Rolfe’s Doc Ranney Pitches for Armstrong — in 1932

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Pictured* are Dr. R.B. Ranney and his assistant, Erma (Hopkins) Lund. Dr. Ranney retired from his Rolfe, Iowa, dental practice in 1978. In 1986 he passed away at the age of 72. (Click on photo to enlarge; twice for further enlargement.)

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Today, Major League Baseball’s 2012 opening day, I’m posting about Dr. Ranney (back row, far left in photo below). He was a high school pitcher playing for the 1932 Armstrong, Iowa, high school baseball championship team. He later became the dentist in my hometown of Rolfe, Iowa. Pictured above is Dr. Ranney with Erma (Hopkins) Lund. Off-and-on from approximately 1967 to 1978, Erma was Dr. Ranney’s assistant.

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The caption to this 1932 photo** reads, "Here is the crack Armstrong High school baseball team which climaxed a great season by winning the state prep championship. The members are, back row, left to right: Ranney, E. Lorig, B. Lorig, Erickson, Gagestad, Olson, Coach Estel Thompson. Bottom row, left to right: Horswell, Fitzgibbons, Gaarde, Wilson, Ankrum, Nicoson." (The player with the last name of Nicoson was Mac Nicoson. He was the catcher on the team. He was also a brother to long-time Rolfe resident Sam Nicoson who married Geraldine, "Gerry." Mrs. Nicoson was my first grade teacher.) (Click on photo to enlarge.)

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In 1976 my dad, Deane Gunderson, wrote in his weekly “Bubbles in the Wine” column about Dr. Ranney.

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“Ranney Pitches”

Bubbles in the Wine (column) in the Rolfe Arrow

by Deane Gunderson

First published 36 years ago…May 13, 1976

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Dr. T.D. Jones, 1934.*** (Click on photo to enlarge.)

Dr. R.B. Ranney is one of Rolfe’s best liked citizens and a very highly regarded professional. Russ graduated from dental school and came to Rolfe in 1940. I had looked in the old files of the Arrow for some account of his coming, but didn’t find any. Doc said he rather “snuck” in. That must have been the case. It’s understandable, in a way, because when he first came he worked on a commission basis for Dr. T.D. Jones who was in failing health. Three years later when Ranney bought Jones out, the local residents probably weren’t aware of much of a change. Who cared as long as the dental work was that good?

Doc and Maureen, who are two of our most solid citizens, reared a family of two boys while in Rolfe. They don’t brag much.

But did you know that Doc was the winning pitcher in the 1932 Iowa High School Baseball tournament, pitching hometown Armstrong to the state title with the school’s 23rd consecutive win? That little guy? (120 lbs. then) And who was the victim? North High of Des Moines, the 1931 state champs!

The intensity of the feeling in Armstrong must have begun to build up about May 12, 1932, when the Armstrong Journal headlined, “Baseball Team Will Enter State Tourney,” and continuing, “The Armstrong High School baseball team left this afternoon for the state tournament in Des Moines, having wiped the slate clean at the Spencer tournament last Saturday and Monday.

“They met the Spencer team in the first round and eliminated them 9 to 0. Monday morning they defeated Sanborn 8 to 1, and in the afternoon, played in the finals against Arnold’s Park, winning 6 to 1.

“Ranney pitched the first and last games.”

A week later the town must have been bustling with pride and excitement. Again from the Journal:

“Armstrong High School baseball team came home Saturday night with the State Championship, after having won three straight games in the tournament at Des Moines in Western League Baseball park. A crowd was waiting [for] them near the midnight hour at the Junction and formed a parade, marching up through Main Street led by the high school band. A tired and happy bunch of boys and Coach Thompson piled out of cars to play the game over among the fans who for two days had paced up and down main street anxiously waiting for a telephone call from Des Moines announcing the result of each game.

“Armstrong played their first game Friday afternoon against Moulton and defeated them 6 to 1. Ranney let the Moulton team down with three hits, while Armstrong batters hit 10 safe singles.

“Saturday morning Hamburg was the next to fall, 8 to 2. Horswell allowed five scattered hits, and Armstrong hit safely eight times.

The final game was played against North High, Des Moines, last year’s champions. This team was rated strong, especially their crack pitcher, Jim Iles, who had been played up in news reports. He met his downfall in a slugging match with 14 hits for Armstrong and 13 for North High. Ranney pitched this game and was nicked hard, this making his second full game in two days.

“The Score was tied at 9 in the fifth inning after each team had been ahead by as much as three. It was again tied at 11 in the 6th inning. Ranney allowed but three batters to face him in the seventh inning and Armstrong went to bat in the last half of the inning with a tie score. With one out Wilson walked, Ranney singled, Gaarde was purposely walked and the bases were full. B. Lorig crashed a single through the infield and Armstrong won the tournament.”

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See last year’s opening day post about the Chicago Cubs here.

*From the collection of Erma (Hopkins) Lund.

**From the collection of Richard (Dick) Ranney.

***From the Webb photo collection at the Rolfe Public Library.

(Click here to go to Louise Gunderson Shimon’s blog’s home page.)
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One Response to “Rolfe’s Doc Ranney Pitches for Armstrong — in 1932”

  1. Peg Says:

    EXCELLENT human interest journalism!!!

    Ahhhhh, Dr. Ranney. My dentist today still comments on the quality of his work (fillings, mostly). (Except that he always reassured me I didn’t need a cleaning. Hey, he made *me* happy! :-))

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