Wednesday, April 25, 2018



You think I'm making this up, but I got in trouble with the police while looking for Dick Putz.   There's a story behind it.

Dianne and I took our annual road trip last year, this time to California for our grand-daughter's graduation.  We left Chicago on Friday morning and made it to St. Cloud, Minnesota by dinnertime.  We checked into the local Holiday Inn, and I leafed through the tourist magazines to determine if anything in St. Cloud was worth seeing.

The article on Dick Putz Field  caught my eye.  With a name like that, I wanted to see it.  You may recall the movie Grumpy Old Men with Walter Matthau and Jack Lemmon. Matthau's character said over and over to Lemmon's character, "You're a putz". 

Dick Putz Field, built in 1971, is a historic baseball diamond once home to the St. Cloud Rox of the Class C Northern League.  When that league folded, it became home to the St. Cloud River Bats of the Northwoods League, a college development league.   This place is deep in the bush leagues, but we were determined to find it.

Dick Putz himself was a legend in town.  He was a long time sports official and booster of amateur baseball in Minnesota.  He had his own weekly radio show, the Dick Putz Show (of course), in which he provided a roundup of the day's scores and highlights.   Among his achievements were his service as president of the Minnesota Baseball Association Board and a member of the Minnesota Amateur Baseball Hall of Fame and the Minnesota Fastpitch Softball Coaches Association Hall of Fame.  He died in 1990 at age 61. 

We drove around town (never asking for directions) to visit the field and get a picture of the sign.  As it turns out, there isn't one.  Naturally, we got lost.

I needed to make a U-turn and got impatient at a long red light.  There was no oncoming traffic, so I just made the turn.  The squad car was right behind me, and the officer probably couldn't believe his good fortune.  He turned on his flashing lights.  I was guilty as hell.  The young officer came up to my car and asked where we were going.  I told him "Dick Putz Field", but I can't seem to find it.  If I had said that to a cop on New York or Chicago, I would have been taken to the slammer.

The officer took my license and went back to his car to check if I was wanted for anything.  He came back and said he appreciated my honesty and let me off with a warning.  He also gave me directions to Dick Putz Field.  Dusk was settling in, and I wanted to get there quickly.  We went by the field a couple times but weren't sure it was the right place because there was no sign.  So I never did get that photo.


No, I'm not talking about the football team.  In Alexandria, Minnesota is a giant Viking statue and also a museum containing a Viking runestone dating back to 1362.It is called the Kensington Runestone. This is a great story.

An expedition of Vikings came to Minnesota long before Columbus, and while part of the group went off hunting, ten of their comrades were attacked by Indians (they were not called that at the time) and massacred.  The hunters came back and found the carnage and carved this runestone commemorating their fallen comrades. 

"Eight Gotalanders (Goths) and 22 Northmen on (this) acquisition journey from Vinland far to the west.  We had a camp by two (shelters) one day's journey north from this stone.   We were fishing one day.  After we came home, found 10 men red from blood and dead.  Ave Maria save from evil.  There are 10 men by the inland sea to look after our ships fourteen days journey from this peninsula (or island).  Year 1362

The farmer who owned the land, a Swedish immigrant named Olof Ohman discovered the 202 pound stone while plowing his field in 1898.  The writing on the stone was Medieval Norse.  The farmer took the stone to the authorities, and for many years, everyone thought it was a hoax.  The farmer had only gone to school for a few weeks and could barely read English, Norwegian, or any language, let alone Norse Code.   If proven genuine, the stone is worth millions.  Ohman sold the stone for 10 bucks to a historian in 1911. 

The farmer and his family were ridiculed by their neighbors for many years.  Gradually over a long period of time the poor farmer's family was vindicated, and today many scholars believe the runestone is genuine.  However intense controversy still remains among archaeologists and Norse scholars.  The Smithsonian Institution in Washington displayed the stone for several years in the 1950's, but removed it from public display amid the controversy. 

My nagging question was that if the Vikings were settled in Newfoundland, how did they wind up in Minnesota, over a thousand miles away?  The museum showed a  documentary film describing how the expedition from Norway came down Hudson Bay and down through Lake Winnepeg in present day Manitoba.  Minnesota is not that far away.

Whatever the case, the runestone is an interesting exhibit, but the controversy probably won't go away anytime soon.


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