BARAGA - On a late May night in 1974, Steve Ross accomplished a feat that few Copper Country athletes ever have.
Earlier in the afternoon, the Baraga High senior helped the Vikings win their own track invitational by grabbing a pair of first places in the dashes.
The senior athlete then jumped in a car and drove to an American Legion baseball game in Hancock.
Ross then proceeded to strike out a then-Copper Country Legion record 18 batters in a narrow one-run defeat.
"That was the kind of athlete Steve (Ross) was," recalled then Baraga football coach Charlie Beck. "He did a lot of things really well ... and always competed hard."
Ross was a standout in football, basketball and track for the Vikings. He also was a top-flight player for the Baraga Legion baseball team.
Bob Koskinen, who was a year behind Ross in high school, said his former teammate was a natural leader.
"Oh, yeah. That would be a good term to describe Steve Ross," Koskinen said recently. "He was a fiery kind of guy, the kind that led by example."
Ross said there was heavy emphasis on basketball during his younger days in Baraga.
"I think all of us younger kids were aware of the winning tradition in basketball in Baraga back then (two state runnerups in 1960 and 1964)," he said last summer. "Football wasn't that big of deal and basketball was the sport you concentrated on the most."
BHS had even dropped football for a time in the mid-1960s, finally picking up the sport in 1970 under Beck.
"We struggled that first season, to say the least," Beck commented. "And the L'Anse game was the topper."
In that game, the Hornets put an 83-0 drubbing on the Vikings as all-state tailback Don Michaelson touched the football six times - and scored six touchdowns.
Baraga began to improve on the gridiron not long after that as players like Joe Peterson, Jim Mantila, Loren Prost and Ross arrived on the scene.
"It was the work of those kids who helped us get back on track," Beck said. "And Steve Ross was the undeniably the leader."
By the 1973 season, the Vikings were a member of the Mountain Lakes Conference along with Wakefield, White Pine, Lake Linden-Hubbell and Ewen-Trout Creek.
They won the MLC championship by going undefeated behind the play of quarterback Dave Chartier, Ross and all-state tackle Mantila, an agile 6-0, 275-pounder.
"Charlie Beck switched Steve to tailback and put Chartier at quarterback," Koskinen recalled. "We already had a speedster in the backfield in Pat Duguay and that really made us dangerous on offense."
Late season losses to archrival L'Anse a tough Bessemer squad gave Baraga a 5-3 record, but the team had accomplished its goal of winning a league title.
"Winning the conference and beating L'Anse were our two major goals that year," he recalled. "We would have liked getting both but the football championship was nice."
In basketball, the 5-foot-10 Ross gained all-conference and All-U.P. laurels. He was the unquestioned floor leader for coach Carl "Cookie" Johnson's team.
"Steve was a guy who left it all out on the court," Johnson said after the season. "He played hard every second."
An overtime defeat to powerful Ewen-Trout Creek ended the Vikings season -- a loss that Ross took hard at the time.
"Next to the loss to L'Anse football, that was as hard a game to lose as any," he said. "But I learned that the sun did come up the next day. It was one of those life lessons."
Ross, who is an insurance agent in the Pembine, Wis. area today, feels good about what his class accomplished in athletics.
"I think we helped to get football going again in Baraga. They have done really well over the years," he noted. "I guess we had a little to do with that."