I arrived an hour and half early to the stadium for the Fargo-Morehead RedHawks game against the Winnipeg Goldeyes of the American Association. I was caught a little off guard by the amount of people that were already in line. I knew instantly that it was a give-a-way night. Sure enough it was “Jersey Night”. I purchased my ticket and got in line. The first thousand fans received a jersey. I usually don’t want the give-a-ways; but, for some reason I wanted one of these jerseys. Before the gates opened there had to be at least three thousand people. I figured I was right at the thousand mark and started getting nervous that I was going to come up short with my position. I began eyeing latecomers making sure that they didn’t cut in front. I felt annoyed when late arriving friends of other fans arrived taking spots in front of me. I wanted to say, “Hey! people have been waiting a lot longer, back of the line Jack”. I didn’t say anything. I just secretly didn’t want them to get a jersey if I didn’t get one. When the line started moving there was this nervous energy all around me. Everyone kept an eye on the boxes and how many were left. Someone behind me said, “They are opening the last box and it is going to be close.” My stomach filled with butterflies as I reached the entrance. I saw another unopened box and was relieved when an usher handed me my jersey.
I have no idea why I wanted that jersey so badly when I was in line. I just became part of the mob mentality. I started walking around the stadium to get a feel for it. I heard a mother complaining that her child didn’t get a jersey, I reached into my “man bag” and gave mine to the mother. I don’t know why I was so attached to it five minutes before. She was thanking me as I was walking away, but my mind had already moved on to getting an “American Association” baseball. There were so many fans at the game, especially kids.
When the game started the stadium was packed with lots of fans donning their new jerseys and eating massive amounts of artery clogging foods. I was still trying to find the optimal position to get a foul ball. I needed to find a place where I wouldn’t have to knee or elbow a kid. As I was scouting out my locations, I noticed this goofy guy down on the field in bib overalls handing the umpire baseballs and sitting in a rocking chair. My actual thought was, “That must be the owner of the team, this is Fargo and, of course, they would have an eccentric owner”. I kept an eye on the guy throughout the game. He seemed to do whatever he pleased. I saw him walk into both dugouts talking with the players, getting on top of the dugouts and seemed everyone knew who he was but me. When I finally realized I wasn’t going to get a ball, I went to the team store to buy a game used ball so I could add it to my collection, unfortunately they were out of game used balls!
Dejected I went to stand on the first base side. I listened to an usher and a rent-a-cop complain about some of the college kids that were standing in the aisle. The “rent-a-cop” told the usher that they wouldn’t listen to him. The usher said that they should get John since he had some real power to do something. I then jumped in and asked if John was the guy in the bib overalls. The usher who was wearing a RedHawks “red” hat, a bright green “usher” shirt and “too small” brown Carhart work pants that accentuated his gut gave me a “what are you a wise guy” look. “No, that is Ole”. Then he sized me up to see if I was being serious. He went back to feeling important when he realized I wanted an explanation of who “Ole” was. I should say he tried to explain but those damn college kids were really playing on his mind. When one of the college kids saw him looking at them, he came over and politely asked if they could stand where they were. The usher said meekly that they really shouldn’t. The college kids moved with no issue and I decided to hunt down “Ole”.
Bill Lucas is “Ole”. He has been playing this character for 19 years, ever since the Fargo-Morehead RedHawks came into existence. The RedHawks are a part of the independent professional league the American Association and they wanted to have a couple of mascots that fans could get attached to. When they were having auditions for the two positions only two people showed up. One, an old man who liked to tell bawdy jokes for the “Ole” character and the other was a college kid for “Hawkeye”. The team took the college kid for “Hawkeye”. Mascots can’t speak or answer questions. However, since “Ole” was going to be an actual human mascot he would be permitted to speak. The jokes were a concern and the team didn’t feel the old man was a good fit. Bill called the team to inquire if they had filled the position, an ex-drama student (he teaches drama for the Fargo school district) answered and told him they hadn’t. She couldn’t believe he would want to do it.
I need to explain what this “Ole” character represents for a lot of you. The part is a play off of Ole and Sven (also Lena and Ole) which are central characters in jokes by Scandinavian Americans, particularly in the Upper Midwest region of the U.S., Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, South Dakota and North Dakota where Scandinavian immigrant traditions are common.
A typical joke goes something like this, Sven and Ole are roofing a house. Ole picks a nail out of the pan, examines it, and with a “nope” tosses it over his shoulder, picks up another one does the same thing, picks up a third and after examining it uses it to nail in the shingle. Sven seeing all of this exclaims, “Ole! what the hell are you doing, wasting nails like that?” Ole replies, “Well you see, those nails they’re pointing towards the house, I can use them. But these nails… they’re pointing away from the house, they’re useless.” “Ole you IDIOT!!” Sven replies, “those nails aren’t something you just throw ‘way willy nilly… those nails are for the other side of the house.”
Ole’s job at the ball games in the beginning was to get baseballs for the umpire when he needed them. He sits in a rocking chair next to the visitors dugout and runs balls out to the ump when he requests them. Over the years the job has evolved to what it is today. As I spoke with Bill between innings fans would come up, give him a hug and ask if he was going to do the dance. Bill always stays in character speaking like they do in the movie Fargo “der hey”. Bill explained that they would play “Cotton Eye Joe” during the Top of the 9th inning if the RedHawks were ahead. One time as the song was playing the stadium camera caught him doing a little dance to it. He didn’t realize it and people started asking for the dance all the time, even if the Hawks are behind “Ole” does his dance. To see “Ole” do the dance, click here.
I enjoyed watching “Ole” do his dance. He even made sure I got an American Association baseball for my collection. I have to say that the RedHawks put on a good show overall. The baseball was excellent, the food was interesting, the people entertaining and the experience a good one.
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