The Post-Journal

Oldtimer’s Corner: Ex Jamestowner Harry G. Carlson Steps Down at CU

Harry G. Carlson, to use his own words, is going to “reserve some time for dry fly fishing for trout in the deep, shadowy valleys where cool waters run.” He and Mrs. Carlson will remain in Boulder, Colo., “because this is a dynamic community blessed with fine, 12-month climate.” But Harry G. Carlson will retain only the fondest memories of Jamestown, chiefly due to the fine guys I played baseball with and against there.”

The younger generation never heard of Harry G. Carlson but he was a fine athlete at Jamestown High School. Harry moved west when was young. For the past 38 years he has been connected with Colorado University, first as recreation director, then dean of men and athletic director.

Now 68, Harry is stepping down and the party they gave for him at CU’s football field recently was a whopper. One picture made available by J. H. Stohlbrost of Jamestown shows Harry in the CU football stadium stands surrounded by a bevy of coeds. What a way to pass out of the picture! We’re looking ahead to it if that’s the format.

We would not want to venture a guess as to Harry Carlson being the only big-time athletic director with a Jamestown background. In fact, we never met Harry but we corresponded with him many times. The man’s letters, friendly, warm and always reminding us to pass on the good word to his old friends, paints a pretty clear picture of his character. Then, too, there’s the old friends living here. They’ll tell you all about Harry G. Carlson, the boy and the man. So we’ll venture a guess that he was certainly one of the most outstanding sports administrative personalities to originate in our city.

One of his favorite stories was about a game he pitched for Jamestown High School against Silver Creek. The Creekers won, 4-3, in 12 innings. Silver Creek scored in the top of the 12th. Then Jamestown’s first batter tripled but was picked off third. Silver Creek’s pitcher that day was Howard Ehmke, destined to become a major leaguer of renown and Connie Mack’s surprise starter for Philadelphia A’s against Chicago in the first game of the 1929 World Series.

Carlson, too, took a fling at pro baseball. He pitched for Springfield and New Haven in the old Eastern League and was later signed by the Cincinnati Reds, where he put in one year as a batting practice pitcher. One of his close Jamestown friends was another former big league pitcher, the late Leon Carlson.

Harry was 16 when his father, a mill worker from Scotland, died in Jamestown. That ended Harry’s hopes of medical school. In fact, he dropped out of school and went to work in construction. After his one-year fling, he refused to sign with Cincinnati because, as he put it, “I know I am not strong enough to pitch in the majors.”

The Carlson career then led to Milford at New Haven, where he served as athletic director and on to Clark University in Worcester, Mass., to study for his M. A. in health education. Springfield College offered him the post of athletic director but Harry refused to sign a pledge not to smoke or drink. Hamline at St. Paul came through with a contract offer but with the same stipulations. Again Harry said no, telling Hamline officials: “I won’t be a hypocrite. There may come a time when I’ll feel the need of a drink.” Apparently Hamline respected his honesty for he was offered and accepted the job of head baseball coach and assistant in football. He was made athletic director after his first year.

Then came the job offer from CU, which Harry accepted, starting his long tenure at the Colorado school. Ironically, the recommendation that sold CU on Carlson came from the president of Springfield College who “liked his frankness and honesty.”

Carlson’s career has not been without its trying times. His greatest test came during the football scandals of 1961-62, when Colorado became involved in the NCAA probes of outside aid to athletes. Seventeen charges were files against CU by the collegiate bosses. Coach Sonny Grandelius was fired. Carlson had tried to investigate the rumors of financial aid to athletes from outside sources but ran into a brick wall. When the charges were leveled by the NCAA and the resultant probe led to the coaching staff, one booster club of Denver demanded Carlson’s ouster. But school faculty members and the student body rushed to his support so vehemently the demands were dropped. Today Carlson refuses to say a word against Grandelius. He told newsmen recently: “Sonny was a ‘victim’ of college football. He was influenced by that great public sentiment in favor of winning.”

What Colorado thinks of the one-time Jamestown resident was shown in part by the recent football field farewell party. But that was just the beginning. A banquet honoring the man is scheduled for May 8. The principal speaker will be Supreme Court Justice Byron White, the old All-American Whizzer of Colorado’s golden years in college football.

The additional financial assistance of the community is critical to the success of the Chautauqua Sports Hall of Fame.
We gratefully acknowledge these individuals and organizations for their generous support.