Fort Dodge baseball icon Jerry Patterson passed away at his home on Sunday. He was 74 years old.
Patterson provided a home for baseball players young and old to enjoy the national pastime, building what would later become known as Patterson Field in 1968. From that year on, games would be held from mid-May until mid-October, with Patterson constantly running the park.
A 1956 graduate of Fort Dodge Senior High, Patterson proved doctors wrong by battling pseudomyxoma peritonei, a rare form of abdominal cancer that typically claims its victim in less than five years. After being diagnosed in 1996, Patterson went through a 12-hour procedure to get back to his home-away-from-home - the ballpark.
Messenger photo by Dale Wooten
A panoramic view of Patterson Field, taken this past summer. Jerry Patterson purchased the land in 1967 and turned it into a Fort Dodge cornerstone. He passed away on Sunday at his home.
"I enjoy doing this, and if I can entertain people too, that's my windfall profit," Patterson said in a previously-published Messenger story celebrating the 37th year of games at Patterson Field. "I have a hobby that benefits the community, and I get a lot of nice feedback from everyone, which really makes me feel good.
"The ballpark's been there for me through a lot of ups and downs. So has everyone else."
In 2009, the Iowa High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame honored Patterson. He became just the third person from Fort Dodge to be enshrined, joining Ed McNeil and Connie Goodman.
Patterson remarked at the time, "anytime you receive recognition like this, it's incredibly flattering and humbling. I use it as motivation to keep going for as long as I can.
"A lot of people through the years have been very good to me and believed in me - this honor is a product of that. I feel like I'm sharing it with every one of them."
Patterson Field isn't just for the youth, as semi-pro teams have also used it regularly throughout the years, along with a number of clubs, clinics and tryouts. Both St. Edmond and Iowa Central have called the beloved diamond home.
Former major league baseball players such as Ozzie Smith, Dave Winfield, Paul Molitor and Pocahontas legend Larry Biittner played games at Patterson Field.
Current St. Edmond head baseball coach Joe Shanks was on the last collegiate team coached by Patterson in 1978.
"I played for Jerry and Keith (Martin) when I was a kid on a team called the Fort Dodge Iowans," Shanks said. "Five guys from that team were drafted, including Gene Glynn, the current Triple-A manager of the Minnesota Twins (the Rochester Red Wings).
"I just remember how hard Jerry worked to help raise funds for that team because we really needed it. He was a tireless worker."
Shanks has also helped co-host a tournament at Patterson Field with several other high school teams over the past few years.
"The atmosphere that he created was the reason teams always wanted to come back," Shanks said. "His announcing of games and those lemon shakeups - it was such an intimate environment.
"You would always see the same people working for him because they were dedicated to Jerry. They would do anything for him."
Patterson's love for sports reached beyond just the baseball diamond. Recently, he helped scout basketball players for Iowa Central while spending winter months in Houston, Tex.
"We had business cards made up for Jerry to prove that he was scouting for us," said Iowa Central athletic director Rick Sandquist, a former head baseball coach for both the Tritons and Dodgers. "I know there were quite a few players we recruited through Jerry's scouting.
Sandquist added, "he was just a great guy. He could always tell you baseball stories about guys who played for him that went on to major league careers.
"He was such an impressive person."
Rick Pederson, the current Iowa Central head baseball coach, has used Patterson Field as a community service project for his program over the past several years.
"Jerry was such a giving man," Pederson said. "We'd get done with our service project at the field and it was just amazing the instant level of respect our guys got from Jerry.
"He never wanted any attention or extra glory for the things he did. He was such a selfless person."
Patterson's mission statement for his facility has always been clear.
"The field is there to provide young players a safe and well-maintained place to develop their skills - and enjoy themselves in doing so. I hope everyone walks away feeling satisfied, like they've had a unique baseball experience."
Funeral services are scheduled for Thursday at Gunderson Funeral Chapel at 1:30 p.m. A visitation will take place Wednesday from 4-7 p.m. at Gunderson Funeral Home and Cremation Services.
Patterson is survived by his wife (Sandra) and son, along with a brother (Robert) and sister (Leela).