There’s something extra in every story/Paul Peterson

The late Yon Paananen played baseball and softball in at least seven different decades.

The Pelkie native, who probably took part in well over 5,000 games, once was asked what kept him coming back for more at the age of 79.

“There’s always a chance you’ll see something (in a game) that you never have seen before,” said Paananen, a man of few words.

And such is the case in writing stories, sports or news.

In the past four decades, I’ve had the chance to cover countless stories around the Copper Country. And in doing interviews for those stories, there invariably have been tidbits that I had no prior knowledge of.

Take the recent Copper Country Legends story on Arnie Henderson, who played a key role in bringing back American Legion baseball here in the late 1960s.

Arnie, who was brought up in the Mass City area, played baseball with his brother Ray. He recalled a game against Trout Creek when Ray hit three homers against fireballing Jim Manning.

Manning, who threw hard enough to land a contract with the Minnesota Twins, was also one of the finest prep basketball players ever in the Upper Peninsula. He scored 2,147 points.

I also learned that Ray Henderson was scouted by the Boston Red Sox and lasted three weeks in their tryout camp.

The subject of long home runs has always been a favorite subject locally.

It is a fairly common fact that “Fats” Haapala of the Hancock Merchants once cleared the centerfield fence at the old Hancock Driving Park.

For those people not aware of it, the distance to center at the old park was a whopping 508 feet.

But the late Merv Klemett of Hancock told me in an interview a few years ago that he once saw a blast that topped even that.

It came in an old Sunday League game at Alston when Hancock’s Wes Kangas belted one that sailed better than 100 feet over the distant right-centerfield field wall.

“It would have probably gone further … if it hadn’t hit a poplar tree,” Klemett said.

The late Herman “Winks” Gundlach of Houghton was a noted athlete who gained All-American football honors at Harvard University.

But Gundlach once related how a past rival from his prep football days helped to quell a potentially dangerous labor dispute.

“There was a strike against our (construction) company in the Calumet area, and things were getting pretty dicey one day,” Gundlach recalled. “But I saw a fellow in the front (of the mob) who had played football for Calumet High when I was in school.”

Gundlach called out to his former opponent, who was a strike leader. The two were able to eventually hash out their differences and there was no violence.

As the strike leader was leaving, he turned to Gundlach.

“We used to kick your (expletive deleted) on the football field and we would have today, you know,” he said.

As I said, there always is a rest of the story …