Crawfordsville baseball teams were orphans in the '20s and '30s
Sunday, August 24, 2014 7:37 PM
There is mention of a ball field on the East End of Elmore Street called Smith Field, but no mention has been found in Crawfordsville annuals or newspapers from 1900 to 1930.
Bill Boone is a 1956 graduate of Ladoga High School and played baseball and basketball at Wabash College. He is an historian of Montgomery County sports and will contribute a column each Monday focused on looking back at what sports in the county once were.
McFarland Diamond is mentioned in the late teens and early 20s as being used for baseball games. Charles McFarland owned property on the West Side of Bluff Street from Garden to Covington. The property was called McFarland Park and there was a baseball field there. The property was sold to the city in 1939 and the Sewage Treatment Plant was constructed in 1940.
In 1927, a baseball diamond was constructed at the fairgrounds for games to be played during the Montgomery County Fair. This facility, at the northeast corner of the Hose Elementary playground was still used in the middle 50s. The first mention found of a baseball facility at Milligan Park is in the spring of 1930 when the Journal reported that Nolan Craver had been practicing his American Legion team and will play his home games there. When baseball resumed at CHS in 1946, all games were played at Milligan Park which was renamed Baldwin Field in 1976.
Crawfordsville High School baseball teams had played at various diamonds scattered throughout the city since baseball began in the late 1890s.
The 1904 annual called Ye Yeare Booke reports that, "The base-ball teams of Crawfordsville High School have been greatly handicapped in the past seasons owing to the lack of suitable grounds for practice." The writer continues and notes that; "The school yard has always been used for this purpose until last year (1902) when better grounds were secured." He concludes by noting that, "During a major part of the season, the candidates practice from 7:30 until 8:30 on the Philistine Field." This was the name of the Wabash College baseball field until 1899 when the President of the Big Four Railroad, Melville E. Ingalls gave $1,000 to the college to improve it facility. It was then named Ingalls Field and remained so until 1966 when it was renamed Little Giant Stadium. Philistine Field was surrounded by a high board fence, which was charred and blackened because sparks from the passing trains frequently set it on fire.
It was not until 1911 that the Athenian again turns to the facilities. The writer observes, "One difficulty which confronts the coach and team is the limited time for practice. The Wabash team uses the ground in the afternoon, which cuts our practice to about an hour each day. Although this hour is immediately after dinner, the fellows turn out well and with the efficient work of the coach, they are bound to win."
The college field may have been the "better grounds" that were secured in 1903. A baseball article in the now defunct Sports Tattler records that there was a diamond down by the old Disposal Plant (No Name). Baseball and football teams also have played at the end of Elmore Street on land owned by a Mr. Smith, so it was called Smith Field. Later they played baseball and football at Deans Park (also called Manson Field or Manson Park), which was located where the new jail is now. Don (Slick) Martin recalls that access to that field was through a long lane.
Once again the 1913 annual mentions "limited facilities" and that the "willow -wielders" have to practice on the college field in the mornings and that "school convened at 8:30 instead of 9:00 as heretofore."
In 1914 there were "only odd times to practice, and no home games were played at all." In 1915, a game with Wingate had to be called in the fourth inning to allow Wabash to have a game." Later in the season, that year, Ladoga defeated the CHS nine on Ingalls Field. That year, the Athenians were practicing at 7:00 in the mornings. The 1920 annual notes that the faculty had challenged the varsity to a game that was played on the McFarland diamond in the west part of the city. This facility was the one down by the old Disposal Plant.
Baseball was played on an irregular basis during the 20's. Certainly the early morning practice times, the short afternoon hours, and the lack of a home field contributed to the lack of interest. Finally in 1930, baseball was abandoned in favor of track. It would not return until 1946, when Bill Chase scheduled eight games of baseball because a large majority of students favored baseball over track. In the spring of 1946, baseball resumed at CHS, and in the spring of 1947, Harry Moore, Tom Luster, Charles Price, Stan Spears, Don Houston, Ralph Elliot, Frank Gardner, Jim Smith, Bob Rogers, and Howard Zachery, wearing uniforms with "Mid-States" emblazoned across the front formed the nucleus of the team that compiled a 5-3 record. Baseball was back at CHS.