The sign on County Road E-66 that greets you as you enter town could be construed as a wee bit of arrogance. If it wasn’t true.
“Home of Norway Tigers,” it says. “Baseball Capital of Iowa.”
The capital celebrated its rich heritage Saturday with a series of events in conjunction with the grand opening of the Iowa Baseball Museum of Norway. Mike Boddicker and Bruce Kimm, two of the three major leaguers produced by this small Benton County town were on hand for a ribbon-cutting ceremony and parade of former Norway players.
The festivities concluded with a dusk showing of “The Final Season,” the movie celebrating the last of Norway’s 20 state championships in 1991, the year the school closed.
“This is really touching to come here for this,” said Kimm. “The museum is first class.”
It’s is in the middle of downtown, right next to Big Al’s Bar and Grill, and has been expertly done, with pictures and newspaper clippings about the history of baseball enclosed in several wood cases. There are a myriad state championship trophies, naturally, with pictures of each title team.
Boddicker, Kimm and Hal Trosky have their own cases, celebrating their respective rises to the big leagues.
“That’s the bad one,” Boddicker kidded of his display. “Go look at the other ones — Hal Trosky’s, Bruce Kimm’s. Then you go around the corner, that’s what I remember growing up. Dick McVay and Bruce Kimm, all-staters, that group that won it the first time. I was a little kid back then, a batboy. That’s where it all started.”
Norway won its first baseball championship in the fall of 1965, then won an all-class summer tournament in 1966. Its final four coaches all were on hand Saturday, representing the final 34 years of the school: Pinky Primrose, Bernie Hutchinson, Jim Van Scoyoc and Kent Stock.
“It’s history, part of my heritage growing up,” said Boddicker, who lives in Kansas City and does radio/television work for both the Kansas City Royals and Baltimore Orioles. “The parade today, seeing some people I haven’t seen in 30 years, it was a lot of fun. They did a great job with the museum, Danny and Shona (Frese) did. It’s fun for people to go in and see the history of Norway baseball.”
Boddicker was asked why such success came from such a small town.
“It’s the work ethic, what we grew up with,” he said. “That was the thing growing up. We wanted to be the next group of kids (state champions) that rode that fire engine from (Highway) 30 all the way into town, with everybody lined up for us … It’s all we had. We didn’t have any football. We just kept playing baseball all day long.
“I was just talking to Dick and Bruce. Each group that went along, everybody played up at the ballpark. We’d go into left field, we’d make a little diamond there. We’d get chewed out every day, they’d run us out because we were tearing up the grass and wearing it out. But every group that came up through the school, they started there. That little corner spot out there in left field up at the ballpark.”