Beal City Primed to Make History Again

June 14, 2013

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

BATTLE CREEK – About three weeks into this season, Beal City coach Brad Antcliff began noticing strong similarities between this team and those that won MHSAA titles in 2009 and 2010.

It started with the speedy outfield of senior Joseph Rau, junior Carson Salisbury and freshman Chase Rollin – a pair of running backs and a tight end during football season – who range far and wide to take away what would be hits against many other defenses.

Of course, there are differences as well – but not in focus. These Aggies fully understand the historical significance of the opportunity at hand and how they can become part of the program's recent run of success.

Beal City earned another championship opportunity with a 15-0 Semifinal win over Maple City Glen Lake on Friday. 

“It’s funny, because every spring our goal is to win the Highland (Conference) and make a long tournament run. And the kids understand that,” Antcliff said. “It’s great winning 35 games. Butt with our schedule, we want to play the Grosse Pointes, we want to play bigger schools. If we lose 10-12 games, we’re fine. It gets us ready for this.”

Beal City has lost only twice this season, against 35 wins. But consider the No. 3 Aggies ready for No. 1 University Liggett, their opponent in Saturday’s 6:30 p.m. Final.

They sure appeared primed after the fifth inning Friday. Beal City, up 1-0, put up five more runs and then added nine in the sixth inning to end the game.

Senior Ryan Marshall gave up only two hits and struck out eight for the Aggies. He also scored two runs, drove in a third and had one of the team’s seven stolen bases.

Beal City had 10 hits, but only junior Ryan Tilmann had more than one; he finished 2-for-3 with two runs scored, three RBI and two stolen bases.

Glen Lake, making its first Semifinal appearance since 2001, got three innings of one-run pitching and one of its two hits from sophomore Austin Odziana. The Lakers finished 28-8.

Grosse Pointe Woods University Liggett 1, New Lothrop 0

The top-ranked Knights didn’t score the game’s lone run until the sixth inning. But pitcher Connor Fannon needed only that one to get University Liggett back to the Final for the third straight season.

Fannon, a senior, gave up only two hits, didn’t walk a batter and struck out eight.

He out-dueled also-solid Mitch Perizzolo, who gave up only five hits, didn’t walk a batter and stuck out four for New Lothrop. Perizzolo also had one of the Hornets’ two hits.

The Knights scored that lone run when shortstop Nicholas Azar hit a sacrifice fly to score centerfielder Mark Evan Auk from third base. Auk had reached on a bunt single. Catcher Nathan Gaggin was the only player, from either team, with more than a hit; he finished 2-for-3.

New Lothrop, making its first Semifinal appearance since 1998, finished 25-6. University Liggett improved to 30-4.

Click for full box scores.

PHOTOS: (Top) Beal City junior Ryan Tilmann gets in safe under the throw in the Aggies' win over Maple City Glen Lake. (Middle) A University Liggett hitter drives a pitch in the Knights' Semifinal win over New Lothrop. (Click to see more from Hockey Weekly Action Photos.)

Hart Teammates Reunite After 80 Years as WWII Vets, Great-Grandfathers

By Tom Kendra
Special for

June 7, 2023

Walter “Stretch” Hansen and Harold Tate were good friends and high school basketball and baseball teammates at Hart High School, graduating in 1943.

West MichiganNo one could have guessed that less than two months after graduation (on July 2, 1943), the two friends would head to Fort Custer in Battle Creek, the first stop on their way overseas to fight for their country in World War II.

No one could have imagined how many twists and turns their lives would take over the next 80 years – from the battlefields in the South Pacific, then back to West Michigan where they both were married with children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren and now Harold even has a great-great-grandchild.

And, certainly, no one would have believed that the two young boys from Hart – who forged a friendship through high school sports long before the days of computers, microwave ovens and cell phones – would still be alive at the age of 98 for an emotional reunion last month, on May 22, seeing each other for the first time in 80 years and, to cap it off, the reunion took place in their hometown of Hart.

“It was such a great day,” Hansen said about the meeting, which was set up by Muskegon-area World War II historian Richard Mullally.

“We picked right up, talking about sports and the service and everything else.”

The conversation came easy for the two old friends, who played for Hart during a “golden era” at the school – particularly in basketball, as the Pirates won 11 West Michigan Conference basketball titles between 1940 and 1954.

Hansen, left, and Tate reunite for the first time in 80 years on Monday, May 22, 2023, in their hometown of Hart. Perhaps the best team during that time period was Hansen and Tate’s as seniors in 1943. That team lost only once, to rival Scottville (31-25), but more than made up for it with an 80-10 trouncing of the Spartans in the final regular-season game.

Hart then crushed Scottville and Newaygo to win the District championship, only to have Michigan’s prep basketball season stopped abruptly at that point because of World War II.

That 1943 team featured four starters over 6-0, led by the duo of Hansen and Stan Kapulak (both 6-6), Joe Mack (6-2), Lyle Burmeister (6-1) and Stanley Riley (the lone starter under 6-foot at 5-11).

“The newspapers called us ‘The Hart Skyscrapers,’” said Hansen, who will be 99 on Nov. 6. “We were taller than most college teams at that time.”

Hansen and Tate’s friendship continued to blossom on the baseball field, only to have their lives turned upside down shortly after graduation 80 years ago, when all Hart senior boys who had been drafted headed to Battle Creek as a brief staging area on their way to the battlefields of Europe and the South Pacific.

Hansen served in the Army Specialized Training Program and was part of the 52nd Signal Battalion and the 4025th Signal Battalion in the Pacific Theater.

“I had an all-expense paid tour of the South Pacific,” Hansen said with a chuckle. “The Philippines, New Guinea, Okinawa, Hawaii, all over the place.”

Tate did his service in the 24th Infantry Division and the 19th Infantry Regiment, and was stationed in Japan.

During their visit last month, Harold showed off the Japanese Samurai sword and Arisaka rifle which he had sent back from Japan to Hart. The week after their visit, both took part in Memorial Day parades – Hansen in the Lakeside parade in Muskegon and Tate in his 77th Memorial Day service in Hart.

Hansen, who still has a home on a small lake in Holton and lives at a senior care facility in Muskegon, played many years of semi-pro basketball and did some coaching. He worked at GTE and has five children and 10 grandchildren.

Hansen served from 1943 to 1946 as a Sergeant in the Pacific Theater during World War II. Tate served from 1945 to 1946 as a Platoon Sergeant in the Pacific Theater during World War II.“I have been so blessed,” Hansen said, sorting through one of his many scrapbooks. “All five of my kids are great and I have grandkids that are just amazing, everything they are doing. I don’t even know all of their names, but it’s sure been fun watching them.”

Tate returned to Hart after his military service and has been there ever since, at first working as a carpenter with his father and then becoming a rural mail carrier for the U.S. Postal Service, retiring 26 years ago at the age of 72. He has lived in the same home for 75 years and has three children, six grandchildren, seven great-grandkids and now one great-great-grandchild.

Tate laments the demise of his beloved American Legion post in Hart, a town with just over 2,000 residents, as the number of members has steadily declined.

One topic that brings a smile to both of their faces is the recent resurgence of the Hart High School athletic program, which drew media attention not too many years ago for all the wrong reasons – notably a football program which went 24 years without a winning record.

That string was snapped with a 6-3 mark and the school’s first earned playoff appearance last fall.

But that was just the start.

This winter, Hart’s boys basketball team finished the regular season 22-0, the girls basketball team made it to the Division 3 Semifinals at the Breslin Center, wrestling qualified for the Team Finals for the fourth-straight year and competitive cheer placed fourth in Division 4. This spring, the Hart girls track & field team won its second-straight Division 3 Finals team title, and the boys placed fourth.

“It’s a great place to call home, a great place to live, always has been,” said Hansen of his hometown, which got its name from its central position in the “heart” of Oceana County.

And who would have imagined that these two high school teammates could still come home again for a reunion at the age of 98?

Tom KendraTom Kendra worked 23 years at The Muskegon Chronicle, including five as assistant sports editor and the final six as sports editor through 2011. E-mail him at [email protected] with story ideas for Muskegon, Oceana, Mason, Lake, Oceola, Mecosta and Newaygo counties.

PHOTOS (Top) Members of the 1943 Hart High School varsity baseball team gather together, preparing for a team photo. Among those are Harold Gayle Tate (far left) and Walter "Stretch" Hansen, at 6-6 the tallest player in the back row. (Middle) Hansen, left, and Tate reunite for the first time in 80 years on Monday, May 22, 2023, in their hometown of Hart. (Below) Hansen served from 1943 to 1946 as a Sergeant in the Pacific Theater during World War II. Tate served from 1945 to 1946 as a Platoon Sergeant in the Pacific Theater during World War II. (Top photo courtesy of Stretch Hansen. Middle and below photos courtesy of Richard Mullally.)