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Proctor Rails

10/22/2019 - Five Selected for Hall of Fame Inagural Class

Five players from bygone eras will be inducted into the inagural class of the Proctor Baseball Hall of Fame. The two eras from which nominees were considered for charter membership by the Eras Election Committee: the Early Baseball Era (1890s-1946), and the Golden Days Era (1947-1969). The five players are Karl Condon, Ted Downs, and Maurice "Spike" Gorham from the Early Baseball Era, and Joe Lane and Gerald "Peanuts" Peterson from the Golden Days Era. They join Jake Lewis, selected last June in the 21st Century Rails Election. The induction ceremony will be during the 2020 Proctor Baseball banquet.

Karl Condon was born in Ireton, Iowa, in 1897. He grew up in Timber Lake, South Dakota, and moved to Proctor in 1926. Although records of his career as a professional baseball player are sketchy, he is known to have played for Aberdeen, South Dakota, in 1920; Bismarck, North Dakota, in 1923; Grand Island and Norfolk, Nebraska, in 1924; possibly for Bradenton, Florida, in 1926; and Superior in 1933 and 1936. A 2009 Fargo Forum article claimed that he was the best player on the 1923 Bismarck Capitals (he batted .395 that season). He had five hits while playing for Virginia against Willmar in the 1932 state amateur baseball tournament. He played second base for the Northern League champion Superior Blues in 1933; the shortstop was future MLB All-Star Morrie Arnovich of Superior. In 1939, he was the manager of Proctor's new amateur team in the Head O' Lakes League. The team included players such as Les Granley, Finn Bakken, and Gordon Bethune. The other teams in the league were Allouez, Carlton, Cloquet, Esko, Gary, South Superior, Sturgeon Lake, Superior Local, and Zenith Clear Cokes (West Duluth). Condon helped found Proctor's Little League in 1964, and he was a long-time coach. He retired from the DM&IR railroad in 1965 after 39 years of service. He died at age 89 in 1987.

Ted Downs played on the first Proctor High School baseball team in 1938 and graduated from PHS in 1939. He then played baseball and basketball for the Wisconsin Badgers. His 1938 Rails basketball team was Region 7 Runner-Up and his 1941 Badgers basketball team won the national championship. He played professional baseball for the Duluth Dukes of the Twin Ports League in 1943, and batted .338. The league was the only Class E minor league to ever exist. He taught and coached football, baseball, and basketball at three Wisconsin high schools: Lake Mills, Edgerton, and La Crosse, before moving to Edina, where he taught and/or coached for 32 years. Among many other accomplishments, he coached Edina's baseball team to the 1957 state tournament. He earned a Master's degree from North Dakota State University. His awards include the 1987 Edina Excellence in Education award as a guidance counselor, election to the Edina Hall of Fame as an educator in 2007, election to the Edina Sports Hall of Fame as a coach in 2008, and election to the Proctor Hall of Fame. Born in Proctor in 1921, he died in 2009 at age 87.

Born in Duluth in 1914, Maurice "Spike" Gorham moved to Proctor at a young age because his father worked for the Duluth, Missabe and Northern railroad. He was among a trio of athletic brothers with Elmer and Francis, and he graduated from PHS in 1933. He starred in football and basketball for Duluth State Teachers College (now UMD). He was a two-time all-conference football player as quarterback and is still the only four-time all-conference basketball player in UMD history. He played professional baseball for three years: 1935 for Brainerd, 1936 for Superior, and 1937 for Des Moines. He batted .290 and hit 37 home runs in his pro career. He taught and coached at Shakopee and New Prague High Schools before moving to Albert Lea to work for Wilson Meat Packing. He was the 1948 state amatuer baseball tournament MVP for Albert Lea, and he was the manager for the Fairmont team after moving there in 1950. He owned Spike and Bernie's Restaurant in Fairmont for 16 years, and worked as a high school sports official for more than 30 years. He was inducted into the Minnesota Amateur Baseball Hall of Fame in 1963, as a charter member. He was also inducted as a charter member of the UMD Athletics Hall of Fame, along with fellow Proctor alumnus Dan Devine, in 1991. Gorham was inducted into the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference Hall of Fame in 1990. He died at age 69 in 1983.

Joe Lane was born in Duluth in 1944 and graduated from PHS in 1962. He struck out 17 Silver Bay batters in one game as a pitcher in his senior year. He then played baseball for the Minnesota Gophers, including their 1964 national championship season, for two years before switching to track and field. He excelled at shot put for the Gophers. He taught and coached at Minnetonka High School for 35 years, and his boys track and field team won the 1976 state championship. His tenure as head track coach lasted from 1973-2000, and Minnetonka's invitational track meet is called the Joe Lane Invitational. He is a member of the Minnesota Track Coaches Hall of Fame and the Minnetonka Faculty Hall of Fame. He died at age 72 in 2017.

Born in Proctor in 1925, Gerald "Peanuts" Peterson was known as the "Pride of Proctor" when he played for the Duluth Dukes. He excelled in football, basketball, and track for PHS, and his 1943 basketball team earned Region 7 Runner-Up status. He left school a year early to serve in the merchant marine during World War II. He was playing amateur baseball for Esko in 1946 when he caught the attention of Dukes' owner Frank Wade, and he finished the season by batting .299 in 31 games for the Dukes. He was voted the Dukes' "most popular player" in fan balloting in 1947, when he batted .292 with 118 hits, 12 doubles, seven triples, one home run, 47 RBI, and 27 stolen bases in 110 games. He was having his best season yet for Duluth in 1948, with a .322 average and 10 triples in 72 games, when tragedy struck on July 24. The team bus burst into flames after a head-on collision with a chemical truck in Roseville, Minnesota, as the team was traveling between Eau Claire and St. Cloud. Peterson perished at the scene along with team manager George "Red" Treadwell, players Don Schuckman and Gilbert Trible, and the truck driver, James Grealish. Another player, Steve Lazar, died at a St. Paul hospital two days later. Only four of the 13 surviving players played professional baseball again. Peterson was 22 years old. On July 29, 1948, the Proctor Journal published a letter to the editor titled "Play Ball!," signed by "A Proctor Baseball Fan":

Our Pride of Proctor is gone but his memory will go down in the annals of Proctor as the boy and man loved, honored and idolized by young and old alike.
The ideal of the young whose hopes were that they would one day be like Peanuts, and the old wishing that they too could have been like Peanuts.
Could the decision of to play or not to play the rest of the season be left to Peanuts Peterson, he would be the first to call out "Play Ball!"
Now that Peanuts, our Peanuts, has been transferred to the Big League to play on the Greatest Diamond of all, we who cheered, admired and loved him know that when the Greatest Manager calls out
"Play Ball," that Peanuts Peterson, Our Pride of Proctor, will be right there to bat.

Looking ahead to 2020, the Modern Baseball Era Committee will consider candidates whose main career contributions occurred from 1970-90, and in 2021, the Today's Game Era Committee will consider candidates from 1991 to the present.

For more information, please visit the Proctor Baseball website's Hall of Fame page: http://railsbaseball.atomicleagues.com/page/halloffame, or call or email Anthony Bush at (218) 393-7297 or rails.baseball@gmail.com.