Leavenworth alums share memories at 150th anniversary

Anniversary events continue Sunday

Staff photo by Fritz Busch Lonnie Berberich of Henderson, left, and Leon Tauer of Mulligan Township talk about the good old days at the Church of the Japanese Martyrs 150th Anniversary celebration in Leavenworth Saturday. Events continue Sunday with a current and past parishioner family meal with a free will offering at 11 a.m., parish history re-enacted at 12:30 p.m. and a celebration of the Most Holy Eucharist at 2 p.m.

LEAVENWORTH — Leavenworth and nearby Mulligan Township baseball players, fans and friends turned out in large numbers for the Leavenworth Church of the Japanese Martyrs 150th Anniversary Saturday.

Decades ago, the two townships had separate baseball teams at times. Other times, they merged into one team.

One thing for sure. They had lots of good times long ago and continued to do so Saturday.

A number of women who supported Leavenworth teams and/or played on softball teams there wore t-shirts that read “You can take the player out of Leavenworth, but you can’t take Leavenworth out of the player.”

Donald “Duke” Cook, who taught many Leavenworth softball players how to play the game and played on Leavenworth amateur baseball teams that advanced to the state tournament in 1949 and 1951, manned his baseball and softball museum in a former classroom of the church grade school.

Nearly 89, Cook played baseball in Mulligan Township in his early days and played for a U.S. military team in Japan many decades ago.

Cook took a few swings of his own Saturday, putting down a bunt during batting practice for a number of ball players who got their old Leavenworth uniforms out of the closet and took to the softball field in the sunshine.

“We had some great pitchers in the league here decades ago,” said Leon Tauer of Mulligan Township.

Some of his friends reminded him of a game in which he had five hits and three home runs. Tauer smiled.

Lonnie Berberich pulled on his old Leavenworth amateur baseball shirt and took a few cuts in the batter’s box. He’s been coaching baseball teams for 45 years, beginning with the Leavenworth Midgets team in 1972. An assistant coach for the Henderson Tigers, Berberich and his team face the Milroy Yankees in the Minnesota State Amateur Class C Tournament at 5 p.m. Sunday in Hamburg.

Berberich has coached 84 games this year, as a volunteer assistant baseball coach for the Le Suer-Henderson team, American Legion team and the Henderson Tigers amateur team.

“Leavenworth was a great place to grow up,” Berberich said. “There have been many great players here that led teams to state tournaments. The list includes the Cooks, Zwaschkas and many others.”

A women’s re-union softball tournament followed the men’s game on the softball field. Veteran umpires and twin brothers Wayne and Warren Cook umpired the tournament.

On Sunday, a current and past parishioner family meal with free-will offering begins at 11 a.m. Parish history will be re-enacted at 12:30 p.m. A Celebration of the Most Holy Eucharist starts at 2 p.m.