The St. Cloud State baseball team had a flight to catch Wednesday, as they open the season Friday in Houston. On the way, coach Pat Dolan decided to stop the bus in Maple Grove to visit a former coach in 97-year-old Dr. John Kasper.

Kasper coached the Huskies from 1950-1967, posting a 211-127-4 career record. His 211 wins are the third-most in program history.

Kasper came to St. Cloud from Wisconsin, where he hit .420 and led the Big Ten in batting as a player before departing to join the armed forces during WWII. He would resume his playing career upon his return from service.

Kasper was a letter-winner for Wisconsin in 1942, 1946 and 1947.

"Those were the good days, would you believe they couldn't get me out!," Kasper said. "Then the war broke out, and I was in the service for four years."

Following his playing career, Kasper got into coaching and eventually ended up with the Huskies. At the time, Al Brainard was trying to run the athletic department while also coaching the baseball team, eventually deciding the dual role was not working out.

Kasper was not coaching at the time, instead teaching at a small school in Ohio. However, he performed well in his interview and got the job.

"I was there for 35 years, coaching for 17 years and then they kicked me upstairs and made me the boss of the whole unit," Kasper said. "There was no coaching from there."

Kasper says that the game has changed a lot from his days as a head coach, especially from a facilities standpoint.

"I have to let (Pat) Dolan know how much better he has it now than I did back in my day," Dr. Kasper said, noting that Eastman Hall hosted mainly basketball in those days.

"After two years (of convincing), they finally bought me a batting cage, a net, so at least we could do some hitting before we got outside," Dr. Kasper said. "This was a big thing!"

Pat Dolan with Dr. Kasper

Kasper says that he had a pretty great turnout for the team during his first season, thanks to some buildup from the St. Cloud athletic department.

"A lot of guys came out because they wanted to see who this new coach was," Dr. Kasper said. "They gave me some billing, he's from the University of Wisconsin blah blah blah."

Kasper posted a 9-4-1 record during his first season, including a memorable tie with Augusburg in his coaching debut.

"It was the last day in March, and it was chilly," Kasper said. "We played at Selke Field and after ten innings the game was tied."

"After ten innings I went and talked to their coach and asked what he thought," Kasper said. "He said 'John, I was ready to quit after seven!'"

Kasper has been married to his wife Evie for a remarkable 76 years. He says the key to such a long marriage is to never go to bed angry.

"We don't really have any fights per se," Kasper said. "Do we have disagreements, sure we do."

"But listen, we never ever go to bed without kissing each other good night and professing our love for each other, because disagreements are gone before going to bed."