Nowlin: Baseball at Mount Rushmore

From SABR Vice President Bill Nowlin at The National Pastime Museum on November 9, 2015:

At some point early in 2012, I realized that I had never been to North Dakota. I thought I’d been to all 50 states but couldn’t recall visiting North Dakota. So I planned a trip with my son. Although we stepped foot in North Dakota, most of the sites we visited—Deadwood, Sturgis, Devil’s Tower (in Wyoming), the town of Nowlin, South Dakota (population 7)—were in surrounding states. Naturally, the trip also included Mount Rushmore.

Mount Rushmore, of course, is a National Memorial. The day we visited, we had lunch at Carver’s Café, and since it is a cafeteria, we took trays to hold our food. The trays, I noticed, depicted a baseball team, the Rushmore Memorial Drillers. There were a few photos and text that read:

Lincoln Borglum was a great baseball fan, and he wanted a team for Mount Rushmore. In 1938 and 1939 Lincoln hired men who were good baseball players to work on the carving. They practiced after work and played games on Sunday afternoons. The ball diamond was located in Keystone. The popular sport added some camaraderie between the players who worked together on the mountain. The whole community supported the team.

The “greatest game of all” was the semi-finals between Rushmore and the highly-favored Brookings team at the 1939 State Amateur Baseball Tournament. With no score going into the tenth inning, Rushmore catcher McNally walked with one away. Then 18-year-old right fielder Nick Clifford (pictured at left) smashed a line drive triple into right center field to send McNally home with the run that meant victory. Clifford came in on a wild pitch and the game ended 2-0. Sculptor Gutzon Borglum attended the game, and afterwards invited both the Rushmore and the Brookings teams and their wives to a dinner party – a fine gesture. The Drillers came in third place in the tournament.

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Originally published: November 9, 2015. Last Updated: November 9, 2015.