Princeton’s Luther Dorr exemplifies what an amateur baseball Hall of Famer should be

Staff report


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www.startribune.com

PRINCETON, MINN. — The edition of the Union-Times resting on the front counter of the old newspaper building in downtown Princeton was dated Sept. 8.

There was a healthy look to it, 28 pages that included a fall preview for high school teams representing Princeton and Milaca.

The Union-Times is a merger of the Princeton Union-Eagle and the Milaca-based Mille Lacs County Times that took place in 2016, as the Adams Publishing Group was buying the newspapers from the Andersen family.

The Princeton Union started in 1876. There was an attempt to establish the Eagle as a second Princeton weekly newspaper in 1974.

“I was working my real job and writing a weekly sports column for the Union starting in 1968,” Luther Dorr said. “I was paid $5 for the column. After a while, the Union started using me for coverage of the high school teams and raised my pay to $17.50 a week.

“The Eagle came to town and hired me as the editor. I’m not sure why. I had no experience other than writing sports stories.”

Two years later, Elmer L. Andersen, a former Minnesota governor, bought the two newspapers, and for 40 years, from 1976 to 2016, the Princeton newspaper was the Union-Eagle.

Andersen’s company was called ECM Publishing, as in East Central Minnesota. He owned newspapers in Princeton, Milaca, Cambridge, etc., and he hired Dorr as his editor in Princeton.

“Elmer L. was a terrific person … a progressive Republican,” Dorr said. “He was very much a believer in looking at an issue and giving readers a reason to react.

“We would get so many letters to the editor. There would be people standing in line to pick up the paper at the counter on Thursdays, and some would go right to the letters.”

To those of us in the Twin Cities, Luther was the “sports guy from Princeton.” In his hometown, he was likely to get more feedback on his reports from city council and school board meetings.

Dorr was also a constant presence with the Princeton Panthers, the local townball team that he helped enliven in the 1970s. Before that, he pitched and played on the left side of the infield for nearby Santiago.

It was 47 years from his first at-bat in 1956 as a 13-year-old kid for Santiago until a final at-bat for the Panthers as he neared 60. He played more than two decades with his son Brian, an excellent Princeton player, manager and also a well-known umpire (including in the Big Ten).

Notoriously, the Dorr father and son twice hit home runs in the same inning.

Brian launched a campaign to get his father in the Minnesota Amateur Baseball Hall of Fame in this go-round. It takes endorsement letters that attest to an individual’s commitment, as an organizer, manager, player, promoter of teams, keeper of facilities.

“I was told I checked all the boxes, including ‘military veteran,’ which is in there for some reason,” Dorr said.

He’s going into the amateur hall on Saturday night with Dale Decker (Maple Lake), James Kubes Jr. (Lonsdale), Darrell Vosejpka (Lonsdale) and Leroy Kuhl (Hutchinson). The event will be at the River’s Edge Convention Center in downtown St. Cloud.

Luther turned 80 on Wednesday. He retired as the Union-Eagle editor after three decades in 2007. He continues to write his “Time Out” sports column as a blog.

All those times he walked the sideline, or sat in a gym to cover the Princeton Tigers, no drama equaled the epic tale of Casey Ramirez, the drug smuggler of the early ’80s.

Casey came to Princeton, planted palm trees, built a hockey arena, expanded the runway at the little airport (for his suspicious aircraft) and bought a lot of drinks downtown.

“A drink was two bucks,” Dorr said. “I was in the saloon one night and Casey was buying for everyone. I was going to have three. I slapped down $6 in front of him and said, ‘I’m not taking your free drinks.’

“I was always skeptical of that guy. And when it all came apart, we covered the Casey story huge.”

Luther was in a back office at the newspaper building that’s mostly empty. Chloe Smith, a young reporter of many bylines in the Union-Times, also was in the building.

Dorr and I have gotten to be pals through the month or more he spends in southwest Florida taking in numerous Twins exhibitions.

You know … old, crusty guys complaining about starting pitchers getting hooked too early.

And on this Princeton visit, Luther confirmed his baseball all-timer status with this tale:

When the Texas Rangers had spring training in Port Charlotte, Fla., Dorr would hang out at the same saloon preferred by Rangers beat writers.

“I would take on Galloway and some other guys in baseball trivia, until 3 in the morning,” Dorr said.

I looked at him and said: “You broke curfew on occasion with Randy Galloway, the best writer and talker of ‘Texan’ in the history of Dallas-Ft. Worth sports journalism? I did that a number of times myself, when I did such things.

“You, Luther, are a true Hall of Famer.”



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