July 5, 2019 — In 1939, Floyd Stromme made his debut as a pitcher for the Cleveland Indians, but his “first” debut happened eight years earlier as an adolescent playing for the Cooperstown Junior Legion baseball team.
Oswald Tufte coached Cooperstown in 1931, and they had to cancel their season opener because they didn’t enough money to buy a new baseball. Between them, the players owned only four bats, three of which were cracked, and their uniforms were said to be pretty pitiful.
Coach Tufte sensed possibilities in one of his players, 14-year-old Floyd Stromme, who was aggressive and had a good right arm; so he started grooming Stromme for the pitcher’s job. His hunch paid off in their first actual game, when Carrington’s team got only four hits off the boy; Stromme had ten strikeouts, and the team won 4 to 2.
Although it was a good start, Cooperstown didn’t win again until July when they met Hannaford and beat them 2 to 1.
When Cooperstown entered tournament play that year, they had only these two wins. The weather was terrifically hot, and Tufte had to use a lot persuasion to keep the boys from going swimming instead. It was now that Coach Tufte’s efforts in developing Stromme’s pitching control really paid off, as Cooperstown defeated a powerful Mayville team by 6 to 5. In their next game, they widened their spread by beating Litchville 14 to 3.
The raggedy young underdogs were now in the finals against a much bigger team, Fargo, whose players were more experienced, were heavy hitters and liked fast pitching. During the first inning, Floyd’s first three pitches ended up as three runs for Fargo, and Tufte advised him to switch to his curve ball. That did the trick. During the following two days, Stromme pitched 24 of the 27 innings, and Cooperstown walked away with a district championship.
Moving on to the state tournament, Cooperstown first mowed down Park River 28 to 4. Next in the line of fire was Bottineau, with the game seesawing until a Cooperstown player hit a home run with the bases loaded. Cooperstown next advanced to the finals to play the defending national regional champs, Enderlin, who had seasoned players, plenty of reserves, and three good pitchers – in fact, one of them had pitched a no-hitter against Minot the day before.
In contrast, Cooperstown’s green players were almost all 14 and 15 years old. Stromme was their only viable pitcher, and he had already pitched two games in two days. Coach Tufte was worried and took a long time to work Stromme’s pitching arm with “Japanese Oil.” But once again, Tufte’s faith in young Floyd was justified, and Cooperstown walked away as state champions.
Needless to say, Cooperstown was jazzed; in fact, they went out and bought their Cinderella team new uniforms plus all the bats, balls and equipment they wanted. The team took state again in ‘32 and lost by only a hair the year after that, bringing their glory days to an end.
Known as “Rock,” Stromme went on to sign with the Cleveland Indians in 1936 and played for their farm team, the Fargo-Moorhead Twins.
He then did two seasons with New Orleans. It was on this day in 1939 that he moved up and debuted in the majors for the Indians.
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