WATCH: Leading Off Wall
WALL, TX — Wall Hawks baseball is steeped in tradition that dates all the way back to the early 1950s. That has carried its way 62 years to the 2019 state-bound Wall Hawks.
Brothers Kenneth and Norman Dierschke were a part of the first baseball teams at Wall in 1957 under the leadership of Jim Tunnell before longtime coach of Herb Biedermann started coaching at Wall in 1959. They were a Class B team starting out.
“We just loved the game,” Norman said. “Every opportunity we had when we were at home. We didn’t have cell phones and TVs and all that stuff. So, we went out and played ball. We threw the ball back and forth thousands of times.
The Dierschke brothers grew up with a love for baseball. As kids, they collected baseball cards of Mickey Mantle and the greats of that era.
In the cotton fields of Wall, which didn’t have bases or outfield fences like today, they would play games with the kids from San Angelo High School when they weren’t in the fields on Sunday during the early 1950s.
“At that time, Wall didn’t have a high school. Most of our neighbor boys that were a little older than us went to San Angelo High School,” Kenneth said. “They had to come home after school and work on the farms. On Sundays, they would have a baseball team that would meet with some other teams from the area. That’s how I learned about baseball in Wall, Texas.”
The fields for these games were simple -- a plowed field with some rocks for bases. During our interview at the Fairview Little League fields, Kenneth said something like the site for our conversation would be similar to playing at some of the hallowed grounds of the big league.
“If we had had this in 1957 for our first team, we would’ve thought we were playing in Yankee Stadium,” Kenneth joked. “Our fields were actually on a blank cotton field. It had been a cotton field once upon a time. We would actually find bases. We’d search out rocks that looked like bases. So, that’s how we started.”
Kenneth pitched while his brother caught for the Hawks and they used every advantage they could. Norman displayed an old baseball, one of two they used per game, that was covered in dirt and tough to see from a hitter’s perspective.
“A hitter trying to hit a 100-mile-an-hour fastball thrown by my brother … he couldn’t even see it. So, we had a bit of an advantage there,” Norman said. “I was the only one that could catch my brother. So, that’s why I became a catcher.”
When the Hawks started playing, they were good, much like they are today. Back then, Class B baseball teams could only go as far as the bi-district round. The Dierschkes said Wall won most of the bi-district games they played in.
“Wall had a good baseball team. We won most of our games,” Norman said.
Had they been able to play further, the brothers feel they could’ve done some damage.
“I think we had several prospects of going all the way to the state tournament,” Kenneth said.
That skill led to looks from a professional scout from the Houston Colt .45s, now known as the Astros, by the name of Red Murph. At the time, Murph was also trying to sign a talented kid from Alvin High School by the name of Nolan Ryan.
“Red came out a number of times and tried to get me to sign a professional contract, but I thought school was more important,” Norman said. “I knew Nolan’s reputation way before he signed. Red went to work for the (New York) Mets. So, that’s why Nolan signed with the Mets out of high school.”
Eventually, the Dierschkes would cross paths with Ryan again.
Kenneth became the president of the Texas Farm Bureau in 2003 and did a lot of work with the Hall of Fame pitcher. The two became good friends.
With Wall heading to state, the Dierschkes feel the Hawks can add more history to the storied program.
“I think they have a great chance (to win),” Norman added.
Wall (37-1) squares off with the Kirbyville Wildcats (33-7-1) at 9:00 a.m. on Friday from Dell Diamond in Round Rock in the first Class 3A state semifinal.
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