rescheduling them. Some of the players were called up by the Navy, among them Claussen in the last part of May. Augsburg was declared the 1943 champion and St. John’s the holder of third place with three victories and two losses. Julian Wolf, one of the best line-drive hitters of St. John’s, was selected for second base in the mythical all-conference team of the MIAC.

Fr. Dunstan entered the Navy this year as a chaplain and relinquished whatever baseball activities there might be to Henry “Bruts” Welsch for the duration.


John “Bud” Streitz, ’47, p, of
Julian Wolf, ’47, 2b
Fred Blenker, ’43, P
Edward Simonet, ’47, 3b
James Sieh, ’43, If
Jerome Terhaar, ’48, Ib
Henry “Bruts” Welsch, ’47, cf
Bill Osborne, ’48, of
Bernard Gervais, ’48, 2b
Edward Claussen, ’43, p
Leo Graebner, ’43, c
Lloyd Fier, ’48, of
Fred Kranz, ’43
Joseph Martin, ’49
George Francis, ’46

Coach -Fr. Dunstan Tucker


SJU            Opponents


4……St. Thomas…4





Overall: 3 wins 2 losses
Conference-3rd place

-1945 –

Football coach Joe Benda took over the 1945 baseball team with Bruts Welsch as his assistant. The war was gradually coming to an end. Demobilization did not commence until months later, but there were freshman athletes appearing on campus who needed athletic competition of some sort to keep them interested in normal college life with its competitive intercollegiate sports program, as well as the necessity of keeping themselves in shape physically. Most of the material on hand was inexperienced, though there were college ability players on the squad like Bruts Welsch, La Verne Soltis (pitcher) and catcher Len Ohnsorg. Welsch, an accomplished batter, was commissioned to teach the freshmen the fundamentals of batting and fielding. He and Ollie Young were the leading hitters for the season.


Peter Tschida, ’45, 3b
Ollie Young, ’46, 2b
Arnold Weber, ’50, ss
Henry Welsch, ’47, cf
Laverne Soltis, ’49, p
Eugene Wisland, ’46, 1b
Leonard Ohnsorg, ’46, c
William Prickril, ’48, rf
Andrew Ohnsorg, ’47, lf
Jack Cassidy, ’49
Norb Lange, ’45
Pat Patterson, ’49
Herman Rausch, ’46
Gene Ring,46
Richard Fitzpatrick ’50

Coach -Benda
Assistant Coach -Welsch
Manager -Don Hockert


SJU  Opponent

4…..St. Olaf……..7

2…..St. Olaf……..7

4…..St. Thomas…2


1…..St. Thomas..10



2 wins 4 losses

-1946 –

The 1946 season was at once a time of rebuilding and at the same time winning games. The full tide of veterans streaming in from demobilization camps had not yet reached the campus, but there were enough baseball players among them to keep the coach on the outlook for star ball players. Among the veterans were several players who had been members of the 1942 team, principally Vernon Ebnet and Otto Schaefer. New arrivals at St. John’s were John “Bud” Streitz from St. Cloud Cathedral and Lawrence “Mickey” McNeely who had played professional baseball in the Northern League and on top armed forces teams.

Coach Bruts Welsch had complete charge of the team since Joe Benda was also preparing for his team, the 1946 football entry into the MIAC. Due to the large number of candidates, Welsch was obliged to make many changes in the team personnel and player shifts to other positions, but in the end he had a fine baseball team after it had finally jelled.

The season ended with St. John’s in third place in the conference with an overall record of seven games won and four lost. The conference record was five wins and four losses. Leading batters were Welsch, .400; Ebnet, .317; Chuck Miller, .314; and McNeely, .310. St. Thomas won the conference title.

Unfortunately, the Record does not list the winners of all-conference berths nor the final standings of the other MIAC colleges. At the end of the season four members of the team played with Northern League clubs: Welsch, McNeely, and LaVerne Soltis with the St. Cloud Rox; Vernon Ebnet with Fargo-Moorhead.


Vernon Ebnet, ’47 2b
Douglas Gits, ’49, lf
Henry Welsch, ’47, 1b
Lawrence McNeely, ’49, ss
Charles Miller, ’50, 3b
John “Bud” Streitz, ’47, cf, p
Moses Sowadal, ’49, c
Otto Schaefer, ’48, of
LaVerne Soltis, ’49, p
Ollie Murnane, ’46, P
Howard Carroll, ’50, p
Ollie Young, ’46, rf
Len Ohnsorg, ’46, c
Edward Zins, ’47, 3b
Elmer Dietrich, ’49, ss
Al Noterman, ’48, of, p
Paul Hammers, ’49, ss
Robert Boyd, ’46, of
Robert Gits ’48, 1b
James O’Brien, ’48, 3b
Douglas Gits, ’49, of
Lawrence McNeely, ’48, 2b


Overall: 7 wins
Conference: 5 wins
Conference-3rd place

-1947 –

After three years in the Navy, Fr. Dunstan returned to his usual teaching, prefecting and baseball coaching. The call for baseball candidates was answered by an exceptionally large number of fine pitching aspirants: Richard Eich, Richard “Dick” Fisher, and Joe Schleper. In fact, there were so many new candidates that it was a problem to find the most suitable position for each one on the squad.

In the meantime, all the other colleges were strengthening their line-ups with returning veterans, and the conference was becoming perhaps better balanced with strong teams than ever before. As for St. John’s, the one weak spot on the baseball line-up was the lack of another experienced pitcher to help support pitcher Soltis when the freshman hurlers were in need of relief.

St. John’s led the conference until the last game of the season when it yielded first place to Augsburg on a percentage basis following a defeat by Hamline 1-2. The reason for the loss to Hamline was probably an unfortunate accident to Bill Osborne, leading hitter and sparkplug of the team, who two days before the last game broke his ankle in sliding practice.

The result of the season was that St. John’s took second place in the conference with a record of nine victories and two defeats (both to Hamline).

Robert Mayer, ’49, c
John “Bud” Streitz, ’48, rf
Robert Ligday, ’50, 1b
Charles Forbes, ’48, 1b
Roger Terhaar, ’50, 1b
Stan Wilfahrt, ’49, ss
Moses Sowada, ’49, c
LaVerne Soltis, ’49, p
Richard Eich, ’48, p
Joseph Schleper, ’49, p
Otto Schaefer,’47, of
Michael Dressen,’50, ss
Thomas Paul, ’47, of
Edward Hasbrouck, ’50, of, c

Coach -Fr. Dunstan Tucker
Assistant Coach -Welsch
Captain -McNeely


SJU            Opponents

4…..St. Cloud TC…7



7…..St. Cloud TC…3



11….St. Olaf………4


8…..St. Thomas…..1


3….St. Mary’s……..2




Overall: 10 wins 3 losses
Conference: 8 wins 2 losses
Conference –2nd place

-1948 –

The 1948 baseball season was a disappointment to the fans of St. John’s athletic teams. The team was one of the classiest fielded in several years, but it ended the season in third place, tied with St. Mary’s with six wins and four losses. The first and most damaging accident to the team was an appendectomy suffered by LaVerne Soltis, the ace pitcher and mainstay of the pitching staff. Soltis was sidelined for a full month, from the early beginning of April until the last week in May. The team was subject to batting slumps and pitchers were forced to perform heroic deeds on the mound. Mickey McNeely topped all batters with a .320 average. The Record reporter summarized the season as follows:

“St. John’s title hopes went a’glimmering in the last week of conference play with two losses, the first to St. Thomas 6-5, in a night game, May 25; the second to Ramline 5-1 on May 26. The Johnnies came back strongly to whip Macalester’s firebaIler Boller 10-5, May 28. “A four-game schedule in the last week necessitated by the playing of a rained-out game with Ramline proved too much for the weakened St. John’s pitching staff. ‘Big Red’ Soltis, with only a week of training  following an appendectomy, weakened in the sixth inning of the St. Thomas game. Dick Eich, superb St. John’s mainstay all spring, ired in the seventh inning to give Ramline its only win of the season, 1-5.”

The conference season ended with Augsburg in first place with eight wins and two losses; St. Thomas and St. Olaf tied for second place with seven wins and three losses; St. John’s and St. Mary’s tied for third with six wins and four losses. The St. John’s overall record was 9-4.


Mickey McNeely, ’49, 2b
James O’Brien, ’48, 3b
Stan Wilfahrt, ’49, ss
Robert Mayer, ’48, c
Michael Dressen, ’50, lf
William Osborne, ’48, cf
Charles Forbes, ’48, of
Edward Hasbrouck, ’50, rf
Richard Eich, ’48, p
LaVerne Soltis, ’49, p
Joseph Schleper, ’49, p
John Pollei, ’50, p
Robert Obermiller, ’51, 1b
Richard Fisher, ’50, p
Jerome Terhaar, ’48, p
Robert Ligday, ’50, 1b
Richard Wasko, ’51, 1f


SJU       Opponents


14….St. Cloud TC…11

3……St. Olaf………14


(?)….St. Olaf………(?)



8…..St. Cloud TC….6

(?)…St. Mary’s……(?)

(?)…St. Thomas….(?)

5…..St. Thomas…..6


.10 Macalester 5 (The 1948 scorebook is missing from our files and the Record failed to list the scores of these games.)


Overall: 9 wins,
Conference: 6 wins
Conference –3rd place

– 1949 –

The 1949 baseball season cannot be adequately covered for the reason that the Record published the box score for only one game, and the scorebook for this year is missing. Details had to be worked out from the “Tooley Angle” sports column in the Record.

Two early setbacks handicapped the team for the rest of the season. One came as the result of a poor pitching assignment with a resultant conflagration of base hits that required three relief pitchers to quench. The second loss came in the form of a ninth inning squeeze play intended to tie a game with St. Olaf but which backfired. The bunt was popped into the air, was caught on the fly and led to a double play that ended the game.

St. John’s finished the season in second place with seven wins and four losses. St. Olaf won the title with eight wins, principally through its star pitcher Geske.

The St. John’s overall record for the year was ten wins and five losses. Jack Pollei, the outstanding pitcher for the season, achieved an astonishing earned runs average, a record of .069 per game.


Stan Wilfahrt, ’49, 2b
Thomas Klein, ’51, 3b
Lawrence McNeely, ’49, ss
Michael Dressen, ’50, If
Richard Kramer, ’51, rf
Edward Hasbrouck, ’50, cf
Robert Obermiller, ’51, 1b
Wallace Zallek, ’51, c
William Moso, ’52, p
Richard Wasko, ’51, 3b
Richard Fisher, ’50, lf
Robert Mayer, ’49, 3b
Louis Cotroneo, ’52, 3b
John Pollei, ’50,p
Bert McCarthy, ’52, p
David Roske, ’50, c
George Marsnik, ’51, rf

Coach -Fr. Dunstan Tucker
Assistant Coach -Welsch
Manager -Rich Rawlings


SJU                 Opponents

9…..St. Cloud TC…..5





3…..St. Olaf…………4

9…..St. Cloud……….3

6…..St. Mary’s………0

4…..St. Thomas…….6


12…St. Thomas…….10




(?)..St. Mary’s……..(?)*

* (The Record failed to report the scores of the last two games, merely mentioning that they were won.)


Overall: 10 wins 5 losses
Conference: 7 wins 4 losses
Conference –2nd place


Dick Fisher .409

Dick Kramer .403

Thomas Klein .392

Mickey McNeely .344

Michael Dressen .315

1950 –

The St. John’s 1950 baseball team was perhaps the best and most attractive entry into the conference race of the late 1940s. Nevertheless, the caprice of the weatherman combined with fate to force it to settle for a second place tie with St. Thomas at the end of the season. Late spring snows had held up the schedule until the Jays were forced to play five games in the last week of the school year. In the final game with St. Mary’s at Winona the Jays were upset by the cellar-dwelling Redmen by a score of 10-3. The pitching staff was not in its usual form and two of the infield regulars, Dick Wasko and North Cornforth, were unable to accompany the team because of a conflict with final examinations.

One of the ironies of college athletics was the comment that had appeared in the Record: “If the John’s can sweep both ends of the contest, they will be considered a strong bid for at least a tie for the crown. After the St. Thomas game only a game with weak St. Mary’s nine stands in the way.” The irony consists in this: that St. John’s split the double-header and then lost to the supposedly “weak” St. Mary’s team. The Jays should not have read the Record!

Stars for the year were pitchers William “Bill” Mosso, John Pollei and George Bodmer. Leading hitters were Dick Wasko, .400; Mike Dressen, .350; Dick Kramer, .350; John Pollei, .333. Bob Obermiller led the team in runs-batted-in.


Lou Cotroneo’52 3b
Richard Notermann’54 c
MichaelDressen’50 of, 3b
Richard Wasko’51 2b
Richard Boys’55 ss
Ricahrd Kramer ’51 of
Wallace Zallek’51 c
Thomas Klein ’51 3b
Richard Fisher ’50 of
William Mosso ’52 p
John Pollei ’52 p
George Bodmer ’55 p
James Loonan ’53 of
North Cornforth ’50 of
Peter Herges ’52 of
Joseph Cascalenda ’52 c
Robert Obermiller ’51 1b

Coach –Fr. Dunstan Tucker
Assistant coach –John Hiller
Captain –Dressen


SJU      Opponents




7….St. Olaf…….0

7….St. Olaf…….5

7….St. Mary’s….3




10…St. Olaf……4

4….St. Thomas..8

2….St. Thomas..0

3….St. Mary’s…10


Overall: 9 wins 4 losses
Conference: 7 wins 4 losses
Conference -2nd place (tie)

The year 1950 marks the termination of Fr. Dunstan’s baseball coaching career. The tremendous increase in the college enrollment had placed heavy burdens on the English department, of which he was chairman. Moreover, after fourteen seasons of coaching the team and grooming the diamond, it had ceased to be fun or simply a hobby, as it had been in the past. Right at hand was his assistant coach for a year, highly qualified and full of energy. With that he informed Athletic Director George Durenberger that he wished to resign the position as baseball coach.

Fr. Dunstan’s record in his fourteen years of coaching was the following: of the 162 games his teams had played, St. John’s won 118 and lost 44, for an average of .728. In the conference, of a total of 118 games, St. John’s won 85 and lost 34 for an average of .720.

– 1951 –

John “Buster” Hiller was one of the top baseball coaches in St. John’s athletic history. A natural athlete himself, he had starred at Notre Dame University both in baseball and basketball. As baseball coach his three-years experience as catcher served him especially well in handling the problems of coaching the young pitchers. Added to this, his energy and enthusiasm were infectious and easily communicated to his players. A player had to work hard to remain on his squads.

In his first year as head coach (1951), Buster started out with ten lettermen, two top-notch freshman pitchers and a hard-hitting freshman outfielder, Roger Braun, who later starred at Notre Dame after transferring from St. John’s at the end of his freshman year. The team took second place in the conference with a record of nine wins and two losses, only a half-game short of St. Thomas, the champion of the year.

The 1951 team was power laden with the best pitching staff in the MIAC. Especially effective was “Big” John O’Donnell, a freshman, and, like George Bodmer, a Cretin High School star. Vedie Himsl, prior to reporting at the St. Paul American Association baseball camp, spent part of March working with the freshman pitchers. The coaching paid off: the four-man pitching staff allowed only 1.37 runs per game in a 16-game schedule. Freshman John O’Donnell pitched four wins with no losses, George Bodmer five wins and one loss, Bill Mosso three wins and one loss, freshman Francis Wall one win and one loss.

Freshman Roger Braun led the team in batting with a .415 average, followed by Captain Robert Obermiller with an average of .334. Obermiller was signed to a baseball contract with the Duluth Dukes of the Northern League at the end of the baseball season. Worthy of special mention was the slick double-play combination of Dick Wasko at second base and Dick “Ditch” Boys at shortstop.


Lou Cotroneo ’52 3b
Richard Notermann ’54 c
James Loonan ’53 cf
Wallace Zallek ’52 c
William Mosso ’52 p
Francis Wall ’56 p
Robert Boeser ’52 1b
Richard Boys ’55 ss
Richard Kramer ’51, of
Peter Herges ’52 of
Roger Braun ’51 of
Robert Obermiller ’51 Ib
George Bodmer ’55 p
John O’Donnell ’54 p
Richard Wasko ’51 2b
George Marsnik ’51 of
Thomas Klein ’51 3b

Coach -Hiller 20 Augsburg
Assistant Coach -O’Brien 19 Macalester
Manager -William McMahon 5 St. Mary s
Captain -Obermiller 7 Albany


Roger Braun .415

Bob Obermiller .334


                     W L

John O’Donnell  4  0

George Bodmer 5 1

Bill Mosso        3 1

Fran Wall        1 1

SJU         Opponents




17..St. Olaf……..0




4…St. Thomas…3


0…St. Thomas…2



5….St. Mary’s…..2



Overall: 13 wins 3 losses
Conference: 10 wins 2 losses
Conference-2nd place

-1952 –

Buster Hiller’s second year was almost a repetition of the first, except that this year he won the championship with a record of nine wins and one loss. Though he had only eight veteran lettermen to work with, six of them were first-class college stars: namely, the four-pitching staff of 1951, catcher Dick Noterman and the slugging outfielder James “Jiggs” Loonan. There were injury problems. Tom White, third base man, and Julian “Curley” Gasperlin, outfielder, had bad knees. Hiller succeeded in filling out the team with an extraordinary group of freshmen, however, among them Tom Krebsbach, “the fabulous freshman” who was lured away from college baseball by the New York Yankees at the end of his freshman year. Other outstanding freshmen were Tom White, Leroy Lilly, and Dwayne Hanson.

The 1952 team was not quite the slugging outfit of 1951, but the superlative pitching of O’Donnell, Captain Bill Mosso, George Bodmer, and Fran Wall carried them over the rough spots, sometimes by coming to the relief of a partner in the late innings. John O’Donnell, the former Cretin High School star, by this time had pitched two college seasons without a loss, at one time striking out 19 Augsburg batters.

Among the top hitters were Dick Noterman, .403; Jiggs Loonan, .344; Julian Gasperlin, .333; Tom Krebsbach, .265 (but batting in 15 runs to lead the team in runs-batted-in).


James McCord ’55 c
James Loonan ’53 of
Robert Boeser ’52 1b
Phil Wartman ’58 of
Julian Gasperlin ’58 of
Wm. Holmbeck ’53 2b
Thomas Krebsbach ’53 2b
Thomas White ’57 3b
Leroy Lilly ’55 of
George Bodmer ’55 p
Wm.Sexton ’55 3b
Fran Wall ’56 p
Dick Notermann ’54 c
Lou Cotroneo ’52 3b
Charles Hyde ’53 p
Dwayne Hanson ’53 3b
Paul Keup ’53 1b
Bill Mosso ’52 p

Coach -Hiller
Managers -Bill Christopherson and, Jack Stackpool
Captain -Obermiller


               W L

O’Donnell    3 0

Bodmer      3 1

Mosso       2 1

Wall          2 0


SJU Opponents

1…..St. Cloud TC……5

7…..St. Olaf…………2



11….St. Thomas…….4


9…..St. Cloud Rox….3

12….St. Thomas……6


14….St. Cloud TC…..8

8…..Cold Spring……..5


2…..St. Olaf………….7



Overall: 12 wins 2 losses
Conference: 9 wins 1 loss
Conference -championship


St. John’s 9-1

St. Thomas 8-2

St. Mary’s 0-3

Gustavus 5-5

Hamline 4-7

Augsburg 4-7

Macalester 3-8

St. Olaf 2-9

Chapter IV Continued….