Minneapolis Park Memory: Coach Marv Nelson

I was at a Patrick Henry Foundation ‘doings’ a couple of weeks ago and Marv Nelson’s name came up. Marv was a milk driver for Ewalds or Clover Leaf, but his passion was sports. He coached baseball, football, and hockey and the Cootie VFW was the sponsor, so his teams were the ‘Antsinpants’, but also called Marv’s Boys. It’s not like there was just one team. There were peewees, cubs, and midgets and Marv would have players on the midget teams coach the cubs and the peewees. Marv followed the Henry thing, so everything was red and gray. He always wore a sweat shirt, khakis (work pants, not dockers) and a red ball cap. He had glasses, a snarl and a cauliflower ear. He was ancient in 1965 and coached several more years. He was at Folwell, Bohanan, Shingle Creek. Any given spring there were at least 100 kids on Marv’s Boys teams. The northside never saw anyone like him.

The VFW also sponsored a “Cootie Bum Band” which would march in parades far and wide all through the 70s.

Jim Krave

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11 comments so far

  1. elmer knutson on

    I was honored to play on a Marv’s Boy team. I still have the jersey. I never struck out because of his teaching. Second base was better for me than shortstop. That, however, was almost 45 yrs ago. We were the best because of what he taught…..Do the best you can, and play to win………..

  2. Dale on

    No mention of the banquet at the Jolly Troll? Marv once told me he checked attendance when we were running down the sliding hill at Shingle Creek. It was a privilege to play for Marv in 1977-1980.

    • David C. Smith on

      Thanks for adding your tribute, Dale. I haven’t heard reference to Jolly Troll in quite a few years.

      • Dale on

        I’m 48 and my dad would’ve been 77, he played against Marv’s teams when he was a kid playing for Fairview. Minneapolis even have park board football anymore? I played for Shingle Creek, Jerry Nueberger, Dave Anshutz, and Merle Crosser with the purple Viking jerseys before I made it to Marv’s team.

      • David C. Smith on

        The park board still offers football, but far fewer kids play. In 2013 there were only 16 teams city-wide in park board football leagues in all age groups. To provide points of comparison, there were 9 wrestling teams, 41 hockey teams, 107 soccer teams and 155 basketball teams in park board youth leagues.

        The immense popularity of park board football in the 1950s can be gauged by my note in this article about Pershing Park. The attendance at the football banquet for the Southwest Activities Council (SWAC), which included Pershing Park and Linden Hills Park, was reported to be 320. Assuming most boys (and only boys in those days) would have been accompanied at the banquet by their dads, which is how I recollect those events usually working, that would suggest around a couple hundred kids played football just at those two parks.

        I’ll try to find more numbers on participation in football in the 1950s and ’60s and today. With all the information now about head injuries attributed to football, I wouldn’t be surprised to see numbers of youth football players continue to decline. Yet football seems to be more popular than ever for spectators, fantasy managers and bettors.

  3. […] tribute to Marv Nelson, a youth football coach at Folwell Park in the 1960s and […]

  4. John Eickholt on

    Being a member of Marv’s Boys for multiple years in the mid 1960’s continues to be a tremendous source of pride to me. Marv’s involvement in my life was instrumental in my growth and development. My memory of Marv is one of fondness and the utmost appreciation for the integral part he added to my life.
    John Eickholt

  5. Gary Steinhilber on

    I too, had the privilege of playing football for Marv (1972-1976). Marv was a great man and gave so much to all of us. He taught us to expect great things from ourselves and that we could be winners, not only on the field, but in life too. I believe that he would be very proud to know how many people on my team went on to become college athletes, college graduates, business owners, executives, and most importantly, good men.

  6. Andy Nelson on

    That was such a nice surprise seeing the article from Jim Krave about my dad, Marv Nelson. Yes, he was quite the active coach back then. I know he loved all the kids that he coached.
    Andy Nelson


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