Early Years

Luther students began organizing baseball team early in the college's history. These teams or clubs consisted of approximately 18 men and they rarely played against other clubs. Luther's first official baseball team was organized in 1872. They competed against local teams including Waukon, Cresco, and Decorah.

Intercollegiate Play

A popular date for important games was May 17th, Norway's Independence day. In 1891, this celebration included Luther's first intercollegiate game. Their opponent was St. Olaf. After an exciting game, the final score was 9-4 in favor of Luther. After that game, Luther began competing against teams from the University of Iowa, the University of Minnesota, Cornell College, and Upper Iowa University. On a few occasions they also played teams from Notre Dame, Hosei University of Japan and College of Hawaii.

In 1893 the Luther baseball team took their first extensive tour. Before this time the team had only played on their own field. This famous team was known for their undefended tour during which they beat both Cornell college and the University of Iowa.

Playing Field

The original baseball field was located on what is now the library lawn close to Valders Hall of Science. Games were played there through the 1969 season. The new field was constructed in the lowland of Oneota Valley as part of Luther's lower campus.

Baseball Tragedy

Luther baseball has not been without tragedy. During a game against St. Olaf in 1963, Leon Olson, starting catcher for the Norseman, was hit on the temple while up to bat. The hit cracked his helmet and knocked him off his feet. He shook it off and was ready to continue but it was decided that he should be taken to the hospital.

After being examined three different times, it was finally evident that he needed immediate surgery. Through out the surgery, Leon's teammates waited at the hospital in Rochester, Minnesota, for news of the operation.

The surgery was a success as far as removing the hemorrhage in the motor areas of his brain. Leon was in rehab for months while strengthening his motor skills. He never was able to speak again, but learned to use a typewriter to communicate with family and friends after returning home.

A Baseball Family

On May 24, 1915 the Sorlien family of nine was Luther college's opponent in a game of baseball. The brothers already had a connection to Luther College prior to their baseball game against the school team. The family was made up of nine brothers, all raised on the families farm near Bode, Iowa. Three of the oldest boys had attended Luther between 1901 and 1912. At the time, three of the youngest boys were enrolled in the Luther Prep department.

This unusual game brought a large audience. The teams were tied well into the eleventh inning when one of the Sorlien brothers hit a home run. After that the Luther team scored two runs to come back and beat the brothers. The historic game was never repeated due to the older brothers proximity to Decorah.


Nelson, David T., Luther College 1861-1961, Luther College Press, Decorah: 1961

Peterson, Hamlet E., The Noble Norsemen, Luther College Press, Decorah: 1972