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After a rocky start, St. Cloud got its baseball team

Courtesy of the Stearns History Museum
Chick Simunek is greeted at home plate after hitting a grand slam during a June 20, 1951 game at Rox Stadium. Photograph from the Myron Hall Collection, Stearns History Museum and Research Center, St. Cloud.

The St. Cloud Rox—a Northern League baseball team—fielded a successful franchise from 1946 until 1971, showcasing the passion for baseball in Stearns County.

A group of local businessmen led by Frank Murphy formed the St. Cloud Baseball Association in 1945 to bring minor league baseball to St. Cloud. Murphy was president of the Coca-Cola Bottling Works in St. Cloud and a member of many local organizations. Amateur baseball was popular in Stearns County, which had developed a reputation for fielding strong teams and skilled players. As a result, St. Cloud was the perfect place for a minor league team.

The Association sold stock and commercial advertising to finance the team. It also united the business community behind the team. The St. Cloud Daily Times held a naming competition. “Rox” was the most popular suggestion. Murphy then gathered uniforms and equipment, but still had no players. The Rox finally obtained them through a working agreement with the Minneapolis Millers. Local baseball talent provided supplementary players. This meant the Millers would send players to the Rox for development and training.

Despite an uncertain beginning, the first Rox team was very successful, winning the 1946 Northern League title. The Northern League, a Class C baseball league, was composed of teams from the Upper Midwest and Canada. The Rox were part of the farm team system, with Major League parent clubs sending young players to Minor League teams for seasoning. The Rox became a Minor League affiliate of the San Francisco Giants in 1947. At different times, the Rox fielded players for the New York Giants, Chicago Cubs, and Minnesota Twins.

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In their twenty-five-year history, the Rox won eight regular season Northern League titles and two playoff titles. The team was one of the more successful franchises in the league. Sixty-one Rox members reached the major leagues after playing in St. Cloud, including Hall of Famers Lou Brock, Orlando Cepeda, and Gaylord Perry.

St. Cloud citizens supported the team by providing housing for the players and attending games. The 1948 season saw a record attendance of 66,389. Fans continued to come out and support their team in the following years, but never to the same level as the 1948 season. The Rox played their home games at Municipal Stadium, located between 25th and 27th Avenues on Division Street in St. Cloud. The Association launched each season with a parade and banquet to welcome new players to St. Cloud. The Rox also inspired business-sponsored fan clubs like the Knot-hole Gang.

The St. Cloud Rox folded in 1971, along with the rest of the Northern League, after the number of teams fell to just four.

In 1997, the St. Cloud River Bats began play in the Northwoods League, comprised of towns in the Upper Midwest. The Northwoods League features primarily college and amateur players. In 2012, the River Bats changed their name to the Rox to bring back memories of the golden years of baseball in St. Cloud.

Correction: The article has been corrected to accurately reflect the location of Municipal Stadium. We regret the error.

For more information on this topic, check out the original entry on MNopedia.

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Comments (2)

  1. Submitted by John Ellenbecker on 07/22/2014 - 07:20 pm.

    A minor correction

    Municipal Stadium was at 25th and Division (where Byerly’s is now) – not 29th and Division (which back then didn’t exist as an intersection, but rather was where Highway 152 merged with Division Street).

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