Old Yon was right on question

The late Yon Paananen was a bit of a sports legend in the four-county area.

The Alston native played either baseball or softball in eight different decades – starting in the early 1930s with the Pelkie town team.

A man of a few words, Paananen usually had little to say about anything.

But when I asked him a question about why he had played so long while doing a 1978 feature about him, he had a quick reply:

“You never know when you’re going to see something you’ve never seen before.”

I didn’t realize how true those words were 40 years ago.

And even though I’ve covered something like 8,000 sports events my career, I still see events I’ve never seen before.

Case in point was the Gogebic-Hancock football team just this past Friday evening.

Lightning kept the game at McAfee Field from being started until 9:05 p.m. That was by far the longest I have seen a 7 p.m. start moved.

The lightning rule, which I consider a very good one, for outside sports, it’s a relatively new one. In the past, I recall games being played in lightning and thunder.

The most notable case came in 1975 football game in L’Anse when the Hornets played Houghton on a night when lightning was flashing all over the place.

In basketball, the one game that stands out was a boys tournament game between Chassell and Baraga.

In that game, Chassell’s Calvin Larson was fouled taking shots at the final buzzer not once, but twice. The second came on a three-point attempt.

Larson, who must have had ice water in his veins, hit all five free throws to keep the game going.

It was a feat I had never seen before … or since.

And it proved again that Yon Paananen knew exactly what he was talking about …


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