Baseball has played an important part in the lives of most North Dakota communities, and possibly most communities in the United States. Baseball has been important, not only to those who were actively participating in the game, but was a chief topic of discussion during the summer months. Ypsilanti, North Dakota had many winning teams and some excellent players.
The first baseball diamond in Ypsilanti was on the south side of town. Seating often consisted of planks placed on beer kegs and crates. The outer ring was usually given up to the top buggies and surreys, from which the owners and their families cold watch the game in comfort.
Earlier teams were represented by Al and Johnny Callsen, Leonard and Edward Whitney, George and Jim Berge, Spaulding, Wallace Ruud, Stanley and Leo Nichols.
One memorable game that is related in the Community Centennial Book is a game played between a Jamestown team, on which Wallace Ruud played, and Bismarck. Jamestown hire Halley Foster from the colored leagues in Chicago, while Bismarck had the renowned Satchel Paige. A good-sized wager was made, and Bismarck won 3-1. The Northern Pacific Railroad ran a special train to Bismarck from Jamestown just for the game.
Ypsilanti teams fielded some success teams through the years. The 1936 team won the county championship with the winning combination of Leslie and August Schultz, Clarence Whitney, Ervin Steege, Don Hastings, Marcus Nicholls, Harold Jorve, Oscar and Floyd Erickson, Elmer Mellum, Vince Kupferschmidt, and Gus Marks.
In the 1940s and 1950s, Ypsilanti had Gene Jessen, one of the most outstanding pitchers in North Dakota. He was backed up by such able players as Gene Nicholls, Floyd and Frances Orr, Elmer and Donald Domek, Donald Kupferschmidt, Oscar and Floyd Erickson, Harold Beckman, Louis Anderberg, and Kenny Schultz. Ypsilanti was in the same league as Valley City, Jamestown, Gackle, and other teams. Ypsilanti placed fourth one year in the state tournament.
Gene Nicholls and Gene Jessen played with Gackle the year they won the state championship in 1954. In this tournament, Gene Jessen won the most valuable player award. Gene Nicholls won the batting championship with a 500 average in 1957.
Ypsilanti's battles with Gackle were always well attended, enjoyed, and well remembered.
The largest crowd in Jamestown tournament history was 3,100, and that was the championship game between Gackle and Mayville, for the state championship in with Gackle won.
Jamestown Legion teams profited by using Ypsilanti talent for many years. Ypsilanti players who played for Jamestown included Gene Jessen, Douglas Mellum, Gene and Glen Erdahl, Donnie Kupferschmidt, Don Kurtti, Larry Johnson, Guy Nicholls, Gary and Douglas Beckman, and Tracy Truax.
Success continued in the Ypsilanti Babe Ruth teams. Ypsilanti won the Jamestown Invitiational in 1972, winning over Fargo, Jamestown, and Devils Lake.
Tracy Truax and Douglas Beckman, from this team, later played with the Jamestown Legion team, which won the State Championship and two games in the regional.
Everyone remembers Johnnie Hanson for his help and great interest and enthusiasm in helping to promote the baseball program in Ypsilanti, North Dakota.