May 2019 – Sports

RCHS Facebook Posts from May 2019 – Sports

Explore history with these snippets from past Facebook posts from the RCHS page.

Posts, event announcements, etc. have been edited for clarity and relevance.

We are celebrating warmer spring weather this month with historic sports stories, teams and players of St. Paul and Minnesota. Today, we’re hitting things off in the spirit of spring baseball with legendary sports reporter and announcer Halsey Hall. Known for being the first to shout, “Holy Cow!”, as a baseball player rounded the bases, Halsey was also a well-regarded sports columnist in Minneapolis for various sports and the son of newspaper reporter Smith B. Hall. Halsey’s great uncle Harlan P. Hall founded and edited the St. Paul Globe, beginning in 1878.

Saint Paul was known for its national boxing champions long before it was legal to box in the city, and local Bill Miske was a boxer of true heart and grit, nicknamed “The St. Paul Thunder-bolt.” After being diagnosed with a rare and fatal kidney condition in 1918, he went up against Jack Dempsey in Benton Harbor, MI two years later. Against doctor’s orders and most likely financial strain due to lax lending with friends and acquaintances in his car business, Billy continued to box. At the end of his career of 150 fights and only two losses, Billy Miske knocked out Bill Brennan in the fourth round, winning the $2,400 purse. Visit this link for his entire fascinating story.
Image of Dempsey and Miske from RCHS article.

Spring is a good time of year to get out on the greens! Did you know the first known balls exclusively for golf were called “featheries”?! They were small hand-sewn leather pouches stuffed with goose or chicken feathers and painted white. Since a good craftsman could only make a few per day, they were very expensive. Rubber golf balls were not made until the early 1900s, which gave greater distance, and around that same time dimpling of the ball was developed. Dimpling also helped with distance, in addition to trajectory, spin and more. Look for more golf facts and people that helped change the game this week.
Image of “featheries” golf ball Wikimedia Commons.

Minnesota’s first golf pro was Robert Foulis (1873‑1945). Born in Scotland, he learned the game from his father and other professionals there before emigrating to the Chicago area in 1895 and then came to St. Paul. At the Town and Country Club, Foulis redesigned and improved the Club’s original course. He also gave lessons, acted as the greenskeeper, made clubs and balls to order, and played in several tournaments. In late 1899, Foulis left the St. Paul club to continue his career first in Wisconsin and then in St. Louis, MO. There’s plenty more to read up on @
Image from left: The Old Tom Morris golf shop in St. Andrews, Scotland, young Robert Foulis is top right; Robert Foulis; an early postcard of the Town and Country Golf Course. For more info on the photos, see the RCHS article.

The Oxford Recreation Center in Saint Paul was renamed the Jimmy Lee Recreation Center in memory of a man who was a living sports encyclopedia. Jimmy Lee was an award-winning golfer and baseball player that rose out of the segregated neighborhood of Rondo in St. Paul. He also penned his own sports column and was inducted into the Minnesota State High School League Hall of Fame. Read more from the RCHS article @
Jimmy Lee playing baseball, (#4) and golfing.

Jimmy Lee was also a sought-after sports official, thanks to his level head and “wise whistle.” He showed he had a special talent as an umpire working for St. Paul Municipal Athletics, moving then to basketball and football games. It didn’t take long for Jimmy to be in high demand as he had a unique perspective – more than 90% of the time he was the only black person at each Minnesota game. After catching the eye of former Major League coach Dick Seibert, then the head baseball coach at the U of M, Jimmy became the first black baseball umpire for Big Ten contests.

It’s never too early to start throwing a ball around. John Cotton was an outstanding athlete and second baseman for the Twin City Gophers, graduating from Marshall Senior High School in 1943. According to John, he “started playing with Coach Ware when [he] was only fourteen years old.” Cotton was All City nine times; including first team in baseball for three years in a row, second team his sophomore year in football and then first team in his junior and senior years. Another player that showed her talent at a young age was Toni Stone, pitching several games among adult men at the age of 16 in 1937. She was one of only three women to play professional baseball in Minnesota and was an excellent baseball player who overcame racial and gender indignities. Toni’s last pro season was in 1957, and she once said that getting a hit off Satchel Paige was her greatest thrill in baseball. Visit for more about each athlete.

Many claim that the first curling match in Saint Paul was held on Christmas Day 1885 on the Mississippi River, near Raspberry Island. It was this year that Saint Paul hosted the first annual Northwestern Curling Associations Bonspiel. This popular event overflowed the indoor rinks and some participants wore old Winter Carnival costumes as their curling gear. By the late nineteenth century, the St. Paul Curling Club numbered at least 250 members, with 5 sheets of ice, electric lights, a warming room and a “parlor” for spectators in their clubhouse. The entire building was on wooden pillars so that it was raised above river flooding and the only access was to climb 100 wooden steps! Visit for more.

The Minnesota Boat Club, established in 1870, wrestled with the question of the difference between a professional and an amateur rower. Initially, it accepted the idea that an amateur rower’s livelihood prevented the individual from full-time training. However, in 1895, the Club’s rowers had to compete against oarsmen from Canadian clubs whose livelihoods were based on farming and logging. This event challenged their previous mindset and the Club revised its definition of amateur. Minnesotans have been rowing happily ever since, realizing that dedication, training and being in the moment of the sport is what matters most— regardless of occupation. Read the full story @


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