The 75th Anniversary of Red Robin Baseball
BY VERN CAHAK
When the Antigo High School baseball team hits the diamond for its first game of the 2022 season, it will mark the beginning of the 75th anniversary of Red Robin baseball.
While the school fielded baseball teams during part of the 1920’s and 1930’s, it was not until 1947 that the sport became part of Antigo’s athletic program continuously. The 1947 squad posted a 3-2 record. It opened the season with an unusual double header, traveling to Nekoosa where it made a successful debut with a 4-1 victory, then losing a 3-2 heartbreaker at Wisconsin Rapids.
The inaugural squad featured two outstanding junior pitchers, Tom Stone and Jerry Van Ooyen. Other starters were Art Strasser, John Muraski, Earl Polzin, Ken Henry, Orlin Carlson, Wally Ehardt and Pat Hunter.
Muraski was the leading hitter on the team with a 316 batting average.
Like their football counterparts, Antigo baseball has a proud history. Between 1960 and well into the 1970’s, Antigo teams were loaded with baseball talent, resulting in the most successful period in school history.
The Red Robins won five consecutive Wisconsin Valley Conference championships between 1966 and 1971. They also won the 1963 title, but were stripped of it because of an unintended rule violation.
Antigo’s 1966 and 1968 teams were undefeated with respective records of 14-0 and 13-0, only to lose heartbreakers of 1-0 and 2-0 in the sectional tournament.
But finally in 1969, the Robins advanced to the state tournament for the first time. They were back to the state tournament the next two seasons and took runner up honors in 1971. The next year, Antigo advanced to the semi-finals of the state tourney before losing to Neenah, 6-1.
Among the standout players on the 1972 squad of 50 years ago were Chuck Cahak, Tom Muraski, Dave Kirsch, Bob Hoffman, Ken Fermanich, Don Rogatzki, Mike Kafka, George Obrien, Dick Upton and Bill Greening.
Antigo’s next appearance in the state tournament didn’t occur until 1995, when the Robins lost their first game to Appleton West, 4-1.
The most prestigious honor in Antigo High School baseball history occurred just three years ago, when the Red Robins won the 2019 state championship.