SIDELINE SLANTS

ORIGINALLY WRITTEN JOE KLEINSASSER
For once I won’t be offended if you call me a homer, but only in my role as a sports columnist, and not when I referee.

My brother-in-law Ron Klaassen will be inducted into the Tabor College Athletic Hall of Fame May 15. I’m happy for him. He was an outstanding football player and track star at Hillsboro High School and Tabor College.

Because he played football at Tabor when the program was started, his statistics aren’t what they would have been had he played today. Even so, from 1967-1969, he led the team in yards rushing.

He also was named Most Valuable Offensive Back in 1968, leading the team in scoring and interceptions.

In track, Klaassen held records in the 100-yard dash, 880-yard relay and 440-yard relay.

Klaassen is one of 15 Hall of Fame members. Tabor started the Hall of Fame in 1999. Grace Jaworsky and Gary Myers also are entering Tabor’s Hall of Fame this year.

I doubt the selection committee knows the role my sister Faith played in her husband Ron’s accomplishments. The fact is, without her help, his track stats wouldn’t have been as impressive.

In spring of 1970, Faith taught music at nearby Galva. Ron was a Tabor senior. One of Faith’s senior high school students was dating a pole vaulter at Bethel College. Faith and her student often visited at the various track meets.

Tabor’s spring athletic banquet was scheduled for a Friday night, and a major track meet for six conference schools was to be held in McPherson Saturday.

Early that week, Faith asked her student if she was going to the track meet Saturday. She looked at Faith and said, “I thought Steve said it was Friday.” So Faith went home and asked Ron, who said the track meet was Saturday.

On Tuesday, Faith told her student the track meet was Saturday. On Wednesday, the student said she talked to Steve, who said the track meet was Friday. Thursday morning Faith and her student still disagreed on the date.

When Faith got to school Friday morning, her student rushed up to her and said, “Mrs. Klaassen, you better call and tell them, because the track meet is this afternoon!”

In a mild panic, Faith called Ron. By this time, he had been asking Coach Stu Brynn so many questions about the track meet date that they decided to check, and sure enough, it was to begin Friday afternoon.

The athletic banquet was moved to Saturday evening, and Ron and the rest of the track team made it to the track meet Friday.

Faith tells me, “I still think I should have gotten an honorable mention or something.”

And now, as Paul Harvey would say, you know the rest of the story.

* * *

My sister’s next greatest little-known contribution to the Hillsboro sporting scene may have been breaking the gender barrier and becoming the first female to play on a men’s slow-pitch team in Hillsboro.

Ron played on his father-in-law’s team, the Kleinsasser Tomatoes. Faith was dutifully cheering the team on when a player had to leave the game early, leaving the team shorthanded.

My dad turned to Faith and said, “Get down here.” She was put in to play catcher. My dad, who was the pitcher, figured he could cover home if there was a close play at the plate.

When she came to bat, Faith hit a scorcher. OK, it was a weak ground ball that went through the legs of the second baseman, and she reached first base. She came around to score and the Tomatoes won the game. Faith couldn’t believe how sore she was after catching only three innings.

The Tomatoes went on to win the league championship and Ron got a small trophy, of which Faith claims a little corner.

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