The making of a team
by Lilburn Wesche, class of 1951
Baseball at NNU sort of just happened. Apparently, enough guys got together back in 1937 and played College of Idaho. There’s no record of the score! The next evidence of a team was in the mid-1940s as GI’s returned from the war. There were no uniforms and no eligibility rules. The 1946 team roster was a hybrid of students from the college, Nazarene Academy and even a professor or two. Opponents were town teams, area service teams, local colleges and even high schools. Winning was rare—in fact almost non-existent—which might explain scheduling high school teams.
Even college professors were called upon. Myron Finkbeiner remembers his father, A.J. Finkbeiner, the college art professor, being asked to pitch when Coach Monty Lee ran out of arms.
"The infield was dirt, so after a rain it became a quagmire. The outfield was nothing more than a cow pasture, with clumps of grass or weeds here and there."The 1946 picture of the first formal team included Woody Beukelman, Whitey Johnson, Carl “Tiny” Bellamy, Ron Weatherford and Lilburn Wesche, plus a few high schoolers, including Paul Sutherland—wasn’t he a member of the college track team?—and a grammar school student, Myron Finkbeiner. Perhaps he was the bat boy, although he is pictured with a mitt!
There was no budget for uniforms, so the ’47 team is pictured in street clothes and various sweat outfits. Somewhere Monty found a bunch of uniforms at a fire sale, and most of the ’48 team is in uniform—old fashioned flannels, some with charred spots. Some had numbers, some didn’t, some wore duplicate numbers, but they did have matching caps!
At this point in history, NNC’s playing field was in the parking area behind Wiley Learning Center. The field was so cramped that the back stop was on the curb of Amity. The infield was dirt, so after a rain it became a quagmire. The outfield was nothing more than a cow pasture, with clumps of grass or weeds here and there. If a sharply hit ground ball got through the infield, it could skip over a hole in the outfield and end up by Chapman Hall. There was no scoreboard and no fence. About 275 feet down left field the ground sloped sharply; hence, a bad bouncing ground ball could roll 400 feet before it would come to a rest.
Hubert Hendrix, a home run hitter from Twin Falls, still holds the record for home runs in a game by going deep four times. What the record doesn’t show is that three of four were ground balls that took bad hops, eventually ending up on Chapman’s lawn. Center and right weren’t much better. Center field sloped into the dormitory parking lot and right field was bounded by an irrigation ditch.
By 1950, the team had changed its image. They had good pitching led by Carlyle Dean and Tiny Bellamy. Tiny beat College of Idaho twice, a feat that has not been duplicated. Shortstop Millard Reynolds and outfielder Hubert Hendrix, both of whom were offered professional contracts, led the Crusaders to another first—a winning record.
The pioneer players should be congratulated. Their perseverance prepared the way, and over the years the teams improved until today NNU is a conference powerhouse. A giant thanks to Monty.
Come celebrate NNU baseball alumni at Homecoming & Family Weekend 2016! Learn more at nnu.edu/homecoming.