Super fans are cornerstones of Linfield Athletics

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Nicki Tyska

Copy editor

“If you’re gonna hit him, hit him harder…” Arnie says in response to a wild pitch from Linfield that smacks into a George Fox University batter.

“Let’s hope we’ve got that out of our system! C’mon guys, let’s start getting back…” Arnie shouts out, encouraging his team.

“We’re still going to win…” Denny confidently assures Arnie.

Attend any home baseball game and you will hear this enthusiasm coming from the front-row bleacher behind home plate.

That bench is a second residence for long-time Linfield alumni and super fans Marty Bergan, class of ’57; Denny Morlan, class of ’52; and Arnold Owens, who received his bachelor’s degree in ’54, and then his master’s in education from Linfield in ’58.

 These men are landmarks of Linfield athletics. They can be found at baseball and football games, and make an effort to attend as many sporting events as possible.

“If there’s a game, I’m usually there, no matter what it is,” Owens said.

Almost nothing can stop these die-hard fans from supporting the Wildcats. Rain or shine, they show their love for the game and the school.

“I even come to practice in bad weather,” Owens said.

The trio was present at Linfield during some of its greatest sporting years. They were witnesses to the beginnings of Hall of Fame inductees Paul Durham’s and Roy Helser’s careers. Although not all were athletes during their time at Linfield, each has been involved with sports in some way.

Owens came to Linfield in the fall of 1950 on a football scholarship. After his freshman year, the scholarship was switched from football to baseball because of unusual circumstances.

Owens was dismissed from the football team by Durham after he was 15 minutes late for curfew. Owens had a class with Helser, the baseball head coach. After he lost his position on the football team, he went to Helser for some advice.

“I said, ‘I’m not sure I can stay in school without that scholarship,’” Owens said. “He says ‘That’s all right, we’ll just change it to baseball.’”

Bergan was one of Owens’ teammates on the baseball team.

He came to Linfield in 1948, but left in ’51 to serve in the Air Force during the Korean War. After five years of service, Bergan came back in ’55 to finish his schooling.

He and Morlan were roommates his first two years at Linfield; they lived in Mac Hall, room 34 on the third floor.

After graduating, he became a Physical Education teacher at Franklin High School in Portland for eight years, and moved to Klamath Falls when he received a job as a flight training instructor for the Oregon Air National Guard.

Owens and Bergan retired from their respective careers, and both came back to McMinnville—Owens in 1992 and Bergan in 1991. Bergan continued his involvement in the athletic program on campus as the head coach of the women’s golf team for eight years, retiring in 2006. Since then, both have become permanent sports fixtures.

“I’ve been watching Linfield baseball ever since living in McMinnville,” Bergan said. “I enjoy watching the kids, particularly this group this year; they’re fun to watch.”

Morlan never played on any sports team during his time at Linfield, but he was actively involved as sports editor and a columnist for the Review. He became almost infamous for his column, and a friend dubbed him a rabble rouser, especially in regard to Durham.

Morlan said he was an advocate for women’s sports, which were basically nonexistent during his college years. He said his tension with Durham began after he wrote a column about the expenses the football team accrued in one weekend and what that money could have done for female athletes.

One Saturday, the Wildcats had a game against Humboldt State University in California, but it was canceled on account of bad weather. The team could not play on Sundays because of Linfield’s religious affiliations and it had to stay both Saturday and Sunday night and move the game against Humboldt to the next Monday. Morlan traveled to California to try to catch the game, but had to return to campus after it was canceled Saturday.

“When I got back, I wrote a column about how the money they spent on the rooms for that team for the weekend would have supported the women’s sports for the entire year,” Morlan said. “Durham did not like that.”

Morlan said he continued teasing Durham through his columns and in person. In one issue of the Review, Morlan made a comment about the slim chances for the men’s basketball team going far in the season.

“I wrote that if they finished better than fifth in the conference, I’ll eat this column,” he said. “They won the conference.”

Morlan said Durham seized the opportunity, and he ended up eating a tuna sandwich with his column as a condiment.

“We had some fun back in those days,” he said. “(It) was the best four years of my life. We’ve enjoyed every minute.”

Morlan kept his interest in the athletic program almost all of his adult life. He said he began returning to Linfield to watch games in 1961. He is a fan to beat all fans.

“I’ve been to every home football game, baseball game, most of the basketball games (and) most of the away games since that time,” he said.

All three alumni said they enjoy watching the Wildcats play and seeing the development of the entire program.

“The facilities are number one, and it’s great to see the improvements,” Bergan said. “All the programs are really well taken care of.”

The biggest satisfaction for this group is being around the students and watching them improve.

“The best part for me is I see a freshman coming up and I get to watch him all through his career and about that time I see another freshman coming up,” he said. “Year after year, you keep getting new people all the time. It’s just fun.”