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Sleepy Eye celebrates 100th anniversary of when Babe Ruth played ball there

Sleepy Eye celebrates 100th anniversary of when Babe Ruth played ball there
Sleepy Eye celebrates 100th anniversary of when Babe Ruth played ball there 03:00

SLEEPY EYE, Minn. -- Baseball and the game's history mean a lot to people in the small town of Sleepy Eye.

One hundred years ago this October, Babe Ruth played an exhibition game there, and they decided to celebrate it. It was the kind of day that brought the biggest of the big to the small town, and a time to remember the man who made it happen.

The year was 1922, and Babe Ruth was hitting his prime when he took the train to Sleepy Eye in October to make some barnstorming money by playing a game with the locals.

Now they're celebrating the day at the same ballpark where one man had a connection passed down by his father, who saw the Babe that day.

"He was 10 years old at the time," Raymond Roiger said. "He remembers seeing the ballgame. He told me about it. That was quite a thrill."

Dana Kiecker was born here, grew up in nearby Fairfax, and like the Babe, made it to the Boston Red Sox as a pitcher.

"This is baseball country, right here -- New Ulm, Sleepy Eye. If you could beat those teams, that was a pretty good achievement," Kiecker said.

But there was also something missing. Dean Brinkman came up with the idea and organized the day. He was quite a baseball player himself, growing up here. A month ago, a heart attack unexpectedly took his life.

"He just always had a smile on his face, and just loved the game of baseball. To see this crowd would've just been a really special day," friend Terry Boelter said.

As a crowd gathered with the same sight lines they would have enjoyed a century ago, one special fan was in attendance -- Brinkman's high school sweetheart and now widow.

"This ballpark, this community always has meant a lot to him," Sandy Brinkman said. "I don't know if I can put to words when you not only lose your best friend and someone that just meant so much to me."

It was a day made for the history of baseball, a day made for the future. 

You got the sense the Babe and Dean Brickman may have both been looking down. It's difficult to know what the Babe would remember about his day here. But it's easy to know what Dean Brickman would be thinking about his town.

"The community, faith, family, friends is what keeps us going," Sandy Brinkman said. "It's all in one ballpark today." 

Dean Brinkman was a well-known member of the community working as a chiropractor. He is survived by his wife, three children, as well as his parents and a brother.

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