Art Koski was an all-time Twilight League great
TAPIOLA — The Copper Country Twilight League has produced many outstanding pitchers in its long history.
Hurlers like Gordie Lassila, Carl “Scuppy” Backstrom, Ed Kokkila, Bud Patrick, Leo Durocher, Tom Borsum and Denny Raasio are considered to be in the upper echelon of the group.
But Art Koski’s name often comes up when the topic of stellar pitching is mentioned.
Koski, who hailed from Keweenaw Bay, pitched for Tapiola in the middle 1950s and early 1960s.
He posessed a crackling fast ball and a sharp curveball.
“Art Koski had real good stuff,'” recalled the late Merv Klemett of Hancock, a longtime standout in the league. “He would set up batters with that fast ball and often finish them off with a sharp curve. He was very tough to hit.”
Early in his career, Koski was a standout pitcher for a Tapiola squad that dominated the league. The team won either league or playoff titles between 1957 and 1961.
Bob Michaelson said the Blues had a well-balanced team.
“Besides Art Koski, we also had Don Wanhala on the pitching staff. Don (Wanhala) had a real good fastball and he was a solid hitter,” said Michaelson, who was the backup catcher behind Bob Kangas and an infielder, recalled a few years ago.
The infield was strong with Harold Filpus at first base, steady Milton Autio at second, Ron Kamarainen at shortstop and Michaelson at third base.
“We had an interchangeable team,” said Michaelson, “Anyone could play anywhere, but Milton Autio was our leader and sparkplug.”
The makeup of the team drastically changed late in the 1961 season when Autio was struck in the head by a pitch. He suffered a serious concussion and never would play baseball again.
By the time the 1964 season rolled around, the makeup of the Tapiola team had markedly changed. Michaelson and shortstop Al Olson were the only veterans left, although Koski did pitch an occasional game.
Still, the Blues brought a 3-13 record into a late July game against powerful Wolverine, which was the North Division leader with a 13-3 mark. The Twilight League had two divisions on those days.
Koski, who working out of the area, was on hand that evening and took the mound against the hard-hitting Wolves.
In addition to Patrick, who had played in the New York Giants organization, Wolverine also had such hitters as Gary Karna, Mike Koopikka and Dave Cima in the lineup.
Tapiola managed to scratch out a run in the fourth inning off Butch Tauriainen of Wolverine when Olson walked, stole second and came home on a “seeing eye” single up the middle by Art Saarela.
Koski, who was pitching masterfully, would make that stand up.
He limited Wolverine to just two harmless singles, walked two and struck out 11 batters. Tauriainen was equally sharp, allowing just one hit and whiffing 10 batters in the 1-0 result.
“That night, the rest of the team played over their heads,” Saarela later said. “They didn’t want to spoil the game Art was pitching.”
Tapiola was out of the league by 1974, but the gem pitched by Koski versus Wolverine still ranks high in league annals.