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Local Sports

The Days of the A's: Part 3

Of all the players that came and went for the Newton A’s, Doug Swanson was the lone constant for 27 seasons. Swanson was more than a coach and, in some ways, less than a coach. His sense of humor and easy-going style left an indelible mark on his players while creating memories originating far beyond the baseball field. 

Troy Plummer (Grand View University Athletic Director, Newton A from 1988-99): In my opinion, if you do the story, it has to be about Doug Swanson, OK? That is what the Newton A’s are. All the rest of us are just pieces of this and we’re in it because of that guy.

Scott Kickbush (Newton A from 1989-2000): Swanny gave us an outlet to keep playing, and to be honest with you, I probably wouldn’t have kept playing if it hadn’t had been for Swanny. He was just that type of guy. We became great friends and he just made it so fun.

Denny Barton (Urbandale High School baseball coach, Newton A from 1974-mid '80s): If it weren’t for Doug Swanson, the most fun days of my life wouldn’t have — I’m sure I would’ve played somewhere else, but he ran the show and I was really, really fortunate that he wanted to put in the time.

Joe Blake (Newton A from 1987-2000): It was amazing that a guy would take time away from his life to let us play ball. I know part of it for Swanny was that he loved baseball and he also liked being around the guys and being part of that. We always drank a few beers afterwards, and that was when Swanny was at his best. He’d start telling stories and there was just a lot of camaraderie with our team.

Jeff Judkins (Newton A from 1995-2000): He makes you feel like you’re one of the guys whether you’ve been playing for him the previous 10 years or the previous 10 minutes.

Ed Johnson (school principal in Indianola, Newton A from 1987-1992) : He was a great friend. Still is a great friend. We don’t stay in contact much, but he really took care of me. I better not say he was like my dad. He was more like my brother.

Tim Mahoney (Newton A in '90s): He really was a big brother to all of us and treated us that way and was quite funny. 

Tom Sharp (Newton A 1982-early '90s): He wasn’t your everyday, prototypical coach.

Darin Tisdale (Newton High School baseball coach, Newton A from 1992-2000): I don’t even remember him coming out to coach third base. You always thought your coach coaches third base because when you’re growing up in little league, then high school and college, the coach coaches third base. Nope. (laughter) He’d sit in the dugout and say, ‘Anybody want to go, uh, coach third base? We might need somebody right now.’ Sometimes people did it, sometimes not.

Sharp: He was more your friend and kind of like a cheerleader for you. It made you want to be around him.

Barton: They loved being around him. There’s something about him that you just love being around him.

Kickbush: His sense of humor, his personality, he was just a lot fun to be around. Just a good ‘ole boy. Made you laugh all the time. Told great stories. His mannerisms, I mean, he’s just a very vibrant person that you’re attracted to. Swanny was just a guy you always wanted to be around because he was always full of laughs and always a great time. 

Sharp: It wasn’t just at the baseball field, either. If Swanny was having a party at his house, we wanted to be there because we knew we were going to have fun. There’s going to a lot of laughs and you’re going to hear stories. I heard the same story four, five times, but it was always funnier each and every time.

Ben Blake (Simpson College baseball coach, Newton A from 1988-2000): Swanny definitely should be in comedy or show business or at least an MLB announcer or color guy. He’s just a great guy, an absolute riot to be around. 

Barton: He’s a very personable, funny guy that liked to win.

Tisdale: He was just really easy going. You could tell he was competitive. He wanted to win. If we lost, he was frustrated.

Joe Blake: I think the best thing about Swanny was he never really got up tight too much. There were a few games where you’d see him get a little nervous, but most of the time he’d stay calm and cool. He’d make you laugh. He always had a joke. 

Sharp: Swanny had a million jokes, and he always had a new one every game. You were always looking forward to it.

Ben Blake: Swanny is the funniest guy I’ve ever met.

Johnson: He always had just hilarious one liners and jokes.

Ryan Cooley (Two-time state champion baseball coach at West Des Moines Valley High School, Newton A in '90s): He was unbelievably funny. 

Joe Blake: He’d give you crap about a play that you botched. He had a way of bringing it up but not making you feel bad about it. 

Barton: His sarcastic nature would certainly get the point across. Like there’s runners on second and third, you’re up, a big chance to go ahead, you’d pop up or strikeout and you’d come back to the dugout and he’s like, ‘Well, uh, that’s a really nice job of helping the team there, Bart. Better luck next time.’ He had a way that if you weren’t producing, he’d get the point across.

Tisdale: If you struck out, made an error, gave up a home run, he probably wasn’t going to say much to you other than probably crack a joke. You could pretty much count on a joke coming out of his mouth when things were going bad, good.

Judkins: We were actually playing over here in Omaha against a team and we had a pitcher named Brent Goheen who was a good ball player.

Cooley: Goheen, this kid from Norwalk that could pitch a little bit, he went to Northwest Missouri. We went over to Omaha and he walked a guy, walked a guy, walked a guy, walked a guy, so he walked four straight guys. 

Judkins: He’s just having one of those days that pitchers have where their control is not the best.

Cooley: So Swanny’s like, ‘Hey, maybe mix in a strike.’ That was Swanny’s way of saying, come on, dude. 

Judkins: Next pitch, Brent gives up a grand slam.

Cooley: 1,000 miles over my head in right field. I don’t even move. 

Judkins: Two pitches after that, next guy hits a home run. One or two pitches after that, next guy hits a home run. So they had hit back-to-back-to-back home runs. After the third home run, Swanny comes back out …

Doug Swanson (Newon A player/manager from 1974-2000): I walked out to the mound about midway through that debacle and I said, ‘Uh, you might want to go back to that walking them thing because if you throw the ball across the plate, Plummer’s playing left field behind the fence.’ We weren’t going to beat them, so we might as well have some (fun). That was the first time he ever played for us and he was “Go-yard” instead of Goheen after that.

Judkins: That’s probably one of my all-time favorites. 

Mahoney: Probably the lasting memory is he had this old, gray Cadillac and he’d sit five or six guys in and they’d be rolling into the park in baseball gear. Chewing tobacco and stuff would be flying out of the car.

Cooley: He had a Caddy, had to have been like a ’77, one of those long, extended Caddys that was gray. We always rode in that on trips. He picked me up one day to go to Omaha and I remember looking at him at the hotel and I’m like, ‘Swanny, I don’t know if I can go. I’m so hungover I can’t even see right now.’ He goes, ‘Ahhh, get in. There’s beer in the back.’ (laughter) That was his solution to everything. So I sleep the whole way over there. I’m dying. I am dying. I’m going up to my first at-bat and he says, ‘Hit the one in the middle.’ I had the best day at the plate I’d had in probably my whole life against good, quality pitching. So, after the game, he says, ‘Cool, nice day,’ and he gives me a beer. ‘This’ll help ya.’ That was his solution for everything: beer.

Kickbush: Swanny had a cooler, this little red and white Playmate cooler that went with him wherever we went. I think that was the first thing that always went in the dugout was Swanny’s Playmate cooler with Old Milwaukee.

Joe Blake: He always had like a six-pack or a 12-pack on ice in the dugout. Until they outlawed it, he’d crack a couple Old Mil(waukee) Lights during the game.

Cooley: He’s just a straight shooter and he’s crude and he’s your stereotypical factory worker guy with a love of baseball and an unbelievable memory of everything that ever happens in his life.

Sharp: It’s like he’s got a photographic memory.

Kickbush: Swanny has probably the best memory of any person I’ve ever been around. I mean, it’s phenomenal. 

Barton: That’s another thing. The guy is a genius.

Cooley: He’s obviously extremely intelligent.

Barton: He was a genius, especially mathematically. 

Sharp: If you were 27 for 118, he’d throw out whatever that was (batting average) just like that. Swanny didn’t need a calculator.

Mahoney: He had a good eye for talent and a good eye and understanding of good people he thought would mesh well together. That, at any managerial level for a sport, is important, and he had that. He kept it very attractive to come play with the A’s and then inevitably it built its own juggernaut because he got all like-minded people. That’s true management.

Rick Heller (University of Iowa head baseball coach): (I) have a lot of respect for what he did because I ran a town team, I ran the Fayette team for a lot of years and (know) how much work and time and effort goes into it. He did it for a long time. Like I said, he always had the best players from central Iowa …

Kickbush: He was just so unselfish to do what he did so that we had a venue to do what we loved to do.

Plummer: If it’s a story about the Newton A’s and the history and whatever else, it’s great that people get that knowledge, but you need to understand the impact that he had and that it was truly about him, and our love and respect for him, and the game of baseball. 

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