Sleepy Eye dedicates photo of Ruth at ballpark

SLEEPY EYE – The grandson of the young boy peeking out at the photographer between New York Yankees Babe Ruth and Bob Meusel that chilly October day in 1922, attended a photograph dedication ceremony at the Sleepy Eye Ballpark Friday.

Joel Youngman of Cloquet, the grandson of 105-year-old Len Youngman of Virginia, Minnesota, said his grandfather often told the story of going to the barnstorming baseball game, watching it closely for about five innings before playing games with his friends in centerfield.

“Then he saw this ball flying past him, so he turned around and chased it, got it, and kept it all these years. This is cool, the greatest. This really brought that story back to life again,” Youngman said, as his grandfather watched the ceremony via satellite and iPhone from his home in Virginia.

“Tell them I’m the best 105-year-old billiard player in the world,” Len Youngman told his grandson. His wife is the former Mathilda Hillesheim of Sleepy Eye.

The ball was not autographed at the time. “I don’t think there were ballpoint pens back then,” Youngman said.

Dennis Rosenhammer of rural Sleepy Eye, part of a gathering in the ballpark stands, told the story his uncle Henry told him about the 1922 game.

“‘Sox’ Schueller was pitching to Babe and Jim Murphy caught,” Rosenhammer said. “Babe was on deck (to bat) when he went into the stands and asked the crowd if he should hit a homer, triple or double. The crowd agreed he should hit a homer which he did, hitting a ball into the weeds, beyond the diamond. He homered after taking two pitches because he didn’t know if they were balls or strikes. Babe later wrote the Sleepy Eye newspaper editor and asked him if the ball was still in the air.”

Sleepy Eye baseball enthusiast and writer Randy Krzmarzick said he didn’t think anyone was still alive that saw the 1922 game until Joel Youngman contacted him a few years ago. “Joel told me his grandfather was at the game and was still alive,” Krzmarzick said. “I contacted Boyd Huppert at KARE 11. Boyd and his camera man went with us to visit Len Youngman in Virginia, and put it on his Land of 10,000 Stories show.

Another Sleepy Eye baseball enthusiast, Dean Brinkman, thanked the City of Sleepy Eye, the Sleepy Eye Baseball Association and those that donated money to enlarge the photo and have it permanently added to the ballpark.

Brinkman said the 1922 game was commemorated with pickup games on Oct. 16, 1997 and 2012 and will be again this year on Sunday, Oct. 16. “Call it our passion or addiction to baseball,” Brinkman added.

Sleepy Eye Area Historical Society Executive Director Deb Joramo said this year’s commemorative Christmas bulb will feature Ruth’s 1922 visit to town. “A few businesses still have these bulbs for sale, but there are not many left,” she added.

Fritz Busch can be e-mailed at