Larchwood's Sports and Athletes

Larchwood in its early history enjoyed many different varieties of sports. In the 1880's, one of the most popular sporting events was horse racing. These races drew crowds as big as 2,000 people, coming from neighboring towns, arriving days and weeks ahead of time. The racetrack was located in the vicinity of what is now known as "Emerald Park". It is said that around 30 horses competed at these races.

Some of the other sporting events in this time were football, tennis, polo, rolley-bolley and paddleball. Horseshoe also was in existence at this time and is still enjoyed by many.

Basketball was introduced in Larchwood on New Years Day, 1915. Larchwood played against Luverne, Minnesota in the then modern City Hall. It is still one of the favorite sports.

In the world of boxing, a native from Larchwood, Johnny Martin, became a wellknown pro boxer, fighting 40 to 50 pro fights. In the 1920's, this was quite an accomplishment.

In the last century baseball was and is one of our towns favorite sports. Larchwood is known throughout the state and area for its exceptional ability and achievements. Baseball has been a popular sport ever since the settlement of Larchwood. The firs ballpark was located in the vicinity of the water tower. At the end of World War 1 it was heard that a rowdy bunch celebrated Armistice Day by burning the grandstand, so the field was moved to a location known as Snyder's Field. This is now the property of Frank Snyders. In 1930 the ballpark was moved to the area north of St. Mary's Church. The diamond remained here until it was moved to the present location in 1965.

In the late 1880's the main competition was the surrounding towns of Lester, Alvord, Inwood, Hills, Valley Springs and Granite. An example of one of the early games taken from the "Larchwood Leader" May 31, 1894: "Larchwood played Inwood in a ball game last week. Some of the home town players-J.T. Martin, George Castle, Tom Tracy. Our boy's went to bat first and found Inwood's pitcher very easy and made eight scores during the first inning. In the eight innings our boys made 14 home runs. Larchwood won 44-34."

In 1922 a colored team by the name of "The Tennessee Rats" met with the Larchwood team at Snyder's Field. Ed Allen pitched a victory for Larchwood. In that same year Larchwood won 21 out of 23 games.

Baseball was played in the early 1890's, barehanded, which accounted for the usual high scores of the games of that time. The catcher did not sit up behind the batter, as he wore no protector. Broken fingers were common, and a few enlarged knuckles were the distinguishing marks of a catcher. Gloves came into use in the early 1900's, playing techniques improved, and scoring became more difficult. Prior to the glove era, ambidextrous pitchers were occasionally seen.

Larchwood has had better than average small town baseball throughout the years, the game being played by the high school and town teams prior to World War 1. Poor transportation was a limiting factor until the 1930's as to the area in which they could complete. Consequently rivalry with neighboring towns became quite heated and long lasting.

A few teams, especially colored ball clubs, traveled the country in the 1920's, and made numerous appearances in Larchwood.

In the 1920's, Larchwood teams were made up of many country boys from southwest of town, including the Klondike area, along with quite a number from town. More than one team playing out of town was not uncommon.

When the problems of transportation eased, in the 1920's, the teams played in a wider territory, extending out into South Dakota and into Minnesota. However, the depression of the early 1930's brought to a standstill most baseball growth. For about three years, from '32 to '35 very little ball was played. During this time softball grew in popularity, as it required no outlay for suits and little for bats and balls.

Since that time baseball has returned to the town scene and has been continuous with the exception of the years of World War 11 when players, transportation, equipment, etc. were just not available.

Following the war, many of the area towns sponsored semi-pro teams to the extent of financing of suits and a few salaried players. This lasted but a few years, and baseball for many of the towns ended.

Larchwood grew and produced their own players. They developed a program for youngsters many years ago and have been able for the most part to supply better than average talent.

Junior Legion baseball has been sponsored here for many years and teams have played in several state tournaments, although we have never won a championship.

The summer program for boys, eight years and older, has been carried on for many years and assures Larchwood of players and fans for the future. (From
the Lyon County Reporter, September 10, 1959)

Larchwood baseball team surprised everyone but their supporters from this area by winning the South Dakota amateur baseball championship at Redfield, S.D.

They drowned Eureka 9 to 5 in the final fame, with one of their famous come-from-behing finishes. Earlier Monday afternoon Larchwood had trounced the defending champion Huron nin in a big surprise, 20 to 3.

So far as is known, it was the first time an out-of-state team had won the South Dakota crown. Larchwood advanced by winning the Sioux Empire league playoffs after taking the loop title in the regular session.

The new champions started in the tournament Friday by whipping Lowry 6 to 5 in a close game. Sunday afternoon they downed Groton 17 to 7, as the big bats started to pound out the hits for Larchwood. They followed with their 20 to 3 win over Huron.

In the championship game, Larchwood was trailing 4 to 3, going into the eighth inning. Then they turned two Eureka errors, a walk and four hits into a six run rally that put the game on ice.

Barney Synder started the rally getting on an error. After taking second on a wild pitch he scored on John Snyder's single. Bertrand singled, Dick Tracy struck out, and pinch hitter Ed Caldwell was safe on another error, with Snyder and Bertrand scoring. Jim Snyder singled after Halpin had fanned, and Ton Kramer cleared the bases with a homer.

After Zimmer walked, Barney Snyder grounded out on his second appearance that inning to end the six-run outburst.

Eureka drew first blood in the championship game, scoring twice in the second. Larchwood got one in the second and two in the third, Bertrand homered. Eureka added two more runs in the fifth inning, and a final score in the ninth after Larchwood had the game sewed up.
The Line Score
Larchwood 012 000 06x-6 9 2
Eureka 020 020 001-5 6 2
(From the Lyon County Reporter, September 14, 1959)

Larchwood baseball team keeps rolling along in the Regional ABC tournament at Pierre. They were scheduled to play at 1 p.m., Monday, in their third game after winning the South Dakota championship.

Saturday night, Larchwood downed Four Corners, by a 6 to 2 score. Friday they won a close 3 to 2 decision over Porterville, California in their opener of the Northwest Division playoffs.

Merlin Jorgenson of Irene, South Dakota, pitched the Larchwood team to victory over the California team, allowing only four hits. A big fifth inning was the key to the Iowa win. Singles by Jim Snyder and Dick Tracy accounted for all the Larchwood runs. Porterville got both of their runs in the last of the fourth.
The Line Score
Larchwood 000 030 000-3 9 2
Porterville 000 200 000-2 4 0

The Larchwood nine were defeated later in the tournament by Seattle, Washington, and Dysart, Iowa, eliminating them from the competition.

Index   |   Home