Roland Harlow, right fielder on the 1950 Fergus Falls Red Sox state baseball Class AA title team and who died on January 13 at 91, was part of the golden age of Minnesota baseball.
Those years included 1945 to 1960, following World War II. Town team baseball in those days attracted more than 1,000 fans to each home game at the old fairgrounds athletic field north of what’s now Kennedy Secondary School.
The book, “Town Ball,” covers those glory days. There’s lots of information about Fergus Falls baseball in the book.
Harlow also was player-manager for the 1960 Fergus Falls Red Sox state Class B runner-up team.
That same year, in 1960, the Fergus Falls VFW and American Legion teams won state titles. The three teams held a joint 50th reunion in 2010.
As a baseball manager, Harlow quickly learned that it involved more than just shuffling players on the field. The manager also had to mow the grass, drag the infield, climb the light towers to change bulbs, solicit money and line up rides for players.
“Any extra work was well worth the effort,” he said during his induction into the Fergus Falls Chamber of Commerce Sports Hall of Fame in 1993.
Harlow took pride in playing alongside outstanding baseball players over the years.
As a member of the 1950 Class AA state champion Fergus Falls Red Sox team he played alongside Harley Oyloe, Duane Baglien, Ed Bernardi, Fred Kroog. Hal Younghans, Jim McNulty, Don Blasius, John Kelly, and Joe Colasinski.
“Roland, me and other Red Sox players had great town support in the years right after World War II,” said Oyloe, one of three remaining members of the 1950 state title team.
“In 1948 we hosted a baseball playoff game here in Fergus Falls with Detroit Lakes, and we had more than 3,000 fans in attendance,” Oyloe said.
In those years a “Baseball Tonight” banner was strung across buildings on Lincoln Avenue, downtown, while cars passed underneath. Many home games were played on Sunday evenings, after people returned from the lakes and places such as Amor Park at Otter Tail Lake.
Harlow, as a member of the 1960 Fergus Falls Red Sox Class B state runner-up squad, had teammates who included Roger Sinner, Dave Wilde, Gary Cranston, Dick Hefte, Romie Gail, Billy Crowe, Lowell (Nick) Noack, Ken Reitan, Milt Hysjulien, Dick Hoiberg, George Sawyer and Ken Freeman.
Many baseball fans also recall Harlow's playing and managing days with Dalton, before and after his career as a member of the Fergus Falls Red Sox. He also took up work as a baseball umpire and referee, with close to 900 games to his credit.
At Bertha, Harlow was a standout high school athlete in baseball, football, and basketball. He later participated in military athletics while in the U.S. Army.
Harlow ran on the Army track team and, following military service, took up ski jumping near Dalton, a common sport in the area.
He also played sports via the Fergus Falls Recreation Department and City League, took up golf, and teamed with Doug Johnson in 1972 to win the golf Pot-O-Gold tourney in Fergus Falls.
In 1960 Harlow was part of a local all-star team that played the Minneapolis Lakers in a Jaycees-sponsored benefit basketball game at the high school gym. Laker star players included Elgin Baylor, Hot Rod Hundley, Bob (Slick) Leonard, Ray Felix and Rudy LaRusso.
Joining Harlow in playing against the NBA Minneapolis Lakers, who later in 1960 moved to Los Angeles, were Paul Gust, Ken Reitan, Gordy Bakken, Len Rendz, Rocky Elton, Lowell Noack, Dick Hefte, Romie Gail and Elbow Lake standouts Jerry Sweeney and Bill Crowe.