Rudy Tollefson

Former Tacoma News Tribune sportswriter Ed Honeywell once called Rudy Tollefson "pound for pound…probably the best athlete Tacoma ever produced." Born around the turn of the century in Minnesota, Tollefson came west with his family to Tacoma in 1911.

The Tollefson family was officially tabbed "Tacoma-Pierce County's First Family in Sports" by the Tacoma Athletic Commission in the 1970s, and Rudy played a significant role in that achievement. He was small - the smallest of his brothers - weighing less than 130 lbs. when he graduated from Lincoln High School in 1922. But that didn't stop him from dominating in athletic competition.

Tollefson played football, basketball, baseball, soccer, wrestling and tennis and was also a competitive decathlete at Lincoln. After working for a few years to support his family, he enrolled at University of Washington in 1925 and continued his impressive play on the baseball diamond with the Huskies. His success at UW earned his designation on the all-time Washington all-star diamond team selected by coach Tubby Graves.

Tollefson played extensive semi-professional baseball in the Tacoma area, including with 38th St. in the 1931 City League, Tschunko in the 1933 City League, Pacific Match in 1934 and Johnson Paint in 1937. He even toured a few Pacific Coast League training camps and considered pursuing a professional career, although he chose to maintain his banking career until retirement. And for several decades he continued to make trips to McNeil Island for the annual Oldtimers games.

Perhaps the highlights of his baseball career came when his Johnson Paint team advanced to the National Semi-Pro tournament in Wichita, Kansas, in 1937. John Heinrick managed that club and had this to say about Tollefson: "He was the closes thing to a cat I ever saw on the diamond. His range on fly balls was almost limitless. He could roam almost to the outfield fences for fly balls from the shortstop position. He had a rifle arm, which meant erasure for fellows who hit the ball into the 'hole' against him."