Two for the Ages
in their own ways, Billy Noss and Glenn St. Arnault shaped Eau Claire baseball for decades
One month, two baseball legends, both no longer of this planet. Two of the most-present fixtures in the baseball section of Carson Park were Billy Noss and Glenn St. Arnault, both in their late 70s. The month of May brought their passing. The reaction from the community tells of their significance to watching America’s pastime in the Chippewa Valley.
Reading, watching and listening to accounts of their lives in the past few weeks has reminded or informed us of the sports lives they lived – Noss with his decades of shagging foul balls beyond the Carson Park bleachers, St. Arnault at the helm of all sorts of organized baseball teams. Between Noss’ seasons in and around the stadium, and adding St. Arnault’s latter years in the crowd watching the teams he used to coach, the men must have tallied hundreds of summer evenings in the same environs. They were a core element in the description of Eau Claire baseball.
The two factored into my first city baseball experience as a fan. The spring and summer of 1988 were when my dad first brought me to Carson Park to check out the Cavs. St. Arnault had been a decade-removed from his Cavaliers managerial stints – one of the other Eau Claire baseball Mt. Rushmore figures, Harv Tomter, was squarely in his run leading the team – but his efforts in the early months of the 1970s with other local baseball proponents helped create the organization. Without the Cavaliers, who knows how long the city – and my formative years discovering my favorite sport – would have lasted with a dearth of higher-quality post-high school baseball.
When you’re 10 years old and a baseball goes flying out of the field, your first instinct is to grab the souvenir. “There goes the ball the players are using, and now *I* can get it!” During one of those warm evenings in ’88, I tracked down a ball, only to be told in no uncertain terms by someone that the ball had to be returned. That someone was Billy Noss. Obviously, baseball teams on the amateur level cannot afford to regularly replace balls that go foul, so they had to be returned, and making sure they got back in play was one of Noss’ roles. His common characteristics in these roles were discipline, passion, and a love for the atmosphere of the event – especially the event of a baseball game.
In the ensuing three decades, as I joined the Eau Claire Baseball History Committee and tapped my inner sports historian, I began to discover Glenn St. Arnault’s impact on numerous local lives through the sport of baseball. From Little League to Babe Ruth to the American Legion teams to the Cavaliers, St. Arnault was teaching players in many eras of the game. It is a game that has evolved plenty – even Major League Baseball is noticeably different today than in the early-2010s – but the fundamentals are constant, and need wise instruction. The cover photo of his 2013 memoir, “Play Ball!”, encapsulates his life: St. Arnault mid-lesson, hands likely describing an approach to a play, kids in caps on the dugout bench receiving wisdom.
Meanwhile, Noss seemingly never aged. He was performing his job more effectively as a 70-something than some of us do in the middle of our careers, yet I figured he must’ve been forever 50-something, max. Billy Noss was about as reliable a presence in Carson Park as anyone. In my thoughts, I keep seeing Billy walking around the assorted concourses – ball cap on, smile in place, looking for the next foul ball to fly back towards the tall pines. Noss was a critical thread in the fabric of the Eau Claire baseball experience.
The legacies of Glenn St. Arnault and Billy Noss are secure in the Chippewa Valley; appropriate commemorations will happen, memories shall continue, and legends will grow. True, the summer of 2018 will mark the first summer with neither one physically in the Carson Park confines since around the time Hank Aaron spent his summer up north. However, each crack of a bat, catch in a glove, and cheer from a crowd will remain permeated with the spirits of two baseball souls who helped us love the game.