Monday, February 10, 2020

Another Dawes County Pioneer: William McGannon

(Editor's Note:  The following story is among the many chronicled in "A Compendium of History, Reminiscence & Biography of Western Nebraska," an illustrated book published in 1909 by the Alden Publishing Company of Chicago.

William McGannon, who has made an enviable record as a farmer and stock raiser, the result of his own toil and economy, and a man who enjoys the respect and confidence of a host of warm friends in the community in which his useful life is passing, was born in the city of Wheeling, West Virginia, in 1858. His father, David McGannon, was a butcher. Both of his parents were natives of Ireland. When our subject was but a boy the family came to Minnesota, settling in Olmstead county, near Winona. His father opened the first butcher shop in Rochester, Minnesota, and also conducted a dray line. Here our subject spent his boyhood days on the frontier.

When Mr. McGannon was seventeen years of age he left his home in Minnesota, and returning to West Virginia, attending school at St. Vincent's College. Some time later he conducted a butcher shop at Lanesborough, and after a time opened a shop of his own at Fountain, Minnesota, where he bought and shipped stock. He also conducted a butcher shop at Canton, Minnesota, for about seven years.

In 1891 Mr. McGannon came to Dawes county, Nebraska, took a homestead and bought some land, and engaged in the raising of cattle and sheep. In 1898 he came to his present ranch in the Pine Ridge, where he has erected a substantial and comfortable house in section 19, township 31, range 49. He secured adjoining land, and now has six thousand five hundred acres of deeded land, all of which is fenced and cross fenced. He has six miles along the Trunk Butte creek and two miles on the Indian creek. There is a small stream three quarters of a mile in length which rises on his ranch. Mr. McGannon has one thousand acres of land under cultivation, and has five hundred acres of the finest timber to be found in Dawes county. He has erected substantial and commodious buildings, and engages extensively in the raising of horses and hogs. Since acquiring this land, he has greatly improved it, and has purchased modern agricultural implements to assist him in making his place one of the most modern and productive in western Nebraska. He has a gasoline engine on his farm and also a steam engine and plow.

Mr. McGannon and Miss Jane Davis were married at Fountain, Minnesota, January 19, 1880. She is a daughter of Patrick and Bridget Davis, native of Ireland. Two children came to bless this union, George Arthur and David Edward.

In politics Mr. McGannon is a Democrat. A more enthusiastic or public spirited citizen of Dawes county could not be found, for from his start in this locality Mr. McGannon has taken an active part in all matters of local interest, and is a firm believer in the future of Dawes county. His efforts to get a railroad to the table-land of the county have been untiring. From the crops raised on his cultivated land he has demonstrated that there are places in Dawes county where the land is as fertile and valuable, and can be made to produce as much as irrigated land.

As an entertainer and enthusiastic storyteller, Mr. McGannon has few equals. Upright and honorable in all his dealings, he has manifested on all occasions a high integrity and a strict adherence to principle. Mr. McGannon has recently become proprietor of the Pleasant View Sanitarium, an important hot springs health resort, at Thermopolis, Wyoming, whence he has removed, leaving his sons to operate his ranching interests in Dawes county, Nebraska.

Tuesday, February 4, 2020

Hendrickson to enter Nebraska Baseball Hall of Fame

By Con Marshall               
Young left-handed pitcher Dale Hendrickson
One of the Panhandle’s most prominent athletic personalities will be inducted into the Nebraska Baseball Hall of Fame in Beatrice on Sunday, February 9.  

He is Dale Hendrickson of Kimball, who was a standout baseball and basketball player, coached those sports after graduating from Chadron State College and spent 27 years as a high school activities/athletic director.
Hendrickson, now 83, is one of seven who will be inducted into the Hall of Fame, which dates back to 1971. It has about 250 inductees, but Hendrickson will be one of just five with ties to the Panhandle.  At least 20 of Hendrickson’s family members and friends have made reservations for the induction dinner and program.

A hard-throwing left-hander, Hendrickson pitched Gering’s American Legion team to a state championship in 1953 when he turned 17.

The next summer he lived in Chadron part-time and pitched for the Elks town team that was perhaps the Panhandle’s best. In June, he also attended the first of 11 baseball tryout camps hosted by major league teams at Modisett Field in Rushville. His name became instantly well-known when he signed a contract with the Milwaukee Braves.
In the summer of 1955 while pitching for the Braves’ farm team in Lawton, Okla., Hendrickson became one of their rising stars. He compiled a 24-8 record, including three playoff victories, and hurled 39 consecutive scoreless innings and 75 innings without permitting an earned run.

He had an impressive 11-2 record the next year at Evansville, Ill., one of the Braves’ top minor league teams; then really drew attention during spring training in 1957 while pitching against the Yankees in an exhibition game.  He struck out Mickey Mantle, Yogi Berra and Bill Skowran in the same inning and fanned Tony Kubek and Gil McDougald later in the game.

Also that spring, he allowed just one hit during three innings against the Dodgers, but after giving up two homers in an exhibition game at Chattanooga, he was sent to the minor league camp.

Each fall when the baseball seasons ended, Hendrickson returned to Chadron State to continue his studies and play basketball. One of these years while back on campus, he took a spin on the motorcycle Gary Tuggle had ridden from his home in Alabama so he could play football at Chadron State. Hendrickson upset the bike and injured his left shoulder.
Despite the mishap, which left a knot on his shoulder, he pitched for Braves’ minor league teams a few more years but maybe not as effectively as before. Altogether, he played seven years of pro baseball.

Chadron State had a baseball team during that era, but because Hendrickson had signed a pro contract, he was not allowed to play that sport in college.  However, he developed into an excellent guard for the Eagles’ basketball teams in the late 1950s. He scored 860 points during his career, even though a couple of the seasons were cut short because he had to report to spring training in February. Hendrickson averaged 12.5 points as a junior and 15.8 as a senior. Both ranked second on the team to his backcourt partner and close friend, Chadron native Jim Hampton.

Hendrickson, who was inducted into the CSC Athletic Hall of Fame in 1993, had another special link to Chadron.  His wife, the former Gayle Babue, was a 1955 graduate of Chadron High School. They had been married 61 years when she died June 24, 2018.
After earning his bachelor’s degree from CSC in 1960, Hendrickson spent nine years teaching and coaching at Morrill and then 27 years at Kimball, including 24 of them as the school’s activities director before retiring in 1996. Several summers he also coached American Legion baseball.  One of his teams at Morrill won a state championship and another Morrill team and two at Kimball qualified for the state tournament.

The baseball field in Kimball is named in his honor.

Other accolades Kimball conferred on him include Citizen of the Year, Outstanding Service to Youth and Outstanding Community Educator.  The Hendricksons also were the Grand Marshals of the Kimball-Banner County Farmer’s Day parade in 1994.

In addition, he was tabbed the Nebraska Athletic Director of the Year in 1995 and served as the organization’s president.

In 2014, Dale was a guest of honor when Modisett Field in Rushville was rededicated after undergoing a half million dollar renovation.  Apparently, he was the only player who attended any of the 11 camps to sign a pro contract.  Several of the camps drew at least 200 participants.
Hendrickson said he didn’t throw much at the camp, probably because he had pitched for the Chadron Elks the night before the camp started and Eddie Dancisak, the Braves’ chief Midwestern scout and the camp director, already knew about the promising young southpaw and had attended that game.

“About all they had me do (at the camp) was show them my pickoff move,” Hendrickson remembered.  “They offered me a contract and I signed it. I didn’t get much money, but it gave me a chance to play pro ball.”

Attending spring training with the Braves allowed him to mingle with all-stars such as Warren Spahn, Lew Burdette, Hank Aaron and Eddie Matthews and left him with many other great memories.

Just three players from the Panhandle have been inducted into the state’s Baseball Hall of Fame prior to this year.  They include Gene Leahy, who after being both a standout football and baseball player as a youth living in eastern Nebraska and played fullback on two undefeated football teams at Creighton University in 1918 and ’19,  lived in Rushville more than 50 years and was the primary ramrod of the baseball camps the community hosted. The others are Leo Newell, a Gering umpire, and Gary Neibauer, who grew up in Scottsbluff and pitched in the majors for the Braves four seasons and the Phillies one season from 1969 through 1973.

A member of the Hall of Fame’s board of directors, Larry Bornschlegl of Lincoln said more inductions from the West are welcomed, but few, if any, such nominations have been submitted.

Credit for Hendrickson’s nomination goes to Richard Arntz, an Albuquerque resident and a lifelong Braves fans.  About a year ago, while going through the wealth of information about Braves players he had collected, Arntz came across Hendrickson’s material and was impressed.  After discovering Hendrickson had graduated from Chadron State, he contacted the college. 

Much of the information in this story was made available and Arntz used his stash of material to prepare a nomination packet that immediately impressed the selection committee.

Arntz initially planned to keep the nomination a secret, but when it had become evident that Hendrickson would be inducted, the two met last summer in Omaha while Dale was visiting his daughter Tracy and her family there and Arntz was passing through en route to visit relatives in Wisconsin.

Among others who will be inducted Sunday in Beatrice is Johnny Hopp posthumously.  He played in nearly 1,400 games in the outfield and first base for six different major league teams over a 14-year span ending in 1952. A native of Hastings, Hopp spent his final years living in Scottsbluff and died there in 2003.

Also being inducted will be former college standouts Shawn Buchanan and Bobby Mancuso, both of Omaha, and Gene Faszholz of Seward, who spent eight years in the Cardinals’ organization.  The remaining inductees will be long-time coach and manager Bill Fagler of Lincoln and sports announcer Bryan Cook of Beatrice.
(Note:  Our thanks to Con Marshall for sharing yet another outstanding story!)