GOTHENBURG – Tot Holmes has spent his life surrounded by sports. Whether it was his love for the Brooklyn/Los Angeles Dodgers, the stories his father wrote in the Gothenburg Times or the stories Holmes himself contributed to the Tri-City Tribune. His life has been consumed by sports. He decided it was time to give some of that back to the public.
Last year, Holmes wrote a book about 100 years of Gothenburg football. His most recent book “Gothenburg Track and Field” was more ambitious. Not only had track started in Gothenburg in 1917, but there was girls track to figure in too. Holmes said though, it was a labor of love.
“People say I am a story-teller,” he said, “I guess they figure I will die someday . . . and they are right.”
Every story Holmes tells is served up with a bright smile and a dry sense of humor. Holmes says he has a lot of stories, and he does. His stories range from stories of Leo Durocher to Bump Novacek. He says many of his stories come from conversations he and his father had when his dad worked for the Gothenburg Times for 30 years and Tot’s 18 years with the Trib.
“Sports is what would be talked about,” Holmes said. “Goog Barnes and Jack Dodd and those types of people. We would talk about Red Leyton. People don’t remember them, how good they were. Red Leyton took a track team to Lincoln in 1917. He got five-firsts, a second, a fourth and ran on a relay team. Gothenburg beat Lincoln and Omaha who only had one team each. So, as an amateur historian I wanted this down, so if someone in the future wondered who the heck these guys were they’d be able to find it.”
The 440 page book complies stats from every track meet. Including records and several pictures from every era. The book is a flip-book with boys on one side and girls on the other. Holmes also talked about the start of girls track.
“Girls actually played basketball back in the 20’s,” Holmes said. “However some ladies from Marquette thought it was wrong and got it stopped. We had a great coach, Carol Frost, in the seventies, so legendary GHS track coach, Dutch Zorn, took it to the the school board. The board thought it would be wrong to have girls and boys running at the same time on the track. Zorn told the school board he thought it would make the boys run faster, to impress the girls.”
The Nebraska state track meet starts this week. Gothenburg has left its mark on that tournament. In fact, the Swedes have 13 state track meet team titles. 12 boys trophies and 1 girls team trophy reside in the halls of the school.
Holmes isn’t sure why Gothenburg has had so much success.
“It’s kind of weird really,” he said. “I know that at one time there were probably more pole vault pits in town than there were basketball rims.”
After a lifetime surrounding himself with his passion, these books will forever be one of this story-teller’s greatest contributions to local sports.
You can purchase Tot Holmes’ books at the Gothenburg State Bank and the First State Bank in Gothenburg.