The sweet scent of fresh cut grass. Dew glistening on baseball spikes. A mouth full of sunflower seeds. Holding a freshly oiled baseball glove to your face. A full moon rising over the outfield fence and the smell of hamburgers and hotdogs drifting across the diamond and through the grandstand.
Memories of Corbett Field, Minot’s historical centerpiece of baseball.
Located across from the entrance to Minot’s Roosevelt Park and Zoo, it was built in 1935 and christened Minot Municipal Ballpark. In 1947 a roof was added over the grandstand. The facility took the name Corbett Field, named after the president of the Park Board, Victor Corbett.
Through the years the grand old ballpark has been a place where dreams came true for thousands of ballplayers. Kids who grew up watching games at Corbett Field idolized the players they hoped to emulate one day.
No one who ever stepped onto that field, bat over the shoulder and glove in hand, ever forgot the moment. It didn’t matter if it was tryouts, practice, or game day. There was something unforgettable about being on the field where childhood heroes played, looking up into the stands, and feeling humble and honored.
As kids we rode bicycles to Corbett Field as members of the Knothole Gang to watch the minor league Mallards play. Large wooden bleachers were situated along the first and third base lines. Pitchers warmed up in the bullpen just a few feet from fans pressing against chicken wire. Under the glow of light from the tall standards, it was a magical place to be whether a starstruck youngster or an older fan.
The list of professional ballplayers that played on that diamond is quite remarkable. One of my fondest childhood memories was ordering a hamburger in the grill beneath the grandstands. It was after a night game had ended and unusual that the grill was still open. I was the only person at the counter when a ballplayer walked from the clubhouse and sat down beside me. He was the reason the grill was still open.
I recognized him as Larry Stahl, an outfielder with the Mallards and a fan favorite. Stadium gossip that evening was that Stahl had gotten the call that he was headed to the major leagues. It was his last night in Minot. He went on to play with the Kansas City Athletics, later the Oakland A’s, then the New York Mets and expansion San Diego Padres.
In 1972 Stahl made major league history. He was called upon to pinch-hit in the 9th inning after hurler Milt Pappas retired the first 26 batters. Stahl was the last hope to break up the perfect game. He did too, with a walk. It marks the only time in major league history that a pitcher lost a perfect game by walking the 27th batter. No doubt Stahl sharpened his hitting eye while digging into the batter’s box at Corbett Field.
A lot has changed, of course, over the years at Corbett Field. The sweet grass has been replaced by turf, the fence has been moved in, and better lighting installed. There are comfortable folding seats where fans used to sit on concrete, sometimes using cushions to soften the experience. The old scoreboard has been upgraded too.
Sunflower seeds, at one time a mandatory snack for baseball fans, are no longer sold or allowed at the ballpark. Too messy to clean up. No arguing that.
While high school, college, and American Legion games are played at Corbett there’s excitement about a new collegiate Northwoods League team, the Hot Tots, who are set to begin their inaugural season in Minot’s cathedral of baseball.