Pictured in the photo from left to right: Bill Middlestadt, Arnold "Jim" Affeldt and Robert Affeldt, all from Elk River, Minnesota.
It’s late in the year 2022 and Arnold “Jim” Affeldt perks up when the conversation shifts to his beloved Minnesota Vikings or memories from the late 1950s and early 1960s when he worked diligently to chronicle the stories of Concordia’s football and men’s basketball teams. It was a labor of love that made Affeldt a pioneer of sorts back at a time when public relations were mostly an afterthought inside college athletic departments.
On this particular December day, Affeldt is still glowing after the Vikings comeback win from a 33-0 halftime deficit to the Indianapolis Colts. It’s a game he’ll surely remember. As his wife Carol jokes, “He’ll remember anything about sports, but not when I ask him to pick up garbage around his chair.”
Jim takes such comments in stride in relaying a dry sense of humor of his own. A horrific car accident back in 1995 changed his life in irrevocable ways. Parts of his memory faded, and he experienced stability and balance issues, but he’s never forgotten those days at Concordia Teachers College (as it was known then). He didn’t play on any teams, but much of his time outside of academics was spent alongside them.
“I did everything with them basically,” Affeldt said. “They were always very open to having me around and it was a good feeling to know we could talk about just about anything. They would tell me what they were thinking, and I could put that in print. I was blessed to be part of the athletic department and have support from the faculty and coaches.”
At one point, Affeldt was tagged with the nickname “Diamond Jim” in appreciation of his efforts to chronicle the athletic teams. It’s believed that the nickname first came from highly regarded Bulldog offensive tackle Andy Smith. Though he never scored any touchdowns or knocked down any 3-point field goals, the 1962 graduate earned respect with his professionalism and behind-the-scenes contributions. Jim was even rewarded with a certificate to honor his work in “sports publicity” in 1960 and was recognized as a football letter winner in 1961.
The native Minnesotan Affeldt was influenced by cousin Luther Schwich to attend Concordia in the fall of 1958 after graduating from Elk River High School in the Twin Cities. Schwich served as Concordia’s Athletic Director at the time and suggested that Affeldt could put his talents to use by writing about Concordia sports. Jim was given the title of “Sports Publicity Director” and the more unofficial distinction of “tour director” for the men’s basketball program. Not only was he writing game recaps, Jim was organizing travel and hotel plans for the basketball team while also driving players to games in a station wagon. He was a basketball manager along with Orville Walz and Les Northrop.
It didn’t take long for Jim to develop pride in his role in preserving pieces of Concordia’s history. His adoration for all things Bulldogs rubbed off on some of those closest to him, like his younger brother Bob and fellow Twin Cities products Bill Middlestadt and Paul Puckett, each of whom became members of the Bulldog football team. The recruitment of Middlestadt was a major win for Head Coach Ralph Starenko’s program. As Jim recalled, “Middlestadt and Mel Bremer were two of the best backs in the conference. I was glad to be able to write about both of them.”
Jim’s writing style was mostly no-nonsense with some powerful descriptors thrown into the meat of his game stories. When big things happened, Jim was there to provide the details. Among the highlights, he covered the 11th annual Concordia Invitational Tournament hosted by CTC in 1961, broke down the 1960 conference championship football season, detailed the baseball team’s historic win over Creighton University in May of 1961 and wrote of NFL contracts signed by the likes of Lloyd Holstein (Detroit Lions) and Larry Oetting (Minnesota Vikings). He even drafted the release when Dr. Schwich left CTC to become the Director of Athletics at California Lutheran College.
Coaches and student-athletes alike respected the publicity that Jim gave them. His work appeared in local publications like the Seward County Independent, the Lincoln Journal Star and the Omaha World-Herald. In those days, all the releases were printed out on paper with the CTC seal in the upper right-hand corner. Jim was an asset to coaches like Starenko, Ruben Stohs and Ralph Stov.
Said his brother Bob, “Jim was very accessible and approachable. He didn’t write or say anything negative about anybody. In those days, nobody sought publicity in the way they do now. There’s a reason why Jim was so well-liked. I’m proud of him.”
The monumental baseball victory over Creighton occurred on May 15, 1961. Wrote Diamond Jim at the time, “Concordia’s baseball squad behind the sterling pitching performance of right-hander Jim Juergensen evened their season record at 6-6 with an impressive win over a strong Creighton U. nine by a 7-2 count. Juergensen, hurling possibly his best game throughout his three-year college career, gave up only five hits to the visiting Bluejays. ‘Big J’ had a shutout going for him until the eighth frame when three walks, an error and a single plated the lone Bluejay tallies.”
It was common for Jim to include nicknames such as “Big J” in his stories. He also wrote about Lloyd “Tiny” Holstein, Don “The Little General” Thomas, Bill “Mookie” Middlestadt and Dave “The Toe” Kroger, among others. His time at CTC overlapped with school legends like Jim Juergensen, Larry Oetting and John Suhr and with the intimidating, but innovative Coach Starenko. All the while, Jim never sought notoriety for himself. He noted that sports writing was the highlight of his Concordia experience. As someone who grew up attached to the radio and local Minnesota sports game broadcasts, Jim was a natural for such duties.
Said Jim, “I got paid peanuts, but I enjoyed doing it. I didn’t mind the compensation because it was just something I enjoyed. Even through my later years, I’ve enjoyed writing a lot of sports. My wife can tell you, ‘sports’ is my middle name. I can tell you about anything that happens with the University of Minnesota, because that’s where my kids went to school.” As he joked, “Now (the Gophers) are a little bit better, so I don’t mind admitting it.”
Jim added that he “went along with the flow and made the best of what we had.” He continued to do so in his teaching career that took he and his wife Carol (and four children) from Chicago to Wausau, Wis., to Norfolk, Neb., and to Glencoe, Minn., where he also wrote about local sports. After serving as a principal in Glencoe, Jim took a position as an AAL district representative in Chaska, Minn. It’s there where he endured the car accident that brought a great deal of adversity into his life.
He's at peace with life as it is now with Carol as his caretaker. Both Jim and Carol are in their early 80s. Says Bob of Jim, “Even in his worst times, if he hears you say ‘sports,’ there’s a smile on his face. That’s been a real blessing even now to him.”
There’s always been that constant for Diamond Jim, believed to be the first person to ever be titled Sports Publicity Director at Concordia. The legacy he left behind in Seward will forever remained etched in the school’s archives – and of course in the memories of those he impacted and lifted up through his writing at Concordia Teachers College. As Diamond Jim says with a twinkle, “‘Sports’ is my middle name.”