The odd couple of Minnesota Saints baseball
By GLENN MILLER
Roy Hobbs Baseball
Some of their teammates call them the Minnesota senior baseball odd couple.
Pat Thompson and George Blackwell encountered each other as opponents in their first adult league baseball games 30 years ago.
“That was 1986,” recalled Pat, who is 74 and grew up in El Paso, Texas. He hadn’t played since high school. “It was my very first game. I was on the Edon Prairie Lions Tap Team. And it was George’s first game. He played on the Bloomington A’s team. We lost that game because George hit a triple.”
“That was the start of it,” George said. “For many years we were on separate teams, and it seemed like we were always first and second in the league standings of the over-35 division. We had some great battles as competitors.”
The very next year, Pat’s Edon Prairie squad defeated the Bloomington A’s in the title game of the over-35 Minnesota Senor Men’s Amateur Baseball Association state championship.
As children, both of their lives revolved around baseball.
“We played baseball sunup to sundown in El Paso,” Pat said.
“As a kid, baseball was my life,” George said, who grew up in Pittsburgh. “Everything I wanted to do was built around baseball. After high school, I was able to sign a professional contract with the Phillies, and I spent three years with them in the minor leagues.”
While he was in high school, George played on an all-star team that brought together budding athletes from all over Pennsylvania. His roommate at one of the tournaments they played in was a budding baseball star named Mike Ditka who decided to focus on football. George said he and Ditka remain friends to this day.
The eventual meeting of George and Pat as opponents was aided by similar career paths.
George was public relations director for Northwestern Bell in Minneapolis. Pat was initially a sports reporter in El Paso, then with the Associated Press in Albuquerque, N.M., and finally with the St. Paul Pioneer-Press. He transitioned from there to a job in public relations for an oil refinery in Minneapolis.
George’s baseball path took him to older divisions as a player and manager, but Pat continued to play and manage in the 35-and-over division through 2012. He amassed more than 350 career victories as a manager, and in August was inducted into the Minnesota Senior Men’s Amateur Baseball Association Hall of Fame.
“In 2006, though,” Pat said, “Joe Maiden brought the Silver Foxes to Minneapolis for a five-game series and that was Pat’s introduction to playing in the 60-year-old age group.
“I played in several games and did well, so I decided I wanted to play in these Roy Hobbs World Series tournaments that Joe’s teams dominated.”
George was managing the Midwest Classics team, which was bound for that year’s World Series, and Pat asked if he could join them. George apologized that the roster was full for that year, but granted Pat permission to practice with them.
Pat was picked up in the players’ pool by the New England Red Sox.
“In the opening game, we played the Midwest Classics,” Pat said. “I had two hits and a couple of RBI and we won. New England went on to win the championship that year, and I led the team in hitting.”
At the airport on the way home, George asked Pat to play for the Classics, and the competitors finally became teammates.
George had already won a World Series title with the 2001 Classics, and in 2014, they joined forces to form the Minnesota Saints to compete in the Roy Hobbs Timeless Division where they won their first World Series title as teammates.
George manages the team on the field, and Pat handles most of the administrative duties.
“Pat has been just a great guy to work with,” George said. “He’s very detailed, very organized. He helps recruit players. He does a newsletter for us. He has a great gift for writing.
“And he’s a really great competitor. Just like me, he loves the game. We are both at an age now that we just can’t get it out of our systems. Just being around the guys, that’s what makes it enjoyable for both of us.”
“George is just a class man,” Pat said, “and guys really love to play for him.”