The Nickel Joint

The Nickel Joint, 501 W. Blair Ave., is not only a traditional Frogtown working-class bar with meat raffles, a jukebox and a "Cheers" vibe, it has been home to the Baseball Old Timers Hot Stove League since January 1939. The original group was founded that year by 14 members of the New York Yankee’s farm system who lived in Saint Paul.

A display of historic baseball pictures can be seen on request. The Baseball Old Timers continue to meet at the Nickel Joint. The group not only gets together to discuss baseball, members also host fundraisers and help various charities.

Frogtown produced at least one major leaguer. Larry Rosenthal was a product of Frogtown who found his way to the major leagues through amateur baseball sandlots. He and his twin sister Florence was born in 1910 in Frogtown. His parents were Polish immigrants. Their name was changed from Rozentawa. His father worked in a shoe factory. Rosenthal played ball on Frogtown’s sandlots including Como (now Scheffer Playground) and West Minnehaha. He played for teams out of Saint Vincent Church and was a Saint Agnes high School graduate, taking a commercial course. He also played football and handball at Saint Agnes.

In his day, amateur baseball was widely followed by fans and the daily papers. Teams were sponsored by businesses and drew hundreds if not thousands of fans. Rosenthal’s prowess as a left-handed pitcher and hitter drew the attention of the Saint Paul Saints minor league team, and he was invited to training camp in 1933. He played outfield and was beloved by hometown fans, who called him “Rosie.” During his career he played for the Saints, the Chicago White Sox (where he spent most of his Major League career),the Cleveland Indians, the Philadelphia Athletics, Milwaukee Brewers and various New York Yankees farm teams. His professional career ended in 1948. His wife Ruth passed away that same year and he returned to Saint Paul to work at the Schmidt Brewery and raise their daughter. He continued to play amateur and semipro ball. Fans still remembered him and he always attended the annual Hot Stove League banquets. He died in 1992.

Another Saint Vincent baseball player, Jim McCarver, made Ripley’s Believe it or Not! Newspaper column in 1931 when he struck out all 27 batters for Saint Vincent’s in a game against Saint Andrew’s.

Two other athletes with ties to Frogtown and Saint Vincent Church were famed boxers Tommy and Mike Gibbons. Their childhood home as on Burgess Street in the North End but their family was involved with Saint Vincent Church and School. The two were champion boxers. Mike gibbons was known as the “saint Paul Phantom.” Tommy Gibbons may best be known for taking on heavyweight champion Jack Dempsey on July 4, 1923 in Shelby, Montana. The local backers and the town of Shelby went broke putting on the fight. The great Dempsey battled through the full fifteen rounds before winning by decision. Tommy Gibbons went on to become Ramsey County Sheriff and King Boreas of the Saint Paul Winter Carnival. Both brothers operated a boxing gym for several years.