The Book’s Founder

By Dave Anderson

Dick Hansen was a very unique person who devoted most of his life promoting his passion – South Dakota high school basketball. His untimely death left a huge void in the lives of the people who knew him, but we can be thankful for the memories he left with us. I became acquainted with Dick in the summer of 1952. He was the batboy for Summit’s amateur baseball team. Dick’s dad, who was also named Richard, was the team’s catcher, and my brother, Bob, played shortstop. We became close friends that summer and spent a lot of time together listening to major league baseball games and creating baseball and basketball games that allowed us to compete fairly despite the differences in our ages. At that time, I was 12 and Dick was eight.

In the summers of 1952 and 1954, Dick and I sent post cards to major league baseball players asking for autographs. Unbelievably, we received responses from more than 90% of the players to whom we sent cards. I still have a card that was signed “Billy Martin – I’m in the Army now.” I saw that the card was postmarked “Summit” and quickly realized that Dick had sent the card! Dick wasn’t a joke teller and didn’t have a great sense of humor, but I do remember that we both got a lot of chuckles out of that card.

In March of 1965, Dick’s dad and my brother took us to the State A tournament in Aberdeen. We stayed at the Alonza Ward Hotel and watched all 12 tournament games. Neither of us had ever stayed in a hotel, and I later learned that during the time we were in Aberdeen, Dick ate at a restaurant for the first time in his life. Dick and I were pulling for the Sisseton Redmen, but they lost in the opening round. We then jumped on Parkston’s bandwagon, but they lost to Aberdeen in the semi-finals. Our allegiance then shifted to Sioux Falls Washington, the team that had defeated Sisseton, and the Warriors beat Aberdeen in the championship game.

We talked about that tournament numerous times through the years, as it was the first state tournament either of us had attended. Dick would rattle off the starting lineups of most of the teams in the tournament, and he even remembered what we had to eat when we went to that downtown restaurant on the first day of the tournament. Dick had and amazing memory for names, scores of games, track times and all sorts of sports trivia. We both know the starting lineups of all 16 major leagues teams at that time, but Dick still remembered most of them more than 50 years later!

After I graduated from high school and moved to St. Paul to attend the University of Minnesota in 1957, I didn’t see Dick on a regular basis for many years. We were still friends, but our situations had changed and we slowly drifted apart. In Dick’s senior year at Summit High School, most of the upperclassmen on the team were suspended from the basketball team for training violations prior to the district tournament. Dick was the only veteran player that wasn’t suspended, and he played with inexperienced younger players on a team that won two and lost 22. He told me that it was a difficult year and the only highlight for him was scoring a career high of 20 points in a game against Corona.

Dick graduated from Summit High School in 1961 and enrolled at General Beadle (now Dakota State) that fall. He dropped out of college in his fourth year and spent several years at various jobs in Minneapolis. Dick sold World Book encyclopedias for one year and then enrolled at Northern State where he received his BS degree in May 11, 1973.

After graduating from NSU and practice teaching in Webster, Dick accepted a teaching and coaching position at Bristol High School. He coached cross country, track and junior high basketball. He spent one year at Bristol, and it may have been the toughest year of his life. For whatever reason, there were a number of junior high boys who went out of their way to make Dick’s life miserable. He had purchased a new Volkswagen, and the boys involved poured sugar into his gas tank, broke off the windshield wipers and broke several windows in the car. They harassed Dick in other ways, and by the end of the school year, he was suffering from clinical depression. After a number of months at home, Dick decided to move to Minneapolis and find work.

For more than a year, he worked as a busboy at the Camelot restaurant and was employed at a “Worker’s Overload” firm. Dick did not earn much money and hated the job. Eventually he gained full-time employment at Minnesota Paints. Dick spent every day mixing paint, but while each batch was being processed, he had that time to read newspapers he subscribed to such as the Detroit Free Press and numerous sports publications. During the time he was employed by Minnesota Paints, Dick went to the Minnesota Gophers’ basketball games and attended as many city high school game as he could. He also worked as a volunteer assistant in track and cross-country for Dave Griffith at Burnsville High School.

Dick came back to South Dakota often during the winter months to watch Pierpont basketball games when Buzz Hortness was the coach. He and Hortness made a number of trips during the summers to watch major league baseball games in St. Louis, Cincinnati, Chicago and a number of east coast cities.

Early in 1977, I received a phone call from Dick who was living in an upstairs apartment at an elderly woman’s home in Richfield and met with him. Dick had seen a magazine written by a man from Brooklyn that covered high school basketball in New York City, and he told me that he wanted to publish a book that covered boys’ high school basketball in South Dakota. I told Dick that it sounded like an interesting idea and asked how I could help. Dick responded, “I’d like you to write the book.” I was absolutely stunned and pointed out to Dick that the only writing I had ever done were letters to my mother, and that wasn’t very often. He looks me straight in the eye and said, “You can do it.” I had told Dick that I would do the best I could, and we parted company.

Dick always had a high opinion of coaches and teachers, and I asked him several times over the past 30 years if he ever regretted not being a coach. He would say something like, “No, because I wouldn’t have been a good one.” I always felt otherwise, because he knew the game and had a rapport with student athletes. I do know that if he had coached, Dick would have encouraged his players to run track and cross-country to get in good physical shape, and he would have stressed defense and very patient offensive attack.

He loved high school basketball and enjoyed nothing more than to talk ball with his coaching friends. Dick had a number of traits that you would never find in any book about etiquette. Very often, he would introduce himself to someone he wanted to meet this way: he would approach the person, look them the eye, stick out his hand and say, “Dick Hansen – where did you go to high school?” To the casual observer, this might seem a little strange, but if you knew Dick, it was right in character and made a lot of sense. With very few exceptions, Dick would know a ball player or two from that school who graduated the same year as the person he was meeting and he had instant rapport.

He spent more time on the phone than most telemarketers, and when Dick called you, he had an agenda. I calculated that I spent more than a year talking with Dick on the phone since we began doing the book! He would end the conversations this way, “I’ll let you go” then – click! Dick was gone! On the occasions when I would have to end the conversation, it would go something like this – “Dick, I have to leave because…” – and I would hear the phone click! I never heard him say “Goodbye” on the phone. Was he being rude? Absolutely not, he was just being himself.

When he left Minneapolis in 1977 and headed for South Dakota, I know that Dick must have been very excited, because he was pursuing a dream. With great support from his family and a lot of help from coaches all over the state, Dick spent nearly half of his life doing exactly what he wanted to do, promote South Dakota prep basketball. We are pleased to continue his legacy.