Story and photo - By MARTIN MULL - For The Outpost
Billings Mustangs diehard fans, and make no mistake, there’s a multi-hundred core of them, see new peach fuzz-faced ballplayers come and go each season as they begin their almost insurmountable climb to the big league mountain top. They’ll stay a season in Billings, two tops.
The fans recall the minor league baseball team’s history, despite the limited stays by most players and coaches.
Who’s Adam Dunn with these days? Is Gary Redus coaching somewhere? Eric Davis? Or what’s Jay Bruce hitting with the Cincinnati Reds now?
Didn’t we last win the Pioneer League in 2002? Or was it ’03, when Votto was here, and that pitcher, what’s his name, threw the no-hitter in the clinching game?
They’ll ponder what’s the old Red Sox Rick Burleson doing these days after skippering the rookies a few years back. And what a shame Coach Bob Forsch died so young.
Even the team’s radio announcers seem to shuffle on down the road every year or two. Not to mention the scribes who cover the team in print. And who owns and runs the team these days? they’ll ask. Those guys with the logo polo shirts and walkie-talkies walking along the concourse at twilight seem new. Maybe not.
Yes, the town’s true blue, baseball-loving fans have learned entry-level minor league baseball is a dynamic process. Ever-changing. Here today, gone tomorrow. And they accept that. If you love baseball – it doesn’t matter. And who can beat a $5 not-a-bad-seat-in-the-house ticket and $2.50 hot dog?
But what the year-after-years also know is the one person who never does go away come summer visits to the still-pristine ballpark down on North 27th Street. She’s the team’s No. 1 Fan. The Head Cheerleader. The Lady in Red.
Barbara D. Berreth.
She’s the glue as the one-year-to-the-next Mustangs sports clips come apart and fall away from the scrapbook.
All Pony followers, the season ticket holders and the once-a-year types, know Ms. Berreth and her moves at Dehler Park. You just can’t miss the 71-year-old, despite her petite size and soft, raspy voice.
There’s the big red hat and all the pins, most given to her by fans. She wears the different Mustang ball caps (about 25) she collected through the years, along with the team T-shirts and other memorabilia. Baseball cards are another favorite. Nobody has a greater Mustang stash.
She attends all 38 regular season homes games, more if the team makes the playoffs. About eight times each game she’ll lead a crowd section in her M-U-S-T-A-N-G cheer.
“What’s that spell?” she barks with a bullhorn, suddenly turning more stern than a fifth-grade Catholic nun.
“I can’t hear you!”
Folks quickly get in line and pronounce, “MUSTANGS!”
Her duties also include the well-known “50/50 raffle.” Buy a $1 ticket and possibly gain $500. All for the good of the team.
Sheryl Scheafer says the 50/50 raffle buys the team a new washer and dryer this year. Other team operation items have been funded by the drawing in other years, saving team expenses when the Reds get stingy, a second-tier major league franchise, despite the rich tradition.
Scheafer runs the home game 50/50 deal, working at her booth near the entrance, making sure all money collected by Ms. Berreth and others from the drawing gets split evenly between the one winning fan and the team.
The cash also helps buy food for two barbecue picnics held each year in July and August, allowing fans to meet players.
Ms. Berreth never gets over the amount of food these 20-year-olds consume at the outings. It’s her time to meet and photograph the future you-never-know George Bretts, Trevor Hoffmans, and Scooter Barnes who passed beneath the Rimrocks for a year.
Scooter Barnes? For some reason, he’s one of Ms. Berreth’s favorites. He played with Redus in the late 1970s, when Ms. Berreth started attending Mustang games more than 30 years ago each and every night, even when it meant walking to and from Lockwood, where she lived at the time.
“That was my favorite team, Gary Redus and Scooter Barnes,” said Ms. Berreth, noting both went on and played Major League baseball. “Gary Redus hit almost .500 that year in the Pioneer League.”
It’s true, she knows. Knows baseball. Trivia fans enjoy talking with her during games.
She mentions Brett as the last player to dabble with .400. Roberto Clemente, a favorite of hers, dying young while helping others in Nicaragua after his 3,000th hit. Joe DiMaggio coming to old Cobb Field via helicopter. Also Stan “The Man” Musial visiting the Magic City. And Mickey Mantle. Joe D. was a gentleman, she says, and handsomely stately.
Her dad, Ted, a Norwegian Swede, threw baseballs to her and friends in a field outside of Billings when she was young, when there was no such thing as “girls sports.” Dad’s time and attention with her and the game left an everlasting mark. She’s loved the game since then and always will.
Ted Berreth attended games and followed the team until he died in the late 1990s. Ms. Berreth says she’ll do the same, now that she’s retired from years working in the nursing home industry.
“I attended games back in 1948, when the (Billings Mustangs) first came to Billings,” said Barbara, noting she considers herself a friend of 89-year-old Les Barnes, the popular Billing resident who played on that first Billings minor league team.
“I love the people who come to the ball games each night. The kids. I enjoy the ball players. The (front office) treats me well.
“But most of all, I just love the game of baseball.”