Transcript/Biography

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"I came here to York in '46, and that was the first year that the program was started. And the York Chamber of Commerce was the people who were responsible for organizing this league. It was a league, is what it was, Cornhusker State League… A man by the name of Duncan. He was president of the Chamber of Commerce, and I became acquainted with him during the war, when I was playing. See, I played during the war at the Fairmont Airbase. And he asked me if I would consider managing the team. Well, here I am, I'm only 21 years old, you see. And I knew a lot of the people that would be involved were old experienced hands, you see. But I says, 'Yeah.' And they talked me into it. Then the philosophy at that particular time by the Chamber of Commerce was that they would not pay outright cash for people who played. It cost 50 cents to get into the game. And the Chamber of Commerce would buy balls and bats and stuff, and then what was left would be split up amoungst the players. And everybody else in the whole league, Aurora, Geneva, Stromsburg, they were all paying, and they were paying from money from donations from the business people. Well, the York Chamber of Commerce did not want to do that…
   "I can remember going into a tavern here in York, and looking up on the wall here of a huge mirror there behind the bar. And there would be hundreds – I never counted – of dollars pasted up on the wall or on that mirror betting on the ball games. Now, that worked fine as long as York won. But I could see right away that we were in trouble because we couldn't buy ballplayers. But we did. We did manage to collect enough money through donations or what have you to hire the pitching. And we got that out of the University of Nebraska… And some of those guys would slip out here and throw for us. And the going rate was about, oh I'd say anyways from $75 to $150. That was a lot of money…
   "I can remember walking out of the – [when I] had a good game, and I can remember walking out of the gate and somebody sticking a 50-dollar bill in my pocket. That's the way it was."
   Question: "Were you a player manager?"
   "Yes, for two years I was. And then, things evolved to the point that people in York, or a certain group of people in York wanted a better ball team and a better representation. And this was accomplished by firing me, [laughs] which was all right because I had – It wasn't pleasant… One winter day I was sitting at home, and Don Norberg, who managed the Stromsburg Swedes, he drove up in front and it was a blizzard. He knocked on the door and he said, 'Don, how would you like to play ball this year with Stromsburg?'
   "I says, 'Well, I don't know. I think I was going to play here in York.'
   "He says, 'No, I visited with Floyd Bond and some of the people involved and they don't want you.' [Laughs.]
   "I says, 'Good, I'll be up there.'…
   "And the first ballgame was in Stromsburg, and the only way I had to get to Stromsburg was on a Cushman motor scooter… I took off on my motor scooter with my Stromsburg uniform on, and went to Stromsburg. And I had a good game. And after the ballgame, why, Don Norberg, the manager, and this C.M. Johnson, he was on the board, he says – He told me to come here. They wanted to talk to me. He says, 'Don, we can't have you coming up here on a Cushman motor scooter at night because you might not make it.'
   "Well, I says, 'That's probably right.'
   "'Well, I tell you what. You come up here tomorrow, and we're going to get you a car.' So C.M. Johnson had the Chrysler-Plymouth dealership. And so they – this was all by handshake – they gave me a '42 Plymouth. Now, a '42 Plymouth in '46 was a pretty good car. And it was – It belonged to the banker in Stromsburg. Well, they gave me that car, and I gave them $900 of playing time. And that's how I got my first car…
   "They built this new lighted ballpark. And can you imagine, I can remember going up there when there was 2,000 people, and I can remember playing baseball up here [in York] when there was darn near that many… Like I say, there was no television. That's the only place people had to go… And I can tell you what eventually happened. It got to the point they couldn't meet their payroll. So, that ruined a lot of semi-pro stuff."

Don Geery – Small Town Baseball

   

Other Excerpts from Don Geery's Interview:

Pearl Harbor
Enlisting Before his 18th Birthday
Don's War Experience
Rural Nebraska's Contribution
America's Industrial War Machine
Rounding Up Japanese-Americans
The GI Bill
Drive-In Movie Theaters
Hooking Up Electricity on Christmas Eve
A Young Boy's Love of Baseball
Baseball on Tinian Island
Digging Holes for Electric Poles by Hand
Feeding the World