The crack of the bat, the cry of the umpire…for Heisinger Bluffs resident Ross Boeger, this is the most wonderful time of the year.
“I’ve spent my whole life in baseball,” Ross says. “I started league play when I was 14 years old playing with the Hartsburg town team. I played American Legion ball, I played with the Ban Johnson league, all kinds of small leagues.” There was a short interruption in his career as a third baseman when he went on a tour of duty in Japan – but only because his paratrooper unit’s team needed him to play shortstop instead of third.
“When I came back, I went to the Jefferson City Junior College and played for the Jeff City Redbirds,” he recalls, “but in 1950, I went out for the Tigers.” Ross played with Mizzou for three years, with his tenure there culminating in the school’s first-ever trip to the College World Series, where they lost out to Holy Cross in the final round of tournament play. (He’s pictured in the bottom center of the photo below.)
Married shortly thereafter, Ross took a teaching job in Ashland, Missouri, where he started a baseball program in 1954. “Every kid there played baseball one way or another, whether they played in the street or out in the fields,” he says. But working as a formal team was something new to his students. “To practice, we played Hickman High, who already had a team at that point. They demolished us,” he says with a chuckle.
But the team kept at it. On rainy days, Ross took the students into a classroom to cover fundamentals on the chalkboard. “The lights started to come on a little,” he says. The team only improved from there. “I loved working with the kids. I still hear from them. Some of them are in their 70s now, but they still call me ‘Coach.’”
Nowadays, Coach Boeger is content to keep up with the game from his apartment at Heisinger Bluffs – especially when the Cardinals are on. And he’ll be glad to tell you his thoughts on the current direction for the St. Louis ball club. “I wasn’t disappointed to see Pujols go,” he says. “The Cardinals will do just fine without him. We’ve still got a heck of a good team. Freese is a great player, and if Molina could run, he’d be terrific. I think they got a good chance this year.”
Since arriving at Heisinger Bluffs, Ross has found steadily more people to talk baseball with. “I’m sort of an old homebody. I’d rather stay in and watch a game,” he says. “But there’s all kinds of things to do here. I’ve really liked it since we’ve been here. It’s a great place.”