Lasorda Plays His Usual, Affable Self at Maris Gala

Tommy Lasorda seemed more interested in entertaining 19-month-old Kiana Amundson than speaking with autograph hounds and reporters during Monday’s Roger Maris Celebrity Golf Tournament at Rose Creek Golf Course.

The 77-year-old baseball Hall of Famer put on his nicest, grandfather face and appealed for the shy, blonde-haired girl to give him a hug. Kaira’s body language spelled out an obvious “No.”

“How about a high-five?” Lasorda asked. Again the Barnesville, Minn., toddler refused.

Eventually Kiana smiled, but not without more playful urging from a man considered one of the most engaging personalities in baseball.

Lasorda, who won three World Series titles in 22 years managing the Los Angeles Dodgers, said he attends many events such as the Maris golf tourney, which raises money for various charities.

“To do something to help like this, it’s good for myself,” Lasorda said.

Even though he doesn’t golf, Lasorda said he has been trying to come to the tournament for five years after meeting Roger’s widow Pat Maris. Yet, things never fell into place at the right time.

“When I saw Pat, I promised her I’d come,” Lasorda said. “I’m fulfilling a promise.”

Lasorda, one of baseball’s biggest names opposing the use of steroids, also spoke out against illegal drugs in sports.

“I think it’s a disgrace,” Lasorda said. “If I’m pitching against a guy taking steroids, that’s not an even playing field.”

Blake, Sinner team up

What do you get when you put a professional hockey player and the former governor of North Dakota together?

One of the craziest teams in the tournament.

New York Islanders right wing Jason Blake hit the links with former North Dakota governor George A. Sinner early Monday morning.

“He hits it the furthest and I hit it the least,” Sinner said. “We’ve got some good golfers and then they’ve got me.”

Blake, a Moorhead High School graduate, said he was thrilled to be paired up with Sinner, who wasn’t listed as a celebrity.

The six-year National Hockey League veteran said he’s been playing a lot of golf and spending more time with his two children since the NHL lockout began.

However, he believes the league and the players’ association will come to an agreement within weeks.

“I think we’re close to a getting a deal done,” Blake said. “I’m thankful I signed my deal last year.”

Brown finally makes it

Dale Brown said he loves coming back to North Dakota, especially when the weather is nice and he gets to be outdoors.

“North Dakota and the people in this area are unique,” Brown said. “Being in North Dakota, you may not see all the positive things.”

The retired Louisiana State University men’s basketball coach and native of Minot, N.D., was in Fargo as one of the tournament’s celebrity guests.

Brown had been invited to the tournament nearly every year since its inception. But there was always something that got in his way.

“I felt almost guilty,” Brown said.

Brown made the decision to attend the tournament after receiving a call from Vic Gelking, an old high school friend.

“I rearranged my whole schedule to come and I’m glad I did,” Brown said.

Brown is well-known as the coach who inadvertently discovered a 13-year-old Shaquille O’Neal. He met O’Neal while speaking to United States military forces in Germany during the Cold War.

When the 6-foot-8 man-child asked Brown for tips on his game, Olson asked O’Neal for his military rank.

“He said ‘I’m only 13,’ ” Brown said.

Brown eventually recruited O’Neal to LSU, where he was an All-American.

Brown, a 1953 graduate of Minot St. Leo’s High School, now Minot Ryan, said he remembers playing high school athletics the same time as Maris and longtime Arizona men’s basketball coach Lute Olsen, who grew up in Mayville, N.D., and attended high school in Grand Forks, N.D.

“Football was by far Roger’s best sport,” Brown said.


• Former Minnesota Vikings defensive back Joey Browner and teammates won the team title, finishing with a score of 43.25. Other team members were Dan Skinner, Kevin Bucholz, Nick Gludt, Hugh Veit and Kent Ritterman.

• It was the first year the tournament was held at Rose Creek since 1997. Flooding at Edgewood Golf Course, the usual tournament site prompted the move. “It’s been a great honor to host something like this,” Rose Creek golf professional Matt Cook said.

• Two maintenance men from Newman Outdoor Field brought a door from one of the stadium’s suites for celebrities to sign.

• The PA & Dubay show on KFAN sports radio in Minneapolis broadcasted live outside of the clubhouse.

Widow Mulls Maris’ Legacy: Some Believe Steroid Cloud Bolsters Former HR King’s Name

Plenty has been done to preserve Roger Maris’ legacy.

Twenty years after his death, respect continues to be paid to the former single-season home run record holder and his family.

A museum at Fargo’s West Acres shopping center pays homage to Maris. The movie “61*” about his 1961 pursuit of Babe Ruth’s home run record sparked interest in a new generation of fans. The Roger Maris Celebrity Benefit Golf Tournament and Auction today and Monday will raise thousands of dollars to fight cancer.

Yet one question about his legacy still lingers: Do steroid allegations facing baseball’s biggest stars strengthen Maris’ spot in baseball history.

“It (the steroid accusations) probably made what he did look better,” said Pat Maris, Roger’s widow. “To hold a record for 37 years, and then boom, boom, boom … it was a different situation.”

Maris, five of her six children and eight grandchildren are in Fargo to attend the charity events.

Some feel Major League Baseball owes it to the Maris family to clean up the game as a tribute to achievements made by Roger and players in his time.

“Major League Baseball owes it to them,” said state Sen. Joel Heitkamp, D-Hankinson. “I don’t think Pat Maris needs to even deal with the problem.”

Heitkamp and the North Dakota Senate passed a resolution asking MLB to restore Maris’ old record – 61 home runs set in 1961 – as the true record if the steroid accusations were found to be true.

“The home run record, to me, is Roger Maris’,” Heitkamp said. “The people that took it from him, quite clearly – and I have no proof to back this up – were on steroids. If that’s the case, the record is Roger’s.”

The senate’s resolution came after congressional hearings on steroid use in baseball and allegations against home run king Barry Bonds, past record holder Mark McGwire and sluggers Sammy Sosa, Jason Giambi, Rafael Palmeiro and Jose Canseco.

McGwire, who broke Maris’ home run record in 1998, didn’t admit to doing steroids. However, his unwillingness to answer many of Congress’ biggest questions led to public disgust.

“I hope things will turn around for baseball,” Pat Maris said.

Kevin Maris, Roger and Pat’s youngest son, said the family hasn’t spoken to McGwire recently but still considers him a friend.

McGwire annually gives over $6,000 to benefit the Roger Maris Cancer Center in Fargo.

Some members of the Maris family agree that the steroid accusations helped shed a positive light on what Roger accomplished.

Yet, they still think his chances of gaining a Hall of Fame nomination are slim, no matter how hard his supporters fight.

“It might happen one day. If it comes, it comes,” Pat Maris said. “It would be a wonderful honor, but he’s had a lot of honors.”

Friends of the family, such as benefit committee member Jim Deutsch, are willing to stand up for the local hero.

“He (Roger) was doing things before anyone knew what a steroid was,” said Deutsch, a longtime supporter of the Fargo Shanley High School graduate. “What’s gone on just proves what an incredible athlete Roger was back in 1961.”

North Dakota lawmakers passed another resolution earlier this year, urging the 85-member Hall of Fame veterans’ committee to vote for Maris based on his contributions to baseball.

Hall of Fame pitcher and veterans’ committee member Phil Niekro said Maris’ time may come. And it may be sooner than most think.

“There’s too much talk about it,” Niekro said. “His name will never leave the game of baseball.”

Niekro, who attended last year’s benefit, said it wasn’t his place to speak about the steroid issue, although he said he holds a great deal of respect for what kind of a player Maris was.

“There was nothing really flashy about him,” Niekro said. “He was major league all the way.”

If Maris does have a chance at joining the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y., his clean, old-school image may be the ticket.

“It’s a nice legacy to have,” Pat Maris said.

Maris Legacy Continues at Shanley

Pat Maris, the widow of baseball great Roger Maris, said her husband tried to be a leader his whole life.

Fargo Shanley High School acknowledged that leadership Thursday by hanging an autographed painting of Maris in a dedication at the school.

The painting, which once overlooked the old Shanley gymnasium, has been refurbished and will grace a commons area in the new Shanley school in south Fargo.

“It really means a lot to the family,” Pat Maris said.

Three generations of the Maris family – including three of Roger and Pat’s sons – attended a dedication ceremony Thursday at Shanley.

Fargo Shanley Superintendent Kyle Edgerton and Director of Development Todd Mickelson climbed separate ladders to hang the painting, which will be above the trophy case outside Grow Auditorium.

“This is something that greeted you (in the old school),” said Mickelson, a 1978 Shanley graduate. “It’s something we looked up to.”

According to Pat, the portrait was made from a photograph taken during the filming of the 1962 movie Safe at Home, which starred Maris and Mickey Mantle.

After the dedication, the Maris family took a tour of the school. Pat, a 1953 Shanley graduate, was impressed with the new facility.

“It’s beautiful,” she said while standing outside the school’s chapel.

Pat Maris said she began high school shortly after the old school was built.

“I entered the old one when it was new,” she said.

The dedication kicked off a weekend of events leading up to the Roger Maris celebrity benefit golf tournament Monday at Rose Creek Golf Course.

“I’ve taken pride in whatever way I can help out,” said Kevin Maris, the second youngest of the couple’s six children. “It’s always a special time and a special event for Fargo and the charities.”

The Fargo Post 2 American Legion baseball team will retire Maris’ No. 9 before its game against Omaha (Neb.) Northwest at 4:30 p.m. today.

“Every year we seem to hold our own and have a great crowd,” Pat said.

Along for the Ride: Hermanson Cousins Carry on Bull Riding Family Tradition Together

HAWLEY, Minn. – Cole Hermanson had a feeling Huff & Snuff was due.

The 18-year-old bull rider didn’t fret when he drew the bull which had never been rode.

He wasn’t fazed when the animal tried jumping out of the chute either.

Hermanson simply locked in and clocked an eight-second ride and a score of 83 to move into the top spot after the first day of bull riding at the 46th annual Hawley Rodeo, a National Professional Rodeo Association sanctioned event.

“I knew he was going to turn back,” said Hermanson, who said he’d watched Huff & Snuff several times. “He always jumps back.”

Bull riding has been a family affair for Cole and his cousin Justin Hermanson as long as they can remember.

The two grew up watching their fathers and uncles ride – Justin’s father, Darrell, is a former high school national bull riding champ – and have carried on the tradition.

“It’s been a family thing all my life,” said Justin, who rides today, the second day of the Hawley Rodeo. “It’s in my blood.”

The Hermansons are two of over 20 bull riders competing this weekend at the Historic Hawley Rodeo Grounds.

Justin, 23, is the NPRA money leader in bull riding, having already earned more than $5,300 with half the season remaining.

Cole is in second place with about $3,500, but has balanced time between NPRA and North Dakota High School Rodeo Association events throughout the year.

Incidentally, Cole is the points leader in the NDHSRA and will go for his first high school title next week at the North Dakota high school finals rodeo in Bowman.

“It’s pretty neat seeing me and him on the top of the standings,” Justin said. “It’d be nice to see that at the end of the year when it’s all said and done, too.”

The Hermansons’ you-and-me attitude gives the cousins traits more associated with brothers.

“We spent a lot of time together growing up,” Justin said. “We’ve always been pretty close.”

Over the school year, Cole, a native of Mandan, N.D., even moved to rural Litchville, N.D., to live with Justin’s family and help around their farm.

“I get my stuff done at school,” said Cole, who left Mandan High School last year and will be a senior at Litchville-Marion High School in the fall. “It’s a lot easier.”

It also means more bull riding chances for both Hermansons.

Since Justin graduated from Southwestern Oklahoma State in 2004, Cole said he’s found it easier to attend rodeos outside of the area.

“It’s a lot easier if I start going to big stuff. I’m with someone who knows people,” Cole said of his cousin.

While Cole is starting to become more acclimated in bull riding, Justin has cemented himself in the sport.

Justin has competed in several large events, including Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association rodeos in Cheyenne, Wyo., and Salinis, Calif.

But he admits he still has room to improve.

“I broke four ribs (at Cheyenne),” Justin said with a laugh.

Cole recently received his PRCA permit and said he’ll attempt to earn his card and compete in more difficult rides in the near future. He’ll do it with his cousin by his side.

“He’s got all the talent in the world,” Justin said. “He can make a living riding bulls.”