Floyd Stromme

FLOYD STROMME -
JUNIOR LEGION BASEBALL STAR

The sports-minded people of Griggs county will not soon forget the magnificent little Junior Legion team of some 25 years ago that captured the hearts of everyone in winning the state championship two years in a row and losing out by a nose in the race the third year. Coached by Oswald Tufte Cooperstown Legion team had a truly Cinderella start. Its first scheduled game was cancelled because it did not have money enough to buy a new baseball. The team had only four bats, three of which were cracked and the uniforms were little more than rags.

Soon to become a star of this aggressive little aggregation was 14 year old Floyd Stromme who had been used in the infield and had a good throwing arm. Coach Tufte sensed good possibilities in the young lad and started grooming him for the pitcher's job.  Tufte's hunch paid off when in the first game with Carrington Stromme pitched four hit ball, striking out ten in winning 4 to 2.

This victory did not spell immediate success, however, and the team went winless until in July (1931) when the local nine met Hannaford's rugged Legion team. In some of the finest exhibition of Junior Legion play Cooperstown garnered a 2 to 1 victory although they were able to get only two hits off the superb pitching of Gene Troseth.

These were the only two games won by Cooperstown before entering tournament play. Coach Tufte's efforts in developing Stromme's control paid dividends when in their first tournament game the Cooperstown lads were able to defeat a powerful Mayville team by a 6 to 5 score.

It was terrifically hot during the tournament but the coach's determination to keep the boys from going swimming undoubtedly accounted for the vide margin of victory in their next game which hey won over Litchville by a 14 to 3 score.

This victory put the dark horse team in the finals against Fargo. Fargo had a big team, their players were older and more mature. They were Heavy hitters and liked fast pitching. They clouted Floyd's offerings for three runs in the opening inning. Sound advice from Tufte and Billy Sinclair, veteran pitcher, caused him to employ his curve ball. From then on Stromme fed them nothing but curves and yielded only one run in the remaining eight innings. Cooperstown's ragged little team performed magnificently offensively and used the hit and run, the squeeze play and everything in the book to bet back in the game and finally tied the score in the seventh when Hollis Hoff laid down a perfect bunt to score a runner from third. In the ninth Stromme mowed them down and in the climatic last half, Ole Opheim hit to score Lawrence Lindgren from second and win the championship of the district.

Hillard Alfson, playing third base, Clare Olson in the outfield, Clarence Solberg on first and little Verner Johnson behind the plate were among the other stars in that tournament. Johnson caught the entire 27 innings in temperature that was around 95 degrees. Stromme had pitched 24 of the 27 innings in two days.

Pitted against the Park River team in the state tournament Tufte's aggregation put on a hitting exhibition that gave them a 28 to 4 victory. In the next game against Bottineau it was a ding-Bong battle until the eighth when with the bases loaded Alfson came through with a homerun. Bottineau was crushed and Cooper was in the finals against Enderlin.

Enderlin was in a class by itself. It was national regional champs, had seasoned players, plenty of reserves, and three good pitchers. In contrast the Cooperstown team had a young, green team, most of them only 14 and 15. year's old. They had one pitcher and he had already pitched two games in two .Jays. A worried Tufte worked over his only pitcher for hours rubbing his pitching arm with "Japanese Oil" ointment used by early day pitching stars such as Sinclair and Floyd Nelson.

Enderlin put a classy team in the field but Cooperstown's play was no less superb. However, by the seventh Enderlin led by a score of 4 to 2. With a man on third Enderlin changed pitchers putting in Hendrickson who had pitched a no-hitter against Minot the day before. A squeeze play on Hendrickson's first pitch netted a run and Cooperstown went into the last of the ninth trailing 4 to 3. Stromme's job was done. He had pitched a whale of a ball game against the best team in the state, giving up only five hits and striking out ten.

Lindgren, who never swung at bad balls, worked Hendrickson for a walk. Solberg singled. A double steal and the pressure was on. Opheim came to bat and with two strikes on him drove the ball out of the park. The ragged little team from Cooperstown were state champions! The crowd went completely wild.

Failing to make the emotional recovery from such a sensational victory, the boys were not their best when they met Winona, Minnesota the following week in the national regional tournament and took a drubbing.

After the first year the team had good support from the community. They were provided with new uniforms, all the bats, balls, and other equipment they needed. Stromme was a year older now, bigger and heavier, and his fast ball was taking off. The team lost but one game that season. In the finals of the district tourney they again met Fargo. This time Stromme pitched a no-hitter. In the state tourney they played Minot for the championship, winning 7 to 3.

In 1933, Tufte lost most of his regulars except his pitcher but built a team around Stromme who was developing wonderfully. Again the local team was pitted against Fargo in the district tournament. This game ended in a tie and on the replay Fargo won by a 4 to 1 score to end Cooperstown's supremacy in Junior Legion baseball.

Among the players that third year were Richard L. Johnson who later became a fine pitcher in his own right in independent baseball; Donald Irgens who did the catching; Jerome Mack, who played second base; Stanley Mack, centerfield; and Palmer Tang, first base.

Junior Legion baseball continued in Cooperstown, but the heyday of the champions was finished. The town did not again have a boy with the throwing arm of Floyd Stromme.

Floyd pitched magnificently for the independent team in 1935 and 1936. He developed absolute control, he had a fast ball that was alive and a good curve. He was signed by the Cleveland Indians and sent to the Fargo-Moorhead Twins in late 1936 and in 1937 led the Northern league. From there, he went to New Orleans for two. seasons and in mid summer of 1940 to the Cleveland Indians of the American League. He also pitched for the Oakland Oaks - in the Pacific Coast League.

Source:  Cooperstown Diamond Jubilee 1882-1957 Page 46

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