Every red-blooded American boy growing up during the Great Depression dreamed of playing in the World Series, preferably in Yankee Stadium. Philip Donald Haugstad came close twice, missing by one day in 1947 and by one pitch to Bobby Thomson in 1951.
Phil entered the world on February 23, 1924, in Black River Falls, Wisconsin. He was the second of four sons of Paul and Jennie Haugstad, who operated a modest dairy farm in rural Jackson County, in the west-central part of the state.
The Haugstads were churchgoing Lutherans. Jennie, whose maiden name was Peasley, was English on her father’s side, German on her mother’s. Paul’s parents had emigrated, separately, from Norway in 1882. Phil was five years old when the stock market crashed in October 1929. The crash hit small farmers extremely hard. The four sons—in descending order, Robert, Philip, Harold, and Arthur—pitched in with the farm chores. Their mother taught in one-room schoolhouses in the area. Phil’s father hired out as a carpenter and joined the Civilian Conservation Corps. Phil picked beans and cucumbers for the Humbird Canning Factory.
The Haugstad brothers attended Pleasant View School, a one-room frame structure with a big wood stove in the basement and two outdoor toilets in back. The brothers walked to school, three miles each way, sometimes in temperatures as cold as forty degrees below zero.
Phil attended Alma Center High School, where he was elected president of the Future Farmers of America and appeared in a couple of one-act plays. His main interest, however, was sports. He excelled in basketball and baseball, winning nearly every game he pitched and hurling three no-hitters.
Phil Haugstad’s victory against the Giants on September 5
was his only big league win.
In his prime, Phil carried 165 pounds on a wiry six-foot-three frame, but brother Bob said, “My God, he could pick up one side of the back end of a pickup truck. He was mighty strong, all muscle.” Art said, “Some pitchers have a soft ball when it hits your mitt. Phil’s was like a bowling ball hitting your mitt, just drove you back. They compared him with Bob Feller at times.”