Carleton College's student newspaper since 1877

The Carletonian

The Carletonian

The Carletonian

Carl Henry to throw first pitch at Rotblatt 158

Carl Henry has been around Northfield, and more specifically Carleton, for nearly his entire life. Born in Northfield and raised in Indiana, Carl returned to Minnesota to attend Carleton in 1965 — one year after the founding of the now-notorious college tradition of Rotblatt — and never really looked back. Henry House (slated to be torn down this year in the housing renovations) is named after Carl’s family; he grew up visiting his grandfather there. He also worked in the Carleton Computer Center from 1973-1998, and was the center’s director for many of those years. Even his name seems fated. 

I sat down with Carl a few weeks ago to hear about Rotblatt history straight from the source. We first met when Carl — tall, lanky and usually clad in a sun hat — was out for a walk with his neighbor’s dog, who my housemates and I eagerly greeted from our front yard. Soon, he was telling us all about the history of our house — its past residents and his relationships with them. As we quickly discovered, conversations with Carl have a way of winding through local history alongside his own life story, and at some point, we wandered onto the topic of Rotblatt. 

What began as a dry intramural softball league, complete with statistics recorded on Carleton’s only computer for a wage of $0.50/game, slowly morphed over the past 60 years into the game we know today. For anyone who might need a refresher, Rotblatt is a beloved Carleton tradition — a softball game with an inning for every year since the college’s founding (this year it’s 158) with one twist: you must have a drink in hand. The game starts at sunrise and goes all day, usually petering out in time for dinner. 

“Every year there was a draft, and I remember we would be in this smoke-filled room. Maybe it was tradition for everyone to be smoking a cigar?” Henry recalls being drafted to play as a sophomore, the league didn’t allow freshmen since demand was too high, and checking his stats in the student union every week. Although it was an intramural league, players took the game seriously and Carl felt honored to be drafted. He loved the game then, as he does now; a few years ago, he took his mitt out to the fields on a Rotblatt Saturday, just to check out the scene and maybe hit a couple balls. He decided it wasn’t quite his game anymore, but his love for the league remains. [JUMP] 

At its founding, Rotblatt was a men’s-only league. Its sister league, Wombat, hosted the women’s teams until both the dorms and intramural sports became gender-integrated around a decade later.

Rotblatt began to take its current form in 1966, the college’s 100-year anniversary: “Someone decided it would be fun to play one hundred innings for the school’s hundredth birthday.” And so they did. A seniors-only game, the first full-length Rotblatt lasted nine hours with the same 20 students playing every inning. 

To celebrate the college’s centennial, the league’s commissioners also invited a special guest: Marvin Rotblatt himself. The game’s namesake, Marv was a notoriously mediocre major league pitcher whose claim to fame was a three-finger change-up pitch. Upon learning about the Carleton league and being asked to visit campus, Marv’s response was, “Why not?” 

That same year, a handful of Rotblatters organized a relay in which they hit a baseball from Northfield to Bloomington, the site of the original Twins stadium. The feat was timed to coincide with the start of a Twins game, and although I couldn’t find evidence of it online, Henry remembered the media attention that followed as huge for such a little school. 

Three years after the inaugural day-long Rotblatt, Carl found himself playing in Rotblatt 103 alongside 19 other Carleton men. They camped out for the day in the fields behind the library, which at the time stretched all the way out to Highway 3. 

“We had to hit towards the library to avoid hitting the ball into the street, and they allegedly hit the ball all the way into the library once.” 

Carl’s Rotblatt career didn’t end at graduation — for years, a team of faculty and staff members, Carl among them, competed in the league. 

Last weekend, I ran into Carl on my walk home. Ever-loyal to Carleton club sports, he told me he was off to play beach volleyball for the men’s club volleyball alumni weekend, a club he founded and is still involved with. Soon, he’ll have a chance to return to his Rotblatt days when he throws this year’s first pitch. All these years later, Carl Henry remains in the game.

Leave a Comment
More to Discover

Comments (0)

All The Carletonian Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *