Every time I go south on 101 and start up over the Don Clausen Highway, special memories always return. Most people remember Don as a longtime member of the U.S. Congress, but I remember him as an athlete.
While Don was not a Warrior graduate he did wear red and white during his high school days in Ferndale. At that time those were Del Norte’s colors as well. Ferndale still wears red and white, and plays the Warriors.
When I first came to Crescent City while still in elementary school I would attend Crescent City Merchants baseball games and Don Clausen was the ace of the Merchants pitching staff.
Since I had yet to play my first football game, baseball was my favorite sport. When I got into high school and started playing basketball, Don and his brother Jerry used to referee many of our high school basketball games.
Don had another big influence on Del Norte High School. He had been a pilot during WWII with a strong interest in flying, and he was able to help the high school develop a program that would teach students how to become pilots.
This was a regular high school elective class that was a regular part of the curriculum for many years. The class was still a part of the school program when I returned to Del Norte in 1980.
Back to Don as an athlete and my favorite memory of him. After I graduated from Del Norte in 1951, I was able to start playing baseball for the Merchants. Don had left the area and was no longer playing for the team, but during the summer of 1951 we were to play Scotia there in an old Redwood League game.
Don had returned to town and joined the team for that one game. He wanted to pitch one last game for the Merchants. It was the last game of the season and because the regular Scotia ballpark was unusable, the game was moved to a cow pasture in Weott.
I don’t remember the score but I cherish the memory of catching our future congressman in his last appearance as a Merchant.
Don recently lost his wife and is now living in an assisted living facility in Fortuna. I and many others in Del Norte will always remember him fondly for his part of Del Norte sports history.
Dick Trone writes on his reflections and the history of Del Norte High Warrior sports. Trone, who played football for the Warriors and graduated in 1951, had an illustrious career on the gridiron at Humboldt State University. Trone was football head coach at Del Norte High for a number of years before retiring.