Posts Tagged ‘Stoney & Meatloaf’

The Joy Of Rox

Friday, July 6th, 2012

I mentioned in Tuesday’s post that one of the things Jeff Ash and I did during his visit to Central Minnesota was to take in a baseball game featuring the St. Cloud Rox, the local team – made up of college students – that competes in the Northwoods League.

It wasn’t the first time I’d been to a St. Cloud Rox game. The nickname used to belong to St. Cloud’s minor league team, a member of the Northern League from 1946 through 1971. The league, which had operated sporadically in the Upper Midwest from 1905 through 1942, was one of the lower-ranked outposts in the minor leagues, designated in its post-World War II incarnation as a Class C league or a Class A league. (Minor league baseball changed in 1963 from a system in which it classified leagues as A, B, C or D to one that used the classifications of AAA, AA and A.)

And in 1946, baseball came to St. Cloud. Joining the Rox – named imaginatively (and wonderfully, to my tastes) for the St. Cloud area’s history of quarrying granite – in the reconstituted Northern League were the Fargo-Moorhead Twins, the Superior Blues, the Eau Claire Bears, the Aberdeen Pheasants, the Grand Forks Chiefs, the Sioux Falls Canaries and the Duluth Dukes. The Rox were a farm team of the New York Giants. At the time, pleasantly, there was not then in the minor leagues the perceived need to have a farm team carry the same nickname as its major league counterpart; that showed up in the 1960s. What about the Fargo-Moorhead Twins? Well, they were an independent team in 1946 and would become affiliated with the Pittsburgh Pirates the next year; the major league Minnesota Twins would not come into existence until 1961. (The Twins would become the Rox’ parent organization in 1965, following the Chicago Cubs, who had taken the club over from the San Francisco Giants in 1960.)

I didn’t, of course, see the Rox back then. I think it was sometime during the summer of 1963 – I was nine – when my folks took my sister and me out to the west end of town for our first Rox game.The team played in Municipal Stadium, a venue with a concrete grandstand; a huge sign painted on the grandstand proclaimed “Home of the ‘ROX’.”

I don’t recall who the Rox played that evening in 1963; it might have been the Aberdeen Pheasants or the Duluth-Superior Dukes. I remember being sketchy on the rules of baseball and having my dad explain some of the unclear portions to me.

I didn’t spend a lot of evenings at the ballpark, but I likely made at least a game or two every year from then until the team (and the league) folded after the 1971 season. Most often, I’d ride along with Rick and Rob and their dad, who was a big baseball fan. In the latter years of the 1960s, my dad would buy a family pass, and he and I would occasionally head out to the big ballpark.

However I got there, and whoever I was with, some things were constants: The game was close at hand, and fans could easily hear the sounds that make up so much of baseball: the infield chatter, the razzing from each dugout, the sweet crack of bat on ball, the slap of the ball into a leather glove, the thud of a base-runner’s cleat-clad foot hitting third base, and so many more. Complementing the game were other things: the looming concrete walls in the outfield, probably about twelve feet tall but looking taller; the long and weathered wooden benches that were the source of frequent splinters; the cries of the concession men as they made their ways through the never very crowded grandstand and on to the bleachers along the foul lines; and the pungent but not unpleasant mixed aromas of beer and soda pop and salted peanuts and an aging concrete building.

Then, as the 1960s drew to a close, the city of St. Cloud decided that the block of land the stadium occupied along Division Street could be better used as a location for something that paid taxes. So the stadium came down, and a small shopping center anchored by a Shopko discount store went up. For years in the entry to Shopko, there was a plaque marking the one-time location of home plate. The Shopko store is long gone, its location now the site of a health club and a pawn shop. And I wonder where the home plate plaque went.

The Rox weren’t quite done when Municipal Stadium came down. They played the 1971 season in the city’s new baseball park on the far northwest end of town, next to the new hockey arena. The Rox were league champions that season, just as they had been in their first season in 1946 and in six other seasons along the way. I had a season pass again, but I doubt I went to more than four or five games during that summer of mowing lawns and waxing floors at St. Cloud State. It didn’t feel the same.

After that, the Rox and the Northern League were done. A new Northern League, an independent operation, started up in 1993 and lasted until 2010, but it never put a team in St. Cloud. The Northwoods League formed in 1994, and in 1997, the Dubuque Mud Puppies moved to St. Cloud and became the River Bats. The franchise was sold over the past winter, and – in a welcome nod to St. Cloud’s baseball history – the new owners renamed the team the Rox.

Now all I need to do is get a Rox cap.

It’s probably unlikely that I went to a Rox game during this week in 1971, given that I only went to a few that summer. And there’s nothing with a specific baseball connection in the Billboard Hot 100 from July 3, 1971, which is too bad. So I can’t offer anything musically with any connection to the tale I’ve told here.

But I can offer a single that I’m pretty sure I did not hear that summer as it went to No. 71. By the time the beginning of July rolled around, the record was at No. 74 and was sliding back down. It’s the first charting single in the long and sporadic career of Marvin Lee Aday, better known as Meat Loaf. In 1971, he was working with a Detroit singer named Cheryl Murphy, and they were billing themselves as Stoney & Meatloaf when they recorded “What You See Is What You Get,” a tune that has no relation to the Dramatics’ single with a similar title except for the fact that the two records were in the Hot 100 at the same time.