Johnson & Stenehjem Family Baseball Team
In May of 1981, reporter B.J. Phillips said this in article for Time magazine: “in the beginning, there was no baseball. But ever since, there have been few beginnings as good as the start of a new baseball season…the national pastime arrives with spring.”
This has been true in North Dakota, even if our spring comes a little later than in other areas of the county. Baseball has ushered in spring in North Dakota for over 150 years, beginning in the 1870s with soldiers at the military forts creating teams to pass the time. As more and more settlers came west with the expansion of the railroad, so did baseball. And as the population grew in Dakota Territory, so did the sport’s popularity.
By the time North Dakota became a state in 1889, teams were organizing in every city across the state. However, a town did not need a proper league to assemble a team. All that was necessary for a wholesome a good time was an open field, a bat, a ball, and nine team members.
Sometimes those nine all came from the same family. As the Jamestown Record reported May in 1914, a team from Ray, North Dakota had “the most unique baseball team in United States,” with all team members carrying the last name “Johnson.” The Johnson ball team had tied in their first game of the season, but manager Gilbert Johnson predicted that they were on their way to win against any semi-pro team in the state.
However, the Johnsons were not the only family-oriented team. On June 25th, the Jamestown Record reported that the Stenehjems of Arnegard were organized and ready to play. The team consisted of 9 brothers and their manager, A.A. Stenehjem. The Stenehjems challenged the Johnsons to a game, with bragging rights to follow.
The outcome of the Johnson-Stenehjem game appears to be undocumented. However, for many avid baseball fans happily filling bleachers and suiting up for games this spring, a shared love of the game brings its own kind of family.
Dakota Datebook by Maria Witham
Jamestown Record, May 14, 1914 p.4
Jamestown Record, June 25th, 1914 p. 4