by CHRIS ROGERS
Lifelong Rollingstone baseball booster Steve Rader will be inducted to the Minnesota Amateur Baseball Hall of Fame in September, after being selected on June 26. “At 91, I feel pretty good about the whole thing,” the former player, coach, umpire, and organizer said with a laugh.
Rader’s long and impressive career as an amateur baseball player, as well as his role in founding and his years of coaching Little League in Rollingstone contributed to his selection, Hall of Fame Treasurer Bob Karn said.
Rader got his start on the Rollingstone amateur baseball team at 16 around 1945. With World War II still raging, Rader and other youngsters helped fill in for players who had joined the service. Later on, he would become the starting catcher. “The guy who was catching for us couldn’t handle my brother Dick’s curve,” Rader recalled. They would go on to win the state tournament that year, 1953.
Over the years, Rader went to seven state tournaments as an amateur player, six of them with the Rollingstone team. He also had stints with St. Charles and the Winona Chiefs.
In his 20s, a St. Louis Cardinals scout brought Rader out to play on the Cardinals’ farm team in Georgia. It wasn’t meant to be. “I went down there and said, ‘Oh boy, minor league baseball — they don’t pay anything at all,’” Rader said. He earned $140 a month and had to be thrifty to afford meals, he said. Meanwhile, the small but mighty Rollingstone squad kept winning its way to major tournaments, and Rader decided to come back and play for his hometown, he explained.
In the mid-1960s Rader started Little League baseball in Rollingstone with an under-13 team. He borrowed and scrounged up whatever equipment he could to outfit the field and the team. When the squad headed off to a tournament in Cochrane, the Rollingstone youths didn’t look the part. “We were the only team without baseball uniforms,” Rader said. “We were kind of a rag tag team.” But the Rollingstone team won that year, and the next two years in a row. Rollingstone businesses started donating to the program. “I bought uniforms for them next year,” Rader explained. “They are still using the same Yankee pinstripe uniforms I bought back in the 1970s.”
Rader coached Little League in Rollingstone for 15 years, at one point coaching all three teams, and building a program that helped the town churn out numerous, talented high school and college players. At one point, half of the Winona Senior High School’s starting lineup were former Rollingstone Little League players, Rader said. Years later, he added, “A lot of kids wrote to me and told me how much they appreciated being on my teams.”
When he got the news that he was selected for the Hall of Fame, Rader said, “I just couldn’t believe it.”
More information on the Minnesota Amateur Baseball Hall of Fame and the upcoming September 18 induction ceremony is available at mnamateurbaseballhof.com.