Category Archives: History

Sheets credits community support with role in NorthWood baseball success

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By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Wa-Nee sports fans have a reputation for backing their teams.

The latest example comes with NorthWood High School winning its fifth straight baseball sectional championship.

The folks of Wakarusa and Nappanee would really have turned out in force if the weather had cooperated and the event was held at NorthWood as scheduled.

But rains forced all but a few innings of the first game to be played at Wawasee.

Plenty of Panthers fans went to Syracuse to see NorthWood top Wawasee and Lakeland for a berth in the Class 3A Bellmont Regional on Saturday, June 3. Yorktown meets Norwell in Game 1, followed by NorthWood against Fort Wayne Concordia with the championship that night.

It’s nearly 90 miles to Decatur. But that’s not likely to stop NorthWood fans.

“It’s like we’re a big family,” says Panthers third-year head coach Jay Sheets, who was part of a sectional baseball championship team and an Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association All-Star as a NorthWood senior in 2007 before playing at Manchester University for coach Rick Espeset. “People rally together. “Parents want to see all the kids do well. On Memorial Day — with other things going on — we had a big crowd (at the sectional championship game).”

NorthWood (24-1) lost 1-0 in its season opener against Westview and have won 19 times by allowing three runs or less.

“Our pitching and defense does not give up a lot of runs,” says Sheets. “Our hitting is coming around at the right time.”

The workhorse has been senior Drake Gongwer (a Taylor University commit), but the Panthers have a half dozen capable arms.

Sheets, 29, credits the Class of ’17 for leading the way this spring.

“We have five phenomenal seniors,” says Sheets of a group that includes Gongwer, Drew Minnich, Vincent Herschberger, Jaron Mullet and Travis Stephenson. “They’ve instilled work ethic in our younger guys.”

Gongwer, Minnich, Herschberger and Moore were all regulars as sophomores in Sheets’ first season as head coach after a few leading the junior varsity. “They’re all battle-tested. They know what (regional) is going to be like with the crowd sizes. They can tell the younger guys.”

Even so, the Panthers might have a few butterflies. That does not bother their head coach.

“Nerves are a good thing in my mind,” says Sheets. “They keep you on your toes.”

Sheets, a third grade teacher at Wakarusa Elementary, is helped in the dugout by Todd Cleveland (pitching coach), Matt Cox (hitting and outfielders coach), Greg Estepp (junior varsity head coach) and Aaron Arnold (JV assistant).

Success is a tradition for NorthWood baseball. With the latest hardware, the Panthers have won 11 sectionals.

The 2017 Panthers won the Northern Lakes Conference. Other NLC members are Concord, Elkhart Memorial, Goshen, Northridge, Plymouth, Warsaw and Wawasee.

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Jay Sheets, a 2007 NorthWood High School graduate, is in his third season as head baseball coach at his alma mater. The Bellmont Regional-bound Panthers won their fifth straight sectional in 2017.

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Monument to first pro league baseball game placed in Fort Wayne

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By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

A significant happening in baseball history was commemorated exactly 146 years to the date after it happened on Indiana soil.

The first professional league game was contested between the Fort Wayne Kekiongas and Cleveland Forest Citys Thursday, May 4, 1871 and a two-sided marker was dedicated to celebrate the occasion on Thursday, May 4, 2017 at the site of the game, which is now Camp Allen Park.

As Society for American Baseball Research Kekionga chapter president Bill Griggs points out, that’s 5-4-71 to 5-4-17.

Because of heavy rains, it was very brief and a more formal ceremony is expected at a later date so more people can attend.

Archie Monuments of Watertown, Wis., constructed the marker, which is part of David Stalker’s Memorial Baseball Series. The Lou Criger monument, placed in Elkhart by Stalker and this writer in 2012, is part of the series.

Chapter founder Bob Gregory, a Fort Wayne resident and expert on early baseball, wanted to see the important time in baseball and American annals recognized, and pushed for Kekionga to be attached when he founded the Fort Wayne SABR chapter.

Gregory died of cancer in 2016. Working with current chapter president, Bob’s widow Mindy helped gather several of Bob’s books to be auctioned off to help pay for the monument, which now stands at the corner of Center and Huron near the St. Mary’s River as a reminder of the Summit City’s important place in the game’s history.

The list of others who helped is long. Some of those include local politician Geoff Paddock, local baseball historians Bob Parker (Fort Wayne Oldtimers Baseball Association), Don Graham, (Northeast Indiana Baseball Association), fundraiser Tim Tassler, Fort Wayne TinCaps executive Mike Nutter, the Fort Wayne park board and Fort Wayne News-Sentinel sports writer Blake Sebring.

More about the monument is sure to be learned by any attending a Kekionga SABR meeting at noon to 3 p.m. Saturday, May 6 on the west end of the second floor at the downtown Allen County Library.

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The first professional league game was contested between the Fort Wayne Kekiongas and Cleveland Forest Citys Thursday, May 4, 1871 and a two-sided marker was dedicated to celebrate the occasion on Thursday, May 4, 2017 at the site of the game, which is now Camp Allen Park. (Bill Griggs Photos)

International baseball expert, Indiana resident Bjarkman to receive SABR’S Chadwick Award

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By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

One of the most prestigious baseball awards will be presented to a longtime Indiana resident this summer.

Lafayette’s Peter Bjarkman — aka “Dr. Baseball” — will get the Society for American Baseball Research’s Henry Chadwick Award at the group’s national convention June 28-July 2 in New York.

According to the SABR website, the “Henry Chadwick Award was established in November 2009 to honor baseball’s great researchers—historians, statisticians, annalists, and archivists—for their invaluable contributions to making baseball the game that links America’s present with its past.”

Bjarkman, a Hartford, Conn., native, has authored more than 40 books on sports history. His latest work in “Cuba’s Baseball Defectors: The Inside Story.”

A former professor, he has taught at multiple places including Butler University, Ball State University and Purdue University. Wife Ronnie B. Wilbur, a leading researcher and authority on deaf sign languages, is a Purdue linguistics professor. The couple spends portions of each each in Europe.

At a recent gathering of the Oscar Charleston SABR chapter prior to an Indianapolis Indians game, Bjarkman shared his vast knowledge on the World Baseball Classic (he writes extensively about the subject in “Defectors”) and other diamond topics.

Bjarkman has been to all four WBC’s (2006, 2009, 2013, 2017) as part of the media contingent wherever Cuba was playing. He witnessed the finals in 2006 in San Diego, where Cuba was runner-up to Japan, and 2009 in Los Angeles, where Japan took gold by topping South Korea.

A fan of the old International Baseball Federation World Cup (which breathed its last because of financial reasons), Bjarkman was skeptical when Major League Baseball came along with plans for the WBC. MLB was attempting to take ownership of baseball on a global scale with an Olympic-style event.

“What the original IBAF World Cup did was foster interest in baseball in a lot of countries throughout the world

Sweden would go and lose three games but it would inspire young people in Sweden to try to be on the national team,” Bjarkman said. “You knew from the beginning MLB’s version was designed to showcase international players in the major leagues.

“It did not emphasize and foster international baseball. These guys may be playing for the Dominican now, but they’ll be playing at a ballpark near you soon in April.”

Bjarkman said MLB was hoping to gain financially in the same way FIFA has done with soccer’s World Cup. Of course, the scope could never be the same because not nearly as many countries play baseball and soccer.

IBAF trademarked the term Baseball World Cup in international courts so MLB went with World Baseball Classic.

“There’s a lot of things I love about MLB,” Bjarkman said. “It’s really not about globalizing and internationalizing the game as much as it is about creating international markets for major league products and Major League Baseball — the same way the NFL is doing by having its games in London and the NBA having games at locations outside the United States like China.”

When the WBC came along, Bjarkman enjoyed the event in-person.

“It was really a lot of fun,” Bjarkman said. “There was that element of seeing these players play for their own country.”

That sense of national pride differs from country to country. Bjarkman said players and fans outside the U.S. identify with their national flag. Here, fans tend to be a part of Red Sox Nation, Yankees Nation or wherever their team loyalties lie.

As Bjarkman sees it, the WBC was not marketed probably when the tournament began.

“The first couple tournaments they should have given tickets away,” Bjarkman said. First-round games in Miami in the first few years of the WBC and maybe 1,500 would be there for USA vs. Puerto Rico. “People see these games on TV and there’s nobody there, they say ‘this can’t be worth watching.’”

WBC eventually became a recognized brand and began getting a foothold, but it still has issues.

There’s the timing. Coming during spring training, many players (especially pitchers) are not a full-go yet and team owners don’t like having their expensive talent leaving camp for extended periods.

With the size of the field, Bjarkman there are now eight countries with legitimate national teams with others using mostly players with ethnic ties rather than natives.

Take Team Israel in 2017.

“It was a team full of American players with ethnic Jewish family backgrounds,” Bjarkman said. “This is not an Israeli team.

“This is what MLB has been stuck with by expanding this thing out. You’d probably want to have a six- or eight-team tournament. But that’s going to be a problem because how many games can you market on television?”

Bjarkman also pointed out that countries like the Dominican and Venezuela have much of their baseball talent drained by Major League Baseball.

Two countries who run baseball independent of MLB are Japan with its posting system and Cuba for political reasons.

What happens if Puerto Rico becomes a state, a realistic possibility in the near future?

Bjarkman ask that if there is a Puerto Rican team in the WBC after P.R. becomes a U.S. state, why can’t there be a Miami Cuban team?

A faction in the U.S. would like to put united Cuban team together with players such as Aroldis Chapman and Jose Abreu.

Cuba is opposed to the idea.

“They are still trying to maintain their own national baseball league,” Bjarkman said. “There has been a tremendous loss of players (to defection).”

Team Cuba at the 2013 WBC had seven of eight everyday players go on to the play in the MLB. Bjarkman’s research shows that 200 Cuba-born players since 1871 have played in the majors as of Opening Day 2017. He classifies 66 of those as “defectors.” The first in the post-revolution period (1961 to the present) Barbaro Garbey, who debuted with the Detroit Tigers in 1984. The next one is Rene Arocha, who first pitched in the bigs for the St. Louis Cardinals in 1993.

Discussion in Indianapolis also turned to the international tiebreaker rule used in the 2017 WBC and first adopted at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

The “Schiller Rule” allows that the team at bat began the 11th inning with runners on first and second base.

“It’s not baseball as we knew baseball, but tournament baseball isn’t either,” Bjarkman said. “In the context in which it’s used, it’s really exciting.”

The rule, which has been used during regular-season games in Cuba in the past, was adopted for expediency. Tournament directors are trying to avoid extra-long contests.

“How long is it going to be before we see this in Major League Baseball?,” Bjarkman said. “Why are we going to see it in Major League Baseball? Because of the commercial aspect. You don’t want games going past a certain time.

“They do all these things to try to shorten games. If you want to shorten games, don’t have so many commercials between innings.”

Other factors that lengthen games are the way pitchers are now. There are lefty and righty specialists and so many visits to the mound. It was once rare to have a pitching change before the seventh inning unless a pitcher was getting shelled in the early going.

“They’e trying to shorten games on one hand, but there are all these breaks for video reviews,” Bjarkman said.

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Lafayette’s Peter Bjarkman — aka “Dr. Baseball” — will get the Society for American Baseball Research’s Henry Chadwick Award at the group’s national convention June 28-July 2 in New York.

Indiana Baseball Hall of Fame is growing again

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By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

The Indiana Baseball Hall of Fame outgrew its facility once and it’s happening again.

Housed in the Alvin C. Ruxer Student Center on the Vincennes University-Jasper Campus, the Hall of Fame shines a light on Indiana’s diamond accomplishments and also salutes the contributions of Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame inductees and more.

Ray Howard, Hall of Famer and former head coach at Jasper High School who still helps the Wildcats as a batting practice pitcher and radio analyst on WITZ, is director of the Hall of Fame and curator of plaques and a collection of unique memorabilia.

“We don’t take anything on lone,” says Howard, who coached Jasper to a 265-68 mark from 1977-87 with State Finals appearances in 1981 and 1986. “We don’t have the room to stash stuff. If you donate it, we’ll be happy to display it and it will be there all the time.”

The Hall of Fame has been in Jasper since 1977. After a few years at the Holiday Inn, it found a permanent home at VUJC in 1981.

An 1,111 square-foot expansion — named the Coach Bill Nixon Baseball Wing for the Hall of Famer’s generosity — took the Hall to the current 1,968 square feet of display space in 2007.

“I never thought we would have to build on again after that, but be we don’t have any place to put plaques any more,” says Howard.

With yearly inductions (the Hall of Fame adds a new class each January at the IHBSCA State Clinic in Indianapolis), a display of Louisville Slugger bats saluting IHSAA state champions and other gifts, the Hall is again being squeezed for space.

With Howard, Indianapolis North Central coach Phil McIntyre and Plainfield coach Jeff McKeon as organizers, a campaign to raise $40,000 — half from the Hall of Fame in Jasper and half from the IHSBCA membership — is in progress to expand again.

A 1,333-square foot addition will bring the total to 3,301.

Framed original signatures from Negro Leagues players is a highlight at the Hall of Fame.

As is the history of old Major League Baseball ballparks.

Baseballs from the last game at Bush Stadium and the first game at Victory Field — both in Indianapolis in 1996 — have their place.

The University of Southern Indiana won NCAA Division II national championships in 2010 and 2014. The Screaming Eagles’ accomplishment is commemorated.

In 1977, South Bend Post 50 became the only Indiana team to win an American Legion Baseball national championship. The trophy for that triumph is on display.

Besides many uniforms, gloves and balls, there are several interactive displays, including IHSAA State Finals video clips and the popular “You Make The Call!,” where the visitor gets to be the umpire.

There’s the photos, rosters and ticket stubs from all the IHSBCA North/South All-Star Series going back to 1975.

Evansville’s Don Mattingly and Jasper’s Scott Rolen are saluted with items from their MLB careers taking corner infield spots in the museum.

Second base is occupied by Indiana Hall of Famers also inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown, N.Y., with photos of the plaques of Mordecai “Three Finger” Brown, Max Carey, Oscar Charleston, Ford Frick, Billy Herman, Chuck Klein, Kenesaw Mountain Landis, Sam Rice, Edd Roush, Amos Rusie, Sam Thompson surrounding a replica of a Chicago Cubs jersey like the one Brown wore back in the early 1900’s.

Not far from that is a replica of a 48-ounce bat swung in games by Roush. For comparison, it hangs next to to a 32-ouncer from Lafayette’s Todd Dunwoody, a former big leaguer and regular at the annual Hall of Fame golf tournament in Jasper.

Roush is also remembered with a donated Cracker Jack collector card.

There’s a card display from the collection of former Terre Haute Huts president and general manager Paul Frisz.

On the unique side, there’s a salute to the baseball-themed 2002 Chevy Impala owned by Greenwood’s Kyle Shaffer.

League Stadium in Huntingburg, where scenes from “A League Of Their Own” was filmed, is nine miles south of the museum where there is a collage of All-American Girls Professional Baseball League players.

An orginal lineup card from the 1940 MLB All-Star Game has a place of honor. New Albany’s Herman started at second base for the National League, 4-0 winners at St. Louis.

Caps from many Indiana high schools are suspended from the ceiling.

There’s a brick from old Comiskey Park in Chicago.

Once again, Ferdinand’s Universal Design Associates and Jasper’s Krempp Construction are leading the project.

The Hall of Fame is open 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Thursday through Sunday during the VUJC school year from mid-August to early May and open 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. daily from May 10 to Aug. 19. Cost is $4 for ages 13-and-over, $3 for fans 5-12 and $2 for senior enthusiasts 60-and-over. Visitors ages 4-and-under are admitted free.

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A display for the Indiana Baseball Hall of Fame in Jasper. The Hall of Fame has been located in the southern Indiana town for 40 years and housed at Vincennes University Jasper Campus since 1981. The facility will be expanded for the second time since 2007.

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Universal Design Associates rendering of the Indiana Baseball Hall of Fame expansion project.

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Another Universal Design Associates drawing of the Indiana Baseball Hall of Fame expansion project.

Elkhart’s Slear an early baseball character

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By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

You don’t know Bo.

Not Jackson.

But Slear

Elkhart, Ind.-raised Walter Scott “Bo” Slear was a baseball character in the early part of the 20th century.

Slear, the son of Elkhart park superintendent and councilman John W. Slear, was born in “The City with a Heart” in 1878 and died in Brooklyn, Mich., in 1939.

Bo was a popular player, manager and umpire in the upper Midwest who some newspapers drew comparisons to Rube Waddell and Arlie Latham and was connect to other famous Deadball Era names like Fred Merkle and Elkhart’s Lou Criger.

No, Slear was not known to chase fire engines like the colorful Waddell, but he did gain fame for saving a drowning youth. Baseball Hall of Fame-bound Waddell caught pneumonia after helping save flood victims in Kentucky and never fully recovered, dying at age 37 in 1914.

Latham aka “The Freshest Man On Earth” was sometimes referred to as the “clown price of baseball” even before Nick Altrock, Al Schacht, Jackie Price, Max Patkin or even Myron Noodleman.

The Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette compared Slear to Latham.

In 1903, the paper said Bo “keeps witty lines going all the time” and offered that “after the Muncie team had put Wagner to the bad yesterday in the sixth, a long fly was knocked to right field after two men had been retired. As the ball left the bat Slear threw down his glove and called the boys to come in, as he knew Belden had the ball.”

Slear played for a short time in 1906 with the Class C Northern Copper Country League’s Calumet (Mich.) Aristocrats, a team that featured future or former big leaguers Biddy Dolan, Ed Kippert and Doc Miller and went on to win the pennant, and then Bo moved on to the Class D Southern Michigan League’s Tecumseh Indians.

In 1907, Bo managed and manned left field while hitting four of his seven career minor league homers for Tecumseh, SML champions.

Those Indians clubs featured not only several mostly “cup of coffee” major leaguers —  Gene “Rubber Arm” Krapp, Wib Smith, Dolly Stark and Flint., Ind., native Jock Somerlott — but the son-to-be-infamous Merkle, who led the 1907 Tecumseh team with six homers.

You may have hear about Merkle’s controversial “Bonehead” baserunning decision while with New York Giants in 1908?

While Slear hit .268 for Tecumseh in 1906, Bo was a hero for his act of bravery away from the diamond.

Here’s how the Adrian Daily Telegram described his praiseworthy deeds on Dec. 15, 1906:

“The citizens of this village have not forgotten the heroism of Walter “Bo” Slear, in saving the life of a boy at the mill pond. Oh, no. On the contrary, he is being looked after carefully by his friends, and in their list in early every man, woman and especially every child in the place.

“‘Bo’ Slear is center fielder of the town’s South Michigan league nine, who last Sunday risked his own life to save that of Harry Gregory. The latter, a little boy, had broken through thin ice at Red Mill pond, while skating, and the cries of witnesses attracted the attention of Slear, who was among other skaters a quarter of a mile away from the spot where the lad had broken through.

“Already Tecumseh has raised a fund for purchase of a handsome gold watch, suitably inscribed, with fob, which will be presented to the player in a few days. Not satisfied with this, some fans are going to boom their hero for a Carnegie medal. Slear is wintering in Tecumseh, acting as clerk at the Lilley house.”

Bo did receive a bronze medal from the Carnegie Hero Fund Commission.

Slear had been a a hero on the field and off in Tecumseh. But after a falling out with Indians president R.A. Henson, Bo wound up with the Jackson Convicts of the Southern Michigan League.

Jackson placed third in 1908, third in 1909 and seventh in 1910 with Slear as manager.

These teams included five future or former big leaguers — “Wee Willie” Dammann, Albert “Bunny” Fabrique, “Big Bill” James, Sullivan, Ind., native Hosea Siner and former Notre Dame player John Walsh.

Lou Criger’s brother, Elmer, pitched for both 1908 and 1909 Jackson teams before twirling in 1910 and 1911 with Los Angeles of the Class A Pacific Coast League. Elmer won 22 games in 1909.

How happy were the “bugs” and “cranks” about getting Bo in Jackson?

Witness this verse in his honor (published in The Elkhart Truth on Feb. 22, 1908):

When Bo Slear Comes to Town.

There’s a joyful day in store,

When Bo Slear Comes to Town.

And of Hayes we’ll have no more,

When Bo Slear Comes to Town

We’ll take Bo by the hand,

Say “Glad you’re here old man,

We’ll help you all we can.”

When Bo Slear Comes to Town,

we’ll do all we can boost,

When Bo Slear Comes to Town,

we’ll crowd others off the roost,

When Bo Slear Comes to Town,

there is no other cure

for what we did endure

we must win the pennant sure

when Bo Slear Comes to Town

Years later, Slear would return to Jackson to become athletic director at the state prison.

After speculation that he might take a managing job in Canada at Guelph, Ont., Slear began the 1911 campaign serving as player/manager for the Class C Southern Michigan League’s Battle Creek Crickets. His season as a player ended when he broke his collar bone while playing in the outfield.

The Sagnaw News called Slear a “favorite wherever he goes.”

Disappointment for his moving on from Battle Creek was expressed in the Baseball Gossip column: “This piece of tough lick will genuinely be regretted by every Kalamazoo fan, for ‘Bo’ is very popular in this city, having made himself so by his geniality and gentlemanly conduct.”

Then Bo replaced Mo.

Slear was hired as the manager of the same loop’s Bay City (Mich.) Billikens, taking over for Mo Meyers to close out the 1911 season. Bay City finished in fourth place.

Cricket Pete “Bash” Compton also played for the American League’s St. Louis Browns in 1911 and Bay City’s Larry Gilbert with the National League’s Boston Braves in 1914 and 1915.

Billiken James “Red” Bowser had two hitless at-bats with the 1910 Chicago White Sox.

In 1912, Bo was at the helm of the Class C Michigan League’s fourth-place Boyne City Boosters. Elkhartan Lou Criger had managed Boyne City during part of the 1911 season.

Slear’s minor league playing career went from 1903-12.

In 1903, Bo was an outfielder with the pennant-winning Class B Central League’s Fort Wayne Railroaders. The team were under the guidance of player/manager Bade Myers.

Myers played 18 minor league season and and was manager for 13. He skippered Fort Wayne in the Central League in 1903, 1904 (another championship season) and 1905 (the team wound up the season in Canton, Ohio). Myers led 1910 Quincy (Ill.) Vets to the Class D Central Association title. He returned to the Summit City in 1915 and managed the CL’s Fort Wayne Cubs.

Former of future major leaguers on the 1903 Fort Wayne roster included Frederick Josh “Cy” Alberts, Cliff Curtis, Jack Hardy, Irish-born John O’Connell, Harry Ostidek and Dave Pickett.

In 1904, Slear began the season with the Class D Iowa League’s Fort Dodge Gypsum Eaters. Frank Boyle managed the first of his 19 minor league seasons, all in Iowa.

Slear asked for his released and planned to go to Hot Springs, Ark., for treatment of rheumatism, but changed his mind and stayed in Iowa and played out the 1904 season with the Oskaloosa town team.

Slear’s adventures were not limited north of the Mason-Dixon Line.

Bo opened the 1905 season with the Jackson (Miss.) Blind Tigers of the Class D Cotton State League.

According to a letter written to The Elkhart Truth by Elkhartan Harry Mather, there was more adventures for Slear away from the ball field”

“Mather traveled to Mississippi where he met up with Slear and Goshen, Ind., ballplayer B. Method, who were playing for Jackson.

They took a river steamer excursion from Vicksburg, Miss., on the “Louisiana.” Hand bills and posters said it would be a 28-mile ride with no gambling or drinking, but there would be dancing and music.

“The band struck up “Back, Back to Baltimore” as the boat began its moonlight cruise at 8:45 p.m.

“Bo and Mather decided to look about the craft and Slear determined it had probably once been a freighter.

“He told Mather it looked like an Ohio river cattle boat he had seen “up in the United States.”

“Mather said “B” always referred to the north as the United States. During the dance, they called out “half” and the girl turned from once dance partner to finish the song with another.

“According to Mather, this was a custom that Bob and many of his other northern ballplayers did not appreciate. They strenuously objected to being interrupted.

“Down below deck, there was a well-attended crap game. So much for the no-gambling rule.

“Across the way, were eight bartenders doling out libations to colonels and prospective colonels. So much for the no-drinking rule.

“When there was some gunfire by a jilted gamblers, Slear ducked behind the boiler and Method was found in a lifeboat. He claimed he was there to sleep after being out later the night before.”

Because of a yellow fever epidemic, the Cotton States League suspended play on July 31, 1905.

No stats are available for Slear at Jackson in 1905. It is known the he wound up the season as captain of an independent team in Mt. Clemens, Mich. The squad ended the season by winning a five-game series and a $500 pot.

After his playing and managing days were over, Slear became an umpire in the Central League and other places and was known for his desire to keep the game moving at a steady pace.

Pace of play in baseball.

Sound familiar?

Here a story from he July 9, 1915 Fort Wayne News:

“If this ever reaches the eye of Jack Hendrick, James McGill will be beating the bushes for a new manager for his pennant-pursuing Indianapolis ball club, at it is difficult to believe that Jack will withstand the shock; but it’s a fact that a Fort Wayne baseball crowd actually cheered a living umpire.

“‘Bo’ Slear recently imported into the Central League on the eve of the crash of the Southern Michigan, was given a young ovation in his first game at League park.

“He got it by vigorously ordering the Grand Rapids and Fort Wayne players to shake a leg in shifting to the field and bench between innings.

“‘Hurry up? Hurry up! Where’s your bitter?,’ came impatiently from ‘Boo,’ and the determined manner in which he yelled it actually go results, too.

“In hustling the players between innings Slear was striking at an evil of modern baseball that managers and fans have objected to for years, but seemingly without much avail, although this season the Central League clubs are not nearly so remiss as in former seasons.

“This thing of husky young ballplayers dragging their legs as they saunter out to positions on the ball field is a ridiculous as it is vexatious. Athletes in the prime of condition with only a few hours actual labor required of them each day and loafing on the job is trying to the American idea of get up and go.

“If they were old men dragging their way to pension jobs it would be different, but why a ballplayer should not hustle to the field or in from the instant an inning is ended passes all understanding.

“One would think the very vigor of his physical condition would put enough ginger into him to make it impossible for him to loaf his way across the field.

“Bo isn’t the greatest umpire extant, but he has one thing in his favor anyways. He makes the ballplayers imitate ginger where they want to or not.”

Slear was married three times. He wed Anna of Fort Wayne in n 1903, was divorced and married Tecumseh’s Verna Margaret Elliott in 1907, when he was 28 and she 24. After Verna’s death, he married Eva in 1937.

BASEBALLMINDED

Baseball is often on this writer’s mind.

‘Hoosier Hammer’ Klein was Indiana baseball’s man of steel

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By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Baseball players today throw iron around as a part of strength training.

An Indiana native who wound up enshrined in Cooperstown and Jasper moved mounds of metal for a living, but that made him strong and it helped him slug his way to the big leagues.

Back in the late 1920’s, Chuck Klein built powerful wrists by moving sturdy steel plates while working at an iron works in his hometown of Indianapolis.

He caught and tossed 180-pound hot steel plates with tongs and tossed them into rolling mills.

His Popeye-like forearms allowed the “Hoosier Hammer” aka “The Powerhouse” to take a terrific cut with a 42-ounce bat — the legal limit at the time — and club 300 home runs to go with a .320 lifetime batting average, 1,201 runs batted in and 398 doubles. The lefty slugger led the National League in circuit clouts four times (43 in 1929, 31 in 1931, 38 in 1932, 28 in 1933).

While with the Philadelphia Phillies early in his career, Klein told the Associated Press that confidence in his forearm power kept him from getting into trouble with his foot work because he did not feel the need to lunge or “get too much body” into his swing.

Chuck pitched in grammar school as a young boy and then became a three-sport star at Southport High School (baseball, basketball and track).

Klein was primarily a right-handed pitcher for the Cardinals on the diamond and had to learn the ropes as an outfielder as a pro.

According to an NEA Service story, Klein got his start in professional baseball when a prohibition agent arranged for him to play for the Evansville Hubs, a St. Louis Cardinals farm team in the Class-B Three-I League.

Klein’s brief time in the minors was two weeks with Evansville and 10 weeks with the Fort Wayne Chiefs of the Central League. After breaking his ankle in the winter of 1927-28, he was sold to Fort Wayne for $200.

When baseball commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis discovered that the Cardinals owned CL teams in both Dayton, Ohio, and Fort Wayne, St. Louis was forced to sell off the Fort Wayne team. Landis now has an elementary school in Logansport named for him.

The Phillies outbid the New York Yankees for Klein’s services and he entered the National League.

He was called up to the Phillies at the end of the 1928 season after signing a $7,500 contract.  In his first 64 games with Philadelphia, he hit .360 with 11 homers and 34 RBI.

Klein had three stints with the Phillies and also played with the Chicago Cubs and Pittsburgh Pirates before retiring in 1944.

For all his heroics on the diamond, Klein suffered after he left the game. According to the Indianapolis Times, he had a nerve disease that impaired his reflexes and memory and crippled his right leg.

Klein died at 53. He was found dead in a flooded bathroom in his Indianapolis home in 1958 and he is buried in hometown.

Chuck Klein Sports Complex is located on Indy’s west side.

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Indiana’s Chuck Klein, a Baseball Hall of Famer who played from 1928-44, wielded a 42-ounce bat.

Monument in Fort Wayne to memorialize baseball’s first pro league game

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By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Five years ago, Elkhart saluted one its best from baseball’s past. Lou Criger, a 16-year big league veteran and Cy Young’s favorite catcher, had a monument placed in the honor of himself and his family in Riverview Park.

David Stalker’s Baseball Memorial Series put that historical marker in place and now Indiana is due to get another.

The Kekiongas of Fort Wayne hosted the first professional baseball league game against the Forest Citys of Cleveland in 1871 and through the efforts of Stalker, Archie Monuments (both in Watertown, Wisc.), Kekionga chapter of Society for American Baseball Research (SABR) members Bill Griggs and Mark Souder as well as Don Graham, Geoffrey Paddock and others, that moment will be memorialized in the Summit City.

Griggs, who is now the Fort Wayne SABR chapter chairman, did research that helped locate the site. Chapter vice-chairman Souder is a former congressman and author of the book “Politics and Baseball.” Graham is the secretary of the Northeast Indiana Baseball Association. Paddock is a 5th district councilman in Fort Wayne.

Griggs says the generous donations have come from the Fort Wayne TinCaps and the Champion Hill Toppers Base Ball Club of Huntington, Ind.

The monument will also serve as a tribute to the late Bob Gregory, a baseball historian and founder of the Fort Wayne SABR chapter who died of cancer in 2016.

Bobby Matthews, 5-foot-5, 140-pound right-handed pitcher who went on to win 297 games in 15-year career in various major leagues, played for the Kekiongas in 1871.

Specifications and other details are being worked out, but it looks like the monument will be placed at the site of the Kekionga Ball Grounds.

Stalker (whom this author worked with on the Criger monument and put together with the Fort Wayne folks) was kind enough to share a rough draft of the inscription:

KEKIONGA BALL GROUNDS 1869- 1871

The 1st major league baseball game, now called the 1st game in a professional league, was played here May 4, 1871. Kekionga whitewashed Cleveland 2-0 in what was then acclaimed the greatest game ever played. It remained the lowest score in the 5 year history of the National Association. The grounds were located between Elm, Mechanics, Fair and Bluff Streets. Kekionga moved here in 1869 from its former grounds east of Calhoun between present-day Wallace and Williams Streets. In May 1870, the team improved the grounds with a fence and grandstands. The central grandstand, the Grand Duchess, was modeled after its namesake in Cincinnati. On November 5, 1871, all structures were destroyed by fire and never rebuilt.

Stalker, also SABR member, said he plans to keep working toward placing monuments in his series. Who knows? There could be more coming to Indiana in the future?

Speaking of SABR, the organization also has chapters in the South Bend area (Lou Criger) and Indianapolis (Oscar Charleston).

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David Stalker’s Baseball Memorial Series placed a memorial monument to Lou Criger in Elkhart, Ind., in 2012. Now, Stalker and Archie Monuments of Watertown, Wis., will help memorialize the site of the Kekionga Ball Grounds in Fort Wayne, site of the first professional league baseball game in 1871.