HISTORICAL BASEBALL SITES IN KANSAS
Latest update: 3 April 2016. I have visited sites in italics. [All photographs by Mark Eberle.]
This list includes 19 historical baseball sites I have identified in Kansas, listed alphabetically by city within each category. The 9 oldest baseball grandstands were built prior to the Second World War, most during the Great Depression as federal work projects through the Civil Works Administration (CWA, November 1933 through May 1934) or the Works Progress Administration (beginning in 1935), which was renamed the Work Projects Administration in 1939, retaining the iconic WPA initials. I am in the process of searching for additional information (newspaper articles, old photos, etc.) about the history (construction, renovation, and previous grandstands) of these ballparks and about any other historical (pre-World War II) ballparks in Kansas I might have missed (firstname.lastname@example.org). Of these 19 sites, 18 still host baseball or softball games (the baseball diamond and grandstand in Independence, Kansas have sadly been lost). My quest began as a search for the oldest baseball park in Kansas, and I discovered some great baseball sites along the way, as well as some great baseball history.
My opinion about what constitutes the ideal ballpark? Envision a small grandstand that holds maybe 1,000 spectators and is constructed mostly of wood, built by craftsmen decades ago and lovingly maintained or restored. This grandstand puts you close to the field, protected in front by a net of thin fibers that flutters slightly in the breeze. Overhead, protection from the sun and foul balls is provided by a wooden roof with exposed trusses. The top of the grandstand wall is open below the roof to allow the breeze to cool spectators seated in the shade on wooden bleachers or classic folding seats of iron. It is an intimate grandstand that embraces you in the ambiance of the game—where every pop of a ball hitting a leather glove and every crack of a wooden bat is collected by the grandstand, the iconic sounds resonating between the roof and seats. A great baseball park makes you feel as though you are actually part of the game. All of the ballparks listed here are great places to enjoy a ballgame and worthy of preservation, even if they lack one or more elements of my ideal ballpark. There are some real baseball gems in Kansas to match those anywhere.
The distinction in this list between historical baseball parks and historical baseball grounds is that historical baseball parks have grandstands built prior to 1942 (with the understanding that they have undergone periodic maintenance, restoration, or renovation). As part of my research, I hope to accomplish 2 goals. My first goal is to document which baseball park is the oldest in Kansas, based on the age of its historical grandstand. My second goal is to compile the histories of all the old ballparks in the state. Although the oldest grandstands still used for baseball in Kansas were built between 1920 and 1940, the full histories of the oldest baseball parks in the state easily exceed 100 years, going as far back as the late 1800s. Despite the long history of baseball in Kansas, only 9 ballparks in the entire state (of the 19 sites on this webpage) feature pre-1942 grandstands built with baseball in mind and where spectators can still enjoy America's pastime. However, 9 is an appropriate baseball number. There are 9 players per side and 9 innings per game. Fortunately, all 9 of these historical ballparks are presently in use, and, with care, the current grandstands just might survive to be the focus of centennial celebrations. What is presented here are brief summaries of the historical baseball sites, along with recent photos of each. I am compiling fuller accounts with complete documentation of sources and both historical and recent photos that I hope to publish in the near future (early 2017?). For each site in this list, the years listed in parentheses are the first year the field was used for baseball and the year the current grandstand was constructed.
Historical Baseball Parks
1) Katy Stadium, Katy Park, Chanute, Kansas (1895, 1936)
Historical Baseball Park. Katy Park, on the east side of Chanute, was named for the Katy Railway, the name by which the Missouri, Kansas, and Texas (M-K-T) Railway was commonly known. The park was established in 1895 as a fairground, and baseball games were scheduled there as early as that June, although the grandstand was not completed until August. The wooden grandstand faced east and was 45 feet wide, 100 feet long, and about 16 feet high, with a seating capacity of 1,200. Chanute fielded professional teams in 1896 and 1902 but found it difficult to support them financially.
In late 1911 and early 1912, the city arranged to purchase the fairground for use as a city park. Katy Park was dedicated on July 4, 1912, with various horse races but no baseball games. However, the grandstand had become unsafe. By 1913, it was reported that the grandstand had been replaced. Like the 1895 grandstand, it was probably a straight structure constructed of wood that was suitable for viewing the horse races. In May 1913, a new city baseball diamond (with backstops) was constructed within the speed ring in front of the grandstand.
Although the ball diamond remained in Katy Park, a new ballpark was built just east of town in 1921 so teams could play on Sunday afternoons, an activity banned by the city in 1915. This new East Park (later called Ingraham Park) had a grandstand and a scoreboard in center field, but no outfield fence to stop a ball hit into the alfalfa field beyond center and right fields.
On November 19, 1935, voters approved the city’s share of funds needed to construct a grandstand in Katy Park as a Works Progress Administration (WPA) project. Work was scheduled to begin the following Monday, which involved tearing down the existing wooden grandstand and quarrying rock for its replacement. The new grandstand was constructed of concrete and stone. It is almost 182 feet long and 60 feet deep, with 18 rows of seats. The estimated seating capacity was about 2,000 people. A roof was listed as an option for some later date. The estimated cost of the project was $17,510, with $13,283 provided through the WPA and $4,227 from the city. The project was delayed several weeks during severe weather that winter, but work resumed at the end of February 1936.
The first game played at the new grandstand in Katy Park was Chanute’s 1–0 loss to Fort Scott on June 21. A “big crowd” attended the game, but there was little fanfare for the inaugural event, because the stadium was not quite finished. The spectators had to sit directly on the concrete tiers, because the wooden planks to be used for seats had not been installed. By early August, the wooden seats were complete, and eight poles were installed for floodlights to illuminate the field for baseball games. The formal dedication of the new grandstand was held at a night baseball game on August 20. Following a concert by the local band, the Chanute town team defeated the Lawrence Ban Johnson team 4–1 in front of about 1,000 spectators. The local Kiwanis Club organized the ceremonies.
The 1936 straight grandstand that now sits along the third base line could be used for activities other than baseball. As currently situated, the grandstand is not wholly adjacent to the third base line, with a point near the center of the grandstand closest to home plate. The end of the grandstand extends well beyond home plate and the backstop, away from the field of play, which makes for a longer sight line. The ballpark's infield and outfield are grass. The outfield fence is chainlink covered with green mesh.
During 1946–1950, the stadium was the home park for Class D minor league teams in the Kansas–Oklahoma–Missouri League (KOM League) during the expansion of minor league baseball teams following World War II. The 1946 Chanute Owls and the 1947 Chanute Athletics were not affiliated with a major league team, but the 1948 Chanute Giants were affiliated with the New York Giants. The affiliation lasted one year. The Chanute Athletics returned for two years in 1949. However, as the Korean War began in 1950, the low-level minor league circuit dropped from 8 teams to 6 when the teams in Chanute and nearby Independence folded after the 1950 season, and the entire league folded after the 1952 season.
The field at Katy Stadium is dedicated to Paul Lindblad, a Chanute native who played most of his major league career with the Kansas City Athletics and Oakland A’s as a relief pitcher from 1965 to 1978. Although the orientation and exact placement of the diamond have changed during its history, the baseball ground in Katy Park is one of the oldest still used for the sport in Kansas (120 years in 2015).
Katy Stadium, Chanute
Katy Stadium, Chanute
Katy Stadium, Chanute
Katy Stadium, Chanute
2) McDonald Stadium, Central Park, El Dorado, Kansas (1940, 1940)
Historical Baseball Park. Central Park Stadium was built as a Work Projects Administration (WPA) project in 1940. The project began when Babe Goff, manager of a local auto parts dealer, organized a committee to advocate construction of a ballpark. Goff proposed a site owned by the Missouri Pacific Railroad east of Griffith Street, where the stadium was eventually built. The old fairgrounds were directly north of the tracks. The railroad transferred the land south of the tracks to the city, and Goff lobbied the WPA to assist local volunteers with the construction of the ballpark. Cities Service Company (now CITGO Petroleum) donated steel oil derricks to be used as poles for lights furnished by Kansas Gas and Electric (KG&E, now Westar Energy). Other materials were provided by local retailers at cost. Financial support for the project came from local oil companies, banks, and donation cans placed around town. The “Baseball Plant” was dedicated on May 23, 1940 with a doubleheader, each game featuring a team sponsored by a local business against a team from either Augusta or Wichita. Shortly after it was completed, the ballpark became known as Central Park Stadium, derived from the name given to the city park where the stadium is located.
The concrete of the grandstand extends through the roof and its supports, making it unique among historical baseball parks in Kansas. The infield grass was replaced with synthetic turf in 2012–2013. The outfield is still grass, and the fence consists of vertical boards painted green on the inside face. The local baseball hall of fame is in a newer building adjacent to the grandstand entrance.
The ballpark has been the home field of El Dorado High School and American Legion baseball teams since 1940s, when James McDonald restarted baseball at the high school and served as the head coach (1944–1969). During a portion of the 1950s, the minor league Wichita Indians of the Western League (Class A) played home games at Central Park Stadium during July and August. The baseball team at Butler County Community College has played home games at the ballpark since the college started its baseball program in 1978. The ballpark is also the summer home of the El Dorado Broncos (Jayhawk Collegiate Baseball League), who moved to El Dorado in 1996 from Hutchinson (1972–1984) by way of Wichita (1985–1995).
On July 27, 1972, the stadium was renamed for James McDonald. In May 2012, the name Brad Long Field was added to McDonald Stadium. Brad Long was the head baseball coach at El Dorado High School during 1972–1981, 1986–1996, and 2004–2012. [I attended an El Dorado Broncos summer collegiate league game at this ballpark in 2015.]
McDonald Stadium, El Dorado
McDonald Stadium, El Dorado
McDonald Stadium, El Dorado
3) Clint Lightner Field, Frederick Finnup Park, Garden City, Kansas (1920, 1936, 1956)
Historical Baseball Park. The land that comprises Frederick Finnup Park was transferred to the city in May 1919 by George W. Finnup to honor his father. The city intended to “proceed at the earliest moment to establish the roads and walks, plant trees and establish the lake, build tennis courts and ball grounds and provide a camping ground for tourists passing over the Santa Fe Trail” (highways were just beginning to be paved with concrete and highway numbers were not yet used). By August 1919, plans were being made for the baseball diamond. “The permanent base ball grounds for the city will be established in the northeast corner of the Finnup Park, and the work of improving it will commence shortly. It is proposed to erect grandstands and other necessary buildings and get it in shape for both base and foot ball games.” In May 1920, the “ball grounds in Finnup Park” were “being put in shape” by 2 ball clubs, one a general town team and the other consisting of members of the American Legion, which was chartered by the US Congress in 1919, at the close of the First World War. They had obtained money to buy team uniforms, and still “it is hoped eventually to build a grand stand on the grounds.” A scoreboard was installed in time for a July 4th baseball game in 1920 “at the fine new ball park, which is beginning to take on the appearance of a real ball diamond.” Funds from a game in August 1920 between the Garden City town team and the local Legion team were to be used for additional improvements at the baseball ground. Nearly 6 years later, a batting cage at “Finnup park diamond” had been completed prior to the second spring workout of the Legion team in April 1926, where “a good crowd of spectators looked on from the sidelines.” No grandstand was mentioned but one was built sometime prior to 1936.
A concrete grandstand with a roof (now metal) was built as a Works Progress Administration (WPA) project in 1936. The concrete section behind home plate was completed first and dedicated on May 3 at a baseball game between Garden City's town team and the team from Dighton. Temporary backstops were set up for the game, and the new grandstand was "flanked on either side by sections of the old wooden stand." The foundation for the second section of the new grandstand, which was angled down the first base line, was poured in August 1936, and the last of the concrete for the seating was poured by October, leaving only the roof and the connecting link between the two sections to be completed. Bricks were then laid to enclose rooms in the area underneath the seating. This baseball park was usually refereed to a Finnup Park Diamond, while another ballpark used for softball was referred to as Finnup Park Field. Lights sufficient for softball games were installed at the softball field in the 1930s. Installation of the "baseball park’s brilliant new lighting system" was not completed until June 7, 1948, with "focusing and adjustments" to be made that evening at a softball game. The city's Ban Johnson team had been playing out of town while work on the lights progressed.
By the 1950s, the seating available with this concrete grandstand was considered insufficient at some ballgames. During 1955 and early 1956, plans to add seating for about 300 people were discussed by the city and the Jaycees (the local Ban Johnson team), who would share the construction costs. The options discussed were adding either a concrete section or a steel section toward the third base line. Howard Blanchard, who worked on the design of the existing grandstand built by the WPA, consulted on the design of the new seating, which ultimately resulted in construction of a concrete section matching the existing grandstand but lacking a roof and separated by an open entryway 18 feet wide. Although the added seating on the third base line lacks a roof, it has concrete supports for one along the back wall that match those on the main grandstand.
The seating constructed in 1956 was built shortly after the ballpark received its current name. Clint Lightner, a veteran of the First World War, had played for the Garden City team during the 1920s and worked as the Superintendent of Public Utilities in Garden City in the 1940s. He also was the business manager of the local Ban Johnson team. Given his job with the city, he was involved with installation of the lights at the park in 1948. He died unexpectedly in 1951 at the age of 55.
In 2014, the Garden City Recreation Commission and Garden City Unified School District (USD) 457 partnered for another set of improvements. The improvements include installing new lights (replacing those installed about 60 years earlier; the poles had been replaced by the city in 1968) and laying a synthetic turf infield (including the pitcher’s mound), which gives balls truer bounces for the young players to field, requires less daily maintenance, and conserves water. The outfield is still grass. Enhancements to the seating (now metal benches), backstop, locker rooms, parking, and other features of the park are part of the renovation plans through 2016. The local American Legion team folded after the 1955 season, and the Ban Johnson team folded after the 1959 season, leaving the stadium largely unused and vandalized. However, Legion baseball returned in 1963, and the field has since been used by a variety of local teams, including the high school, which will all benefit from the recent restoration and renovation project. In 2015, the ballpark became the home field of the minor league Garden City Wind (Pecos League, Independent). [I attended the second game of the Garden City Wind's inaugural season.]
Clint Lightner Field, Garden City
Clint Lightner Field, Garden City
Clint Lightner Field, Garden City
4) Larks Park, 4th and Oak Streets, Hays, Kansas (1940, 1940)
Historical Baseball Park. The first baseball ground at Hays was probably the parade ground at Fort Hays, where teams of soldiers played each other and began playing teams from the town as early as 1869. Town teams also played at various sites around Hays in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Through most of its history, the independent baseball team representing Hays against outside competitors lacked a chosen name. The Hays City Base Ball Club of the 1870s simply became the Hays town team. The Hays VFW sponsored a team in 1921–1922 and again in 1933. In 1931, the Central Kansas Power Company team (now Midwest Energy) represented Hays. Yet it was not until after World War II that an independent town team finally received a perennial name, when it was christened the Hays Larks in a May 1946 contest. In all of its baseball history, Hays has never had a minor league team.
A new “city ball park” was constructed in 1940 as a joint venture between the Work Projects Administration (WPA) and the city of Hays, beginning in February with the scraping of the ground. The outfield was eventually sodded, but the infield remained all dirt. Games began on the field that spring, while construction of the grandstand was still underway. The lights (but not the poles) were purchased from the Kansas City Monarchs of the Negro National League. They were mounted on 8 poles 70 feet tall and 2 poles 60 feet tall installed during May and June 1940. The 60 bulbs were 1,500 watts each (a total of 90,000 watts). The first night baseball game in Hays was played on Wednesday, June 26, 1940, as construction continued on the grandstand. (What became of the lights is unknown.)
The seating and other external features of the grandstand were completed in August 1940, but additional work remained on the concession stands, showers, and dressing rooms under the grandstand deck, as did construction of dugouts and sodding of the outfield. The straight grandstand behind home plate was constructed of concrete and native limestone in 6 sections, and it had a capacity of about 800 spectators seated on wooden bleachers mounted about 6 inches above the 13 tiers of the concrete deck. The grandstand at Larks Park has no roof. With lights installed during its first year, many games were anticipated to be at night, when spectators would not need protection from the afternoon sun. The seats have been replaced at least twice by metal benches.
The first outfield fence was constructed in late July 1940 of wood 6½ feet high and painted green. The city had underestimated the cost of constructing the ballpark, requiring the sale of bonds for $3,500 in July 1940 to raise enough money to obtain the full allotment of WPA funds available to complete the work. However, the city still lacked funds to pay for a fence around the ballpark that would limit access to only those spectators paying admission. The American Legion stepped in to construct the outfield fence and was granted the rights to sell space for advertising signs on the fence to local businesses for up to 5 years, unless the city built a “suitable fence” after 3 years and returned the original lumber to the Legion. The initial outfield distances from home plate were 320 feet down each line and an imposing 440 feet to center field. The current distances down the lines are similar (322 feet in left field and 319 feet in right field), but the distance in center field is a substantially shorter 405 feet.
During the 1990s, several renovations were made at Larks Park, which included replacing the fence and scoreboard; remodeling the restrooms, locker room, and dugouts; and installing an irrigation system to allow the use of effluent water on the outfield in this water-poor region of the country. In 1991, synthetic turf was installed on the infield, which was replaced in 2003 and again in 2013. The outfield is still natural grass. New lights were installed in 2000. From 2008 through 2010, several ballpark features were renovated or replaced, including some of those redone in the 1990s. The chainlink fence behind home plate was replaced with netting. The surface of the grandstand was resealed, and the color of the concrete and press box was changed from traditional green to an unfortunate drab gray. The scoreboard was again replaced, as was the fence in the outfield and down the foul lines, which now consists of sheets of wood painted green, 8 feet high in the outfield and 4 feet high along the foul lines.
The city of Hays still owns the ballpark, but it is operated under a multiyear lease by the Athletic Department at Fort Hays State University, whose baseball team plays here during the academic year, as do the local American Legion teams and the park’s namesake collegiate summer league team, the Hays Larks. The Hays town team was christened the Hays Larks following a naming contest in May 1946. The Larks are charter members of the Jayhawk League, founded in 1976. The Jayhawk Collegiate Summer Baseball League is a Premier League in the National Baseball Congress, with the top teams qualifying for the NBC World Series. Larks Park is a dog-friendly park, with free admission to Larks games underwritten through contributions by individuals and game sponsors from the local business community. [As my hometown ballpark, I have attended several summer collegiate league games of the Hays Larks.]
Larks Park, Hays
Larks Park, Hays
Larks Park, Hays
Larks Park, Hays
5) Rathert Stadium, 900 W 13th Street, Junction City, Kansas (1937, 1937)
Historical Baseball Park. Baseball had an early start in Junction City, with the first baseball club founded in May 1867, making it one of the earliest town teams in Kansas. A Junction City team continued to play periodically through the late 1800s and early 1900s at various sites.
In 1936, the Junction City team replaced Abilene in the Central Division of the Kansas Ban Johnson League, which also included Beloit, Concordia, Manhattan, and Wichita that year. As the Ban Johnson team participated in their first year of league play, plans were made that summer to build a new athletic field through the Works Progress Administration (WPA). It would be modeled on the recently constructed Griffith Field in Manhattan. The lighted stadium in Junction City was intended to host baseball, football, track, and other events. Several sites for the new athletic field were proposed, but in the end, a site at the western ends of Thirteenth and Fourteenth Streets was selected. Known as Langvardt Field, after its owners, it was a flat piece of ground sometimes used to land airplanes—an ideal site for a level playing field.
Plans for the stadium were completed in September 1936 and submitted to the WPA, which quickly approved the project. As outlined in the plans, a wooden grandstand that could seat 1,400 spectators under its roof was constructed in the southwestern corner of the property. Native limestone on the exterior of the building came from the nearby Stettgast quarry. In addition, a permanent bleacher for 750 spectators directly north of the grandstand (along the third base line) was to be built, primarily for use at football games. However, it was omitted to focus on other work during construction. (Money for the bleacher was used in 1937 to build the grandstand at Fegan Field instead.) The infield was a mixture of clay and sand, while the outfield was seeded to grass. A wooden fence of boards 8 feet tall and painted dark green enclosed the playing field. Outfield distances were 337 feet in left, 393 feet in center, and 287 feet in right. The initial lighting system included lights on top of the grandstand, plus light poles in back of first and third base, and four poles spaced around the outfield. Also included in the plans was a ticket booth near the stadium entrance and a parking lot of crushed rock for 350 automobiles. Coca-Cola provided the first scoreboard, 20 feet tall and 22 feet long, with 16-inch painted numbers.
Work on the stadium began in October 1936 and continued through the winter and into the following summer. As work on the project neared completion in July 1937, the city commission voted to name the stadium for Arthur Rathert, who was then serving as the city engineer. He had devoted much of his own time promoting the project to WPA officials and working on the design and construction of the park. Rathert Stadium was dedicated on July 18, 1937, at a Ban Johnson League game, in which Concordia defeated the JCs 6–3.
Rathert Stadium’s wonderful grandstand, faced with local limestone and forming an arc behind home plate, looks much as it did when completed in 1937. It still has a wooden seating area and wooden roof (with metal supports). The infield and outfield are grass. The outfield fence consists of traditional wooden planks painted green. As called for in the original plans, a bleacher (metal rather than wood) extends from the grandstand down the third base line. An uncovered porch with tables (the “beer garden”) was not part of the original design but now extends from the grandstand down the first base line. The freestanding limestone ticket booth still sits just outside the stadium entrance. The latest restoration of the ballpark was completed in 2005, and it is one of the nation's baseball gems.
The ballpark is tucked away on the north side of Junction City, so a navigation app on a cellphone is helpful, but it is a quick trip from Interstate Highway 70 and a great place to watch a collegiate league baseball game. In addition to hosting the local high school and American Legion teams, the ballpark is the summer home of the Junction City Brigade (Mid-Plains Collegiate Baseball League). [I attended a Junction City Brigade summer collegiate league game at this ballpark in 2014 but got rained out in 2015.]
Rathert Stadium, Junction City
Rathert Stadium, Junction City
6) South Park Field, South Park (off US Hwy 183), Kinsley, Kansas (1899, 1904, 1934)
Historical Baseball Park. The Kinsley Stars (originally the White Star Base Ball Club) and Kinsley Reds (initially called the Red Stockings) played baseball, with the Stars being the first team organized in 1877. Initially, the Stars played at "the race grounds on the south side of town," probably near the south end of Marsh Avenue (west of the current South Park). In 1878, the Stars had their own baseball ground at an undetermined site. Being a small town, everyone would know where the ball ground was, so newspapers usually did not mention the specific location unless it was different than the regular site. baseball games were played at other sites through the turn of the century.
In 1899, the Old Settlers’ Picnic was held at South Park on the southern side of Kinsley. The park goes by the same name today. A new wooden grandstand at the fairgrounds in South Park was built in 1904 in time for Old Settlers Day on June 15. An estimated 3,500–4,000 people attended the events that day, although the population of Kinsley in 1904 was only about 1,200 people. Among the races and other events was a “hummer” of a baseball game won by the Kinsley Stars in 10 innings, 8–7, avenging an earlier loss to the rival team from nearby Belpre. The wooden grandstand was 16 feet × 64 feet and “convenient for those who wish to see the races or the base ball games.” The baseball diamond was inside the oval race track immediately across from the grandstand near a wooden, octagonal judge’s stand that was enclosed on the bottom floor and open below the pitched roof of the upper deck. At least for a time, a small wooden bleacher sat near home plate on the first base side.
Few early wooden grandstands survive because they frequently succumbed to various calamities. Sometimes, they simply collapsed under the weight of the spectators. Sometimes, they fell to the strong Kansas wind. In April 1904, the same year the Kinsley grandstand was built, strong winds tore down the grandstand at the ball grounds in nearby Belpre. However, fire was more often the fear, and the wooden grandstand in Kinsley burned in 1931. The remnants were condemned by the local fire chief and subsequently torn down.
With the economic depression gripping the country, arrangements were not made until early 1934 for a replacement grandstand, which was built as a Civil Works Administration (CWA) project. The CWA was a federal work program during the Great Depression similar to the longer running Works Progress Administration (WPA), but the CWA operated only during the winter of 1933–1934, beginning in November and phased out from March through May. Construction of the grandstand and a pavilion were funded with $1,500 from a city levy and $800 from the Old Settlers Association, who continued to sponsor the annual summer picnic in the park. Based on project plans by Roy Hatfield, construction began in March, slowly at first, as workers were hired and materials were purchased. The grandstand neared completion with work on the shingle roof in late May, as the CWA was being phased out. It was ready for its dedication at the Old Settlers Picnic on June 7–8. The new judge’s stand was built on skids so it could be moved inside the oval track during races and moved out of the way for baseball games.
The 1934 grandstand was constructed as a straight structure, 24 feet × 112 feet, covered by a roof and generally similar to its predecessor, although it was larger (8 feet deeper × 48 feet longer), with an estimated seating capacity of 550 spectators. Having a straight grandstand made it useful for races and football games, as well as baseball or softball. Initially, only the concrete supports, roof, and wooden seats were built. The outside of the grandstand was later enclosed with native stone to better shield spectators from the north wind and provide booth space for various groups (and was later used for locker rooms). Although the main support of the 1934 grandstand is concrete and stone, the seating area is still wood, with metal covers on the front portions of the tiers. The grandstand roof is also wood, with the shingles now replaced by metal roofing. The concrete and wood of the grandstand are painted red and white, the high school colors, which match the colors in the names of the 2 early town teams (the White Stars and Red Stockings). Ground-level dugouts were added in 2014. Chainlink fencing, rather than traditional netting, protects the seating behind home plate, and a chainlink fence surrounds the playing field. The infield is all dirt, and the outfield is grass. The distance to the outfield fence is 305 feet to all fields. The ballpark is now used for youth baseball games during the summer.
South Park Field, Kinsley
South Park Field, Kinsley
South Park Field, Kinsley
7) Moffet Field Stadium, Mann Avenue and 4th Street, Larned, Kansas (1937, 1937)
Historical Baseball Park. One of the early baseball grounds in Larned was “Moffet’s park on the hill” near the "standpipe" (a cylindrical water tower). The standpipe was on the site of the current water tower, so the ball diamond was near the current ballpark. At the time, the site of the current playing field was a ditch running north and south. In 1906, efforts were underway to develop a city park on the “island south of town.” The island was the wedge of land above the confluence of the Pawnee and Arkansas Rivers (at the south end of Main Street). The city had acquired the property because it was the site of the town's water supply, but over 20 acres of associated land were suitable for use as a park if landscaped. In 1907, a baseball field was constructed in the City Park, and fundraisers were held to obtain funds for a grandstand of some sort. However, in late 1909, the decision was made to move the city park to another site donated to the city, and the island was leased to the baseball club. Consequently, in 1910, the City Park diamond became the Larned Ball Park. The baseball club representing Larned in the Kansas State League during 1909-1911 spent about $1,500 on the ballpark, altering the direction of the diamond and building a grandstand that faced northeast, the traditional direction for ballparks. The grandstand was expected to hold 500 fans under its roof, while another 300 fans could sit in the open on a bleacher. Because the ballpark on the island sometimes flooded, baseball games (and football games) were still played occasionally at “Moffet’s park on the hill.” After 1912, town team baseball was usually played at the fairgrounds in Edwards Park on the northeastern side of town.
In late 1934, A.H. Moffet and E.E. Frizell offered to donate land they owned west of Carroll Avenue between Second and Fourth Streets (north of the swimming pool) to the city of Larned if the site would be developed as an athletic field with a grandstand through the federal works program. The southern end of the site had once been a miniature golf course, but the northern end was a channel bordered on the east and west by upward slopes. The earlier "Moffet’s park" near the standpipe had been developed as a residential area beginning in 1910. The parcel of land on the slope below the standpipe that Moffet and Frizell offered to the city would need to be leveled, but it would be contiguous with the existing Schnack and Lowrey Parks to the south (the current Schnack-Lowrey Park), which were the sites of the swimming pool and an existing athletic field.
By March 1935, city engineer Raymond Rugge had drawn up plans for a concrete grandstand. It would face the center of an athletic field for baseball games, football games, and track meets. An alternative concrete grandstand at the site of the existing athletic field in Lowrey Park was considered too costly. The hill on the west side of the property between Second and Fourth Streets provided a slope that could support the tiered seating of the grandstand, which would reduce the costs compared to a freestanding structure at Lowrey Park. The small rise on the eastern side of the new property would be cut and used to fill the ditch in the center of the playing field. As these plans were developed, it was proposed that the name of the site should be Moffet Field. Work on the project to cut the east hill and fill the ditch had begun early in 1935 as a project of the Kansas Emergency Relief Committee (KERC), but work was suspended until the end of 1935, when it was reauthorized through the Works Progress Administration (WPA). During this period of uncertainty as to the fate of the project, Moffet died in Gallup, New Mexico in August and did not see the completed stadium named in his honor.
Most of the work on the grandstand occurred during 1936, but it was not completed until the following summer. With musical help from the bands of Larned, Pawnee Rock, Pratt, and St. John, Governor Walter Huxman dedicated the stadium in June 1937, and the event was broadcast by a Great Bend radio station. At the close of the formalities, the field was inaugurated by a Ban Johnson League baseball game between Larned and Bazine. After completing work on the stadium, foundations were prepared for the new water tower that still stands above the ballpark.
The grandstand was centered along the length of the football field and sat along the first base line from home plate to first base on the diamond (as it does today). No longer used for football, tennis courts now occupy what had been the northern end zone. The grandstand is 102 feet long and 65 feet deep, with a seating capacity of about 1,100 people. The original wooden planks mounted on iron brackets and used for seats have been replaced with aluminum benches. Ornate touches in the concrete include Indian heads (the figures in the circles above the cage-covered windows), which represent the Larned High School Pawnee Indians. The Indian’s hand in each relief figure is under his chin and pointing forward with two fingers. Concrete sidewalks around the perimeter of the field and steps down to the grandstand from the parking area behind it were installed in 1938. Forms for the concrete banisters around the field and along the steps were reused from a bridge project. The grandstand lacks a roof, although a galvanized canopy was ordered in 1939. The field is still used by the high school and summer youth teams.
Moffet Field Stadium, Larned
Moffet Field Stadium, Larned
Moffet Field Stadium, Larned
Moffet Field Stadium, Larned
8) Joe Campbell Memorial Stadium, Parkway Street off US Hwy 24, Rossville, Kansas (1924, 1924)
Historical Baseball Park. Prior to construction of the current ballpark, baseball games were played at the high school diamond (now the site of the elementary school). In 1920, the Rossville semiprofessional team had a record of 19–2, and the 2 losses were each by a single run. With strong fan support and all the members expected back in 1921, plans were made to build "a new diamond next year and a real grandstand." The project would be delayed 3 years. A vote on an $8,000 bond issue for a city park easily carried in April 1922, and a site just south of the city limits was selected for an 8-acre park. The park site was surveyed in November, but negotiations with the landowner continued through the winter before the bonds were finally issued in March 1923. Volunteers began landscaping the grounds that spring. Although it was usually referred to as the "city park," the proposal to incorporate the tract of land within the city limits was not presented until 1931.
Work on the baseball field and grandstand began in the spring of 1924. Initially, the diamond was to have been in the northwestern corner of the field, but it was placed in the southeastern corner to provide a better fit for the outfield, which would be 290 feet to right field, while the distances to left and center fields would be “unlimited.” “Practically every carpenter in the city…promised to donate some of their services” in the construction of the grandstand, which was supervised by 2 carpenters who also sat on the City Council. It was to seat 500 people and “have a section back of home base and wings paralleling the first and third base lines.” In the meantime, baseball games continued to be played at the “school diamond.” Rossville defeated Tecumseh 4–3 in the first game played at the new ballpark on Sunday, June 8, 1924.
Perhaps the most prestigious opponent to play at the new ballpark in 1925 was the Kansas City Monarchs, who were soon to play in their second Negro World Series. The Monarchs played 8 games on a brief barnstorming tour through northern Kansas and southern Nebraska during a break in their league schedule, stopping for their final game in Rossville on August 3. Not surprisingly, the Monarchs won, but the score was a respectable 4–1. Rossville’s only run scored “in the second inning when Maupin drove one to right field, ordinarily good for a single, but McNair lost so much time finding the ball in a bunch of weeds Maupin made the circuit.”
The Fourth of July fireworks display at the ballpark in 1928 could have ended in disaster. Sparks accidentally ignited 2 “skyrockets,” which “shot toward the packed grandstand with a roar and a stream of sparks.” One pierced a 1-inch board on the front of the wooden grandstand, and the other went through the wire netting intended to stop only baseballs. There was a momentary panic, but no one was seriously injured, although one woman was badly bruised when hit by a rocket.
Although electricity was installed at the grandstand in 1924, the first floodlights at the City Park were not installed until June 1934, at a cost of about $200 paid by the city and subscriptions from local boosters. Intended primarily for use at softball games, the 6 reflectors, each with a bulb of 1,500 watts, were placed on as many poles “set in a semicircular formation in the northwest [outfield] section of the ball field” by local volunteers. In 1955, the Rossville Lions Club agreed to provide labor and paint as part of a project to repair the grandstand, with the city furnishing other materials. They also worked with the city and other organizations to install new lights at the baseball park.
Dedicated to the memory of a Rossville baseball pioneer, the stadium features one of the few historical, wooden grandstands remaining in the United States and the only historical, all-wood grandstand in Kansas. The exterior of the covered grandstand is open, exposing the supporting framework. There is no press box, only a built-in table among the seats behind home plate. The infield is all dirt, and the outfield is grass. The outfield fence is chain-link, mostly 6 feet tall, except in right field, where it is 24 feet tall, offering some protection to cars parked at the convenience store just beyond the tree-lined street that borders the fence.
In 2014, the city of Rossville received a Shawnee County Historical Society Preservation Award for its work preserving the historical stadium. Kudos to the members of the local community (a town of only about 1,150 people) currently engaged in efforts to restore and maintain this Kansas baseball gem near Topeka. The park is only 5½ miles north of Interstate Highway 70 at exit 346, across the Kansas River (the bridge deck is metal grate, so be sure to drive slowly when crossing it). Turn right (east) on Parkway Street in Rossville (just past the swimming pool and stone shelter house on your right). The ballpark is down this road on your right, along US Highway 24, next to the high school. It is a great place to watch a collegiate league baseball game, and the ballpark is the summer home of the Rossville Rattlers (Mid-Plains Collegiate Baseball League). [I attended a Rossville Rattlers summer collegiate league games at this ballpark in 2014 and 2015.]
Joe Campbell Stadium, Rossville
Joe Campbell Stadium, Rossville
Joe Campbell Stadium, Rossville
9) Lawrence-Dumont Stadium, 300 S Sycamore Street, Wichita, Kansas (1934, 1934)
Historical Baseball Park. As might be expected in a city the size of Wichita, there have been many teams and baseball fields through the decades.
In 1901, Fairmount College (now Wichita State University) built an athletic field at Ash and First Streets, just east of Chisolm Creek (now constrained by Interstate Highway 135). In addition to the Wheat Shockers, the athletic field was made available to other teams in the city. That same year, Friends University laid out a baseball diamond with a bleacher holding 500 fans on its campus at Hess Field. Both ball grounds at the schools were used through the First World War.
Among the various African American teams organized in Wichita through the early 1900s was a club named the Black Wonders, organized in 1920. Two years later, the team was renamed the Monrovians, a reference to the capital of Liberia in West Africa. Although many African American teams had to play their games at ballparks used by white ball clubs when the white teams were out of town, the Monrovians had their own ballpark at Twelfth and Mosley (nothing remains of the ballpark). The Monrovians played in the Colored Western League during its only year of existence. The well-funded Monrovia Park Corporation, “one of the first colored corporations in the West to own and maintain a baseball park and regular ball team,” received a state charter in early August 1922 and planned to purchase the ballpark, which it held under lease. The Monrovia Park Corporation also supported social organizations and services in Wichita, including the Phyllis Wheatley Children’s Home, an orphanage for African American children.
Wichita fielded several minor league teams through the years. Beginning in 1905, these teams played at what was called Association Park, because the Wichita Jobbers (referred to as the Jabbers in one Wichita newspaper) were members of the Western Association (Class C) through 1908 and members of the Western League (Class A) until 1911. The 1905 plat map of Wichita shows the “Ball Park” 3½ blocks south of Harry Street, between Water and Main Streets on the west and east (the latter with a streetcar line) and Levy Street (now Mount Vernon Street) on the south. The covered grandstand at the south end of the park was flanked by bleachers and parking for carriages and automobiles. The bleachers were extended before the first game, and the grandstand was extended in June, increasing the estimated seating capacity from 1,200–1,500 to about 2,500 spectators. College and town teams also used Association Park because it could accommodate large crowds that attended some of their games, particularly those between the Fairmount College Wheat Shockers and Friends University Quakers.
With revenues falling well short of expenses, the Wichita Jobbers of the Western League (Class A) moved to Pueblo, Colorado in May 1911. Shortly thereafter, the Kansas League team (Class D) in Wellington moved to Association Park to complete their season. Other local teams also used the park for baseball throughout the summer. However, work to remove the fences at Association Park began in July 1911 to make way for new cottages. Nonetheless, occasional baseball games were played at the site through September. With the construction of concrete sidewalks around a portion of the old Association Park, a new site was needed for a league ballpark, preferably closer to downtown Wichita.
Ackerman Island sat between the Douglas Street bridge and the confluence of the Arkansas and Little Arkansas Rivers to the north. It had been used for amusements since the 1890s, and Wonderland amusement park was built on the north end of the island in 1905. The amusement park included a figure-8 roller coaster, painted white, with 8 red cars. Known as the Giant Thriller, the roller coaster was destroyed by a windstorm in January 1917. Wonderland Park closed for the season in August 1917 and did not reopen. Enforcement of a ban on Sunday recreation was blamed for the closing.
Separate from Wonderland Park, the ballpark on the southern part of Ackerman Island—known as Island Park—was opened in 1912. The reborn Wichita Jobbers played the first game at Island Park against the Chicago White Sox, although the diamond was not quite ready for games. Inclement weather was slowing work on the ballpark. The City League and other teams also used the ballpark when the Jobbers were not playing. The plans for Island Park called for “a first class grandstand, superior in every way to the old grandstand at Association park.” The 3 sections of the grandstand totaled 264 feet in length. The combined seating capacity of the grandstand and bleachers was projected to be over 6,000 spectators. The grandstand at Island Park burned after the close of the 1933 Western League season (minor league baseball would not return to Wichita until 1950), and Ackerman Island was connected to the mainland with the filling of one of the channels as part of a federal work relief project.
The ballpark that replaced Island Park was built through federal work projects, beginning with the Civil Works Administration (CWA) in March 1934 and subsequently expanded. The stadium—initially named Lawrence Stadium—was dedicated on 1 August 1934, but additional concrete sections were built that autumn. Raymond “Hap” Dumont promised to hold semi-pro games in the new ballpark. The stadium was fully completed in time for the first year of the National Baseball Congress (NBC) World Series in 1935, in which Satchel Paige pitched for the integrated Bismarck Churchills. A walk around the entire field passes by numerous signs describing some of the noteworthy baseball players who played at the NBC tournament or as members of one of the various Wichita teams.
Although the essential structure of the grandstand remains, the ballpark now has a much more modern appearance in keeping with its recent use as a minor league stadium. For example, the area under the seats has been enclosed and is now occupied by several vendors, restrooms, and other facilities. Synthetic turf was installed on the infield in 2001 and over the entire field in 2011 (except the pitcher’s mound), along with additional renovations to the dugouts, outfield fence, lights, and other features of the park. The stadium was home to minor league teams during 1950–1958, 1970–1984, and 1987–2007. Since 2008, it has been the summer home of the Wichita Wingnuts (Independent Minor League, American Association), who take an extended roadtrip in late July and early August while the ballpark hosts the NBC World Series.
I attended my first ballgame here on 17 August 2014 between the Wichita Wingnuts and the visiting Grand Prairie (Texas) Airhogs that is the best baseball game I have ever watched at a ballpark. To preface this description, I should note that I prefer fundamentally well-played games that emphasize all aspects of the game, but especially good pitching. I would have loved to watch Walter "Big Train" Johnson, a native of Kansas, and Leroy "Satchel" Paige pitch in their prime. The game in Wichita was an outstanding pitchers' duel that started about 2:05 on a sunny, warm (87–93°F), humid (dewpoint over 60°F), and nearly calm Sunday afternoon. Thus, the umpire's strike zone understandably did not seem to squeeze the pitchers. Lots of strikeouts (16 of 21 outs for the Wingnuts' starting pitcher) and a couple of really nice defensive plays on the infield by both teams. After 7 innings, the Grand Prairie Airhogs had 0 runs on 2 hits, and the Wingnuts had 1 run on 0 hits — a "manufactured" run on a walk, 2 stolen bases, and a sacrifice fly. How frustrating it must be to have a no-hitter after 7 innings and still be losing. The Airhogs scored a run off a Wingnuts relief pitcher in the 8th inning to tie the score. A "should have caught it" shot missed by the Wingnuts' first baseman contributed to that run for the Airhogs. In the bottom of the inning, despite a 2-out double that bounced back onto the field from the top of the fence — the first hit for the Wingnuts — they did not score. The starting pitcher for the Airhogs was lifted after he lost the no-hitter on the double, and he received a nice, well deserved round of applause from the Wichita fans. As the 8th inning closed, I was debating how long to stay into extra innings because I still had a 3-hour trip from Wichita back to Hays. However, it was 3 up and 3 down for the Airhogs in the top of the 9th, and the first hitter for the Wingnuts in the bottom of the 9th — their first baseman — sent a 2–0 pitch over the 385 sign in right-center field. Wow! A great pitchers' duel won with a redeeming, walk-off home run. The Wingnuts went on to win the 2014 American Association title (among 12 teams in the league).
Lawrence-Dumont Stadium, Wichita
Lawrence-Dumont Stadium, Wichita
Lawrence-Dumont Stadium, Wichita
Historical Baseball Grounds
The following historical baseball grounds have active ballparks but do not have grandstands built prior to the Second World War. Perhaps the oldest historical baseball ground in Kansas maintained as a public park is Huron Park in Kansas City, between 6th Street and the 7th Street Trafficway (US Highway 69) on the east and west, and between Minnesota and Ann Avenues on the north and south. There is no baseball field in the park, but a baseball can still be tossed across a grass field in the southeastern portion of the park. The Wyandott Base Ball Club, one of the earliest clubs organized in the state, moved its baseball ground here in 1867, when the site was know as Huron Place. The Wyandot National Burying Ground (formerly the Huron Indian Cemetery) sits in the northwestern portion of the block, and the main branch of the Kansas City, Kansas Library occupies much of the north-central portion of the park.
1) Jones Field, Soden's Grove Park, Emporia, Kansas (1885, 2013)
Historical Baseball Ground. Soden’s Grove along the Cottonwood River near William T. Soden’s gristmill dam to the south of Emporia had been used for picnics, Fourth of July celebrations, and similar events since the 1870s. Activities at the grove included baseball at least as early as the autumn of 1885. In April 1886, it was reported that “Soden’s Grove will probably be the ball park this season,” and “work commenced on the grounds,” where the Emporia Base Ball Club played teams from other cities and from the Kansas State Normal School (teachers college, now Emporia State University). A cricket match was also played at the grove that summer. Horse cars running on tracks ran the length of Commercial Street from the Normal School building on the north side of Emporia to Soden’s Grove and provided transportation for visitors to the park. Although the town teams sometimes played elsewhere in Emporia, games of baseball and kitten ball (softball) continued at Soden’s Grove through the subsequent decades. During this time, the site of the diamond has changed somewhat as other features of the park were developed.
Three times prior to the Second World War, the primary baseball field used by city teams was located someplace other than Soden’s Grove. In 1909, Emporia replaced its town team with a City League. Their games were played at Normal Field, which provided a “beautiful view…across the Neosho valley in the evening.” The City League continued through 1919, except in 1918, during the First World War, when all of the teams played independently. Following the war, the 4-team league in 1919 was integrated with the addition of the “Giants, formerly the colored Elks.”
During this period, a town team returned to Emporia in 1914 as part of a Kansas State League (Class D) with Great Bend, Hutchinson, and Salina. They paid for the construction of a new ballpark in Soden’s Grove, moving the grandstand to the ball diamond from the old racetrack on the adjacent property. The return on their investment was a first place finish, but it was the last year a Kansas State League was organized. After 1914, Normal Field continued to be the primary site of summer baseball games. In April 1917, the grandstand and bleachers at Soden’s Grove ballpark were offered for sale as secondhand lumber.
By 1920, the City League had “about run its course,” although a “mercantile league” with various team sponsors among local businesses and civic groups was organized in 1923. In 1919, baseball slowly returned to Soden’s Grove as one of the City League teams began playing teams from other towns on Sundays. They used Soden’s Grove because it was outside the city limits, beyond the reach of the municipal ban on Sunday baseball. For the next few years, Soden’s Grove and the Normal Field shared time as the sites of summer baseball games. In 1923, the State Normal School, which was renamed the Kansas State Teachers College, arranged to use the ballpark at Soden’s Grove for their practices and games, making it the primary ballpark in Emporia. In 1925, the diamond and structures at the grove underwent substantial repairs, but a second change of venue was coming.
In 1926, the city took possession of Soden’s Grove bringing it within the city limits, where Sunday baseball was still banned. This created a problem for the town team, which played on Sundays. To sidestep the issue, the Emporia baseball club constructed a “diamond east of Soden’s Grove” that was just beyond the city limits, where the old racetrack had been (the source of the grandstand moved to Soden’s Grove in 1914). The ballpark adjacent to Soden’s Grove was used through 1931. In 1932, the Emporia Baseball Club crossed back into the city, returning to Soden’s Grove for 2 years.
In 1934, the Santa Fe ballpark—Summers Field—was constructed near the intersection of Prairie Street and South Avenue, just southwest of the city limits. For 8 years, Summers Field was the primary ballpark in Emporia, but in 1942, baseball returned once again to Soden’s Grove. That January, the grandstand and other moveable objects at Summers Field were donated to the city for use at the new ballpark, which was built on approximately the same site as the diamond that had been abandoned in Soden’s Grove.
In subsequent years, the ballpark at Soden’s Grove has undergone periodic maintenance and improvements, including a major renovation in 2013. Following the Second World War, the field has hosted numerous local teams, although Emporia State University constructed its own baseball park in the 1950s. Jones Field in Soden’s Grove Park is now used primarily for high school and American Legion games.
Jones Field, Emporia
Jones Field, Emporia
2) Hobart-Detter Field, Cary Park, Hutchinson, Kansas (1928, 1980 and 1990)
Historical Baseball Ground. In 1872, Meyer and Company, a local merchant, offered to “present the first organized base ball nine in Hutchinson, with one regulation ball and a set of bats.” Town teams were organized shortly thereafter. Northside Park (also referred to as Northside Field) at Fourteenth Avenue and Walnut Street, with a north-facing grandstand, was home to the first minor league team in Hutchinson, which was a member of the short-lived Western League (an unclassified minor league). The team in Hutchinson was unnamed, except for the word “Hutch” across the front of the jersey. On April 17, as the team prepared to open the season, the Kansas wind blew down the newly constructed fence and grandstand at Northside Park. Nonetheless, the ballpark was inaugurated on April 24, as the winds continued to blow, with “Hutch” winning an exhibition game with a team from Kansas City by the score of 2–1. Northside Park continued to be used occasionally for baseball games into the early 1900s, although most newspaper reports simply referred to the “baseball park.”
Hutchinson returned to minor league baseball in 1905 as the Hutchinson Salt Miners (Kansas State League, Class D) played at Athletic Park on Avenue C at Adams Street. The Hutchinson Salt Packers used the same ballpark while they were members of the Western Association (Class C, 1906–1908) and the Kansas State League (Class D, 1909–1911).
George Gano purchased the old Athletic Park on Avenue C and established Gano Park as a baseball diamond with a grandstand available to various teams for several years. The ballpark was used in 1917–1918, during the lean baseball years of the First World War, by Hutchinson teams in the Western League (Class A). In 1919, a city twilight league made regular use of Gano Park, and from 1920 to 1922, the Hutchinson Grain Club sponsored an independent team that used the diamond. It was during this time, in April 1921 and 1922, that Gano Park hosted games between the Chicago Cubs and Wichita teams in the Western League (Class A), as the Cubs returned to Chicago from spring training in the Southwest. Gano Park was used again in 1922–1924 for a minor league team—the Hutchinson Wheat Shockers (Southwestern League in 1922–1923 and Western Association in 1924, both Class C).
Emerson Carey, state senator and head of the Carey Salt Company, established a park along the Arkansas River in Hutchinson in 1911 and opened it to the public. The first baseball game in what was usually referred to as Carey’s Park was played in 1912, and for three years the ball diamond was the home field of the Hutchinson White Sox, who played other amateur teams in the city. In April 1914, “improvements on the diamond and grandstand” were reported, but this was the final year for organized baseball in the park for several years. After a few failed attempts to sell the land to the city, Carey donated it to the city in 1921. The formal opening of the new city park, which retained the name Carey Park in honor of its benefactor, was held in May 1922, with a bandstand erected “on what is known as the baseball diamond.”
The city made plans to establish a new baseball diamond at Carey Park in 1925 at the site of an old apple orchard near the Maple Street entrance. However, the Hutchinson “Boosters” built a ballpark north of the golf course at Carey Lake for their semiprofessional team in 1926 and 1927. The ballpark was referred to as the Cary Lake Diamond or Booster Park. Calls continued for a better ballpark, and the new Carey Park Diamond was finally constructed in 1928. The wooden grandstand at Booster Park was moved to the new ballpark and faced almost due north. An extension to the grandstand, lights, and an electric scoreboard were added in 1932 to benefit a new minor league team. Yet complaints about the quality of the ballpark persisted, and a new wooden grandstand was built in 1933. An effort in 1935 to have a new ballpark constructed as a federal work project proved unsuccessful, so the existing grandstand was enlarged again, and more seating was added in 1938. Additional lights were added in 1939. Carey Park Diamond continued in use after the Second World War, but storms severely damaged the ballpark in 1948, destroying the grandstand and blowing down light poles, the outfield fence, and scoreboard. However, the grandstand and fence were rebuilt by early spring 1949.
On Memorial Day 1962, Carey Park Diamond was renamed to honor Wilbur M. “Bud” Detter, a lifelong Reno County resident, basketball referee, and sports announcer during the early 1900s. In November 1970, Bud Detter Field was leased by the city to local businessman Nelson Hobart in his capacity as president of Hutchinson Baseball, Incorporated. The arrangement lasted nearly 15 years. Although he contracted polio at age 12, Hobart loved baseball. A variety of teams played at the ballpark, but Hobart is best known for establishing the collegiate level Hutchinson Broncs, who played in Hutchinson during the summers of 1971–1984 (the Broncos moved to Wichita in 1985 and then to El Dorado in 1996, where they still play). The Broncs featured several players who later starred in the major leagues, most notably on their 1984 team, which included Barry Bonds, Pete Incaviglia, and Rafael Palmeiro. Hobart restored the ballpark when he took over, and it was substantially renovated during his tenure in 1980 and afterwards in 1990. The ballpark’s current metal seating, consisting of three freestanding sections with seat backs, and the metal roof over the grandstand reflect these later renovations. In 1985, Hobart ended his lease of Bud Detter Field, and in February 1991 , the city commission renamed the ballpark Hobart-Detter Field. In recent years, the ballpark has been the home field of the local high school and community college teams, as well as the summer collegiate league Hutchinson Monarchs since 2009 (Walter Johnson Collegiate Baseball League).[I attended a Hutchinson Monarchs summer collegiate league game at this ballpark on 4 July 2014.]
Hobart-Detter Field, Hutchinson
Hobart-Detter Field, Hutchinson
3) Municipal Stadium, Hobbs Park, Lawrence, Kansas (1947, 1947)
Historical Baseball Ground. The first town teams in Lawrence were organized in 1866 and 1867. As in most towns, a variety of sites were used for baseball games. The first baseball ground in the 1860s was near the northwestern corner of South Park, described in newspapers as “in front of the Blakely House, near the Park” and “at the corner of Vermont and Quincy [11th] streets.” Being so close to the growing core of the city, this site was soon converted to other uses. Games were also played at the Lawrence fairgrounds.
The first fully developed ballpark in the city was the Kaw Valley baseball grounds, “south of the Park” (South Park), which was on Massachusetts Street, the main north-south road across Lawrence at the time. The grounds had been used by the ball club since 1867, when a set of games was scheduled between the Kaw Valleys and the Frontier BBC of Leavenworth. “Arrangements have been made for the convenience of spectators, and comfortable seats for such as walk to the ground. …Citizens are requested not to encroach upon the ground set aside for play.” Transportation to the ballpark for special games sometimes was provided from the Eldridge House on north Massachusetts Street (now the Eldridge Hotel).
The Kaw Valley Ballpark was more fully developed in 1870. On July 4, seating was available for 250 spectators, although about 800 people attended the holiday game with the Nasby baseball club of Ottawa. The ballpark had also been fenced that year so tickets could be sold for admittance to the game. The following year, there was “a covered amphitheater on the ground…which is capable of accommodating one hundred and fifty ladies.” In June 1871, the Kaw Valleys hosted one of the earliest professional baseball teams in the country, the Forest City club from Illinois, led by Cap Anson. Forest City won 67–11. The Kaw Valleys had previously lost to the Forest City team in May 1870 by the score of 41–6 in a game played in Topeka. By 1877, the ballpark was referred to as “the old Kaw Valley grounds,” although the ball field continued to be used by various teams. In August 1879, the Brass Alleys of Lawrence played a Clinton team on the “Kaw Valley grounds,” and “a keg of beer [was] to be the stakes.”
By 1886, a new baseball ground was needed, and in early August, the Lawrence Athletic Association “leased the grounds on South Massachusetts street for five years at $120 per year. …The diamond will be in the northeast corner, with the grand stand back of home plate about ninety feet.” On August 24, the “new ball park on South Massachusetts street [was] almost finished. The fence [was] completed and the [grand] stand...reached such a point that it will accommodate from five to eight hundred people.” The South Massachusetts Street Ballpark sat between Massachusetts and New Hampshire Streets (on the west and east), and between 14th and 15th Streets (on the north and south), with the grandstand and diamond in the northeastern corner. The property is now occupied by a middle school. In 1893, Lawrence hosted its only minor league team in the Western Association (referred to as the “Western League” in the Lawrence newspapers). Ultimately the league consisted of only 4 teams in Lawrence and Topeka in Kansas and Kansas City and St. Joseph in Missouri. During that season, the ballpark was referred to as “league park.” Problems plagued the 1893 Western Association, and the league collapsed in June. The ballpark property was still an open field 14 years later, when a “trained animal exhibition” performed 2 shows at the “Old Ball Park, 1400 Mass. St.” in May 1907.
In 1910, a baseball diamond was built within Woodland Park, a large amusement park also featuring activities such as concerts, dances, shows, carnival rides, and horse races. The park was north of the eastern end of Lee Street (now 13th Street). During the park’s first year, an exhibition baseball game was played by an American Indian team that traveled with its own bleachers, canvas fence, and acetylene lamps for playing after sundown. The first bleachers at the ballpark seated about 450 people but were extended by 200 seats during the first year, and in 1912, promises were made to expand them to 2,000 seats. Beginning in 1912, the park changed hands several times as attempts were maintain to keep it open to the public. Baseball was largely interrupted in Lawrence, as elsewhere, during the First World War, and teams continued to play occasionally at Woodland Park through the post-war years. The park’s rollercoaster (the Daisy Dozer) had blown down during a windstorm in March 1916, and Woodland Park slowly faded from use beginning in the 1920s. Parts of the property were developed for houses, but a portion of the old park is now within Brook Creek Park.
Following the Second World War, Municipal Stadium at Hobbs Park was opened in July 1947 at a game played by the Lawrence Colts, a semipro team, attended by more than 2,500 people. The 7 sections of the concrete grandstand form an arc behind home plate. As part of the city’s sesquicentennial in 2004, the East Lawrence Neighborhood Association commemorated the event with a mural depicting the city’s history painted on the exterior of the grandstand. The park was converted from baseball to softball in 1973, and the concrete dugouts, locker rooms, concession stand, and manual scoreboard were removed. The infield is dirt and the outfield is grass. The original wooden fence, 8 feet tall, was removed, and the current fence along the outfield and foul lines is chainlink. With the conversion to softball, the outfield distances were reduced to a uniform 285 feet to all fields.
Municipal Stadium, Lawrence
Municipal Stadium, Lawrence
4) East Ball Park, East Park, Lincoln, Kansas (19??, 1962 or 1963)
Historical Baseball Ground. “Lincoln Center” fielded a minor league team in the Kansas State League (Class D) for a single year in 1905 consisting of a 55-game season. The team did not join the league until July 6 and finished with a record of 11 wins and 19 losses. The teams in the league that year were (in order of finish) Ellsworth (first place), Great Bend, Minneapolis, Hutchinson, Lincoln, and Kingman (replaced by Hoisington on July 24). The current grandstand is a straight structure constructed of concrete and concrete blocks that sits immediately behind home plate. Like most other straight grandstands in Kansas (except at Kinsley), this grandstand does not have a roof. The ballpark is the home field for the local Lincoln-Sylvan-Lucas high school team, as well as the Lincoln County American Legion team and other local baseball teams during the summer.
East Ballpark, Lincoln
East Ballpark, Lincoln
5) Light Capital Baseball Diamond, 551 S Fisher Street, McPherson, Kansas (1919, 1966)
Historical Baseball Ground. McPherson was incorporated in 1874. As in many Kansas towns, baseball took a few years to become established, and games were often played at the local fairgrounds, where seating was available at the racetrack. In the 1880s, the grounds of the McPherson Fair Association were on the eastern side of North Main Street (street numbers 1350–1450 in what is now a commercial and residential area). At the time, it was north of the city limits, which did not extend beyond First Street, ½ mile to the south. In 1887, the city considered purchasing the site for a city park, but the property was sold in August to private owners and became Olympian Park, which retained its ½-mile racetrack and baseball diamond. Baseball continued to be played at the park through 1889, but games were also played that year on a new ball ground at the corner of Elizabeth Street and Grand Avenue. It was sometimes referred to as Fisher Ball Park, because it was in the Fisher Addition to the city.
Although teams occasionally played games during the early 1890s, interest in baseball in McPherson waned. By 1893, a nice crop of wheat was harvested from the old fairground. The following year, a game was played between a white team and an African American team, and interest in baseball was said to be awakening in midsummer. That interest peaked in 1895, when McPherson fielded an independent professional team. Games were played on the 1889 ball ground “east of the city on Elizabeth street.” However, in the years after the professional team of 1895 disbanded, interest in baseball once again diminished, and local players used several baseball grounds, including the “east ball ground” and the “old show grounds,” none of which was a fully developed ballpark.
Calls for a sport facility to include a racetrack and baseball diamond began at the turn of the century. After the 1902 season, it was decided that a new, enclosed ballpark with a grandstand was needed, because some people watched games at a distance to avoid paying admission at the existing ball grounds. In addition, it was anticipated that McPherson would join a Central Kansas League in 1903, although this did not happen. New fairgrounds for the County Fair Association were finally constructed in 1905 on a tract of land that included the site currently occupied by the Light Capital Baseball Diamond, but the fairgrounds extended farther north toward the old “east ball ground.” Through the years, baseball diamonds were built at various sites within the new fairgrounds from the old “east ball ground” to the current Light Capital baseball Diamond less than ½ mile to the south. As was typical of ballparks associated with fairgrounds, a field for baseball and football was placed inside the ½-mile oval track. Although McPherson again anticipated joining a Central Kansas League in 1905, that goal would be delayed another three years. However, the first baseball game at the new diamond was played in the spring of 1906. McPherson had a successful team in 1907, and the Merry Macks finally joined the Central Kansas League (Class D) in 1908. The following year, the Macks then joined the Kansas State League (Class D), and their fans were accommodated in a new grandstand constructed behind home plate that same year. The Macks played in the Kansas State League through early July in 1911, when the league collapsed due to inadequate income. The ballpark at the fairgrounds continued in use after the end of minor league baseball, but games were being played at the Standard Oil tanks diamond in the western part of town in 1914 and early 1915. In May 1915, a new baseball diamond was constructed at the fairgrounds, west of the former state league diamond, for use by the McPherson City Base Ball League and others.
In early 1917, the McPherson County Agricultural Fair Association arranged to auction 14 acres of the fairgrounds, including the area occupied by the former league ballpark at the northern end of the property, to help settle its debts. The newer city league ballpark was not affected by the sale and continued to host ballgames. The First World War interrupted most baseball activity through 1918, and after the war, a County Base Ball League was formed. Baseball was played at various sites around town. In the autumn of 1919, a new baseball diamond was laid out in front of the grandstand at the fairgrounds, and plans were made to develop a multisport athletic park, on which a football field would overlap the baseball field and be surrounded by a cinder track for races. In 1921, the orientation of the diamond (home plate to second base) was changed from east to southeast to avoid the “sun field” for the outfielders, and the old judge’s stand at the racetrack was moved behind the plate to be used by scorekeepers.
A photo at the McPherson Public Library dated to about 1940 shows an earlier wooden grandstand with a roof extending down the third base line from behind home plate, giving the appearance that the field was also used for functions not compatible with a curved grandstand behind home plate, as now exists. The current grandstand centered behind home plate was constructed of concrete blocks and a metal roof and seats in 1966. The press box sits atop the third base dugout rather than on the grandstand behind home plate. The infield and outfield are grass. The outfield fence is chainlink.
The city’s nickname, Light Capital, is derived from the numerous lights on the smokestacks and other structures at the National Cooperative Refinery Association oil refinery in McPherson, established in 1932 as the Globe Oil Refinery. The refinery was noted more for the basketball teams it sponsored (the McPherson Globe Refiners), including the team that won the gold medal at the 1936 Olympic Games in Munich, Germany.
Light Capital Baseball Diamond's most recent tenants have been local college and American Legion teams. The city sold the ballpark to Central Christian College in 2015.
Light Capital Diamond, McPherson
Light Capital Diamond, McPherson
Light Capital Diamond, McPherson
6) Rock Stadium (Wallace Park Stadium), Riverside Park, Paola, Kansas (1934)
Historical Baseball Site. The property for Wallace Park was purchased by the city in 1911. The Civil Works Administration (CWA) built the football stadium in the park in 1934 at a cost of $15,000. A new football field was built in 1958, near the current high school. The long, straight grandstand of stone and concrete is currently used as seating for 2 adjacent ball diamonds. Both home plates are near the center of the grandstand with the left field line on one diamond following the grandstand in one direction, and the right field line of the other diamond following the grandstand in the opposite direction. The wooden seats have been removed, but the metal pins that once anchored them are visible within the concrete tiers now used as seats. There was no roof on the grandstand. Some material is missing along the top at the back of the grandstand, and some concrete caps are missing along the tops of the side walls. The fields have dirt infields and grass outfields. The fences around both fields are chainlink. Because these ball diamonds are late additions to the site of the 1934 football field, they are listed here rather than among the historical baseball parks, but that in no way detracts from the historical importance of the site among the baseball parks of Kansas.
Wallace Park Stadium, Paola
Wallace Park Stadium, Paola
Wallace Park Stadium, Paola
Wallace Park Stadium, Paola
7) Jaycee Ballpark, 12th Street and US Hwy 69, Pittsburg, Kansas (1940, 2007)
Historical Baseball Ground. Pittsburg was established in the 1870s, and town teams were periodically organized during the city’s early years, though games against other towns were infrequent and various sites were used as baseball fields. Some teams represented the city, and some were composed entirely of railroad or mine employees.
Beginning in 1890, several baseball diamonds and grandstands were constructed on sites that usually had access to the electric streetcar lines, which could conveniently transport fans and players to the games. One of these sites was the Pittsburg Driving Park and Fair Association. It was constructed in 1890 on land now under the US Highway 69 Bypass south of 4th Street. The streetcar line down Fourth Street to the driving park was constructed in 1892. As occurred at similar sites in other towns, a baseball field could be laid out inside the ½-mile oval racetrack. In newspaper accounts, this site was referred to during its early years as the “driving park” or the “fair grounds.” Later, it was known as Forest Park, an amusement park developed in 1897 on the old fairgrounds, which retained the racetrack.
Building new ballparks was often associated with efforts to join a minor league, and these ballparks were constructed near an electric streetcar line north of town. By 1906, the streetcar line ran north along North Broadway Street, then east a few blocks along Twentieth Street, and back to the north on Prospect Avenue. The first ball field in this area was known as Sportsman’s Park. The ballpark with a grandstand was surveyed “on the east side of the north terminus of the street car line” in 1891. The location was later referred to as “the old park” on “North Broadway…near the Broadway line.” It was built as the home field for a baseball team transferred from Atchison as part of the new Southwestern Base Ball Association, which also included teams from Carthage, Joplin, and Webb City in Missouri, and Weir City in Kansas. Pittsburg’s first taste of minor league baseball lasted only one year. Through the 1890s, “home grown” amateur teams occasionally used the old diamond at Sportsman’s Park, sharing the pasture with cattle. A new ballpark at the site was built in 1899 and christened Athletic Park in 1900, but Pittsburg had trouble keeping a team on the field. This venture also failed. In August 1901, the fence and grandstand were sold as scrap lumber.
In 1903, Pittsburg again had a minor league team, and a new ballpark was constructed on North Prospect Avenue between 28th and 30th Streets on the electric streetcar line. The impetus for the new stadium was the admission of a Pittsburg team into the 8-team Missouri Valley League (Class D in 1903 and Class C in 1904 and 1905). The name chosen for the ballpark was League Park, which emphasized its use by a minor league team. The Pittsburg Coal Diggers did not fair too well in 1903 and 1904, both teams playing below .500, but the 1905 Pittsburg Miners finished in first place. Unfortunately, it was the last year for the league. The Pittsburg Champs joined the Kansas State League (Class D) in 1906, but the team was moved to Vinita, Oklahoma at the end of May because of financial troubles.
Minor league baseball returned to Pittsburg briefly in 1909 in the form of the Pittsburg Pirates of the Western Association (Class C). A “New League Park” was built on Broadway Street near 28th Street. Because the electric streetcar line turned off Broadway at 20th Street, a branch line was constructed from the mainline north on Broadway, which provided access to the ballpark. The Pirates did not fare well, finishing in seventh place in the 8-team league. Minor league baseball would not return to Pittsburg until 1921, but the Pirates continued to play independently or as members of a local Trolley League. The “new” League Park continued to be their home field.
In 1921, Pittsburg rejoined a minor league as members of the Southwestern League (Class D). The name chosen for the team was the Pittsburg Manuals, in honor of the Kansas State Manual Training Normal School (now Pittsburg State University). The newly chartered Pittsburg Fair and Racing Association planned to use the 1909 League Park on North Broadway Street near 28th Street for their fairgrounds. They agreed to construct a new grandstand, lay out a ballfield, and lease the grounds to the league. It would be known as Fair Grounds Park rather than the earlier name of League Park. The Manuals finished a respectable third place among the 8 teams, but they did not make the jump with the league to Class C the following year. Instead, the vocational baseball team from the State Normal School (the “vocates”) leased the ballpark in 1922.
Other sites were used as all grounds since the early 1900s, including the East Fourth Street Diamond (also referred to as Pirates Field) and Lincoln Park on the west side of town, north of old Forest Park. At the beginning of the 1940 season, the Pittsburg Ban Johnson team played their games at the East Fourth Street Diamond and practiced on a field in Lincoln Park. However, a new venue was in the works during the spring of 1940, to be constructed as a Work Projects Administration (WPA) project with the city. The Pittsburg Junior Chamber of Commerce (the Jaycees), sponsors of the local Ban Johnson team (the Bee Jays), purchased the property for the new ballpark, which was just west of Lincoln Park at the intersection of 12th and Georgia Streets. The land was then deeded to the city. A sketch of the ballpark layout published in a local newspaper showed the covered grandstand in the northwestern corner, with the line from home plate to second base running southeast. The wooden grandstand was to be constructed on a concrete foundation in an arc of three sections—one behind home plate and one down the first and third base lines. All of the seats were to have backs, and the estimated seating capacity was 1,500 spectators. The ballpark was to be enclosed by a brick wall along the streets on the northern and eastern sides, while the southern and western sides would be bordered by a wooden fence. The original distances from home plate were 327 in left field, 317 feet in right field, and an intimidating 450 feet in center field. Although the project was approved in late March, work on the ball ground did not begin until late April, and bids for lumber to be used in constructing the grandstand were not awarded until late May. The Bee Jays played the first game in the new ballpark on July 4, although the stadium was not finished. A canvas fence had to be stretched around the outfield. Coffeyville defeated Pittsburg 12–10 in front of an estimated 1,350 fans. The formal dedication of the ballpark was scheduled for August 11, but heavy rains forced the ceremonies to be canceled. At the time, work on the brick wall was still underway. The ballpark had no formal name, but newspaper accounts referred to connections with Lincoln Park, the Bee Jays, or the current name of "Jay-Cees."
The current grandstand is a recent structure and is nicely landscaped (no chain-link fences here). It has a metal roof and only 4 rows of metal seats. The infield is covered with synthetic turf, but the outfield is grass. The original walls of red brick along the northern and eastern sides of the ballpark remain, but a block wall painted red has replaced the wooden fence on the southern side. A black metal fence runs along the western side of the ballpark, which now faces the US Highway 69 Bypass. A metal WPA plaque is affixed to the outside of the brick wall in the left field corner at the intersection of 12th and Georgia Streets.
The first minor league team to use this baseball field (1946–1951) was the Pittsburg Browns in the Kansas–Oklahoma–Missouri League (KOM League). They were the Class D farm club of the St. Louis Browns, who eventually left St. Louis and moved east to become the Baltimore Orioles. After the Browns departed, minor league baseball briefly returned to Pittsburg in July 1952, when the Pittsburgh Pirates minor league team moved from Bartlesville, Oklahoma to become the Kansas, minor league version of the Pittsburg Pirates (without the “h”).
Jaycee Ballpark, Pittsburg
Jaycee Ballpark, Pittsburg
Jaycee Ballpark, Pittsburg
Jaycee Ballpark, Pittsburg
8) Hibbs-Hooten Field, Sellers Park, Wellington, Kansas (1909, 1964)
Historical Baseball Ground. Since the late 1800s, baseball has been played periodically at sites in or near the present Sellers Park, which was the site of the manufactured gas plant in 1886–1894. The first site used for baseball in this area (at least as early as 1892) was immediately west of the gas plant at the corner of Harvey Avenue and A Street (now a residential area about one block west of the current ballpark). In 1893, a new baseball ground was constructed at the “head of north B street” in a pasture owned by Henry Bowers on the north side of 16th Street (now a residential area north of US Highway 160). However, that December, the local constable executed a sale of the grandstand and fence at the north ballpark, although the structures were left standing and the ballpark continued in use.
In 1895, a new ballpark was proposed at the corner of Harvey Avenue and Elm Street on the lots east of the residence of A. Graff, although this apparently was not built. However, the issue of moving the ballpark closer to the center of town resurfaced in May 1896, when the north ball grounds were said to be “too far out.” Consequently, “the commons just west of the gas works on Harvey avenue and A street” were once again fixed up as a baseball park and used for several years. Just before a game in 1905, the grandstand at the ballpark collapsed. Fortunately, the most serious injuries were one woman with a broken rib, a man with a damaged knee, and a smashed car. In 1906, the town team constructed a new baseball park in the Woodlawn Second Addition north of the old ballpark in Bowers’ Pasture. The team thought the new site, which was farther away from the heart of town, was outside the city limits and beyond the municipal ban on Sunday baseball. It was not. Ironically, the old ballpark in Bowers’ Pasture had not yet been included within the city limits, which would have made it possible to play a little closer to town on Sundays.
In 1909–1911, Wellington hosted a minor league team in the Kansas State League. Their games were played on private property leased for the “League base ball park,” which occupied the present site of Hibbs-Hooten Field. However, the Wellington team—the Dukes of Wellington—moved to Wichita part way through the 1911 season, and the lumber from the grandstand and fence were offered for sale later that year. In 1913–1916, a portion of the property around the League ballpark, but not the ballpark itself, was developed as a municipal park. Instead, ballgames were played on a site at the north end of what was initially named Community Park, just south of Ninth Street. In 1919, Lulu Planz Sellers, the unpaid Wellington Park Commissioner from 1915 to 1921, made arrangements to purchase the property used for ballgames in 1909–1911 so it could be added to the existing Community Park. This allowed the ballpark to return to its former location from the north end of the park. The field was restored in time for games that summer, and Lulu Sellers purchased the unused “old airdome building” at Ninth Street and Washington Avenue so it could be dismantled, with the lumber used in construction of a covered grandstand. The airdome was a venue for summer theatrical events, with a covered stage and open seating. In the meantime, the seats and backstop were moved from the diamond at the north end of the park to the restored ballpark. Improvements at the park were slowed somewhat in 1919 by limited funds, partly required to purchase additional lumber, but work on the grandstand began the following spring. In 1938, the city changed the name of Community Park to Lulu P. Sellers Park, usually shortened to Sellers Park, to commemorate her energetic and creative leadership as a volunteer working on behalf of the city’s parks.
The original 1920 wooden grandstand at Community Park Stadium consisted of 3 sections, with the shorter sections on each end angled toward the base paths. The outside of the grandstand was encased in horizontal, wooden planks, with a single entrance in the center, flanked by 2 ticket windows. The sections in the center and along the first base line were covered with a roof, open on the outside just below the roofline for ventilation, but the section along the third base line had no roof. There were 12 rows of seats in the open section facing third base. The first rows under the roofed sections consisted of box seats, which were auctioned at one of the games to help raise money to pay for construction of the grandstand.
During the mid-1900s, the ballpark fell into disrepair. The local school district held an easement on the property, and the track used by the high school extended onto the field, making the playing surface uneven. (The football stadium currently sits immediately north of the baseball field.) In the spring of 1963, voters easily passed a $35,000 bond issue to pay for improvements at the ballpark. However, during the long process of approvals and architectural design through the summer, costs rose to repair the field, remove the old grandstand, and construct a new grandstand. Additional money was transferred from improvement funds slated for use at Lake Wellington. The diamond was repaired in time for the baseball season in the spring of 1964, but the grandstand was not completed until later in the year. The 1964 grandstand currently in use is a concrete arc of 3 sections, with wooden benches and a metal roof. It is fronted by fiber nets. The infield and outfield are natural grass. The outfield wall is constructed of cement blocks.
The ballpark is the summer home of the Wellington Heat (Jayhawk Collegiate Baseball League), who moved from Haysville, Kansas (2010–2012) after relocating from Lake Havasu, Arizona (1993–2009). [I attended a Wellington Heat summer collegiate league game at this ballpark in 2015.]
Hibbs-Hooten Field, Wellington
Hibbs-Hooten Field, Wellington
Hibbs-Hooten Field, Wellington
Other Historical Baseball Sites
1) Riverside Park and historical marker, Gypsum Street off US Hwy 77, Blue Rapids, Kansas (24 October 1913)
Historical Baseball Site. This baseball site (with a baseball field behind a historical marker and 3 silhouettes in the foreground of the top photo below) hosted an exhibition game on 24 October 1913 organized as part of a 1913–1914 "Round the World" tour by Chicago White Sox owner Charles Comiskey with John McGraw and the New York Giants. Some Giant and White Sox players chose not to participate, so players from other teams filled out the rosters. Blue Rapids was the seventh game on the tour as it crossed the United States from east to west before heading overseas. It was the smallest town to host a game and the only one in Kansas. More than 2,500 people attended, paying $1.00 for advance tickets and $1.50 at the gate. Seats in the grandstand and bleacher cost an additional 50¢ and 25¢, respectively. The teams received 80% of the gate receipts. The White Sox won the game 8–5. In addition to the ball ground in Blue Rapids, only the ballparks in Bisbee and Douglas, Arizona are still used for baseball games among the sites in 26 cities that hosted World Tour games in the United States.
Riverside Park, Blue Rapids
Riverside Park, Blue Rapids
2) Shulthis Stadium Grandstand, Riverside Park, Independence, Kansas (1919, 28 April 1930)
Historical Baseball Site. As in many Kansas towns, early white and African American baseball teams in Independence played at the local fairgrounds and various other sites. From 1890 to 1896, the primary baseball ground in the city was Washburn Park, which was also known simply as the “base ball park,” southwest of the intersection of Sycamore and 12th Streets. The ballpark fell into disuse after 1896, when Independence opted not to retain a professional team, even though the 1896 team finished first in its only year as a member of the Kansas State League (unclassified minor league).
Professional baseball returned to Independence in 1906, with the minor league Coyotes playing in a new version of the Kansas State League (Class D). They once again finished first in the league. Consequently, they changed their name to the Independence Champions (or Champs) for 1907. However, they finished in third place in the Oklahoma–Arkansas–Kansas League (OAK League, Class D). The team’s new ballpark, constructed in 1906, was southwest of the intersection of Pennsylvania Avenue and Birch Street (formerly L.T. Street) and was sometimes referred to as Sylvania Park. The Elks Club donated lumber from their grandstand to construct a portion of the grandstand at the new ballpark, which even had a telephone. In 1907, the grandstand had been disassembled and rebuilt at the northern end of the ballpark. The team was renamed as the Independence Jewelers in 1908, who were part of the Oklahoma–Kansas League (Class D). The team again finished in third place.
A severe windstorm in January 1909 blew down the fence and tore off the grandstand roof at Sylvania Park. Both were restored that spring, but minor league baseball did not return. It was replaced as the main tenant of the ballpark by a city league in 1909 and a semiprofessional team in 1910. In 1911, the minor league Independence Packers fixed up the ballpark and joined the Western Association (Class D), but the team folded in June. That was the beginning of another 10-year absence for minor league baseball in Independence. In the spring of 1912, the lumber in the grandstand and fence was offered for sale, although the field continued to be used by various teams.
The following year, another city league was organized, and a baseball ground was constructed west of 10th and Pecan Streets. Named for the property owner, Matthews Ball Park, with its new grandstand and bleachers, was also used by an Independence team playing in a trolley league with nearby towns. However, a more substantial ballpark was on the horizon, as was the return of minor league baseball.
In 1913, the city of Independence established Riverside Park on the eastern side of town at what had been the proposed location for a health resort near the end of the previous century. While the “park [was] still in embryo,” boys established a baseball diamond “in the open space at the crest of the hill.” At a picnic that June, “the young men and the ladies” of the Methodist Church Epworth League played each other in a leisurely baseball game, and baseball games were played in the park by various teams in subsequent years. However, the grandstand at the diamond in 1915 held only 200 spectators—hardly enough seats for an exhibition game that year between a team from Independence and the Kansas City Packers of the Federal League, a short-lived major league. A more substantial baseball grandstand was needed.
Albert W. Shulthis was born in Quincy, Illinois in 1863 and moved to Independence with his family in 1876. He worked his way up through the bank hierarchy to become the president of Citizens National Bank, but he also served as president of several other commercial ventures in Independence, including the Western States Portland Cement Company and the Southwestern Oil, Gas, and Coal Company. Though initially remaining anonymous, Shulthis donated the concrete and brick grandstand in Riverside Park to the city of Independence, with construction taking place in 1918 and 1919. The reinforced concrete structure was expected to hold 1,200 spectators. The wooden fence installed in 1920 was to be paid for by local merchants and would feature advertisements for contributing businesses. That same year, a temporary, wooden roof was placed over the grandstand to provide shade for spectators in the days before night baseball.
In 1921, Independence welcomed its first minor league team in 10 years—the Independence Producers. That same year, a roof of galvanized metal supported by “a web of welded pipe in various sizes” replaced the wooden roof and was installed with the help of “Southwestern Gas company welders.” In addition to the metal canopy, 24 spectator boxes with 4 chairs each were installed in front of the grandstand, and a bleacher section for 800 spectators was erected on the west side. Twelve automobile stalls were placed between the grandstand and bleacher, and 20 additional stalls were placed on the east side. During games, a canvas sheet was stretched from the grandstand to the bleacher to block the view of those who chose to avoid paying admission and watch from the high ground in the cemetery. With the stadium finally completed, a “baby tornado” in August 1921 knocked down much of the fence, and a “considerable hole was blown in the top of the new grandstand” roof.
In early 1922, a new outfield fence was built 30–60 feet farther back than the original. In light of the damage done the previous August, “the fence posts [were] set in concrete and doubly braced.” New dugouts and other improvements and repairs were also made at the ballpark that spring. After 4 years of construction and repairs, Riverside Park in Independence had the most substantial baseball stadium in Kansas at the time. This coincided with the elevation of the Independence Producers from a Class D minor league team to the city’s first Class C team. Sadly, A.W. Shulthis—the man who made the ballpark possible through his donation of the first concrete baseball grandstand built in Kansas (among numerous other acts of local philanthropy)—passed away unexpectedly after suffering a heart attack on December 29, 1922. Through its early years, the baseball field was known by a series of names—League Park, Producers Park, and Western Association Ballpark—but the name was changed a final time in 1937 to Shulthis Stadium (sometimes misspelled as Shultis) in honor of its primary benefactor.
Between the World Wars, Shulthis Stadium served as the home field for the minor league Independence Producers from 1921 through 1925 and again from 1928 to 1932 (Southwestern League through 1924 and Western Association afterwards, which were Class D in 1921 and 1924 and Class C the other years). The 1930 team finished in first place, but the 1932 team was moved partway through the season, leaving Independence without a minor league team for the duration of the Great Depression and the Second World War. Following the war, Independence became a member of the Kansas–Oklahoma–Missouri League (KOM League, Class D) and was home to the New York Yankees’ minor league team from 1947 through 1950 and the St. Louis Browns’ farm club in 1952. Mickey Mantle played his rookie season as shortstop for the Independence Yankees in 1949, when the team finished in first place.
The first official night game in “organized baseball” (the major leagues and associated minor leagues) was played under permanent lights in Shulthis Stadium during a game between the visiting Muskogee Chiefs and hometown Independence Producers of the Western Association (Class C). A written account of the historical context of the event by Larry Bowman was published in 1995.
The Baseball Room at the Independence Historical Museum and Art Center has one of the original lights from the first night game on display, as well as photos of that historic game and a home run ball hit out of Riverside Park by Mickey Mantle in 1949, when he played for the New York Yankees’ minor league team, the Independence Yankees. However, the historic grandstand at Shulthis Stadium—one of the oldest baseball grandstands in North America from the same generation as Rickwood Field (1910), Fenway Park (1912), Wrigley Field (1914), and Bosse Field (1915)—was demolished in July 2015.
Shulthis Grandstand, Independence
Night Game Plaque, Independence
Some explanation of firsts for baseball under the lights, derived mostly from an article by Oscar Eddelton published in 1980 in the Baseball Research Journal of the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR). The first game of baseball under the lights was probably on 2 September 1880 at Nantasket Beach, Hull, Massachusetts between teams representing local department stores. The first night game between a pair of professional teams was probably an exhibition game on 23 July 1890 at the Ward Street Grounds in Hartford, Connecticut between an early edition of the Baltimore Orioles and the Hartford Nutmeggers of the Atlantic Association. Numerous other exhibitions were held under the lights after 1880 and into the early 1900s. The first official night game in organized baseball under the lights in Independence, Kansas was followed 4 days later, on 2 May 1930, by another official night game in organized baseball under permanent lights at Western League Park in Des Moines, Iowa, played by the Des Moines Demons and Wichita Aviators of the Class A Western League (not the Class C Western Association of the Independence Producers). Independence was able to host the first official game in organized baseball under the lights because the Independence Producers started the season at home, while the Des Moines Demons opened the season on the road. The first official night game in Major League Baseball was played on 24 May 1935 at Crosley Field in Cincinnati, Ohio between the Cincinnati Reds and Philadelphia Phillies. The first night game in the World Series was not until 13 October 1971 (game 4) at Three Rivers Stadium in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania between the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Baltimore Orioles.
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