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Korby's Connections: Getting a trophy ... and Lange

I think most folks in Carlton County probably have a Jessica Lange story. She’s our most famous hometown native and the only movie and television star who can still be seen waltzing through the Super One aisles picking up shampoo or plants at a local greenhouse when she’s escaping to her cabin here.

In the late 1980s, me and two of my buddies — Tom “Maynard” Marciniak and Gary “Moose” Pastika — coached my spouse’s slow pitch softball team. The team played in the very competitive Carlton County Slow Pitch Softball League. We were all softball players too: Tom and Gary played slowpitch and I did fastpitch. We had Members Cooperative Credit Union as our sponsor and played our home games at Sather Park in Scanlon. Road games were at Nickerson, Iverson, Blackhoof Valley, Moose Lake, Brookston and other Carlton County and Saginaw sites.

In late August, after the softball season was complete, several of the women players (Barb, Brenda, Kathy) said not to put our gloves or bats away quite yet. They had signed us up for the Albert Lange Memorial mixed doubles softball benefit tournament. It was being held in the park in Holyoke.

I’m not sure how the park held up this year with the drought — it has a creek running through it — but when I first laid my eyes on the ball field and adjacent park and picnic area, it was beautiful. It was my first visit. Each team had to have five men and five women in the field defensively and the batting orders had to alternate by gender from top to bottom. The left field foul line was woods, only about 225 feet from the batter’s box. Balls hit there counted as a double, not a homerun.

Many teams camped overnight and made it a party.

The tournament’s namesake, the late Albert Lange, had lived for several years in the Holyoke area. He was Jessica Lange’s father. Tourney proceeds were to go to support local volunteer fire departments. Occasionally, spectators and players would spot Jessica Lange and Sam Shepard romantically walking around the park or near the river, hand in hand. They were boyfriend and girlfriend. It appeared like a movie set and we’d wait for the imaginary director to yell “Cut!”

Our team was good, led by our captain and shortstop, Maynard. We had a female pitching and at first base, which was unusual, but it allowed us to space male and female players defensively — as was required by rules — very effectively. We made it to the championship game and won in exciting fashion in the bottom of the seventh inning against a Duluth team. It was late afternoon on a Sunday. All players were pretty much spent.

Unbeknownst to us, there was going to be a championship trophy presentation. All the fans and players stuck around because word got out that Jessica Lange herself, the Academy Award winner, was going to present the first-place trophy.

By consensus, Maynard was chosen as our team representative. After a few thank you speeches recognizing sponsors, fans, and players, the second place trophy was awarded.

Next Jessica approached the middle of the diamond carrying the large championship trophy. Our team was asked to come forward and accept the prestigious award. Maynard cautiously came forward, approaching Lange.

Without prompting from the crowd, Maynard neared Lange and pointed his index finger on his cheek. He was asking Jessica to plant a big kiss on his face. Gutsy, even for a guy from Scanlon. Surprisingly, and on cue, the movie star obliged, puckered up and planted a smooch on the dirty shortstop’s face. Maynard reacted by immediately pretending to faint. The crowd rejoiced and Jessica went to wash her face (just kidding). Everybody went home happy with a story to share.

Steve Korby’s interest in writing goes back to when he was in fourth grade and editor of the Scan-Satellite school newspaper in Scanlon. Steve loves sports, especially golf. He welcomes human interest stories and tales regarding Carlton County residents, projects, history, and plans. Send your ideas to [email protected].