Saturday, September 8, 2012

Carl J. Calabrese

Carl J. Calabrese has died. Those who attend Carl's services will probably know him through his work as a 3M executive, and through his family and his church. Not many will know much about his basketball exploits. There may be no one in attendance who saw him play, I don't know. His career was a long, long time ago.

But it was a notable basketball career. Carl hailed from St. Mel's high school in Chicago, and came to Winona to play at St. Mary's College under Moose Krause. These were the best teams St. Mary's has ever fielded, to this day. Krause had been an all-American at Notre Dame, and later had a massively successful run as Notre Dame athletic director. At St. Mary's he had the great good fortune to recruit 2 great players--Calabrese and Clint Wager from Winona. He was also the 1st coach in history to take his team to an away game, at Notre Dame as it happened, via air travel.

In 1939, Wager was a freshman, a 6-5 post, and Calabrese a sophomore forward, and St. Mary's tied perennial power Hamline for the MIAC title. Wager and guard Frank Vaicks made all-MIAC 1st team, Calabrese made the 2nd. Key games were a 29-28 win over Gustavus and a 41-40 OT win over St. Thomas in which Wager scored 13 points. They also beat cross-town rival Winona Teachers 45-32 asw Wager again scored 13. Winona and Hamline represented the Northern Teachers and MIAC, respectively, in the NAIA national tourney.

In 1940 St. Mary's won its only outright MIAC title with just 1 loss. They beat Winona Teachers 47-36 as Wager scored 16, Concordia 58-33 as Wager scored 25. Wager added 20 as St. Mary's defeated Augsburg 44-34 to clinch the title. In total, Wager scored 162 points for a 13.5 average, both MIAC records. Wager and Vaicks again made 1st team all-MIAC but Calabrese did not repeat as 2nd team all-conference. Despite finishing 2nd, Hamline again went to the NAIA tournament.

In 1941 St. Mary's finished a distant 2nd to undefeated Hamline but this year St. Mary's went to the NAIA. Hamline beat St. Mary's 38-37 in a key matchup as Wager scored 21 and Calabrese 14 (35 of St. Mary's 37 points). St. Mary's beat Macalester 64-35 as Calabrese scored an MIAC record 35 points. For the season Calabrese scored a new record 177 points, breaking his teammate's record.

Wally Johnson of Gustavus was also in the running for a season record but St. Mary's hammered the Gusties in the final game of the regular season and Wager out-scored Johnson 22-1. Calabrese scored 15, enough to get the record. This time, Carl was 1st team all-MIAC, Wager 2nd.

In addition to Krause's success as Notre Dame AD, Wager also had a successful post-St. Mary's career, playing both NFL football and pro basketball. Calbrese's post-St. Mary's success was of a different sort, outside of athletics. He taught for awhile, then joined 3M where he retired 42 years later as GM of the Industrial Specialties Division. He also has 5 children, 16 grand-children and 19 great-grand-children.

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