Patrick Reusse
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LE SUEUR, MINN. – Glen Mason is a friend of Gary Hohman, who is a friend of Dan Driscoll, the brother of Joe Driscoll, who wound up doing paint work at Mason's house a few years ago through those friendships.

"When Joe got done, I asked, 'How much?' " Mason said. "And when he answered, I said, 'You have to be kidding?' I said that because the amount was so low.

"Joe said, 'These are Le Sueur prices, not Twin Cities prices.' "

A couple of weeks ago, Hohman was headed to Le Sueur to arrange a trip with Dan Driscoll, and Mason — out of big-time football coaching for 16 years now — went along on the leisurely drive.

"I knew Joe wasn't doing well because of the stroke," Mason said. "He was sitting there with Dan, though, and when I walked up, Joe looked at me and said, 'Coach, how you doin'?' "

The small audience was amazed by this, since Joe's medical condition had been worsening, and he would die only a few days later — on June 16, at age 70, but taking with him a full life of triumphs and small tragedies, both worth huge smiles.

I went to Le Sueur on Thursday for a must-attend event, Driscoll's wake, and spent a hunk of time beforehand at the side-by-side bars on Main Street:

Green Mill and The Bar, which for decades was The Sundowner.

Based on the sales at these two establishments, Le Sueur is alleged to have a very high ranking in pulltab sales among Minnesota communities of similar size (4,100).

Driscoll took a leadership role in his hometown's pulltab standing.

There are legendary tales of Driscoll's athletic exploits — primarily from town-team baseball — but there's also a pulltab tragedy:

There's a game called $599, since that's the grand prize, and there are 24 squares. Behind those squares are smaller payouts, and when all squares are gone, the grand prize goes to the owner of the winning square.

Driscoll bought 23 of the squares. Tiff Thompson said to Joe, "I'd like to buy one off that board," and he nodded approval.

You know the rest: The winning $599 square — No. 18 — belonged to her.

Driscoll's nephew Marty Milam and his wife, Sue, now own The Bar. The board with Joe's 23 names and Tiff's circle winner is maintained for posterity.

Pulltabs were about the only game that could get the better of Joe. He was that kid in town who did it all better than the rest: football quarterback, basketball gunner, baseball pitcher and hitter.

Joe Driscoll, one of the best.
Joe Driscoll, one of the best.

Patrick Reusse, Star Tribune

"Joe was phenomenal," said Tim Donovan, two grades below Driscoll at Le Sueur High. "As a senior in basketball, he was starting with four of us as sophomores. Our offense was to give the ball to Joe and stay out of his way.

"Outstanding quarterback. And baseball … tremendous. He has to rank as among the best athletes ever to come out of southern Minnesota."

Unfortunately, Joe was unable to prove that consistently after enrolling at Southwest Minnesota State in the fall of 1969. He was academically eligible for the school years of 1969-70, 1971-72 and 1973-74. He wasn't around in the school years of 1970-71 and 1972-73.

He was a starting quarterback, a runner, passer and punter. He went from 0-5 as a baseball pitcher as a freshman in 1970 to 11 complete games (still a school record) in helping to carry Southwest State to a conference title in 1974.

"I also have eyewitnesses saying he played basketball for us, but I can't find anything in our records,'' said Kelly Loft, Southwest's assistant AD for communications.

There's another legend on that: Coach Don Wilhelm kept yelling at Driscoll for dribbling behind his back, and Joe finally got sick of it and left for California.

That could have been the trip when he slept in the parking lot and got a tryout as a punter with the Los Angeles Rams.

"He was great at anything he touched," said Kady Mohn, Joe's beloved stepdaughter. "Even bocce ball. He was introduced to the game, and just like that, he was the Bocce King."

There was a full house at St. Anne's Catholic Church for Driscoll's funeral on Friday morning. Pat Nelson, wife of Bill Nelson, godfather of the Dundas Dukes, said, "I've never seen so many old ballplayers."

All could have offered Driscoll eulogies, but Kady did the honors. And she recalled the day that Joe, her mom Nancy's new friend, pulled up in front of the house in his old green van, brought a plant as a gift, and said:

"Kady, I'm going to sleep on the couch for a couple of weeks."

And Kady's happy punchline was: "Joe never left."