A few words come to mind immediately when I think of New Ulm: Schell’s, Octoberfest, and Steinbach.
New Ulm is known throughout Minnesota for beer and baseball. The modestly-sized, German culture heavy town in the southern farm belt of the state proudly claims the August Schell Brewery and Johnson Park as its children. Having opened in 1939, Johnson is home to both the New Ulm Brewers and Kaiserhoff (named for the famous local German restaurant that sponsors the team), as well as VFW, American Legion, and other local games. Compared to so many regional opponents’ quaint country ballparks, Johnson’s structure almost feels like overkill—with its elaborate, hand painted facade; walk-up ticket booth; expansive covered grandstand; ivy-covered fences; giant scoreboard; and elevated announcer’s booth, it could probably host many Class A minor league teams as easily as New Ulm’s town clubs. The joyous green giant that is Johnson Park seems to breathe history as you stand beneath its steel roof and enameled I-beams.
Minnesota’s own Terry Steinbach, of course, played at Johnson for Kaiserhoff, prior to his illustrious Major League career, along with his brothers. The park pays tribute to Steinbach with this celebratory display:
On this occasion, we found not the Oakland A’s, but Minnesota’s Arlington A’s visiting Kaiserhoff. While New Ulm’s home club sported the eccentric green-and-yellow scheme reminiscent of Steinbach’s Bay Area uniform, the Athletics of Arlington carry the familiar “A’s” emblem on their cap, but dress in a combination of red and navy blue.
The game itself was a thrilling seesaw battle, one of the most exciting contests we’ve caught this year. While it may have left a few pitchers with inflated ERAs, there was rarely a dull moment, with Kaiserhoff holding off a late Arlington rally to preserve an 11-10 victory.
It was a beautiful night for baseball, but our trip wouldn’t have been complete without the hospitality extended to us by the folks at Cactus Jacks II in Stewart, MN; New Ulm’s Lamplighter and Pub and Patio, whose “air fried” cheese curds were delightful (though no match for the unbelievable fried cheese delights offered at Fritz Field in Cologne); and ultimately Unkle Thirsty’s in Young America, where we may or may have not accidentally found ourselves on the drive home.
Another Town Ball Tuesday adventure in the books . . .
Full picture gallery here.