BASEBALL HISTORY BEGINS IN EVANSVILLE
Evansville fans have watched been watching local baseball players win and lose at the game of baseball since 1867. This is the year that the first local baseball team was reported in the Evansville newspapers. It was one year before the start of the first professional baseball team in the United States and Evansville men already had formed an attachment to the game.
The April 24, 1867 issue of the Evansville Citizen announced the organization of the Evansville Baseball Club. Dr. C. M. Smith was elected president, E. S. Watts, vice President and Daniel Curry, Secretary & Treasurer. A regular meeting was held once a month and practices were held on the Evansville Seminary grounds on Wednesday and Saturday of each week.
Only the last name of the players and their positions on the team were listed in the lineup printed in the July 24, 1867 Evansville Citizen: Curry, catcher; Carville, pitcher; Nelson, short stop; J. Spencer, 1st base; Vervalin, 2nd base; Bennett, 3rd base; Dudley left field; C. Spencer, center field; and Haskins, right field.
The Evansville Citizen reporter praised this new organization: “We are pleased to see this popular and healthful amusement entered into by our young men. It has already become a national recreation, and has excited a healthy emulation between towns and states, and may ere long spread to nations.”
The team played against a Beloit team known as the Line City team. The game was played on the grounds south of the Seminary. According to the report, a crowd of several hundred people turned out to watch the game.
Scores of early games were much higher than today. The Evansville team lost 25 to 76. By the ninth inning, Beloit’s score was so high, the game was called. Even though Evansville had only one out in the ninth inning, the winning team was obvious to the umpire.
According to the local newspaper, “It was a lively game, and well done.” The reporter told readers that though the fans hoped Evansville would win, the local team was not a match for their opponent. “Of course we would much rather to have our boys beat, but when it is known that the Evansville Club is of recent organization and but very little time has been devoted to practice, and nearly all new players, we think they did remarkably well.”
Baseball was becoming the favorite summertime pastime of men and boys. For those who wanted to learn more about the game and how to play, local news stands carried Haney’s Base Ball and promised to order “quantities for clubs on short notice.”
Haney’s Base Ball of Reference by Henry Chadwick was published in 1867 It was the first official rulebook of the game.
Chadwick described the model player, “The principal rule of action of our model base ball player is, to comport himself like a gentleman on all occasions, but especially on match days, and in so doing he abstains from profanity and its twin and vile brother obscenity, leaving these vices to be alone cultivated by graduates of our penitentiaries.”
“He never censures errors of play made by a brother member or an opponent, as he is well aware that fault finding not only leads to no improvement in the play of the one who blunders but on the contrary is calculated to have the very reverse effect.”
“He was never known to dispute the decision of an umpire, for knowing the peculiar position an umpire is placed in, he is careful never to wound his feelings by implying that his judgment is weak.”
According to Chadwick, the model player was “able to throw a ball with accuracy of aim a dozen or a hundred yards.” The player should also be “fearless in facing and stopping a swiftly batted or thrown ball.”
The rules given to the pitchers may have been responsible for the high scoring games. The pitcher was to pitch the ball close to the center of home base and where the batsmen requested it.
Gloves were rarely used by the early players and the results were injured hands and crooked fingers. Catching a ball without having it hurt the player’s hands was part of learning to play the game. Even the catcher was considered a “sissie” if he wore a glove.
The baseball of the 1860s was ten inches in circumference. Usually just one ball was used for the entire game, and it was awarded to the winning team as a trophy.
Area communities with baseball teams in the late 1860s included Clinton, Janesville, Beloit, Milton, and Evansville.
The first Wisconsin Base Ball Tournament was held in Beloit starting September 3, 1867. There were teams from Madison, Delavan, Milton, Whitewater, Milwaukee, LaCrosse, Clinton, and Beloit. Beloit had seven teams in the tournament. Several Illinois teams also participated, including payers from Belvidere, Forest City, Chicago, Freeport, Rockton, and Roscoe.
Although there was plenty of interest from baseball fans, no Evansville team participated. However the local newspaper reported that the Beloit tournament site was a “beautiful piece of prairie, level as a house floor, on the Stateline road, near the Northwestern depot.”
Prizes were awarded for adult senior and second class clubs, junior clubs with players under the age of eighteen, and pony clubs with players under the age of fifteen. Additional prizes were offered by Rock County businesses for best catcher, best pitcher, best thrower, best runner of bases. There was also a prize of a box of soap for the “club securing most whitewashes.”
One of the first of the tournament games played was called at dusk with Whitewater at 46 points and the Beloit Badgers at 25. Another game between two junior teams, the Intrepids of LaCrosse and the Capitol Juniors of Madison, resulted in a win for the Capitol Juniors, 62 to 17.
The first professional baseball team organized in 1869. That year, the Cincinnati Red Stockings became the first team to pay all of their players. In 1869, the Stocks had an annual payroll of $9,300 and the star of the Cincinnati team, short-stop George Wright,was paid $1,400. His fans said he was worth every penny of it. Within a few years, Evansville could claim one of it’s own players as a professional baseball player.
There were only a few articles about baseball in the Evansville newspapers during the 1870s. The May 27, 1874 issue of the Review reported, a game of baseball between the “Graded School boys and the Seminary boys.” The game was held on the grade school grounds (the current location of the J. C. McKenna Middle School.) The Seminary students were beaten by twenty points.
A race horse track near the cemetery was used for many of the games played by the adult players.
Three local teams played in the August and September 1875, the Cooksville team was called "Waucoma"; the Brookyn team, the "Clippers" and the Evansville team, the "Badgers." The game between Evansville and Brooklyn was held on August 24 and Brooklyn won by a score of 53 to 13.
Players with the surnames, Case, Spencer, Standish, Palmer, Richardson, Burnham, Buttz, Beebe and Richardson played for Evansville. The game lasted 2 hours and 20 minutes. Althought Brooklyn and Cooksville played a few more games that season, Evansville did not play again that year.
In 1878, Evansville had a team called the Red Stockings that practiced every day. They played an Oregon team known as the Squealers.
On the 4th of July, a baseball match was held that was “witnessed by scores, with manifest delight for the skill and ingenuity of those who participated.” No mention was made of the players on the team. The reporter considered any mention of the details of the game as “not particularly necessary for these notes.”
In 1879, the Evansville Baseball team, the Evansville Mutuals, played ball against teams from Magnolia, Stoughton, Janesville and the Footville Clippers. Wild fielding and a “want of practice” caused the loss of the games with Magnolia and Footville, but the local team was victorious over Stoughton by a score of 18 to 3.
A game was played against the Janesville Mutuals on October 17, 1879. The locals beat the Janesville team 10 to 2. Cal Broughton, Morehouse and Owen are mentioned as having “played their positions finely.”
In March 1880, another Evansville baseball team was organized. Livery stable owner, Matt Broderick, served as Manager. The team was once again called the Evansville Mutuals. Cal Broughton was catcher, Bayard Andrews, pitcher; Morehouse, Owen, F. Broughton on the bases; Heath, shortstop; and Purdy Thompson and Hunt in the field. Two men acted as extras, John Silverthorn and A. Broughton.
THE 1880S AND EVANSVILLE'S FIRST PROFESSIONAL PLAYER -- CAL BROUGHTON
The local teams usually began practicing in March and the season ended in September. One of the first reported matches in 1880 was between the Evansville Mutuals and the Janesville Mutuals for a prize of twenty dollars.
The game was played at Evansville's Fourth of July celebration. Evansville's team won with a score of 32 to 20. Other games were played against teams from neighboring towns and sometimes there was an incentive of prize money offered to the winning team. The Mutuals always drew a crowd.
Baseball playing in the 1880s took on new importance for Evansville fans as one of their own players was picked to play professional ball. Cal Broughton whose name is mentioned in the 1870s as one of Evansville’s team members was called to play for Cleveland.
CAL BROUGHTON MAKES IT TO THE MAJOR LEAGUES
The Evansville baseball fans and team members knew there was potential for a talented player to join the legendary baseball professionals. One of Evansville’s favorite players, Cal Broughton, made that transition to the professional leagues in the 1880s.
Cecil Calvert Broughton was a popular catcher and played with area teams.
In the early 1880s, Broughton joined the Janesville Mutuals as their catcher.
When the Janesville Gazette covered the Mutuals’ games, they often commented
on Broughton’s playing ability.
During the summer of 1882, the Janesville Mutuals challenged teams from Chicago, Rockford, Detroit, Beloit, and Milwaukee. In July 1882, the Mutuals played the Greens of Chicago. The Gazette described Broughton’s playing as “fine.” The Gazette also said that Cal continued to improve, and “is now as good a catcher as there is in the country.”
Broughton made his major league debut with the Cleveland Blues on May 2, 1883, at the age of 22. He played in only four games as the team’s catcher. He was in Evansville for the 4th of July celebration that year. The Review noted his return and called him the “best player in the U. S.” However, the competing newspaper, the Enterprise, said that “there are a great many equally as good in the country.”
Broughton returned to Cleveland and before the season ended he was released from the team. For the rest of the 1883 season, he played catcher in eight (or nine) games for the Baltimore Orioles, depending on the statistics reported.
The following year, Cal Broughton played for the Milwaukee Cream City team. A Milwaukee newspaper, anticipating Broughton’s arrival in the city reported in April 1884, “Cal Broughton is practicing regularly with McGinley, at Albany, Wis., and writes that he is in better condition than ever before. McGinley is pitching in splendid style, and great things are expected of the ‘Wisconsin battery’ this season.” Broughton played eleven games for Milwaukee in 1884.
In 1885, Broughton played for two teams. At the beginning of the season, he played four games for the St. Louis Browns. Then he transferred to the New York Metropolitans and played eleven games. That season Broughton was at bat for 58 times, but he only had 7 hits and scored 2 runs.
In 1886, Cal was not chosen for a major league team. However, he reported to the Evansville Review, that he was going to play for a Savannah, Georgia team. The Review report said that Broughton’s salary for the season would be $1,200.
He played for a Memphis team and won a gold medal for “his efficiency.” He took great pride in this medal, one of the few awards he gained during his professional career.
In November 1887, he was signed to play with the Detroit Wolverines in the 1888 season. Broughton left on the 15th of February for Detroit. The team was to make a trip through the south before they opened the league games.
The season was short-lived for Cal. He played only one game for the Detroit team and his final game in the major leagues was played for the Wolverines on April 21,1888. The Evansville and Janesville newspapers reported his return home in early May.
However, in 1889 and 1890, Broughton had two more years of play with a St. Paul minor league team before returning to Evansville. There are no known records of his work with this team.
Following his professional career, Cal returned to Evansville and worked for the D. E. Wood Butter Company. In the early 1900s, he served as Evansville’s elected police chief. He continued to play baseball for many years, leading his Evansville team to a contested state championship in 1896. He always played the catcher position.
The local players kept a close eye on their hero. Each spring the local players organized teams and games with teams from other communities. When the teams had no challengers from away, they played each other or teams from the rural area surrounding Evansville.
There were several Evansville teams playing in the 1880s, the Deceivers, the Acme Ball Club, and the Mutuals. These were traveling teams and played teams from communities that could be reached by railroad. Games were scheduled as they could be arranged with the other teams from Edgerton, Milton, Oregon, Madison, Beloit, Janesville, Reedsburg, Brodhead and Lodi.
The teams from towns closest to Evansville seemed to form the biggest rivals. If Evansville lost to Brodhead, Edgerton, or Milton, it was frequently reported by the Enterprise and the Review, that the Evansville team was playing “in a crippled condition,” without their best players. Sometimes an unfair umpire was blamed for Evansville’s loss to a rival.
Local newspapers did not often bother to name the players on the team. An exception was made when Oregon and Evansville played a tie game of 14 to 14 in September 1883. The Evansville team members were Web Owen, Aaron Broughton, Frank Broughton, Van Wart, Stearns, Millspaugh, H. Royer, J. Eastman, and Henry Royer.
The reputation of some Evansville team members, gave them opportunities to play for teams in other communities. Frank Broughton was a catcher, often compared to brother, Cal, as being one of the best in the area. Broughton and Web Owen from Footville, both members of the Evansville traveling team, were often called by other teams to fill their roster.
In August 1883, Broughton and Owen were asked to play for a Harvard, Illinois team in a game against a Marengo, Illinois team. According to local newspaper reports, Marengo’s teams was stacked with Chicago and Elgin professional players. Harvard’s team was defeated but the Evansville players, Broughton and Owen, were praised as “the best players the Harvard Club had.”
The following year, in May 1884, Frank Broughton played for the Janesville Mutuals against the Beloit College team. “The catching of Frank Broughton was loudly praised and many said that, with a little more experience, he will equal his brother, Cal.”
The enthusiasm for the game of baseball was as lively in the farming community surrounding Evansville as it was in the Village. The Jug Prairie area in Rock and Green County west of Evansville had organized a team for baseball beginning the in the 1870s.
The Jug Prairie team had a baseball diamond on a farm west of Evansville. In July 1883, the Evansville Deceivers played the Jug Prairie Club on Mr. Pike’s farm. The Evansville team won the game 22 to 15.
In 1884 there was a country team called the “Tangle Legs.” Cainville also had a team that challenged the Evansville players.
On special occasions, when a visiting team did not show, or there was a special celebration in Evansville, the organized teams played scrub matches with teams that could be quickly organized with local men.
The public school grounds on South First Street were most often used for these games in the early 1880s. The neighbors and school officials complained about the broken windows, destruction to lawns on neighboring properties and foul language that was sometimes used during the game.
In 1883, Levi Leonard and Lansing Mygatt sold part of the addition north of the residential area on Second Street to the Village of Evansville. The Village Board intended to develop a park on this piece of property that was 19 x 51 rods. Some suggested that a baseball diamond be built in the park “where boys may play ball without breaking window lights or damaging anyone’s private property.”
The Village Board did not spend the money to build a ball diamond and the teams made do with the school grounds. In the late 1880s, the local ball teams used a diamond at the race track on McEwen’s farm southwest of the Village limits. This later became the Rock County Fairgrounds and teams continue to play on the Fairgrounds for many years.
By 1886, Evansville had ten baseball clubs organized. Only the team captain’s names were mentioned in the newspaper, but several of the captains also were members of Evansville traveling team. The team captains were Fred Gillman, George Hardin, George Wiggins, Elmer Scoville, Fred Springer; Fred Scoville, Earle Mihills, Bert Bevier, Bert Hoyl, Fred Clifford, Corey Dolph.
Baseball games usually earned only a brief report in the local newspapers until May 13, 1887, when a play-by-play report of a game against Oregon appeared in the Evansville Review. The report was signed “an old player.”
Evansville’s players won the game with a score of 27 to 6. The game was umpired by a Mr. Croak of Magnolia. The reporter said that Croak was “able and impartial” in calling the plays.
The first four innings were “goose eggs,”with no scores for Evansville. Then the whole Evansville team batted in the 5th inning. Evansville’s Broderick stepped up to the bat and hit the first (and only) home run of the game. Fred Gillman’s hit was short and he was out at 1st. Lieu Van Wart, the next batter, was also out at 1st base.
Slightham made it to second base. Frank VanWart hit the ball to left field and made it to second, with Slightham making it home, for the second run of the inning. Web Owen hit a line drive in the 5th inning, bringing Van Wart home. The next batter, Aaron Broughton hit a line drive, made it to second base, bringing Owen home.
Nay Gillman (Fred’s brother) was Evansville’s next batter and he made it to first base. Frank Broughton hit a fly ball that Oregon’s player fumbled and Broughton got to second base.
The first of the team’s batters was up again and Broderick bunted the ball and he made it to 1st base and Broughton came home. Fred Gillman was next at bat and he made the third out.
For the next four innings, it was Evansville’s game. The Review’s report of the plays and statistics was two columns long. The “old player” gave high praise to the Evansville team. “Oregon tried hard to hit the ball, but because of good fielding and the difficult curves pitched by F. Gillman very few of them reached first.”
Both the Oregon and Evansville teams were praised for their gentlemanly conduct. “The game was played without any kicking or any use of vulgar language whatever, both nines being gentlemen in every respect. Patrons of the game may be assured that the best of order will be kept, nothing will be allowed to be said that would shock the most fastidious.”
CAL BROUGHTON RETURNS TO EVANSVILLE AND THE BASEBALL CHAMPIONS OF 1896
The 1890s were exciting times for the Evansville ball clubs. The favored location for the home games was the McEwen Driving park. The adult teams used the McEwen grounds and the baseball diamond on the school grounds of the First Street school was abandoned to the high school, or quickly put together adult baseball teams that played in the this decade.
“Baseball is becoming epidemical again,” the Evansville Review announced in May 1891 and the perennial sport of summer began. Evansville’s traveling team, usually referred to in news reports as the “Evansville Club” had a strong following of fans that would attend both home and away games.
Rivals for the Evansville team included teams from Oregon, Stoughton, Jefferson, Milton, Edgerton, Portage, Sun Prairie, Reedsburg, Sharon, Beloit, and Janesville. An exhibition game with a Chicago team became a popular fund raiser for the traveling team. Admission of 25 cents was also charged at the gate and the money was used to purchase uniforms for the team and to pay travel expenses.
The Evansville charges were small compared to the Janesville team playing in the Wisconsin League. The Janesville team charged one dollar to get into the games.
Cal Broughton, Evansville’s only professional ball player in the 1800s, was still the popular hero of the baseball fans. His friend, Fred Gillman told local reporters that he was playing for a Seattle club in 1890. The following year, Cal was back in the Evansville area.
Only the best players were called to serve on the traveling teams, as the object was to win. Fans often had bets on their favorite team and to increase their chances of winning, the baseball teams hired men from outside their communities to increase the strength of their team. Fred Gillman and Cal Broughton played for an Edgerton team against Lake Mills in an August 1891 game.
For Evansville baseball players, it was an honor to be chosen to play for other area teams. However when an opposing team used players that were not from their community, there was an outcry of unfair tactics, especially if the Evansville team lost.
The Black Devils was the team name used by the Evansville traveling team from 1894 to 1896. This was a team that grew in strength over that three year period. The Evansville Tribune considered this a “hideous” name, but praised the team’s winnings.
The Edgerton and Evansville rivalry that had begun in the 1880s continued into the next decade and the two teams played several games against each other each season. For a game in July 1895, more than 100 Evansville fans traveled to Edgerton to watch their team play. The Evansville fans cheered wildly when their team came back from a score of 4 to 1 in the fourth inning to defeat the Edgerton team by a score of 10 to 7.
In the ninth inning the Evansville fans watched their team make the final three outs for the Edgerton team. According to the Tribune, the Evansville fans “yelled themselves hoarse as the alleged ball players from Edgerton were fanned out in one, two, three order.”
Although there were four newspaper published in Evansville in the mid-1890s, it was rare that player’s names were given in the reports of the games. The June 15, 1895 issue of the Badger told of a game with Janesville, won by Evansville with a score of 14 to 8. Broughton and Hayden were pitchers for the game. Gillman, Brewer, Van Patten and Libby were other players from Evansville, bolstered by three men from Albany: Broughton, Luce and Broughton.
In a game with Edgerton in 1895 three Evansville players were mentioned as playing excellent ball during the battle with the Edgerton team. The Tribune reported that Fred Gillman, the Evansville team’s catcher, made “a thrilling race” for home plate, scoring a run. Two other players were mentioned only by their last names, Hayden, the pitcher was credited with striking out 17 of Edgerton’s players and a player, Libby, had an exceptional hit that “went far enough to strike a silver mine.”
The Evansville team played against Jefferson on July 20, 1895. The players included four Broughtons and Gillman playing 2nd base, allowing Broughton to play at his regular position as catcher. The lineup for Evansville was C. B. Hayden, pitcher; Cal Broughton, catcher; F. Broughton, 1st base; Fred Gillman, 2nd base; Ray Broughton, 3rd base; Arthur Broughton left field; Chester Brewer, center field; Elmer Libby, right field and F. Broughton, Jr. short stop. Jefferson won the game by a score of 13 to 7. The playing by the home team was described as "remarkably poor, full of bad errors, giving the visiting club six scores in their second inning."
In August 1895, an Edgerton team beat the Evansville nine by a score of 5 to 2. The Evansville newspaper, the Tribune called the game a sham: “We acknowledge the defeat at baseball by the Edgerton boys, but would you recognize a nine from Evansville composed of all but two first class record breaker professional players? We lost money, so would many others, if they bet on their own team against the field.”
Evansville had a team that was growing stronger with each game. The Evansville and Edgerton rivalry had become so well known throughout the area that the mayors of the two communities called for a game to be played on neutral ground, in Janesville. The mayors chose an umpire and his name was not revealed to either team until the start of the game.
Hundreds of people watched the two teams complete. The Black Hussar band of Evansville played before the opening of the game. Then the mayors announced their choice of umpire, Harvey Clark of Madison.
It appears that Evansville decided to play team “professionals” who did not live in the Evansville area, as the team roster included a third baseman named Possell, a short stop named Nichols, a first baseman named Minton and a left fielder named Cossibone. The only recognizable Evansville names were Cal Broughton as catcher, Fred Gilman at center field, and Crall at right field. Stewart at 2nd base and Runkle, the pitcher may also have been professional players.
Evansville was the winning team with a score of 9 to 5 and the Evansville Enterprise declared the Evansville team to be the champions of Rock County. “We knew it” from the start that the other fellows were not up to the scratch. They had professional men, and we had to protect ourselves also.”
The next year proved to be the best year of the century for the Evansville baseball team. In 1896, the local players won against Fort Atkinson, Lake Mills, Edgerton, Stoughton and Waterloo in June and early July.
When Cal Broughton mangled and dislocated his thumb while playing a game against Durand, it was reported in all four Evansville newspapers. The loss of their favorite catcher made the Evansville team vulnerable and Evansville lost three games without one of their key players.
Evansville’s lineup for most of the season included J. F. Nonemaker, pitcher; Cal Broughton, captain and catcher; Tom Morrissey, first base; Pat Holleran, second base; Tom Sullivan, third base; John Gregg, third base; Frank Broughton, Jr., shortshop; Chet Brewer, left field; Charles Newman, center field; Fred W. Gillman, right field, and manager; E. H. Libby, outfield Ray Broughton, infield; Chester A. Morse, mascot. Frank, Jr. and Ray Broughton were nephews of Cal Broughton.
In the new few weeks, they lost to their rival Edgerton, but beat Sun Prairie, another game against Fort Atkinson, Waterloo, and Sharon. By the end of the season, Evansville had won 19 games and lost five.
In league play for the Wisconsin State League, Edgerton had won 11 games and lost three. Evansville had won 12 league games and lost 2 and was declared the Champion of the Wisconsin State League.
However, since their percentages were the same, .357, Edgerton challenged the Evansville team’s claim to the pennant and wanted a game to decide the true victor. The game of the century was played for a championship that would be a subject of controversy for the next twenty years.
Evansville played against Edgerton on September 5th 1896 for what the two teams and their fans considered the championship game. The action of the game got little notice in the Evansville newspapers but made headlines in the Janesville Gazette, as it drew crowds of people from Janesville, Edgerton, Evansville and all of Rock County.
Edgerton had some Rockford men by the names of Ferguson, Warner and Dillon and further improved the chances of their team by having league players from Janesville Fort Atkinson and Madison. According to a report in the Janesville Gazette, twenty-one years later, “Evansville never entered words of protest, because they well knew that Edgerton, under the rule of the league had a perfect right to use the men they did. It was alright for Edgerton to load up.”
Evansville lost the game by a score of 5 to 1, in favor of Edgerton, but controversy about the real winner of the championship of 1896 remained strong. It was noted in the May 15, 1926, Janesville Gazette article about the game played twenty years before that several of the players had been successful away from the ball diamond. Four of the players became chiefs of police, Fred W. Gillman, Cal Broughton, (Evansville chiefs), and Charles Newman and Tom Morrissey (Janesville chiefs.)
The baseball fever that had been so prevalent in Evansville in the 1880s and 1890s quieted some at the end of the 19th century. The traveling baseball teams that had brought such excitement to the sports activities in Evansville became a thing of the past.
In the late 1890s, the legendary Cal Broughton and his team mate, Fred
Gillman were elected to Evansville political offices. At the time
both the Police Chief and City Clerk positions were elected officials.
Cal Broughton became Evansville’s Police Chief in 1899 and Fred Gillman
held the job of City Clerk. Gillman also held the appointment of
Deputy Sheriff and frequently assisted Broughton in solving crimes.
This is most likely a photo of Fred Gillman
Their new occupations brought the two well-known Evansville men as much notice in the local newspapers as their baseball playing had in earlier years. Both men held their political offices for many years. Broughton and Gillman had great success in capturing burglars and others who were unlucky enough to come to Evansville to engage in criminal activities.
In their spare time, Broughton and Gillman continued to play baseball. Cal Broughton played for a Milton traveling baseball team against some old foes of Evansville, the Whitewater and Cambridge teams. Frank Broughton, Jr. also a former Evansville team player played on the Clinton ball team, against his Uncle Cal’s Milton team.
When Evansville did not have a baseball team to excite local fans, the baseball lovers turned their attention to other teams. Exhibition games with a team from Chicago, the Chicago Unions, were the highlight of the season for Evansville baseball fans at the turn of the century. The Chicago Unions, sometimes called the Chicago Union Giants, or the Leland Giants was a team composed entirely of Black players from Chicago.
Every summer the Union Giants traveled to small towns in Wisconsin and other states in the Upper Midwest, playing local teams. The Giants also played against other professional traveling baseball teams. According to the Negro League Baseball Players Association, the Union Giants caused such a sensation wherever they played that if the local teams won, it was the highlight of the season.
The Chicago team made their first appearance in Evansville in 1897 and played against a team of Evansville men. According to the local newspaper, the Badger, an immense crowd witnessed the game.
The following year, on September 29, 1898, the Union Giants returned to Evansville and a crowed of thirteen hundred people came to the Driving Park to watch the game. The Evansville players were “a picked nine.”
The Evansville Review noted that this Evansville team was a newly organized and had not played together before the summer of ‘98. Evansville lost to the Chicago team by a score of 12 to 9.
For the next few years, Evansville was part of the Chicago team’s circuit of play. After the first two years, there were no longer local teams to challenge the professionals. The games were played at the Evansville Fair Grounds (formerly the Driving Park), against another professional traveling team. In 1899, an estimated crowd of two thousand people watched the game with the Chicago Unions and another professional traveling team, the Cuban Giants. In 1900 the Unions played against the Western Indians and the following year, the Beloit College team challenged the Chicago Unions at the Evansville fair grounds. The Chicago team won by a score of 14 to 7.
ENTHUSIASM FOR BASEBALL WANES AT THE TURN OF THE CENTURY
There was very little enthusiasm for local adult baseball teams in the early 1900s. If fans wanted to watch a good game of baseball, they usually had to travel to another city or village. Fans and players were also required to follow the local norms for conduct on Sunday, or face the wrath of the community.
The Evansville fair grounds was the favored spot for the local teams to play and this land was owned and operated by the Rock County Fair Association. When a game of baseball was played on Sunday, the owners of the fair grounds received complaints and the team was reprimanded in the local newspapers.
In early July 1903, the Fair Association secretary, W. W. Gillies placed an advertisement in the columns of the four local newspapers chastising the local Evansville teams for playing a game of baseball on Sunday.
“Complaint having been entered to the Fair Management on account of baseball on the Fair Grounds on Sunday, therefore, notice is hereby given to the Public that it will not be allowed hereafter on the Fair Grounds. The management has no objections to innocent games on the grounds any other day of the week. W. W. Gillies, Secretary.”
Another game was scheduled on a Sunday on land known as “Purington corners, a mile east of this city.” A team from Monticello was to play an Evansville team. The announcement of the game noted that the Evansville team included players with the last names Thurman and Farnsworth.
Fans were expecting a spirited game, but the local newspaper challenged the Sunday game. “Credit is due our City Council and Fair Association that such games have been barred from the fair grounds in this city on Sundays.” The fans and players submitted to the prevailing thought on Sunday games and cancelled the event.
Sometimes baseball games were put together to raise funds for a needy family. In August 1904, the Baker Manufacturing Company organized a team of baseball players to challenge a team from the D. E. Wood Butter Company, another local manufacturing firm. The game’s proceeds were to go to Oscar Little, a former Baker employee who was suffering from cancer.
Admission to the fund raiser was only 10 cents and ladies were admitted free. Nearly $40 was given to Mr. Little following the game. “No one was better pleased with the result than those who took part in the game.”
Those baseball fans who wanted to see a good game of baseball traveled to the nearby community of Footville to watch the White Sox play against many of the same teams that Evansville traveling ball team had challenged. Footville’s team received more notice in the local newspapers than Evansville’s own teams.
While it appeared that adults had lost their enthusiasm for playing in a traveling baseball team at the turn of the century, the young people had not. A new generation of ball players was in training at the local high school. It was the high school games played in the spring of the year that received the most notice in the early years of the twentieth century.
In 1896, the Evansville schools had hired a new high school principal H. F. Kling. The new principal pressured the school board to put emphasis on new areas of the curriculum and recommended that athletics, music and art be added in order to improve the student’s mind and body.
Kling was convinced that in addition to their academic courses, students needed athletic programs that were organized, supervised, and supported by adults. He took an active role in the student’s athletic instruction and coached football, baseball and track.
In the spring of each year during his administration, Kling ran both the track and baseball programs. The Evansville High School baseball teams traveled to other communities, playing Brodhead, Madison, Edgerton, Beloit, Janesville, Stoughton and other nearby communities. The team had appropriate uniforms and baseball caps.
It was unusual for the newspapers to name the players whether they were adults or high school students, but games against local teams were the exception. In the spring of 1905, the Evansville High School team played the Evansville Seminary team and won.
Although only last names and some first initials were given for the players, the following team players for the high school were listed: Slausen, Gardner, Winter, Ames, Le Baron, Pearsall, Churm, Brooke and Reckord. Players for the Seminary were given as Jordan, Will Brooks, Combs, H. Marsh, Hendricks, C. Marsh, Meinke, Newman and Westby.
The Evansville High School team appears to have been heavily weighted
Palmer Slausen, Paul K. LeBaron, Paul H. Ames, and Percy Churm are all listed as graduates of the Evansville High School class of 1905.
Another high school team was photographed a few years later. The players were identified as Earl Gillies, Roy Reckord, Paul Chase, Forrest Durner, Fred Slightham, Bill Benson, and Robert Pearsall. This photograph appeared in the August 28, 1985 Evansville Review.
Evansville’s baseball teams of the future were based on the players being trained in the high school sports program. By 1907, the enthusiasm for adult baseball teams in Evansville was being revived. A traveling team was organized and games were once again played against Oregon, Clinton, and Beloit.
The 1908 traveling team for Evansville included former high school players Roy Reckord, the pitcher and Robert Pearsall, a 1908 high school graduate, the team captain. The adult players of baseball were once again gaining favor in Evansville.
Newspaper reports of Evansville’s organized baseball activities in the early part of the 20th century were sporadic. There were reports of baseball games that were used to draw a crowd to fund raising events. Promoters tried to get closely matched teams of baseball players and they were willing to pay the teams to play.
Exhibition games were played at the Irish Picnic, a fund raising activity by St. Paul’s Parish, and the Rock County Fair at the Evansville Fair grounds. The Irish Picnic was held in the early summer.
The 1909 Irish picnic game was played against Albany and started at 10 o’clock in the morning. The early morning game was intended to draw a crowd for the 11 o’clock meal served by the women of the church.
The afternoon entertainment included track and field events and a second game of baseball. “The second ball game was the feature of the day, according to a report of the events in the June 23, 1909 Enterprise. The competing teams in afternoon were the Footville and Beloit, and the game went fourteen innings, with only one score deciding the difference between the teams.
The Footville Whitesox continued to be a favorite local area team with excellent players, including members of the Broughton family. The Evansville newspapers often featured more articles about the Footville games, than Evansville’s. “Baseball fans who like to see a good game, would do the proper thing if they went to Footville on Saturday, July 3rd and watched the game between the Beloit and Footville teams, which played in Evansville at the Irish picnic. Each team has won from the other once this year and are not playing for fun, marbles, but for the championship,” a reporter for the Tribune & Enterprise said in the June 30, 1909 issue of the newspaper.
1910 - 1919
Evansville was able to organize a traveling baseball team in 1911. That year Evansville played Belleville for the beginning game and Footville at the Irish picnic.
The team names were mentioned in the Evansville Review issue on June 1, 1911. However in some cases only surnames were given for the players. “The new base ball nine recently organized in this city consists of the following players: Taylor, pitcher, Geo. Thurman, catcher, Paul Gray, first base, Howard Keefe, second base, Henry Gardner, third base, Fairman, center field, Roy Reckord, right field, E. Lee, left field, and Harry Broughton, short stop.”
Roy Reckord was one of the more versatile players and also pitched some of the games. For the Irish Picnic, the Evansville team recruited some well known players from other communities. George Fucik, a Stoughton player, served as pitcher, with Reckord also pitching part of the team. Despite the increased playing power for Evansville, they were defeated by Footville with a close score of 4 to 3.
When the Rock County Fair was held in Evansville in 1911, the only Evansville team that was invited to play was the Evansville High School team playing against the Albany High School team. Although there were baseball games each day of the four-day fair, the Evansville traveling team did not play.
In February 1913, the Rock County Fair committee announced that Cal Broughton would be in charge of the sports activities for the fair. Later that same year a new baseball team was organized for Evansville. Homer Shultz was elected president and Louis Abtz, a former Elroy third base player, was chosen to act as secretary treasurer. An Evansville favorite, Roy Reckord was named team manager.
The team practiced three times a week. Bernard Munson, a former Argyle baseball team player, pitched for the Evansville team. To raise funds, the team held at dance at the Magee Opera House on East Main Street, asked for donations from local merchants and sold season tickets to the games.
To prevent any controversy, the team also promised not to hold Sunday games. The team played on Friday afternoons. For the first game, the local team played Oregon and a large crowd gathered to watch the game. The lineup for Evansville was Abts, 3rd base; Reckord, center field; Sholts, 1st base; Gardner, 2nd base; Munson, pitcher; Gray, left field; Gillies, catcher; Christman, right field; and Jones, short stop.
The game was described as a “pitchers’ battle. Munson struck out twelve of the Oregon players and was credited with a double play in the 6th inning. The game was lost to Oregon in the 11th inning.
Other games in the 1913 season were played against the Madison teams, Fauerbach Brewing Co, and Madison Kipps; Brodhead; Beloit Moose; Van’s Colts of Beloit; and Argyle, where Bernard Munson pitched against his former team mates.
Exhibition games the 1913 Irish Picnic with Evansville playing Footville. No score was given in the local reports of the game, but it was described as a “snappy game and furnished plenty of excitement for local and visiting fans.” Evansville also played an exhibition game at Brooklyn’s Field Day in early August with Evansville pitted against Oregon. In another exhibition game that season, Evansville played Van’s Colts of Beloit at the Rock County Fair.
There were only occasional baseball games played by Evansville teams during the next years of the 2nd decade of the 20th century. No Evansville teams played at the Rock County Fair held at the Evansville Fairgrounds in 1914. The lineup of teams that year included a Belleville team that placed second in the Southern Wisconsin Amateur League. Belleville played against Oregon. Brodhead’s team played Monticello and the Milton and Footville Y.M.C.A. teams played for the Rock County Y.M.C.A. league championship. The winner of the Oregon vs. Belleville and Brodhead vs. Monticello games played against the Footville Whitesox.
One of Evansville’ favorite umpires made the more headlines than any of the Evansville players in 1915. Pete Libby, a local tobacco buyer, had been an umpire for baseball games for many years. In June 1915, Libby was hired to umpire all of the games in the Madison City Baseball League.
The Wisconsin State Journal ran an article on Libby. In an early game against the Fauerbach team and the Olympic team from Madison, Libby had done such creditable work behind the plate that “after the game the fans poured into the box-office and congratulated him on his good work.” This was rare praise indeed for an umpire.
Libby was pursued by the Madison League to come to umpire the games. The League secretary bargained with Libby until they reached a satisfactory agreement and Libby was signed on as umpire just a few minutes before the second game of the season started.
According to the Wisconsin State Journal report, “Libby donned the mask and protector and took charge of the field. His “Batter Up” – screeched at the two teams, put both on edge. Libby got a big hand from the crowd on this expression. His “Str-r-r-ike One” rang all over the park.”
During that same game, a thrown pitch hit Libby's mask and stunned him momentarily. He fell to the ground but got up quickly and yelled his famous “Batter Up,” and play resumed. Libby maintained his residence in Evansville and drove his automobile to and from Madison every weekend to officiate at the games.
Evansville’s traveling team had disbanded, but games were organized locally between the men from the Baker Manufacturing Company and a team composed of other business men. These two teams played at the Irish Picnic in 1915.
1915 Baseball team. Photo courtesy of Bill Morrison whose dad played on the team.
Baker’s Half Feds team included Paul Jones, C. Weaver, Edgar Sperry, L. Wilder, R. Frazer, C. Eggleston, M. Jones, Chester Hurd, W. Decker, and H. Morrison. The local businessmen’s team had C. Main, F. Durner, Leffingwell, Ace Fellows, Covert, Tomlin, Knudson, Stewening and Roy Reckord. The pitchers for the game were Reckord for the businessmen and C. Hurd for the Baker team. The businessmen beat Bakers by a score of 9 to 7.
According to the Review, “The game was an interesting one to watch and showed there is a lot of good baseball material here in Evansville that ought to be developed into a fast team.” For the 1915 Rock County Fair, the Baker team played and won by a score of 10 to 5 against a Magnolia team. The Baker team had Bob Kivlin and Dale Smith serving as pitchers, while the Magnolia team had pitchers with the surnames Post and Roberts. The Fair committee also hired teams from Footville, Albany, Edgerton and Oregon to play, so that there was a ball game each day of the 1915 Fair.
If the adults could not maintain a traveling team, the high school boys were still eager to play baseball. In 1916, a strong Evansville High School team had the following players: “Logy” Terry Durner, Loyal “Hap” Baker, R. Kendall, Felix Fellows, Earl Tolles, Elzie Libby, Honore Hubbard, Seth Cain, Patterson, and Phillips. Durner served as pitcher for the team. In a final game of the season, the Evansville team played the Evansville Seminary and was defeated by a score of 14 to 7.
A report of a July 4th committee’s expenses gives a clue as to the cost of equipment for the baseball games played by Evansville teams. An Evansville team played a Stoughton team for the July 4, 1917 celebration.
The committee paid a local tailor to make the sacks for the bases at a cost of 70 cents. They bought two balls at the Grange Store at a cost of $2.50. The committee also paid the Stoughton Ball Club $35 and the local team $40 to play that day.
The cost was well worth the money for the 4th of July Committee, as the total receipts for the ball game portion of the activities of the day were $205.85. This was 27% of the total receipts for the entire celebration.
World War I put a halt to many of the amateur sports activities for Evansville athletes. One of the star players, Leroy (Roy) Reckord served in the military. Others who played baseball for Evansville and served in World War I were Chester Warren Hurd, John W. Golz, Paul Rowley Gray, Paul Weaver Chase, and Paul M. Jones.
BASEBALL RETURNS AND ANOTHER TEAM BECOME CHAMPIONS
Organized baseball returned to Evansville in the 1920s. The American Legion McKinney Post formed in 1919 and the Athletic Committee of the Post issued a news release the following April asking for volunteers for a new city baseball team.
The announcement was printed in the April 8, 1920 issue of the Review. “Spring is coming, sometime, and a bit of athletic activity will be worth while. Good sport is essential to health and a good disposition. The American Legion invites all who are interested in baseball in Evansville to a meeting Friday evening at 7:30. Let’s show a little life, encourage sports, and boost the town.”
The meeting drew a crowd and baseball was promoted to the local businessmen as a way to boost business in town. William Dake, a local barber, formed a team known as Dake’s Dogs and Baker Manufacturing teams was known as the Baker Monitors. The only game reported for Dake’s team was a game against the local high school team.
The Monitors was Evansville’s traveling team in 1920. They played teams from Oregon, Beloit, Orfordville, the Janesville Eagles and the Janesville All-Stars. Players on the team included Fred Sperry, Cain, Brown, Hain, Morrison, the pitcher, Kittleson, Larsen, Jones, and Funk.
In 1921, Art Dake again formed a team, known as Dake’s Veterans. The first game of the season was against the local high school team. The team included several fellow barbers and past stars of the local high school team. Floyd Morgan, Ace Fellows, Phil Pearsall and Chester Hurd.
The local high school and Dake’s team had arranged for a series of baseball games to be played on the fairgrounds diamond. However, in 1921, the grounds were used to pasture the horses from the livery of Dr. Charles S. Ware. Although he had rented the pasture until mid-June, Ware agreed to let the games be held on the land.
Local baseball players wanted a new baseball diamond near Leonard Park. The park was becoming a popular tourist camp and the scene of many summer picnics. The Evansville Review’s baseball promoter, Robert Antes, proposed that a plot of land owned by the Eager Estate, just west of the park, be leveled for a baseball diamond.
The plot of ground was a little uneven, but properly prepared, it “would make an admirable ball diamond, where city people could attend without having to go in cars or walk a long distance” to the fairgrounds. The Review urged the City Council to rent the property from the owners.
When this proposal was not accepted by the Council, a petition was circulated to have a diamond built on a piece of land owned by the Canning Company on Cherry Street. This proposal was also denied and the games continued for the next few years at Evansville’s Rock County Fairgrounds.
In the spring of 1922, the Evansville ball players attempted to join the Southern Wisconsin Base Ball Association. The fee was $250 and the towns already in the association were Whitewater, Fort Atkinson, Edgerton, Hebron, and Cambridge.
The effort to join the league was unsuccessful, but this did not keep the local team from playing ball. The team included high school players, Roland Barnum, Buck Roberts, Seth Cain, Tom Cain and seasoned City team players, Chet Hurd, Ray Covert, Clifford Harper, Jens Knudson, Buster Libby, Ralph Noyes, Bill Tilley, Paul Jones, James Temple and Harold Zwicky. The 1922 games were played against Brodhead, Durand, Argyle, Belleville, Footville, the Janesville Black Cats and Stoughton.
In 1923, Robert J. Antes, representing the Antes Press and Fred Sperry, representing the Barbers of Evansville, were responsible for keeping baseball alive in Evansville. In the April 5 issue of the Review, Antes issued a challenge to the local barbers: “The boys of the Antes Press who have been pining for a game of baseball for some time and not long ago challenged the barbers, state in their opinion, the barbers should change the color of the stripes on their signs and make them yellow, as so far they have failed to accept the challenge thrown to them to cross bats.”
The Barbers, including Mark Moore, William Dake, Fred Sperry, Floyd Morgan, Bernie Christensen, Waller, Redlen, Vandervilt, Flint, and Phelps accepted the challenge of the Antes team that included Bob Antes, Phil Pearsall, Harold Zwickey, George Greenway, Glenn Tomlin, Jack Seipp, Forrest Brigham, and other team members named Graves, Strack, and Reynolds.
There is no indication that these teams played against other teams during
Once again the Review issued a call for a baseball diamond at the park. “The logical place for all ball games is in the new park so that all the people may see the games, women and children, as well as men. The argument may be raised that at the park there is no grandstand to seat the crowd—granted—but who in these days of covered autos ever sees a ball game from a grand stand anyway?”
A new road into the park on the east side made better access to the area near the renewed Lake Leota. It made this area an ideal place for a ball diamond. The City Council again took no action to bring the ball games to the park and the games continued at the fairgrounds and the school diamond.
However, the following year, the city teams increased in number and a regular schedule of games was prepared for the six teams. The league was sometimes called the Home Talent League or the Junior League.
The teams each had a line-up of 12 players and were managed by the following: Johnson’s Pirates, managed by Grant Johnson; Ford’s Tigers, managed by Bruce Ford; Devine’s Giants, managed by Art Devine; Durner’s Yanks, managed by Forrest Durner; Dake’s White Sox, managed by Art Dake; and Gillman’s Cubs, managed by old-time player Fred Gillman.
The 1924 schedule began on June 30 and ended September first. The games were played on Monday, Tuesday and Thursday evenings beginning at 6:30 and since there were no lights on the ball diamonds, the games were called at dark.
Robert J. Antes once again challenged City Ball players for a series of games in the spring of 1925. Four teams formed, the Bakers, D. E. Wood Butter Company (also known as the Creamery or the Greasers), the Businessmen and The Antes Press, (known as the printers.)
The local teams were known as the Twilight Ball League. Twenty-four games were scheduled for the season. Officers for the organization included Robert J. Antes, president; Richard Brigham, Secretary and Treasurer.
Baker’s team included Ray Covert, the Apfel brothers Lloyd and Lindle, John Gundlach, Schartz, Parr, Larson, Roberts, Griffith, Brown, Estes, Baker and Graham.
The Businessmen included Fred Sperry, manager, G. E. Johnson, Tom Cain, Roy Reckord, Ace Fellows, Bernie Christensen, Melvin Furseth, Forrest Durner, Ed Carns, Art Tomlin, Clayton Cain, Reuben Helgesen and Fay Ellis.
The D. E. Wood Butter Company included Evansville’s first professional ball player, Cal Broughton. Broughton always had substitute runners, but was listed in his old position of catcher for the team. Other players for the Creamery were Roy Lewis, Forrest Graves, Roberts, Jacobsen, Hubbard, Dill, Lundy, Bly, and Ben Ellis.
There were also country teams that played the Antes Press and other teams. In early May 1925, the Antes Press played a game against the Jug Prairie team, the Farmers.
Players for the Antes Press included Bob Antes, Phil Pearsall, Harold Zwickey, Jack Seipp, George Greenway, Glenn Tomlin, Richard Brigham, Graves, Strack, Braclaus, and Reynolds. The Farmers team included John Golz, E. Golz, Fred Abey, McGuire, Powers, W. Krause, R. Krause, and B. Purington. The Farmers won by a score of 12 to 11.
With so many local teams playing each other, the City Council finally agreed that there was a need for a ball diamond at the city park and in June 1925, the project began. A tractor and grader were brought in to “skin” the infield and the sod was hauled away to fill in other low spots in the park.
The D. E. Wood ball team defeated the Businessmen in the first game played on the new diamond on Tuesday, June 23, 1925. The Businessmen won the League Championship in 1925, with 8 wins and 3 losses. Antes followed closely with 7 wins; the D. E. Wood Butter Co. 4 wins and the last team, the Baker Company with 3 wins.
Ace Fellows led the individual batting averages with .462, scoring 17
runs. Tom Cain was a close second with a .444 average and 11 runs
for the season.
It was the great desire of the Evansville ball players to have a team in the Southern Wisconsin League and in September 1925, Evansville made a try for a spot. Ed Carns was elected Captain for the Evansville traveling team and Roy Lewis was named manager. Bob Collins was named Secretary and Treasurer. Other team members included Tom and Seth Cain, Harold Zwickey, Ray Covert, Jack Seipp, Roberts, Anderson, and JohnGundlach.
The team planned to buy new uniforms and raise the funds to join the
league. To prove their worth in the traveling league, Roy Lewis booked
games with Albany, Orfordville, Brodhead and a Beloit team for September
and October, after the Home League had finished their season.
In the spring of 1926, the Evansville City Baseball team was invited to join the Southern Wisconsin Baseball League. Members of the League were Milton, Brodhead, Albany, Edgerton, Footville, Janesville and Evansville. Evansville’s home games were played at the fairgrounds diamond, where there was a grandstand and plenty of room for cars to park near the field.
Local businessmen donated uniforms. Local citizens and businesses also donated funds for the entrance fee and other expenses. Gates receipts for that first year were reported as $1,257.97, a good indication that there were plenty of Evansville baseball fans.
Several players from the Evansville Twilight League were members of
the new team.
Ed Carns was the pitcher, Jack Seipp, 3rd base; Gerald Anderson, short stop; Rice, catcher; Tom Cain, center field, Calhoun, right field; Reuben Helgesen, catcher; Harold Zwickey, 2nd base; Phil Pearsall, 1st base; Seth Cain, left field and Parquette, a substitute pitcher for Carns. Other members who joined the team throughout the season were George Greenway, Calhoun, Krause, Melvin Furseth, Schultz, Libby, McGuire, Fred Sperry, Ray Covert, and Hatzinger.
Evansville’s first Southern Wisconsin League game was played with Milton and the first ball was thrown by old-time player, 66-year-old, Cal Broughton. In an interview with the Review, Broughton claimed 1896 as the best year an Evansville team ever had. It was the year Evansville won the State Championship.
Evansville team lost the first game of the 1926 season, with Milton scoring 6 runs to Evansville’s one. Most of the first season with the League was filled with disappointment for the newly organized team.
By early June, Evansville was at the bottom of the league standings with five losses and no wins. It was not until early July that Evansville got its first win against the Milton Wolves. Although Evansville won three straight games at the end of the season, the team remained at the bottom of the League.
When the Southern Wisconsin League formed an all-star team to play against the State Line League, Tom Cain was the only Evansville player chosen. Cain played center field in the last two innings of the exhibition game, but never got up to bat.
If the traveling team was not playing, there were plenty of local baseball games for the Evansville fans. The Businessmen, Antes Press, Baker Company and D. E. Wood Butter Company teams of the Twilight League kept the home fans entertained.
Many of the members of the Evansville City team also played in the Twilight League. Seipp, Cain, Zwickey, Anderson, Helgesen, Furseth, and Pearsall are all listed as playing for one of the four Twilight League teams. Fred Sperry, manager of the Business Men’s team and Rueben Helgesen, captain, accepted the silver cup trophy for winning the most Twilight League games in the 1926 season.
The 1927 baseball season began with the Evansville High School Baseball team organized for the first time since 1920. The Evansville School District had hired a new athletic director at the high school, Floyd Wheeler. Wheeler was a star athlete from Beloit College, and had also been an assistant director for the YMCA in Beloit.
Wheeler put together a team of young men that loved to play baseball and they did not end their season when the school year was completed.
Clifton Cain, the brother of Tom Cain, the popular player for Evansville’s Southern Wisconsin League team, was named Captain of the newly formed high school team. Pete Ellis was the manager and pitcher. Coach Wheeler had more than enough willing players to form a team. The following names are mentioned in the 1927 newspaper reports of the games, Richard Baird, Bill Wood, Bill Ware, Lewis Devine, Don Elert, Jake Blum, Herbert Hungerford, Philip Waite, Patterson, Walters, Howard Dougherty, Walter Johnson, Ray Smith, “Red” Reynolds, Maurice Woodworth, Pete Merrill, and LaVerne Miller, Hillis Buxton.
The high school team scheduled games against Brodhead, Janesville, and Clinton. Before the high school season ended, the team of young players joined the Twilight League to test their skills against Evansville’s adult players. The high school team placed second in team standings through most of the baseball season. The Business Men again won the coveted silver cup.
The City team in the Southern Wisconsin League reorganized to play in the summer of 1927. They were pitted against the same teams as the previous year and many of the same local players returned for another season. John Gundlach of the Twilight League joined the 1927 traveling team, along with Don Dawson and his brother Mike Dawson. Other new players were Dunphy, Delaney, Leary, and McCaffrey, a local high school player.
On Sunday May 1, 1927, the Evansville traveling team got their first win against the Albany team. In its second year of play, Evansville’s Southern Wisconsin League team showed great improvement and was in the middle of the pack in team standings by the end of the season.
CHAMPIONSHIP BASEBALL RETURNS TO EVANSVILLE
The 1928 season would go down in the history of Evansville baseball as one of the greatest. Both the high school team and the Southern Wisconsin League had winning seasons.
The new Southern Wisconsin League included Orfordville and Beloit. Evansville had new men in their lineup, Schifflebein, McKenna, Bernie Christenson, Parkinson, Thostenson, Edwards, Frank Francis and Delaney. Clifton Cain now joined his brother Tom and Pete Finstad, the new high school baseball coach, was a back-up player. Roy Lewis served as manager.
After two games, the Evansville team was in the middle of the team standings with one win and one loss against the Beloit team. By the middle of May, the Evansville team was tied with Janesville for first place in the League.
In late May 1928, Janesville lost to the Evansville team in an exciting game that put Evansville ahead by 9 runs in the first two innings. With a final score of 13 to 5, Evansville’s stood first place in the Southern Wisconsin League.
During the season Christenson and Parkinson took turns on the pitcher’s mound for Evansville. Three teams fought for first place through the rest of the season, Janesville, Beloit and Evansville. Each team had a large crowd of local fans that followed them from game to game. The Evansville Review urged people to “Get out and make a noise that will help Evansville to win this championship.”
On August 16, 1928, the Evansville Review announced that the Evansville team had cinched the title in the Southern Wisconsin League. “Hot Battle Sunday Defeats Beloit and Insures Evansville Pennant. Can Lose Rest of Games and Win.” The local team was three games ahead of the rest of the teams in the league and finished the season at the top.
After the season ended, the Evansville team was invited to play several exhibition games around the area. Edgerton, New Glarus, and the Beloit Chryslers, second place winners in the Rock-Walworth County League, were on the schedule for the special games.
To insure that the team had enough money to equip themselves for the 1929 season, the local team held a dance with Leaver’s Orchestra playing at Magee’s Hall. They yearned to again become champions.
In the 1928 season, the high school team was also having great success. The Evansville High School had belonged to the Rock River Valley League and in 1928, this League was broken up.
The new Rock Valley League included Whitewater, Milton Union, Jefferson, Lake Mills and Evansville. The local high school superintendent, Mann, was president of the new organization. New mathematics teacher, Peter Finstad, took over as baseball coach.
The park ball diamond was used for most of the high school home games and the Twilight League games. The Southern Wisconsin League used the fairgrounds. For a few months in the 1928 season, it looked as though Evansville would lose its diamond at the fairgrounds, as Evansville had lost the Rock County Fair to Janesville and the land was for sale. Fortunately a group of civic mined citizens bought the land and held it until the City of Evansville could make arrangements to purchase the property, and preserve one of the favored recreation spots in Evansville.
The City Council also purchased property near the Evansville park in 1928. This land was known as the Wood property and the city had rented the land for a baseball diamond. With the purchase of the additional park land, new driveways and a permanent baseball diamond was created north of the Lake Leota Bath House.
Peter Finstad, Evansville’s High School baseball coach had thirty prospects show up for practice at the opening of the 1929 season. The 1928 winning team had inspired 30 young men to come to the first workout in early April. Finstad’s new recruits gave the team depth and talent in nearly every position.
The team needed to replace the 1928 graduates Tom Cain, Pete Ellis, Richard Baird, “Red” Reynolds and Hillis Buxton. These young men continued to play baseball in the Twilight League. Cain also played in the Southern Wisconsin League.
Among the young hopefuls for 1929 high school season, Finstad needed
to find a catcher, first baseman, third baseman, pitcher and two outfielders.
There were only four of ten returning lettermen, Lewis Devine, Pete Merrill,
Herbert Hungerford and Norman McCaffrey.
1929 EVANSVILLE HIGH SCHOOL BASEBALL TEAM LED BY PETER FINSTAD
Stan “Pop” Sperry, a freshman, tried out for the pitcher’s position, along with Lloyd Mabie, Harold “Doc” Schuster, Pete Merrill and Norman McCaffrey. Mabie won the position and proved to be a powerhouse on the mound. The others took other positions on the team and served as relief pitchers.
Sperry was given a spot on the new team at third base. His hitting and fielding in the next four years would earn Sperry much acclaim in the Evansville Review and a try at professional ball after graduation.
Norman McCaffrey’s younger brother, Vic, also tried out for Finstad’s team and earned a spot as catcher. The McCaffrey’s including two more brothers, Leo and Lester were talented players in Evansville high school sports in the early 1930s. Another brother, Nile, played in the adult baseball leagues.
The first game of the high school season pitted the young men against the alumni and family members against each other. Stan Sperry and his father, Fred, were on opposite sides. Tom Cain played for the alumni and his brother Clifton Cain for the high school. Coach Finstad put himself on the alumni side, against his young team. The alumni defeated the high school players, 8 to 6, in the five inning game.
Mayor Elzie H. “Pete” Libby, Evansville’s favorite umpire, officially opened the Rock Valley League season with Evansville playing Whitewater’s high school team. Milton Union, Lake Mills, Monroe and Orfordville were in the other teams in the League.
The local high school players stayed at the top of the league and won the Rock Valley Title for 1929 with 5 wins and no losses. In the total season play, the team had won thirteen of the fifteen games played.
Pitcher Lloyd Mabie had pitched 62 innings and allowed only 17 earned runs and 38 hits. Mabie had struck-out 100 batters in his first season of play. The Evansville team was given high praise for their success.
Stan Sperry, the young third baseman had a batting average of .520. He was a “hitting sensation” according to a June 13, 1929 Evansville Review article. Pete Merrill, Vearle Hockett, and Lloyd Mabie were next in line in the batting rankings.
Robert J. Antes served as president of the four-team Twilight League in 1929. The league used its own money to make improvements on the fairgrounds ball diamond and to purchase benches for the players. They hoped to put up a wire fence so that fans could drive their cars closer to the diamond without fear of getting struck by balls.
The high school team, the Business Men, Baker Manufacturing and Antes Press each had teams in the Twilight’s 1929 season. The competition between the Sperry’s continued as both served as pitchers on opposing teams, Stan for the High School team and Fred for the Business Men. It was great fun for the fans to watch the competition. Baker’s team won the Twilight League season.
The Southern Wisconsin league began in late April with Evansville meeting Beloit. Bernie Christensen served as the team manager and pitcher. Other players included Tom Cain, Schifflbein, Shadel, Thorstenson, Sands, Keenan, Rau and La Hail.
A new team, the Watertown Goslings entered the league. More than 300 fans turned out for see Evansville beat the Beloit team in the first League game at the local fairgrounds diamond. Footville dropped out in mid-season, claiming their fans were not supportive.
Evansville took an early lead in League standings in 1929 and into early September the local team was battling for first place. At one of the final games in the season, Evansville defeated Palmyra and took “undisputed lead.” The champion team with the same players returned to play for the Evansville traveling team in 1930.
STAN SPERRY AND THE 1930s
Baseball had won favor with the local fans and the 1930 Evansville high school season opened with seven returning lettermen. One of the favorite players, Vic McCaffrey, was ineligible for the high school team because he had been a student for nine semesters.
The season began with the first practice on March 31 and thirty-three men turned out. Favored pitcher, Lloyd Mabie, had a shoulder injury from playing football the previous fall. Ben Hubbard and Stan Sperry were considered replacements in the pitcher position, if Mabie could not play. However, Mabie responded to therapy by the athletic trainer at the Univestiy of Wisconsin. He recovered and was able to pitch the first game of the season.
The season’s prospects looked “dark” according to Coach Finstad. The team was hitting as good in practice as Finstad had expected. Some of the players showing exception talent were the McCaffery brothers, Leo and Lester, Ken Cain, Bob Cain and Ben Hubbard. The team was cut to 15 on April 9 and also included Lawrence “Pete” Merrill, Roy Sands, Stan Sperry, Vearle Hockett, Norman McCaffery, Maurice Apfel, Norman Odegaard, Cliff Fellows and Leonard Nelson.
Despite the dire predictions at the beginning of the season, this high school team proved to be a match for every team they played in the 1930 season. After the first game, Finstad declared his team to be “the strongest the school has had in the past several years.”
The Evansville High school baseball team ended an extraordinary undefeated
season. Coach Peter Finstad was given credit for building and coaching
the team to victory. Evansville team. Finstad praised his team
as the “best balanced prep team I have ever seen.”
Front row, left to right: Robert Hubbard, Maurice Apfel, Verle
Hockett, Roy Sands, Lawrence Merrill, Norman Odegaard. Second row:
Coach Peter Finstad, Lloyd Mabie, Cliff Fellows, Kenneth Cain, Manager
Paul Dooley. Back Row: Donald Wissbaum, assistant manager,
Norman McCaffery, Lester McCaffery, Leonard Nelson.
1930 EVANSVILLE HIGH SCHOOL BASEBAL TEAM COACHED BY PETER FINSTAD
However, he lost several seniors for the 1931 season, Lloyd Mabie, Robert
Hubbard, Maurice Apfel, Lawrence Merrill, Norman Odegaard, Roy Sands and
Vearle Hockett. A photograph of the team appeared in the May
15, 1930 issue of the Evansville Review and a separate photo of Lloyd Mabie
appeared in the June 12, 1930 issue.
The Twilight League was beginning to loose momentum, but in April 1930, Robert Antes was once again began organizing the teams to play in the Evansville league. The D. E. Wood Butter Co. had players, after not being able to form a team the previous season. The high school team dropped out of the summer League, but many of the players joined the other teams. The Business Men, managed by Art Cain and Roy Record, Baker’s “Windmillers” and the Antes Press returned for the 1930 season.
New team members were playing for Evansville’s entry into the Southern Wisconsin League. Seth Cain, a former Evansville player who had moved to Brodhead was the manager of the team. Jack Heffel served as president; Orrie Steele, treasurer; and Kenneth Gilbertson, secretary. Six teams were in the League in 1930, Evansville, Palmyra, Delavan, Janesville, Milton, and Footville. Footville was reported to have some Beloit players.
Team members were McKenna, Tom Cain, Shadel, Ennis, Sheffelbein, Fallant, Thosten, Floyd Francis, Arthur Lorentzen, Satrang, Sagen, Roy Sands, J. Woodling, Clifton Cain, Don Elert, and F. Eldred, and Bill Schneider, an Edgerton player, who had pitched for the Highway Trailer team.
Another traveling team was organized in the 1930, calling themselves the Evansville Blues. Don Elert, Sid Smith, Pete Merrill, Lloyd Mabie, “Red” Reynolds, Maurice “Butch” Apfel, the Gundlach brothers, and Vic McCaffery, and Nile McCaffery, manager. This team, made up primarily of former Evansville High School baseball players, was also a traveling team and played other teams from Albany, Newark, Madison’s Capital City Colored Giants, and the Janesville First Ward Cubs.
Tragedy struck one of Evansville’s outstanding athletes. Thomas Cain, 25 years old, died from a ruptured appendix in June 1930. He had excelled in the sport of baseball, playing in high school, then with the Twilight League and the Southern Wisconsin League, from the time that it was first organized. His brothers, Kenneth and Clifton Cain had followed him into the baseball leagues. His parents, the Arthur Cain’s, and the entire community were heart-broken at his untimely death.
Arthur Lorentzen, another Evansville team member was invited to play for the Madison Checker Cabs and left the Evansville Southern Wisconsin League team. Evansville’s team, champions of the 1928 and 1929 seasons, began losing games in late June. The Review did not report the standings at the end of the 1930 season
The 1931 season opened with the Evansville High School team returning to the game with several veteran players. The team members were: Stan Sperry, Leo McCaffery, Lester McCaffery, Howard Thompson, Clifford Fellows, Kenneth Cain, Robert Cain, Thayer Lutz, Clifford Eastman, Leonard Nelson, Edwin Haakenson, Alfred Brooks, Dwain Knutson, Gilmond Spersrud, Raymond Miller, Dale Thompson, Ben Hubbard, Lowell Thompson, Mark Miller, Harold Jones, Frank Hungerford, Wilmer Janes, George Zapherio, Ronald Brown and Marion Jones.
The American Legion formed a new team, the Juniors. Roy Reckord, a former Twilight League player was the manager.
Reuben Helgesen served as president of the Evansville City traveling team in the Southern Wisconsin League. Charles Seguine served as treasurer and Nile McCaffery as manager. The officers asked for donations to pay for new uniforms for the team.
Evansville baseball fans were ready for another great season.
Evansville’s 1931 season of baseball began with a winning high school team. They opened with a victory over Sun Prairie. In their second game the young players defeated Lake Mills 21 to 1 in what the Evansville Review reporter called “a free-for-all hitting contest.”
Later in the season Lake Mills gave Evansville their only defeat. Milton, Orfordville, Brodhead, Whitewater College, and Elkhorn teams fell to the superior playing of the Evansville team. Robert Hubbard had replaced Lloyd Mabie on the mound.
At the end of the season, Coach Peter Finstad gave letters to Norman McCaffery, Leonard Nelson, Howard Thompson, Alfred Brooks, Stanley Sperry, Cliff Fellows, Ben Hubbard, Leo McCaffery, Lester McCaffery, Ken Cain and Robert Cain for their outstanding performance on the field.
The local American Legion decided to give the high school players a chance to prolong their season and sponsored the American Legion Junior Baseball team. In its first year, the members of the American Legion team were Leo McCaffery, Lester McCaffery, Kenneth Cain, Edwin Haakenson, Marvin Janes, Wilmer Janes, Clifford Fellows, Don Miller, Kenneth Holden, Robert Cain and Benjamin Hubbard.
Under Roy Reckord’s coaching, the team captured the district title, defeating Edgerton, Beloit, and Racine teams. They were scheduled to play in the state meet, but the sponsors had neglected to send the boys birth certificates to the tournament administrators, to prove that none were more than seventeen years old.
Roy Reckord quickly got the proper paperwork to the tournament organizers and Evansville’s team was allowed to play. Their opponents, a Milwaukee team had won the Wisconsin, Minnesota and Dakotas championships.
The game was played at the Evansville Fairgrounds on Sunday, September 6, 1931. The local team suffered their only defeat of the season at the hand of the Milwaukee team. Although Ben Hubbard pitched seven innings without a hit, the game was lost 10 to 2. The local fans considered Hubbard to be the star of the game, walking three players and striking out 14.
Evansville’s Southern Wisconsin League team did not fare as well as the younger teams in the 1931 season. Mayor Elsie Libby opened the first game at home by throwing the ball to Cal Broughton, famed ball player of the late 1800s. The home team was victorious over Clinton and the Review reported that there was a fair-sized crowd watching the game.
Among Evansville’s Southern Wisconsin League players in 1931 were many of the favorite high school players. Team members were Don Elert, Nile and Vic McCaffery, Lloyd Mabie, Frank Hungerford, Reuben Helgesen, Maurice Apfel, Clifton Cain, Morris and Leonard Lee, Sid Smith, John Golz, Paul Dooley, Patterson and Kenneth Gilbertson. Two players from Evansville’s team the previous year, Floyd Francis and Edwards, had defected to Albany. Many of Evansville’s games were lost by only one run.
Peter Finstad had built up a winning baseball program in Evansville and many young men hoped to be part of another victorious team. In early April 1932, 45 potential players showed up as spring practice began. The local team hoped to capture the Rock Valley League title one more time. After all, the Evansville High School team had only lost one game since 1929 and they had many returning letterman and veterans of previous seasons.
Coach Finstad cut the squad from 45 to 25 men and for the first game he placed Cliff Eastman at second base; Leo McCaffery, catcher; Marvin Janes, left field; Stanley Sperry, third base; Clifford Fellows, center field; Robert Smith, short stop; Ken Cain, first base; and Robert Cain, right field. Ben Hubbard was on the pitcher’s mound.
In the Rock River Valley League each high school team had to provide local umpires. Fred Sperry, Grant Johnson and Phil Pearsall agreed to alternate the umpiring of Evansville’s home games.
The high school team trounced Brodhead in the season’s opening game by a score of 18 to 1. The remaining league opponents were also beaten and once again Evansville took the Rock River Valley championship.
It was Stanley “Pop” Sperry’s final year with the high school team and within a month after graduation, Sperry had earned a tryout with the Milwaukee Brewers, an American Association team.
Sperry’s batting average had remained at .500 for the four years of high school and he had only one error in his high school career. He was ready to try out for the major leagues. Although he did not play for the Brewers, in 1933, Sperry was given a position at third base on the Eau Claire team of the Northern Baseball league. It was the beginning of his professional career and Evansville’s baseball fans could now brag that the city had produced two professional players.
The American Legion Junior Baseball team reorganized for 1932. Roy Reckord, the American Legion commander and team coach told the Evansville Review that the Legion hoped to buy new uniforms and improve the equipment for the young players.
After completing a successful year with the high school team, Ben Hubbard, returned as the Legion team’s pitcher. Kenneth Holden, Don Miller, Marvin Janes and Wilmer Janes also came back for a second year of play with the Legion team. Leroy Scoville, Robert Smith, George Howard, Jimmy Lovejoy and Kenneth Allen were new players on the team.
The American Legion team, in another undefeated League season, took the Eastern Wisconsin Regional title. They were defeated 5 to 0 by an Appleton team and placed second in the state championship tournament in August 1932, a proud showing for the local team. The Chicago Cubs invited the entire team to Chicago to watch the last game of the season against the New York Giants.
Adult baseball was hit hard by the Depression. The financial crisis caused many businesses to hold the line on spending and the Evansville manufactures and businessmen, who had willingly sponsored teams in the previous years were no longer willing to fund the games.
In 1932, the men who wanted to play local baseball were divided into four teams, The Reds, The Greens, The Blacks and The Blues. Each player was assessed 25 cents and the money was used to purchase balls and other equipment. The Twilight League asked baseball fans to make voluntary donations to help with expenses.
Arthur Dake served as president of the Twilight Baseball organization. Lloyd Apfel was captain of the Blacks. Richard Williams was captain of the Blues. The Greens were managed by Nile McCaffrey and Leroy Lewis was captain of the Reds.
The four teams played every Monday and Thursday evenings. The Greens, managed by Nile McCaffery, led the league at the end of the season.
The 1932 city team, the Southern Wisconsin League elected new officers in April 1932. Reuben Helgesen took over as president; Donald Wissbaum, secretary; Clifford Keylock, treasurer; and John Gundlach, manager. Evansville played teams from Orfordville, Albany, Janesville, Footville and Stoughton. The Stoughton Orioles replaced Clinton in the League.
Evansville did not have a winning season in the Southern Wisconsin League and they dropped out of the league in 1933. A traveling baseball team organized in April 1933, but they had decided to play independent ball. The Evansville Review sponsored the team, known as “The Reviews.”
Fourteen Evansville merchants contributed money to purchase new uniforms for the team. The merchants’ names were printed on the back of the shirts. The local team played against Stoughton Athletics, New Glarus, Brooklyn, Madison Frank Fruits, Orfordville Legion, Beloit Hansen Bungalows and Madison Schoeps.
Leonard Lee was elected manager; William Antes, president and Horace “Red” Reynolds, secretary and treasurer. Many of the favorites, including Ellis, Mabie, Nile and Victor McCaffery, Maurice and Leonard Lee, and Don Elert, returned to the team. New players included Joe Hartl, Robert Hubbard and Wilbur Knapp. Floyd Francis occasionally played for the team.
The Reviews played teams from Orfordville’s Legion team, The Newark Bears, Stoughton, and Verona, with mixed success, but they came back in the 1934 season to play again. Richard Williams managed the team. However, they lost their favorite pitcher, Pete Ellis to the Stoughton-Cooksville Orioles, members of the Southern Wisconsin League. Lloyd Mabie, who had been playing in the infield returned to the mound for the Reviews.
The high school team continued their proud record through the 1933 season,
ending as a championship team. In four years, the team had 32 wins
out of the 36 games.
The next spring, when the 1934 season began, Peter Finstad told the Review that his team was part “green and inexperienced material.” Graduating seniors had left the team with only a few lettermen and veteran players, Marvin Janes, Wilmer Janes, Roylton Blunt, Harold Robinson, Kenneth Allen, and Eddie Gilbertson. Other veteran players on the team were Howard Lawrence, Harold Keehn, Harold Rasmussen, Robert Wood, Alvin Bone, Robert Hungerford, Floyd Main, Kenneth Montgomery, and Earl Gransee.
Finstad considered 1934 to be a year of rebuilding and he had some players with great potential. The team had daily practices and Finstad told a reporter that he was looking for good hitters.
A new pitcher took the mound for Evansville High School in the 1934 season opener. Alvin Golz, “a freshman weighing only 120 pound but who has the makings of a fine pitcher,” pitched his first game against the Brooklyn High School.
Golz won a letter in his freshman year and proved to be a high school star throughout his four years of play and then, like many of Finstad’s players, went into the adult leagues after graduation.
Finstad was right when he warned the fans that his team would not be champions in 1934. They lost several games during the season and the title for the Rock River Valley League went to another team.
Enthusiasm for baseball ran high with the young men and several of the players from Finstad’s team joined the American Legion Junior Baseball team in its second year of play. Legion member Charles Gibson took over as coach and Dan S. Williams served as manager.
The team had plenty of reserves with 21 players on the roster: Roy Phelps, Robert Hungerford, James Lovejoy, Warren Howard, Earl Riley, Donald Montgomery, Alvin Golz, John Lange, Ted Thompson, Arthur Cowell, Clarke Beale, Clayton Sperry, Roland Lewis, Otis Thompson, Lewis Woodstock, Gordon and Roger Thompson, Harold and Howard Brunsell, Howard Woodworth, and Omar Haakenson.
In 1934, the Reviews continued their second year of play as an independent ball team and included current and former high school players trained under Peter Finstad. Ed Haakenson and Leslie “Snowball” Gilbertson were the star pitchers. George Howard, Mike Holden, Morris “Butch” Apfel, and Ken Allen were the infielders and Robert “Ossie” Hubbard, “Watt” Christianson and Larry Keehn were the outfielders. Bob Demrow, a Footville favorite also played for the Reviews, as third baseman.
The Reviews were scheduled to play several Pure Home Talent League teams. This was a new league and the area teams were part of the eastern section of the Pure Home Talent group. The Reviews played the Stoughton Athletics, whose roster included two former Evansville high school players, brothers Lester and Leo McCaffrey.
Another Pure Home Talent League team, the Brooklyn Cardinals, included former Evansville player, Floyd Francis. The Reviews had scheduled a game with the Brooklyn Team for the 4th of July Celebration.
The Review also played other independent teams and an All-Star team made up of Evansville High School alumni who were not playing for the Reviews.
With so many teams playing, the ball diamonds at Leota Park and the Fairgrounds were constantly in use. The fairgrounds site was a favored spot for the baseball teams, who also had to compete with the kittenball (softball) teams for the diamonds.
The fairgrounds diamond was in a sad state. Heavy rainfalls flooded the field, making it impossible to have games. In the summer of 1934, Robert Antes used local unemployed men working as FERA employees working under a Federal Civil Works administration program to build a new baseball diamond at the fairgrounds.
The new diamond was placed directly in front of the grandstand so that the spectators were closer to the players. The pitcher’s mound was elevated to allow the field to drain well during heavy rains and the outfield was planted with grass. The turf of the outfield was also part of a new football field built at the same time.
Baseball news appeared early in 1935 with two reports that former Evansville High School baseball players were receiving notice in professional ball circles. In the February 14, 1935 issues of the Evansville Review, Marvin Janes, a 1934 graduate of the local school received a scholarship to attend the All Star Baseball School operated by Ray Doan in Hot Springs, Arkansas. “Dizzy Dean” the famous St. Louis Cardinals pitcher was the coach for Janes’ team.
Janes had stared on the Evansville American Legion Junior Baseball team that made it into the state tournament in 1932. Janes was a letterman in three high school sports and had been captain of the football, basketball and baseball teams in his senior year of high school.
The summer after graduation from high school Janes had also tried out with the Crookston Pirates, a Minnesota team in the Northern League, but had been cut after a week. It was expected that he would receive an invitation to join a professional team once the All Star camp was completed.
Janes’ team won the baseball school tournament and Janes was the leading hitter on his team. He was offered another contract with the Crookston Pirates, and received several offers to join other class D teams.
Another former Evansville High School athlete was already a professional player and a headline in the February 21, 1935 issue of the Review told readers that Stanley Sperry was a “Big Leaguer Now.” Sperry had a contract with the Philadelphia Phillies.
Sperry had played with the Eau Claire Bears, a semi-pro Northern League team for two years and had led the team in batting. On March 5, 1935, he reported to the Phillies’ Spring training camp at Winter Haven, Florida.
In the training camp, Sperry made a great impression on the coaches and reporters, even though there was competition from many other young men who wanted into the major leagues. One reporter wrote, “Sperry, recruit second-sacker from Eau Claire of the Northern league stole the spotlight. He handled himself like a veteran around second base, made a hit and otherwise conducted himself as a fine young prospect.”
Stan Baumgartner of the Philadelphia Inquirer, said of Sperry, “Sperry’s fielding ability has been the highlight of the Phillies spring training although his power at the plate still remains in question. The team has a host of veterans in camp and it would be expecting too much to look for the youngster to break into the lineup this year.”
Baumgartner’s prediction was correct and before the regular season started the Phillies decided to put Sperry and five other rookies on their Class A farm team in the New York-Pennsylvania league, the Hazleton Mountaineers. In early May 1935, Sperry had an attack of tonsillitis and returned to Evansville for rest and a tonsil operation. Within a few weeks he was back in play as second baseman for the Mountaineers.
Baseball season opened in Evansville with the high school team starting practice with one of the largest groups that Peter Finstad had ever seen. Six lettermen returned to play including Harold Robinson, Alvin Golz, Don Montgomery, Clayton Sperry, Robert Hungerford and Roland Lewis.
However, Finstad told the lettermen that there were many fine recruits among the 55 enthusiastic students who showed up at the first practice. No one was assured a position until they had proved they could make the team.
There were at least five young men wanting the pitchers position and the same number after a position as catcher. The students were split into two teams and competing with each other in five-day-a-week practices.
The Rock Valley League had dropped interscholastic baseball from its schedule, so Finstad had arranged for the team to play independent games with Stoughton, Edgerton, Orfordville, Brooklyn, Brodhead, South Beloit, New Glarus and Middleton.
To generate some public enthusiasm for the high school games, Finstad placed two baseball bats in the window of the Straka Jewelry Shop. The bats were signed by Stan Sperry and Marvin Janes.
Before long, Evansville baseball fans began to add their own memorabilia to the display. Scrapbooks, photographs, and newspaper clippings of Evansville’s baseball victories going back to 1887 were put on display in the window. The Gillman brothers, Fred and Nay, put in a large scrapbook with day by day and year by year newspaper clippings of Wisconsin baseball history.
In an article about the display, the Review reported, “Sports memories…with different men and different victories to the days when Sperry and Janes are again making America conscious that out here in Old Wisconsin there is a little city so thoroughly baseball conscious that since the time Cal Broughton put her on the baseball map back in the early eighties, she has been producing players who get into the banner lines of the sport pages.”
The first game of the season was played against Brodhead and Rolly Lewis, 2nd base; Glenn Julseth, right field; and Bill Bewick, center field were the stars of Evansville’s winning team. Al Golz shared pitching honors with Clayton Sperry. Other players in the first game of the season were Don Montgomery, left field; Bill Mykytuik, catcher; Bud Phelps, center field; George McPherson, center field; Jay Feldt, 3rd base; Warren Howard, short stop; Harold Robinson, Robert Hungerford, 1st base and Harry Keehn, center field made up the group of players to challenge their opponents.
As in the opening game of the season, depth in all of the positions
was also a big bonus for Finstad’s team. Fielding was an especially
important part of the success of the team and during the season, Finstad
also used the following players in the outfield, John McKenna, Rolland
Worthing, Lee Ringhand, and Harold Brunsell. James Lovejoy could
fill in for Hungerford at first base. Harry Keehn played first base
as well as center field. Clark Beal filled in as catcher and Bernie
Golz, younger brother of the pitcher, Al Golz, played short stop.
The turnout for the high school team also showed great promise for the American Legion Junior Team that played in the summer. In April the American Legion sponsored a baseball movie at the Rex Theater. “Play Ball” was a history of baseball and a training film for young men wanting to play baseball. It showed the fundamentals of batting, pitching, catching and base running. The Legion hoped to inspire young athletes and encourage them to play the game that “sharpens wits and builds strong healthy bodies.”
The 1935 summer players on the Evansville Legion team were Bernie and Al Golz, Glenn Julseth, Clark Beal, Thompson, Robert Horne, Rolland Worthing, and Howard Brunsell, George McPhearson.
In 1935, The Evansville Review baseball team reorganized and signed on with the Southern Wisconsin League after a two year stint as an independent team. Twenty-two men showed up for practice in April and once again, the crew was made up of former Evansville High School athletes. In a practice game against their neighboring rivals, the Footville team, the Evansville Reviews won.
Milton Junction, Janesville Merchants, Beloit Goodalls DX’s, Afton, Clinton, Orfordville, and Albany were Evansville’s other rivals in the Southern Wisconsin League. Milton Junction withdrew form competition after six games.
Games were played on Sundays. The first league game was with Milton Junction at the Evansville Fairgrounds diamond. Gordon “Pete” Ellis and Norman McCaffrey served as pitchers; Cliff Cain, first base; Mike Holden, second base; Maurice Apfel, short stop; George Howard, third base; Lloyd Mabie, left field; Stanley Smith, center field; and Ken Allen, right field. Others listed on the team were Otis Odegaard, Gus Keehn, Leslie Gilbertson, Howard Thompson, Bob Demrow, John Gundlach, and recent high school graduate, Harold Robinson.
Evansville ended the 1935 season in the middle of the team standings with five wins and 5 losses. Beloit led the league, losing only one game during the 1935 season.
After the final game of league play, the Review reporter blamed the weather, that cause the cancellation of four out of seven scheduled games and the loss of Ken Allen, after he broke his ankle in a game against Orfordville. Lloyd Mabie and “Butch” Apfel had also not played as often as the team had hoped during the 1935 season.
Even the team’s star pitcher had not been at his best, according to the reporter: “Pete Ellis, star pitcher, at no time equaled his 1934 performance when he pitched stellar ball for the Cooksville Orioles and Brooklyn Cardinals.” Qualifying his statement somewhat, the reporter also blamed the rest of the team for lack of support, “His (Ellis’) play, however, was a great asset to the team this year and had he had more support from his fellow players it is believed that his work would have been more outstanding.”
The Reviews continued to play ball after the regular season ended. The team invited Stan Sperry to play with the team in an exhibition game against the Stoughton Athletics at a Fall Festival in September 1935.
Sperry signed a contract to return to the Philadelphia Phillies training camp on March 2, 1936. Sperry left Evansville for the training camp at Winter Haven, Florida.
Sperry played for the farm team at Hazelton for the first part of the
season, then in July he made the Phillies lineup. Stan Sperry played
his first game major league game on July 28, 1936. The game was against
the Chicago Cubs and the Review said that second baseman “Sperry justified
his club’s hopes in him by playing a stellar game including a sensational
Stanley Sperry - Evansville Professional Ball Player of the 1930s and 1940s
The Phillies won the game, scoring 5 runs against Chicago’s 3. Before the 1936 season ended, Sperry got an ankle injury and the Phillies sent him home to recover.
Evansville High School’s team organized again in the spring of 1936. Pitcher Al Golz was a returning player and his brother Bernie, took the short stop position. Bernie was described as being fast, a good hitter, and an excellent fielder. According to Finstad, Bernie Golz was likely to follow in the footsteps of Marvin Janes and Stanley Sperry.
The team ended the season by shutting out the Edgerton High School team 3 to 0 in a seven inning game. Finstad thought the local high school baseball prospects looked good for the next year even thought he was losing six lettermen. Rollie Lewis, Jim Lovejoy, Warren Howard, Clark Beal, Ray Wells and Gordon Thompson graduated in 1936.
The Evansville Review team did not form a team until late in the 1936 season and they did not participate in league play. Some of the old favorites were back, Al Rasmussen, Harold Robinson, Bert Hungerford, Mike Holden, Dick Williams, Ken Allen, Morris Lee, Stan Smith, Horace Reynolds and Curly Thompson. Former high school star Harry Keehn also joined with the team manager, Dick Williams.
In 1936, the favored summer ball game was kittenball. Several former baseball players turned to the fast pitch game so that they could get in as much ball playing as possible. Some of the men who played both baseball and kittenball were Floyd Francis, Harry Keehn, Otis Thompson, Clifford Fellows, Omar Haakenson, and Horace “Red” Reynolds. Teams in the local kittenball league were Butts Corners, Magnolia, Evansville Review, Union, County Line and Bernie’s Busters.
Baseball season opened in 1937 with Stanley Sperry in Oklahoma to play with the Oklahoma City Indians in the Texas league. His ankle injury continued to bother him and for a short while it appeared that Sperry would not be able to play during the season. He still had a slight limp but he was good at getting ground balls and managed to “gobble up hazardous hoppers, always in position to make the proper play,” according to the team manager Keesey, in an interview with the Review. He was also strong at the plate and managed to get doubles and triples when he was at bat. His batting average for the team was .355.
The Evansville High School baseball team had a new coach for the 1937. At the end of the 1936 season, Peter Finstad had resigned his position as business practices teacher and baseball coach at the high school and took a job as an education instructor in the Civil Conservation Corp at a camp in northern Wisconsin.
Finstad was credited with developing Marvin Janes and Stanley Sperry, both playing on professional teams. Finstad was credited with being more interested in young baseball players than any other one person in southern Wisconsin.
The team’s new coach was Harold Roethel, the mathematics teacher. The high school players were in a new league called the “Little Four.” The other members of the league were Stoughton, Brodhead and Orfordville. Although other sports, including basketball and football were in the Rock Valley League, baseball had not been included since 1935.
Evansville won its first game against Orfordville in the season opener by a score of 5 to 2. The team lineup included Myktiuk at short stop; Ted Thompson at 2nd base; Jack McKenna, catcher; Bernie Golz, center field; Don Montgomery 1st base; Al Golz, pitcher; Roger Thompson, left field; LaVerne Helgeson, 3rd base; Bob Brunsell, right field; alternates were Jim Bovre, 3rd base; Jerry Fellows, pitcher; and Ted Greenway, right field. Dick Williams and Gordon Thompson served as umpires for the game played on the Evansville fairgrounds diamond.
Stoughton beat the Evansville team 5 to 4. Then Evansville came back and trounced the Edgerton high school team 15 to 1. The season ended with Evansville in second place with a 3 and 3 standing in the four-team league. Evansville finished the season with two non-league games. The high school team played the faculty and won by a score of 8 to 5. The final game of the season was with Orfordville and Evansville won with a score of 9 to 3.
Star pitcher, Al Golz received the American Legion athletic medal for outstanding athletic achievement during graduation ceremonies at the Evansville High School in June 1937. Golz had played on the high school team for three years and was given the opportunity to attend a baseball school. The sports writer for The Flaming Arrow said: “He will be the third Evansville High school player to go on further in the great American game.”
BASEBALL OR KITTENBALL?
High School baseball kept the sport alive in the late 1930s, as Evansville sports fans and ball players turned their attention to the game of kittenball. A national tournament of the American Softball Association held during the Chicago World’s Fair in 1933 had brought this sport to the attention of players and fans and it replaced baseball as the amateur’s choice of summer sports in Evansville.
At the height of baseball’s popularity in the late 1920s and early 1930s, Evansville's summertime baseball fans had been able to watch four home teams usually sponsored by Baker Manufacturing, the Evansville Review, the D. E. Wood Butter Company, and Businessmen. There were two traveling teams, an American Legion team of young players and a Southern Wisconsin League team.
In the summer of 1937, kittenball was the sport with many Evansville teams. There was only one baseball team representing Evansville. A team of graduates and current high school stars, Roger Thompson, Al Golz, Wilbur Luchsinger, Bernie Golz, Paul Dooley, Roland Golz, Franklin, Art Phillips and Gordon Thompson, put together a schedule of games to play teams from other cities in the summer of 1937.
Local baseball fans were still fascinated with the career of Stanley Sperry and articles about the professional ball player appeared regularly in sports news. An ankle injury in 1936 had threatened his career. The Philadelphia Phillies traded Sperry to the Oklahoma City Indians and at the Sperry reported for spring training at the beginning of the 1937 baseball season.
He did not make the starting lineup for the spring season, and he returned
to Evansville and practiced with the high school team to try to overcome
his injury. When another player was hurt Sperry was called to play
for the Texas League team . Although he was still limping, Sperry
rushed to Houston, Texas to join his team mates.
Sperry injured ankle made some Oklahoma fans doubt his ability to play and during the season he was injured a second time, with a cut over his right ankle. However, Sperry managed to overcome the injuries and late in the summer, the manager of the team told a reporter that Sperry was roaming all over the field to capture ground balls and he was batting .349.
Oklahoma City Indians manager Jim Keesey praised the second baseman’s abilities on the field and at bat. “We would not be where we are today, were it not for the brilliant hitting and smart base-running of Stan Sperry,” Manager Keesey said. “Sperry has proved a lifesaver, plumed knight, and fair-haired boy.”
Sperry played 29 games with at least one hit, the third best record ever made in the Texas League. A Dallas baseball writer, Flint Dupre, said that Sperry was “one of the smartest deals” made by the Oklahoma team. “Sperry has developed into an outstanding new player in the league.” Dupre expected Sperry to move up in the baseball world.
The Oklahoma City team was in the running for the championship of the Texas League in 1937 and this brought Sperry’s abilities to the attention of scouts for the Philadelphia Athletics. In a telephone deal between the Oklahoma team president and Athletics president, Connie Mack, Sperry was sold to the Philadelphia Athletics in September 1937.
Connie Mack, owner and manager of the Athletics from 1901 – 1950, offered Sperry a contract. Sperry signed and in March 1938, joined the Athletics for spring training at Lake Charles, Louisiana. “Stanley Sperry may turn out to be the answer to Connie Mack’s prayer for a second baseman,” one sports writer commented.
The 1938 baseball season opened for Evansville High School players in April and there were only three teams in the league. Coach Roethel, in his second year with the team found the most of the players were underclassmen, with little experience.
The pre-season play included games with Oregon, Albany, Brooklyn, and the Evansville High School alumni. In regular season play, Brodhead and Edgerton formed the small league with Evansville.
The coaches of the three teams met in the early spring to establish rules of play. They decided that the seven inning games would begin at 4 p.m. and the home team would supply the umpire behind the plate and the opposing team would supply the base umpire. The game ball would be given to the winning pitcher.
Coach Harold Roethel told the Evansville Review reporter that he thought the chances of the Evansville team winning the league title looked good. There were to be two home games and two away games and Evansville would play each opponent twice during the season.
For the first league game, Jerry Fellows and Jack McKenna took the pitcher’s position for Evansville. Ted Greenway, Wilbur Luchsinger and Jim Bovre covered the bases with LaVerne Helgesen, at short stop. Kenneth Moe, Bernie Golz and Bob Graham were in the outfield. Other members of the team were George Fritscher, Frank Dangerfield, Robert Olson, Bob Brunsell, Jim Johnson, Bob Horne, Art Phillips, Jerry Lynch, Kenneth Wahl, and Roland Golz.
The team won the opening games against Brodhead and Edgerton. In the second round Evansville lost to both teams. They finished second in the four-team league.
On Memorial Day 1938, the Evansville High School team played the Alumni to close the season and defeated the former players 5 to 2. The baseball season in Evansville ended with the alumni game.
Former school pitchers Al Golz and Pete Ellis were members of
the alumni team, along with Curly Thompson, Rusty Robinson, Ken Montgomery,
Clayton Sperry, Bob Hungerford, Jim Lovejoy, Rollie Lewis, Ken Allen, Pete
Howard, Bill Bewick Don Miller, Wilmer Janes, Otis Odegaard, Don Montgomery
and Roger Thompson.
Al Golz, Pitcher
The Southern Wisconsin League's strong rivalry continued, with teams from Janesville, Beloit, Milton, Beloit, Edgerton, Madison, Afton, Sharon and Footville. Evansville was not represented in the League in 1938.
An old timer’s game was organized by “Roundy” Couglin, sports writer for the Wisconsin State Journal and Fred Gillman, a former Evansville great was asked to bring Evansville players to the game. Gillman placed a notice in the Evansville Review to notify former players to bring their shoes, baseball cap, glove and their original baseball suit, if it was available and would fit. The old timer’s game was to be played before the Madison Blues played a Sheboygan team. This organization continued to have an annual meeting for several years, to recall the “good old days” of baseball.
Once again the focus of summer baseball fans was on the major league player, Stan Sperry. In late April Fred Sperry and wife, William Sperry and wife, Mrs. Stanley Sperry and Stanley “Peck” Sperry traveled to Williamsport, Pennsylvania, to watch the Athletics play ball.
During the 1938 season with the Athletics, Sperry played in 60 games and was at bat 253 times. His batting average had dropped to .273.
Injuries early in the season forced Sperry out of the game until he was recalled in August, just in time for a series of games with the Chicago White Sox. The former high school coach, Peter Finstad and Stanley’s parents went to Chicago to see a game.
When another series of games with the Chicago White Sox was played in September, a large crowd of Evansville fans was on hand to watch one of the games. Local fans arranged a “Stan Sperry Day” during one of the series games and they began taking up a collection for a gift to be presented at home plate before the game began.
Grant Johnson’s drug store served as the collection point for a gift for the young player. Johnson also made arrangements for a Greyhound Bus to leave Evansville early in the morning and arrive in Chicago in time for the ball game. The Chicago and Northwestern Railway had also offered special fares to the sports fans and altered its schedule in order to pickup and drop off fans at the Evansville depot.
More than 100 fans traveled by car, bus and train to Comiskey Park to see Sperry play. Peter Finstad, who was credited with starting Sperry on his baseball career, presented him with a shotgun, purchased with the funds collected from Sperry’s fans.
During the winter, Sperry, his wife and young son lived with his parents. His father, Fred Sperry, said that baseball was the topic of conversation year-round at his Evansville barbershop. Stanley refereed basketball games and chopped wood to keep himself in shape during the off-season.
The Athletics called Sperry back for the spring training camp at Lake Charles, Louisiana in March 1939.
March was the month when baseball players and fans began planning for the next season. Stanley Sperry was Rock County’s only professional player in 1939 and when he entered spring training with Connie Mack’s Philadelphia Athletics.
Shortly after spring training began, Sperry was sold to the Atlanta Crackers, a member of the Southern Association, a Double-A League. The Crackers were sometimes called the Yankees of the minors because they had captured so many titles in their league. Sperry played for the summer season as 3rd baseman for the Crackers.
The high school team was taking form in early March, but cold weather delayed outdoor practices and the team prepared the best that they could in the high school gymnasium. Fifty hopefuls turned out for the team in 1939. Only six of those turning out for practice were six returning lettermen, Jim Bovre, Wilbur Luchsinger, Ken Moe, Jerry Fellows, Frank “Bud” Dangerfield and Robert Olsen.
The high school team continued to play independent ball and Coach Harold Roethel scheduled games with Monticello, Brodhead, Oregon, and Edgerton. Coach Roethel’s team lacked experience and fielding errors and injuries plagued the players during the season. They won only three out of the seven games played with their opponents.
In the first game against Monticello, three lettermen, Moe, Dangerfield, and Bovre had errors. The catcher, Earl Carlson, got hit in the head with a pitched ball and was forced to the bench in the third inning. He recovered to play in other games.
Coach Roethel tired a number of different players in the line up during the 1939 season. Besides the starting players, Rollin Golz, Bob Brunsell, B. Hurd, Jackson, Richard “Snuffy” Smith, Wally Olsen, Bob Graham, Haakenson, Don Wall, Schuster, Louis Jessessky, Porter, Arthur Kahl were listed on the rosters of some games.
At the end of the season, Carlson, Smith, Fellows, Olsen, Dangerfield, Kahl, Wall, Luchsinger, Bovre, Golz, Graham, and manager George Fritscher received letters for their participation on the baseball team.
Fred Gillman called for the old-time baseball players to attend the second annual meeting of the Old Timers’ Baseball Association in Madison. The organization wanted to sponsor and encourage amateur baseball players to help them to get tryouts with the major leagues.
One of the old timers who had been very encouraging to young players did not answer the call. Cal Broughton, Evansville first professional baseball player died in March 1939, just as the baseball season was about to begin.
After several years of playing independent ball, Evansville’s adult baseball players formed a new amateur team in 1939, this time the team joined the County Line League. The team was called the Evansville Blues, the first game was an exhibition game played against the Brooklyn Baseball team, members of the Southern Wisconsin Home Talent League. Leroy Lewis was the manager of the team and Richard Smith was the scorekeeper.
Many of Peter Finstad’s former students and baseball players were listed on the team roster. Pete Ellis was the pitcher and sometimes played first base. Harold Robinson played second base; Harry Keehn, center field; Ken Allen, short stop; Wilmer Janes, pitcher; Lloyd Woodstock, catcher; Perry Janes, third base; Elmer “Buck” Allen, right field; and Cy Janes, left field.
Other members of the County Line League were Orfordville, Footville, Hanover, Tiffany, Newark and Janesville. By the end of the season, Evansville and Orfordville were tied for the league title. Each team had 12 wins and 3 loses.
The final game was played on October 1, 1939 to break a tie for first place with the Orfordville team. The potential list of players for the championship game included several players that had not been listed on the original roster: LaVerne Elmer, Ward Popanz, Roland Lewis, Frank Woodstock, Roscoe Janes, Curt Carlson, and Francis Sullivan.
The championship game was close with Evansville and Orfordville tied in the fifth inning. Orfordville was able to rally and took home the league trophy by winning the game in the eighth inning with a score of 7 to 4. Evansville came in second in the County Line League but had made a good showing in their first season back in league play.
The American Legion had also revived the Junior Legion Baseball team and scheduled games with Milton Junction, Janesville.
Dan Williams, former commander of the Evansville Legion Post was the team manager. The high school players continued on into the summer with Marvin Luchsinger, L. Jessessky, Robert Olsen, E. Jessessky, B. Hurd, Jackson, Bob Graham, Rollin Golz, Jerry Fellows, Art Phillips, Richard Smith, Wally Olsen, and Jim Johnson playing for the Legion team.
Errors and bad hitting made for several losses for the Legion team. They did not fare as well as their older County Line league players.
Big leaguer Stan Sperry returned to Evansville in late September to spend the winter. Although his batting average for the 1939 season was .323 he had suffered several injuries including a broken finger, a lacerated ankle and a cracked cartilage in his left knee.
In December 1939, the Evansville Review announced that Stan Sperry was sold to the San Diego Padres. The club was a member of the Pacific Coast League and a Double-A team. Sperry reported for spring training at El Centro, California, in late February 1940.
BASEBALL IN THE 1940s
Coach Harold Roethel’s high school team in 1940 had more experienced players and better luck in the games that they played. Bob Olsen and Art Phillips pitched for the high school team. Frank Dangerfield, Jerry Fellows, B. Hurd and Phil Halbman were also listed as pitchers.
The team suffered more losses than wins during the season. They were twice defeated by Monticello and lost to Oregon and Edgerton. Some of the high school players also joined the American Legion Junior baseball team. The team was once again coached by Dan Williams.
An adult baseball organizational meeting was held at Bernie Christensen’s barbershop in early April 1940. Ball players indicated their willingness to participate in the Southern Wisconsin Home Talent League, if they could get local businessmen to sponsor them and pay the entrance fee. An incentive of season tickets was offered to those who contributed. B. B. Bowling alleys, Evansville Feed and Fuel, Bernie Christsensen’s barber shop, Arthur Rasmussen, and Heffel Chevrolet were some of the local businesses that supported the team.
Bernie Christensen volunteered to be the business manager and publicity chairman and Chick Bruni, the athletic director for the Brooklyn High School was named the manager of the team. Art Rasmussen, manager of the Union Implement Company submitted the registration fee collected from Evansville businessmen.
The team opened its season with a non-league game against the 3-F Laundrymen of Madison. The Home Talent League was the largest amateur baseball organization in the United States and in Wisconsin there were 41 teams playing in eight divisions.
The goal of the Home Talent League was to “perpetuate baseball and to create additional enthusiasm in the sport.” The organizers even dreamed that several of the baseball players in the League would attain positions in organized professional ball.
Evansville was in the eastern division with London, Cambridge, Stoughton, McFarland, Marshall, Cottage Grove, and Oregon. The games were played on the city park diamond west of the park store. Players and fan worked hard to get the diamond in good condition for games.
Those who turned out to practice with the Evansville team were Milo Merritt, Jerry Fellows, Wilmer Janes, Robert Hungerford, Jim Bovre, LaVerne Elmer, Cliff Smith, Ken Allen, Roland Lewis, Cy Janes, Lester Rasmussen, Jack McKenna, Lloyd Woodstock, Harold Robertson, Robert Graham, Richard Elmer and Chester Kivlin. Jim Johnson was listed as the official scorekeeper and Hans Nielson was the home team umpire.
The players prepared for the league play with three weeks of drills and then played a practice game against the Orfordville team, former opponents from the County Line League. Evansville won the game with a final score of 13 to 7. Evansville entered the Home Talent League with great confidence after winning their first game and defeating their rivals.
However, Evansville played London in the first game of the League and lost. London had a large following of fans and Evansville expected to have 700 spectators at the game at the Evansville park. Bleachers from the high school were brought and set up around the park baseball field to accommodate the spectators. The cost of admission was set at 10 and 15 cents.
London won the game with a 9 to 2 score. Cottage Grove and Evansville’s
team were more evenly matched and Evansville was able to win a game against
In late August a game was scheduled with the Footville, a member of the Southern Wisconsin Baseball League. The game was a pitching battle against two former High School baseball team mates, Alvin Golz was the Footville pitcher and Marvin Janes, the Evansville pitcher. Footville won the game 5 to 1.
Although Evansville did not have many wins in their first season back in the Home Talent league, they did have the support of the local businesses and fans. The team looked forward to a better season in 1940 and in 1941, Evansville’s Home Talent league was making front page news in the local paper.
Bernie Christensen called the first meeting of the Home Talent team players and sponsors in the first week of April 1941. He reported that there were going to be seven teams in Evansville’s section and he hoped to have a roster of about 20 players.
Walter Graham was elected president of the local club, Robert J. Antes, vice president; Harold Roethel, treasurer; Bernie Golz, team manager; Bernie Christensen, team captain, Hans Neilson, director and Jim Johnson scorekeeper. The season ticket price was set at one dollar and eight home games were scheduled.
The towns joining Evansville in the league in 1941 were Cottage Grove, Orfordville, McFarland, Blooming Grove, Janesville Merchants, and Albion. The high school baseball coach, Harold Roethel played on the team and Al Golz shared the pitching position with Roethel. Other members of the team were Evansville High School baseball greats: Jack McKenna, Rolland Lewis, Harold Robinson, Jerry Fellows, LaVerne Elmer. Tom Golz, Ken Allen, Marvin Janes, Roland Golz, J. Bovre, Jerry Johnson, Olson and Smith.
The team started by winning their first home game against the Oregon team. Then local pitcher, Al Golz pitched one of the most exciting games of the season against Blooming Grove.
Golz allowed only one hit during the game. The Review reporter said “Golz was well nigh invincible with his pitching and retired the first twenty men in order. He gave up his only hit in the seventh inning.”
By mid-July 1941, the Evansville Home Talent Baseball team had assumed the lead in league play. However, they finished the season in second place. With the Albion Tigers placing first.
The War Years
Before the 1942 baseball season began, the bombing of Pearl Harbor in December 1941 had brought the United States into World War II. Many of the men who had played for the Evansville Home Talent League team and on other Evansville baseball teams had been drafted or enlisted in the military.
Former Evansville baseball players serving in the military were Robert Hubbard and LeRoy Scoville. Both had enlisted in the National Guard’s 192nd Tank Division and had been taken prisoner during the battle for the Philippine Islands. Alvin Golz, the team’s star pitcher enlisted before the 1942 season began. Don Wall enlisted in the Army Air Forces in 1940. Clifton Cain, LaVerne Helgesen, and Horace “Red” Reynolds were also unable to play because they were in the armed forces.
Bernie Christensen attended the League’s organizational meeting for the 1942 season. He reported that other teams were in the same position and over the next three years, one by one the local team members entered the military, diminishing Evansville’s ability to put together a baseball team.
Christensen, the local Home Talent League business manager, reported to the Evansville Review that there were plenty of reserves to cover the positions on the team. Walter Graham, served as President of the Evansville Boosters, a group of businessmen who sponsored the team.
In late April the Evansville team, known as “The Blues” won their first game against the Madison Dodgers. Three pitchers, Roger McCaffrey, Bob Olsen and Marvin Janes, took the mound for Evansville during the game.
Other team members were Dick Elmer, Wallace Olsen, Roger Schwartz, Jim Bovre, Ernie Kowal, William Elmer, Bernie Golz, Wilmer Janes, Tom Golz, Pete Klitzman, Jerry Fellows, Thomas Smith, Jim Johnson, Harold Roethel, Harold Robinson and Don Graham. Janes served as the team manager but was replaced by Nile McCaffery early in the season.
Season tickets cost $1 for five home games and business manager, Bernie Christensen also made arrangements for a theater performance of “Bubbling Over” to bring in additional funds. The proceeds from the play were used to rebuild the park ball diamond.
For several weeks before the performance, Christensen advertised the play in the Review. A director from Chicago was hired for the play and local performers did the singing and acting for the musical comedy. “Choruses of Evansville’s most attractive girls in colorful costumes” were promised.
The season opened on May 3, 1942 and Evansville lost their first two games against Oregon and McFarland. They defeated Sun Prairie and then lost a game against Cottage Grove and were defeated a second time by McFarland, the League’s leaders in the previous season.
Three Evansville players were chosen for the League all-star team game. Bernie Golz was chosen for third base, Kenneth Allen, short stop, and Dick Elmer outfielder. Nile McCaffery was picked for the third base coach. The game was played at the Oregon park and a large group of Evansville baseball fans attended the game. Before the game Kenneth Allen was called to duty and entered the U. S. Army on July 5, 1942.
By late July, so many of the players had been called into the military that Bernie Christensen reported that there were many changes to the team roster. There was no bragging about a winning team when the season ended in 1942.
High School Athletic Director, George O’Neil was keeping the dream of baseball alive as he encouraged younger players during the summer of 1942. O’Neil was the city park activities director and he organized several teams of grade and high school players for games at the park.
The younger players were on three “minor league” teams and older boys played on the “major league” teams. The teams were named after nationally known teams, the White Sox, Cards, Dodgers, Cubs, Red Sox and Yanks.
Stan Sperry played for the San Diego Padres in the 1940 and 1941 seasons and was their regular 2nd baseman. His hitting abilities earned him a .326 batting average with the Padres and he was credited with being one of the outstanding place hitters in the Coast League.
In June 1942, Sperry quit the Padres. He had been having problems with “a bad charley horse and has decided to quite the Padres,” the San Diego Tribune-Sun reported in their June 23, 1942 sports news. The same report said that Sperry also wants to be nearer his family and has decided to quite baseball. Sperry had become a father for the third time.
By July 1942, Sperry was playing for the Louisville Colonels, Baseball Club in Louisville Kentucky, a member of the American Association of Baseball. He finished out his professional career with the Louisville team, retiring in the spring of 1943.
In 1943, the high school did not participate in inter-school baseball because of gas rationing during the war.
Many of the Home Talent League members were now serving in the War. Those who had reported for duty before the 1943 baseball season began were Jim Bovre, Jerry Fellows, George Golz, Jim Johnson, Robert Olsen, Wallace Olsen, and Roger Schwartz.
There were no traveling baseball teams in 1944. “The old “slugging” games which this city once had have been sent overseas to Hitler,” the Review reported in August 1944.
In May 1945, the high school baseball games resumed with Evansville playing in a Tri-city baseball league with Brodhead and Oregon. George O’Neil was the high school baseball coach. The home games were played on the park baseball diamond.
When the season ended, letters were given to Oliver Julseth, Don Olsen, Curtis Fellows, Jerry Johnson, Phil Collins, Albert Apfel, John Hatlen, Merritt Tuttle, Gene Hartl, Carrol Hartl, and Manager Borger Hanson. Most of the players intended to play on the American Legion Junior Baseball team in the summer. Apfel could not compete in the summer games because he was inducted into the Navy in May 1945.
Other team members were LaVern Seeman, Kenneth Devlin, John Toepfer, Kenneth Kueltz, Willis Martin, Rodney Douglas and Walter Clark.
The Legion sponsored team competed with other teams in The Southern Wisconsin Junior American Legion Baseball League. Teams from Beloit, Edgerton, Fort Atkinson, Janesville, Monroe and Evansville competed in the league.
School reports indicated that many of the high school students who were too young to enter the military had taken jobs in local factories, on farms and in businesses to replace the men in the service. Because the Evansville team was short of players under the age of 17, they were allowed to have players under the age of 18, but they waived all rights to compete in championship games, and county, district, regional and state play-offs.
Bernie Christensen served as the team’s business manager, assisted by Ace Allen. In late August, Christensen arranged for the Junior Legion team to play the Old Timers. The Old Timers were led by Willard Waeffler and he claimed to have 20 men in his line up who were ready to challenge the junior boys. Leo Brunsell, Butch Apfel, Les Patterson, Howard Beecher, J. C. McKenna, Tom Golz, Wilmer Janes, Elmer Allen, Jay Feldt, Harold “Rusty” Robinson and Bill Templeton were listed in the lineup.
“The enthusiasm is high and there surely will be a battle before the inning closes,” Christensen promised. However, rain prevented the game from taking place and Willard Waffler’s team was spared a defeat for another week.
When the game was finally held the following week, the Old Timers gave the youngsters a tough game. Ace Allen, Jerry Johnson, Mike Coyne, John Hatlen, C. Popanz, Curtis Fellows, P. Fox, Rollie Gundlach, Bill Meredith, and W. Olsen played for the Legion. The young men won by a close score of 6 to 5.
The Boys Come Home
Veterans returning from military service following World War II were happy to find the American Legion sponsoring a baseball team in the spring of 1946. Former baseball professional Stan Sperry had agreed to be the team manager.
Bernie Christensen, old time player and long-time financial backer of Evansville baseball, served as business manager for the team. He was also the American Legion athletic officer and Christensen arranged for new uniforms for the players.
More than 20 potential players turned out for the first practice in April 1946. Trying out for the catcher’s position were Francis Sullivan, Don Graham, Rusty Robinson and Tom Smith. Bob Olsen, Roger McCaffrey, Bub Janes and Alvin Golz tried out to be the team’s pitcher.
In the infield, the first baseman spot had three candidates, Babe Brunsell, Cliff Cain and Glen Julseth. Leroy Root and Ace Allen were the only two trying out for the second base position. Stan Sperry agreed to play second base, if no one else was available.
LaVerne Elmer and Marvin Luchsinger wanted the short stop position. John Hatlin and Dick Elmer tried out for third base. The outfielder hopefuls were Bernie Golz, who was assured of being placed in left field, Jerry Fellows, James Bovre, Arthur Phillips, Don Miller, Roger Schwartz and Earl Carlson. Erwin Wilde, Howard Seeman, and Glenn Elmer were added to the team’s lineup in late April.
As the new American Legion team was organized to play in the Home Talent Baseball League, a new baseball diamond was being prepared for their home games. In the spring of 1946, the City Park Board built a new athletic field at Leota Park. A contractor was hired to level the ground and prepare the field.
A new lighting system was installed by the Evansville Water and Light Department and was said to be “better than in any other city of this size in southern Wisconsin.” The Memorial Athletic Field had bleachers for 500 people and would also serve as a football field and kittenball diamond.
The City collected a portion of the gate fees to help pay for the new athletic field. Admission was 35 cents for a game. The new baseball diamond was not ready when the 1946 season began, so the fairgrounds diamond was restored for the home games. In the first half of the season, the team won more than half of the games played.
A Junior American Legion ball team was organized in May 1946. Both the Home Talent team and the Junior Legion team played games during the first post-war 4th of July celebration.
The new Memorial Athletic Field was dedicated in an afternoon program on July 4, 1946. The dedication included a fly-over by Navy Hellcat fighter planes and speeches by Richard Williams, chairman of the Junior Legion baseball team, Bernie Christensen, Park Board chairman, Robert J. Antes, and Mayor Ben T. Green.
High school athletic director, George O’Neill was in charge of the summer recreation program at the park and had enough baseball players to form four teams. The young men playing on these teams were the future of the high school and adult baseball teams for Evansville.
Although neither the adult nor the junior teams had winning seasons, they had played “good ball throughout the summer” according to the Evansville Review’s August 29, 1946 issue.
George O’Neill left his position as physical education director and athletic coach in November 1946. He had served in these positions for 17 years and resigned to take a job in Minneapolis. The school board hired Melvin C. Erickson to take O’Neill’s job.
Erickson was an avid baseball fan and had played professional ball with the Minneapolis Millers in the American Association. He had most recently played in the Industrial League in Madison.
In the spring of 1947, Erickson organized the Evansville High school team to play in competition with other high school teams. It was the first time in four years, Evansville’s high school players had competed in Rock Valley conference.
The players earning blue 7 inch letters for their baseball jackets were Gerald Easton, the captain of the team, Marion Benton, Kenneth Kuelz, Neal Moldenhauer, Roger Valentine, Andy Hollibush, LaVerne Gallman, Fred Elmer, Kenneth Devlin, Matt Meredith, LaVerne Seeman, Willis Martin, Jim Finnane, Marvin Hollibush and Roger Wood. Charles Fritcher earned a manager’s letter and Brownie Finnane, a junior manager’s letter. Many of the young men were underclassmen and formed a stronger team as they progressed through high school.
Mel Erickson also organized the American Legion Baseball Team, with assistance from Bernie Christensen. Once again the team joined the Home Talent League. This organization was the largest amateur league in the United States. Wisconsin’s Home Talent Leagues had 42 teams, divided into 4 sections.
The Wisconsin League was reported to have some of the best baseball talent in the Midwest. The local team played home games on the new Memorial Athletic Field. Practices started in late April
As the City and baseball organizers had hoped, the new Athletic Field drew bigger crowds to the games. Parking places near the field were at a premium and fans were warned not to park cars on the hill east of the park store. The park grounds crew had recently planted sod in the area and the cars would ruin the grass.
Teams from Albion, Pleasant Hill, McFarland, Monroe, Utica, Oregon, Deerfield, and Stoughton were Evansville’s opponents in the Home Talent League. Evansville’s team was hampered in the early part of the season, by not getting in enough practice games.
As serious play got underway, the League team was bolstered by several college students spending the summer at home. Tom Smith, arrived from the University of Wisconsin; Roger McCaffrey from Whitewater State Teachers’ College; Jim Johnson, Ace Allen, and Phil Collins from the La Crosse State Teachers’ College.
With a revitalized team, Evansville began to show improvement in hitting. Wally and Bob Olsen led the team in batting averages. Because of the number of players who tried out for the team, there was depth in almost every position. Ralph McKenna was a reserve pitcher. Jack McKenna and Albert Apfel traded time at the catcher’s position.
By mid-season, the Evansville team was in fourth place. According to Bernie Christensen, the local barbershop crowd favored the Evansville team to finish in first or second place.
Mel Erickson’s brothers and cousins played for the Madison Penn Electric team, a member of the Industrial League. Erickson scheduled a non-League game with the Madison team. The game was played at the local diamond midway through the regular season. Evansville lost the game featuring the Erickson family players. However, the local team finished in second place in regular season competition play, just as the local fans had predicted.
In addition to his work with the Home Talent team, Mel Erickson also ran the City park summer recreation program and worked with several baseball teams of younger players. He was no doubt looking for talented youngsters for the high school baseball program.
The 1947 baseball season in Evansville ended with the American Legion treating the young park recreation baseball players to a doubleheader ball game between the Chicago White Sox and the Boston Red Sox. The Legion rented William Bone’s Leota School bus to transport the boys to Chicago. The boys were chaperoned by Coach Erickson and Jim Johnson.
The players on the Junior American Legion team and on the park recreation teams developed skills that helped them earn positions on the Evansville High School team. Erickson was also able to retain several of the members of the 1947 high school team to play again in the 1948 season.
When the season ended in May 1948, Erickson awarded second baseball letters to some of the upper classmen. Blue letters were earned by Willis Martin, captain of the team, Ken Kuelz, Ken Devlin, Jim Finnane, Fred Elmer, Roger Valentine, Bob Apfel, Jack Deininger, Randy Feldt, Jim Kaltenborn, Ed McCaffrey, Dick Losey, Roger Sell, Bill McCarthy and Dean Mittness. Other 1948 high school players were Ronald Strassberg, Phil Pearsall, Jr., Byrl Rowley, Jerry Johnson, John Hazlett, Elwood “Bud” Heacox and Sid Jones.
The spring weather was still a month or so away when Mel Erickson, Bernie Christensen and Dick Williams went to Madison in March 1948 to line up the Evansville team’s games for the Home Talent League play in the summer. The Eastern section of the league the same nine teams that had played each other in 1947.
Christensen, Williams and team manager, Mel Erickson arranged for Evansville to battle their old opponent, Oregon for the 4th of July celebration.
However when the team members met for the first time in April 1948, they decided to play independent ball. The lineup included three Elmer brothers, Dick, La Verne and Robert; Ralph McKenna and his brother, John; Robert Olsen, Al Golz, Tom Smith, and John Hazlett.
At the organization meeting the team members voted to keep their franchise in the Home Talent League. This meant that the local team maintained the right to re-enter the league in 1949.
The first independent game was scheduled with Madison’s Gardener Bakery team. Mayor Winn tossed out the first ball of the season. During the 1948 season, the local team played against teams from Madison, Janesville, Beloit, Rockford and one of the Home Talent League teams, Pleasant Hill.
When Evansville’s team defeated the Pleasant Hill team at the end of the 1948 season, it was an incentive to rejoin the Home Talent League the following spring. In 1949, the Evansville team was once again on the Home Talent Baseball League’s schedule.
Robert Olsen and Al Golz shared the pitching. Golz played left field when he was not on the mound. The team lost the 1949 opening game with Stoughton, 15 to 7.
1949 - 1951
Until the winter weather disappeared, Coach Mel Erickson had the Evansville High School baseball team practice in the school gymnasium. The practice season started in late March 1949.
Some promising players had signed up for 1949 baseball with Coach Mel Erickson. A sophomore Randy Feldt was a young player that had professional potential.
Seniors returning to play were Jim Finnane, Byrl Rowley, Roger Valentine, Jerry Johnson, Roger Sarow, and Neil Moldenhauer. Others who signed on in the spring were Fred Elmer Ed McCaffrey, Charles Fritscher, Jack Deininger, Jim Kaltenborn, Robert Easton, LaVerne Gallman, Phil Pearsall, Bill Mc Carthy, John Hazlett, Donald Guse, Malcolm Hall, Steve Losey, Gordon Brunsell, Dan Finnane, and Jack Miller. Donald Gallman and Duane Tomlin served as team managers
In 1949, the team played in the Lakeland League’s southern division with opponents from Edgerton, Stoughton, and Milton Union. Each team in the section played two games with the other teams. The northern division of the Lakeland League included Fort Atkinson, Lake Mills, Watertown and Jefferson. At the end of the season, the winner in each division played for the Championship.
World War II had halted many of the high school sports activities and many schools that had dropped baseball from the school sports activities were just beginning to develop teams. Madison East was one of the schools that developed a team. Madison East’s team was in their second year of play and they were losing many of the games that they played.
Erickson had set up a pre-season game with Madison East to test the skills of his players. In the game against Madison East, LaVerne Gallman, “a lanky right-hander” pitched for Evansville. Gallman got good support from the outfielders and the Evansville team won by a score of 4 to 2.
However, Evansville was defeated in the first game of league play when Edgerton shut out the local team with a score of 4 to 0. Later in the season, in the second game against Edgerton, Evansville lost again and Edgerton took the Lakeland League southern division championship. Evansville took second place in the four-team league, with three wins and three losses.
To increase the team’s chances for winning in the next season, Coach Erickson encouraged his players to join in the summertime American Legion Junior League team. Erickson also coached the Legion team and the young players had a chance to play against teams from New Glarus, Monroe, Milton and Milton Junction, Monona Grove and Beloit.
The Evansville teams had tough opponents in the Legion games, winning three games and losing five. Their wins were over the Monroe, Milton Junction and New Glarus teams. “The local ball is playing good ball and deserves the backing of the home fans,” the Evansville Review reported in late July 1949. “The defeats were at the hands of Beloit, district champions.”
The 1949 adult league season found the Evansville Legion team once again in the Home Talent League. They opened their season with pitcher Bob Olsen on the mound.
Chuck Endres, a former Madison star was the team catcher. Davis was the short stop, Jim Johnson at 1st base; Roger McCaffrey at 2nd base; G. Elmer at 3rd base, Ace Allen in right field; Wally Olsen in center field and Al Golz in left field. Dean Mittness and Robert Elmer were also listed as players on the rosters of some 1949 season games.
Football and basketball dominated the sports scene at the Evansville high school during the fall and early winter months. As soon as basketball season ended in March, the 1950 baseball team took over the school gym.
Coach Mel Erickson told the Review that he had 31 players report for practice. Bill Green and Larry Main had agreed to be managers for the high school team.
Once again the team played in the Lakeland League, southern division. Evansville won their opening league game by beating Edgerton, the 1949 champs. Jack Deininger was the game hero, with a double that scored three players on bases.
Mel Erickson resigned as high school teacher and athletic coach at the end of the school year. Erickson had also served as the summer recreation director at the park, while pursuing his Master’s degree at the University of Wisconsin. Erickson was replaced by Robert Madding.
When Bernie Christensen went to the first meeting of the Southern Wisconsin Baseball club in late March 1950, he was elected president. However, the American Legion had decided not to sponsor the adult Home Talent team during the 1950 season.
When the team organized in April they announced that they hoped to cover
their expenses with season ticket sales prices at $2. Tickets were sold at the Sport Shop, Hamilton Hardware, Bernie’s Barber Shop and the Kaltenborn Studies.
The team expenses were expected to be $400 for the season. This included the $25 league fee, balls, bats, bases, caps, catcher’s equipment, umpires and lights for the night games.
As older League players bowed out of the game, the local high school favorites took positions on the adult team. Randy Feldt and Robert Olsen shared the pitcher position. Roger Valentine played short stop, Jim Kaltenborn, 2nd base; Fred Elmer 3rd base, Ed McCaffrey left field, Jim Finnane, 1st base, Jack Deininger catcher, Bob Apfel, right field, Phil Collins, center field.
Without an official sponsor, the 1950 traveling team was known simply as the City Baseball team. Evansville played against Orfordville, Janesville Optimists, Albany, Janesville Merchants and Brodhead teams in the Home Talent league.
The season was divided into two rounds, with the first round ending in late June. Between the rounds an all-star game was scheduled for June 29 in Evansville.
Weather interfered with several games during with season. Rain and wet ball diamonds forced the Evansville team to postpone three of ten scheduled home games. Some of the re-scheduled games were also postponed due to rain. According to the rules of the League, the make-up games had to be scheduled within two weeks of the original date.
The Evansville team ran into scheduling problems with the local softball teams for the local diamond. The City Baseball team had to transfer one of their games to Footville and due to some confusion, the Footville team did not show up for the game.
Raining weather in the second half of the season and more scheduling difficulties put the local team in debt. The team tried to revive their treasury but scheduling several non-league games.
Before the season ended eight games had been canceled due to rain. In late July the Review compared to local team to the Old Testament Jonah. The local team had just started to play against the Janesville Optimists when it rain so hard that the ball diamond was unfit for play. This was particularly distressing, according to the report, because when the game was called, the Evansville team was at bat and had scored 3 runs and still had a man on base. Evansville had every chance of winning the game.
A report late in the season told a sad story of financial problems for the team. The club treasury had $10.56 on hand and outstanding bills for baseballs of $72.00. They also owed money to Hamilton Hardware and the Sport Shop.
The 1950 season was not a good one for the Evansville City Team and they hoped for a better season the next year. However some of the young players had proven their skills and ended the season with excellent batting scores. Randy Feldt had been at bat 26 times and had 13 hits. Roger Valentine was at bat 13 times and hit 5 times. Robert Olsen, a seasoned player, was at bat 23 times with 11 hits.
Robert Madding replaced Mel Erickson as the physical education instructor at the high school and served as the high school baseball team coach for the 1951 season.
The high school team played their first game against Edgerton and won. This was a good beginning for the team. In the 1951 season, they team lost only one game and won eleven.
Players in the 1951 season included Pat Finnane, Jack Deininger, Gordon Guse, Tom Cromheecke, Randy Feldt, Bert Schenck, Bob Dixon, John Hazlett, Dave Losey, Bud Hatlevig, Ed Walker, Peck Sperry, Steve Losey, Malcolm Hull, Don Allen, Jack Miller, Norman Tomlin, Bill Heffel, Robbie Petterson, Don Guse, Phil Erpenbach, Dan Finnane, and Don Gallman, Phil Pearsall, Jr., David Lovett and James Butcher were the team managers.
The high school team took an early lead in the Lakeland League. “Blues Out In Front In H. S. Baseball,” the Review touted as the team moved into first place early in May. The high school team was described as sparkling when the district tournament was held in Evansville.
Evansville beat Brodhead and Albany in the district tournament and advanced to the sectional tournament. The 24 – 3 win against Brodhead and 13 to 1 win was credited to Randy Feldt’s outstanding pitching. In the Albany game, the Review said: “Feldt was the team’s big gun, hitting well, and getting 15 strike-outs in the game.”
In the sectional, Evansville beat teams from Mukwanago and Wilmot. The team lost their bid to get into the state tournament by losing the game against Shullsburg by a score of 3 - 0.
An American Legion Junior Baseball team was revived for the 1951 season. Robert Madding also coached this team. The team was limited to boys who had not reached their 17th birthday by January 1, 1951. Bernie Christensen continued to support this American Legion activity by serving as president of the League and athletic officer of the local American Legion.
In 1951, Edwin W. Walker became manager of the adult baseball team and local high school football coach Dave Demichei was elected secretary-treasurer of the organization. Eight teams had agreed to join the Southern Wisconsin Home Talent League, Footville, Brodhead, two Janesville teams, Albany, Utica and Evansville.
The local Lions Club agreed to pay the entry fee for the Home Talent League team. However, the team still had to cover the equipment and other expenses during the season.
It was a winning season for the team, with the high school baseball coach Bob Madding playing with high school greats, Randy Feldt and Jack Deininger. Coach Dave Demichei served as catcher for the team. Jim Finnane, Jim Kaltenborn, and Andy Hollibush were also listed as players for the Home Talent League team in 1951.
The City Team had a winning season, beating Beloit, Uttica, and New Glarus early in the season. Feldt continued to pitch winning games, striking out as many as 17 men in one game, sometimes with the bases loaded.
In February 1952, the Evansville Review announced that Randy Feldt had been signed by the Chicago White Sox to go to their spring training camp in Kentucky.
The Evansville High School baseball team of 1952 looked like one of the best teams in the league as the season began in April. They won their first game in non-conference play against the Oregon High School team with a score of 16 to 6.
Their opening conference game of the season was against Milton. The Evansville team won the game with Stanley “Peck” Sperry pitching against 24 batters in a no-hit game. The Milton team’s only score was due to a walk and errors that brought the runner home.
Coach Robert Madding and co-captains Pat Finnane and Malcolm Hull led the team into a series of winning games and had a near perfect season. After beating Milton, Evansville won their next conference game against Stoughton and then suffered a defeat, losing to the Edgerton baseball team.
Every member of Evansville’s team seemed to be in top form. Two reserve pitchers, Bob Dixon and Ronald Knudson, were available when Peck Sperry needed a break on the mound.
The 1952 team was loaded with senior players: Daniel Finnane, Donald Allen, Donald Guse, Bill Heffel, Malcolm Hull, and Jack Miller. Under classmen on the team were Norm Tomlin, Ronald Brigham, Bud Hatlevig and Jerry Apfel.
The team became the Southern Division champions for the second year in a row. In the WIAA district tournament the Evansville team played against Stoughton and won easily with a score of 9 for Evansville and 4 for Stoughton.
In the final game of the tournament, Evansville overwhelmed the Milton team with a score of 33 to 0. The Milton Coach called the game in the fourth inning. Evansville was to play Watertown, the Northern Division champions. However no report of the game appeared in the local paper and there was no further mention of the Evansville team advancing in tournament play.
No adult baseball games were reported in the summer of 1952. The younger players preparing for team play in high school and in adult leagues played organized ball games in the park recreation program.
The summer playground program at the city park was led by Vivian Sanderson, the first woman to hold the recreation director position. There was a full range of programs including swimming, tennis, and baseball.
The baseball teams were limited to boys 12 and older. Enough boys signed up to form three teams with David Losey, Bud Thompson and Ronnie Peckham serving as captains.
An all-star team included the three team captains and Jim Knapp, Ross Sperry, Dean Allen, Rich Hallmark, Dick Curless, David Lovett and Mickey Finnane. There were also plenty of substitutes when the regulars were on vacation or unavailable for a game. Dick Myers, Larry Amidon, Jack Fritscher, Dick Dille, Bob Rasmussen, Jerry Rowley, Leo Schumacher, and Harry Becher were ready to step in for the all-star team’s summer games.
High School Coach Bob Madding took a year’s leave of absence for the 1952-53 school year and went into the Navy, during the Korean Conflict. He was replaced by Don Grubb.
All of the underclassmen from the 1952 season returned to play in the spring of 1953. There were 40 potential players that Coach Grubb had to select from to form the new team. The first game was non-conference against Oregon. Grubb chose Peck Sperry to pitch, Pat Finnane at the catcher’s position, Bud Hatlevig at first base, Norm Tomlin at second, Norman Zee, short stop, Ron Brigham at third, Jerry Apfel in center field, Rollie Zilliox in left field and Dean Allen in right field. Team members that played in other games during the season were Doug Hull, Gene Martin, Gordon Guse and Mickey Finnane.
Once again Evansville took the lead in the Conference and for the third year took the championship in their division. However, they were defeated in the playoff game against Edgerton, who then won the right to play Fort Atkinson, the leader of the Northern Division of the league. Coach Grubb also arranged for a tournament during the 1953 season, with Evansville playing against Madison East, Edgerton and Beloit High School.
In July 1953, Robert Madding officially resigned as the Evansville High School coach to take a job in the Barrington, Illinois school system. Bernie Golz, a former star athlete with the Evansville High School baseball team, was awarded Madding’s position.
For the second year, there was no adult baseball team reported in 1953. The playground program for summer baseball for boys continued under the direction of Margaret Antes, recreational director for the season. From July to August the young players practiced and played against each other. An All-Star team played home and away games with teams from other communities.
Coach Golz reported 45 boys turned out for the beginning of the 1954 baseball season at the Evansville High School. He started the practice for pitchers and catchers in the high school gymnasium in March. Snow kept the players practicing indoors until early in April. By the time the team was allowed to practice outdoors, the number of players was down to 37.
There were only five lettermen returning to the 1954 team, Peck Sperry, Norm Tomlin, Doug Hull, Norm Zee and Ron Brigham. Eleven hopefuls tried out for the pitchers position and Golz had trimmed this number down to four by the time the team was able to get outdoors to practice hard throwing.
Golz worried that because of the bad weather his team would not be ready for the 1954 season. He scheduled the first game against faculty members and a non-league game with Orfordville. The baseball squad had been trimmed to less than 15 potential players and Golz built his team around the five returning lettermen. Sperry was to be the lead pitcher with Dave Losey and Larry Amidon as backups.
Finding a catcher to replace Pat Finnane, a 1953 graduate, proved to be difficult for the new coach. Ron Peckham and Norm Tomlin both tried for the spot, along with Amidon, who was also a potential pitcher. Golz finally decided on Peckham at the catcher’s position and put Tomlin at 3rd base.
Outfielder candidates were Bud Thompson, Ron Brigham and Rollie Zilliox. However, Golz did not know if Zilliox would be ready for opening season play. Zilliox had broken his hand in a football game in the fall and was still not completely healed when the baseball season began. Mickey Finnane took Zilliox’s place in the field for the first game of the regular season against Edgerton.
In the infield Doug Hull, George Franklin and Paul Strassburg were candidates for the short stop position. Norm Tomlin was at 3rd and sometimes in the catcher’s position, Amidon played third and sometimes pitched. Norm Zee was the regular second baseman and Dean Allen at first.
The Evansville High School Baseball team abandoned the Lakeland League, as had other teams and was playing in the Western Division of the Badger League against Edgerton, Stoughton, and Middleton.
When the team defeated Edgerton in the opening game of the 1954 conference play, Golz said, “I was very pleased with the team’s hustle and spirit.” However, Golz also noted that the players needed a lot of practice running, bunting and catching signals.
By May, the Evansville team was in first place in the Badger Conference and took the Western Division title, winning all five of their conference games. The Blue Devils met Jefferson, the Eastern Division champions for the League title.
Peck Sperry pitched a no-hit game against Jefferson and walked only two players during the game. It was a close game as Jefferson’s pitcher allowed Evansville only one run.
Evansville’s winning run was described in the Review’s May 27, 1954 issue. “The big run for the Blue Devils was registered by Larry Amidon in the fifth. He singled and got to second on a wild throw from center field. He made third on an infield out by Norm Zee and was driven home on a single by Norm Tomlin.”
This one run was enough for Evansville to take the Badger Conference title in 1954. Coach Golz praised the Evansville team, “The boys wanted the Badger conference title pretty bad, so they worked hard and they got it.” Golz awarded every team member a baseball letter and he announced that Peck Sperry and Norm Tomlin would be the honor co-captains of the 1954 Blue Devil baseball team.
Evansville’s participation in the Badger Conference was short-lived. Just as the 1954 spring sports season ended, the school superintendent, J. C. McKenna announced that Evansville was leaving the Badger Conference because the competition between the high schools was too uneven. Enrollment at some of the high schools was 400 to 500 pupils, while Evansville had less than 300.
Along with teams from Milton Union and Lake Mills, Evansville joined the Madison Suburban League beginning with the 1955-56 sports season. Evansville had often played Oregon, one of the other teams in the Suburban League, in non-conference games. “Having built up rivalries with Milton Union, Lake Mills and Oregon, Evansville high school will not be a total stranger in the Suburban League,” McKenna said.
In the summer of 1954, a former Evansville high school baseball star was making headlines in the military newspapers published in Japan. Randy Feldt was playing with the Tachikawa Red Devils, a United States Armed Forces team. Feldt’s batting average of .360 was the best on his team. He played in the outfield for the Red Devils and had 27 hits in 75 times at bat.
A new recreation director was hired for Evansville’s summer park program in 1954. Bob Kleinfeldt, a local high school teacher, had served as an assistant basketball coach at Evansville. He had also served in the army and had been the physical training director at Ft. Sill, Oklahoma. Baseball was one of the activities he planned to coach during the summer.
Boys in the eighth through the 11th grades were invited to participate. Local teams and a traveling team were organized. Some of the star athletes of the “sandlot” games reported in the Review that summer were Don Albright, Barry May, John “Jug” Thurman, Kenny Wood, C. J. Powles, Bob Swanson and Arlie George, all potential candidates for the high school baseball team. The boys played games against the local Wyler School team and Milton’s park recreation program team.
Baseball players of all ages had a chance to compete in the 1955 baseball season. From the playground crowd to the old-timers, the game of baseball was a top priority in the spring and summer.
The Badger Conference baseball champions of 1954 began play in April. It was Evansville’s first try in the re-organized Suburban League. The high school team began the season with a non-conference game against Brooklyn High School.
There were seven returning lettermen, Larry Amidon, Dick Meyers, Mickey Finnane, Ron Peckham, Rollie Zilliox, Doug Hull and Ron Brigham. Coach Bernie Golz told a reporter that he had plenty of reserves for every position, except the pitcher.
Larry Amidon was leading the hopefuls, but he became ineligible to play before the regular season began. The only other seasoned pitcher was Dick Meyers. Six younger players competed for Amidon’s position, Si Chapin, Dick Dille, Don Anderson, Jim Crans, Ron Templeton and David Franklin.
During early practices, Ron Peckham was Golz’s choice for catcher. Rollie Zilliox, who had shared the catching position on the 1954 team was chosen for a fielder’s position. Zilliox had been plagued with an inflamed appendix and it was doubtful if he would be ready to play when the season opened. Irvin Schwartz was the only other team member trying out for catcher.
The first baseman was Ron Brigham. Ross Sperry, son of famed baseball star Stanley “Pop” Sperry was competing with C. J. Powles and Norm Hull for a chance to play second base. Charlie Farrell also trying out for the spot.
George Franklin was Bernie Golz’s choice for third base with Doug Hull was scheduled to play shortstop. Gordon Hopper, a junior was also trying out for 3rd base. An outfield position went to veteran Mickey Finnane.
With Zilliox’s health a big question mark, Coach Golz also had Jerry Propst, Harry Becher, Jim Cook, Larry Decker, Roger Kloften, Bob Krajeck, Phil Fellows, Dave Rowley, Larry Golz, Jerry Turner and Arlyn George as possible players in the outfield.
Edgerton appeared to be the team to beat in the 1955 season. Before regular season play began, Edgerton had beaten Edgewood and Madison West. “Blue Devils Lose Heartbreaking Opener, 6-5, to Edgerton Baseball Squad Monday,” the Review noted as Evansville ended its first game. The Stoughton High School team also beat Evansville.
Hoping for a win in the third conference game, Golz took Ron Peckham from his usual position as catcher and put him on the pitcher’s mound. The regular pitcher, Dick Myers took the catcher’s position.
It proved to be a successful maneuver as Evansville won a game against the second place Middleton Cardinals. Throughout the rest of the season Golz used both Peckham and Meyers as pitchers, with Arlyn George as backup.
Dick Meyers was back on the mound in a second game against Edgerton, with Arlyn George also pitching a few innings. Edgerton won by a score of 13 to Evansville’s 3 runs.
Zilliox was back on the team for the second Middleton game. Ron Peckham continued to pitch with Meyers playing in the catcher’s position. The game was tied until the 9th inning when Meyers bunted and brought Zilliox home. The tie was broken and Evansville won by a score of 3-2.
Although Evansville had not had a very successful year, there were several under classman who would return to play in the 1956 season.
Across the Pacific Ocean, Randy Feldt, the former Evansville High School player, was in his second season with the United States Armed Services team, the Red Devils. Feldt had been a star on the high school teams of the late 1940s and early ‘50s.
At the end of his high school career, Feldt had been offered a scholarship to play for the University of Wisconsin, but turned down to scholarship to play pro ball. He played one year for the Chicago White Sox farm team, based in Madisonville, Kentucky and then went into the military.
From Japan, the Review picked up a report from the Red Devils coach and his praise of Feldt’s work with the military team. “He showed me much more polish than any other player I’ve seen in service ball and we’re lucky he’s hitting for us and not against us,” the coach said. Feldt was considered to be one of the top infielders on the team. His batting average with the “Red Devils” had improved to .450 in early season play.
For the first time in several years, Evansville had enough players and the financial backing to form a Home Talent League. In the spring of 1955, the team signed up to play in the Eastern Division of the Wisconsin League. Two local clubs gave the team funds, the American Legion and Lions Club. The team was known as the Legion team.
Fourteen games were scheduled for the regular season, but the team also played an exhibition game with a Beloit team for Evansville’s 4th of GI celebration. There were several non-league games. The Eastern Division opponents included Albion, Utica, Sun Prairie, Cottage Grove, Deerfield, McFarland and Pleasant Hill.
The preliminary roster was made up of many former Evansville High School players. Peck Sperry, Verne Gallman and Bert Schenck brought plenty of depth in the pitcher’s position. The team also had depth in some of the other positions, Fred Elmer, Jack Dieninger, and Bob Radcliff as catchers, “Bud” Hatlevig and Dean Allen on first base; Bob Madding and Al Patterson at second. Only one player was named for the following positions, Bob Elmer at shortstop; Norm Tomlin at third; and Dan Finnane at left field, Jerry Apfel at center field, and Don Biely in the outfield at right field. Don Ferries was also listed as an infield or outfield player.
It took a few games for the team to begin playing good baseball. They were beaten in their first league game by Albion. The Albion team scored 12 runs to Evansville’s 2. Then Cottage Grove beat Evansville 9-6 and Deerfield won the third league game with a score of 6 to 4.
Following the Deerfield game, Doug Hull and Larry Amidon joined the team with Bob Olsen as coach. Amidon began pitching in a game against Pleasant Hill and Evansville’s Home Talent team won the game. “Evansville played perfect ball Sunday afternoon,” the Review’s reported. The glory was short lived as in the next three games, McFarland, Cottage Grove and Albion beat the Evansville team.
Evansville was successful against the Sun Prairie and Utica teams. At the end of the season, Evansville’s standing was fourth place in the eight-team league with four wins and seven losses. However, because of the young players on the team, Evansville’s Home Talent team was described as “very promising” for future seasons.
To end the season the Home Talent Baseball team agreed to play the “Evansville Old-Timers” at the ball diamond in Leota Park. The game was a fund raiser for the new swimming pool the community hoped to build in Leota Park.
The Old Timers team was expected to attract former players from high school and summer Home Talent League teams of the 1930s. Former professional player, Stanley “Pop” Sperry was scheduled to play. This put him on the team playing opposite his son, Peck Sperry.
Jim Johnson, Bernie Golz and his brother, Al, were also signed up to play for the Old Timers. Mel Allen, the three Elmer Brothers, Dick, LaVerne and Bob, Marv Luchsinger, Francis Sullivan, Roger McCaffrey and Harold “Rusty” Robinson had also agreed to play. The game promised to be a good one, with the Home Talent league being the favored winners and the Old Timers’ sentimental favorites.
There were plenty of good jabs at the older players in the newspaper articles advertising the game. There were speculations that the old timers were making predictions of a win based on the players’ abilities of 10 or 15 years past. There was speculation that the Home Talent players team would hold the old timers to a scoreless game.
Several new rules were proposed in jest. It was suggested that Marv Luchsinger be allowed to run for Stan Sperry. All foul balls would be declared automatic outs because of the inability of the older men to reach them. Al Golz could use a 2 x 6 for batting.
The benefit game was rained out of the first date and again for the second scheduled game. This gave the Old Timers a chance for a few more practices. The game was finally played in mid-August and Stanley “Pop” Sperry proved to be one of the outstanding players. He got two hits, including a double from the starting pitcher, his son, Peck Sperry.
As the score for the Home Talent team increased, Bert Schenck, a right handed pitcher, took Peck Sperry’s place on the mound later in the game. Schenck pitched left-handed to the last two Old Time players.
The Home Talent team won the exhibition game with a score of 16 to 4. It was a successful fund raiser for the community swimming pool and a chance for local fans to see their favorite local players, young and old.
Throughout the summer of 1955, there was new talent preparing for high
school and Home Talent league play. About 100 boys took part in the
playground baseball games held at Leota Park during the summer of 1955.
The teams were divided into three age groups. The 1955 season
had been one for all ages.
When the 1956 Home Talent team began practicing in April, there was a reunion of the best that Evansville High School had to offer on the baseball field. There were more than enough players from the high school teams of the 1940s and 1950s who wanted to play on the Home Talent team. Sixteen former high school stars showed up for the first practice on the high school practice field.
Bob Olsen and John Loghry agreed to be co-managers and they started a ticket selling campaign and held a bake sale to raise funds for the league fees and other expenses. Although they were officially sponsored by the American Legion, they also got support from nearly 100 local merchants.
Police Chief George Walk and Howard Becher donated their time to umpire the home games for the Home Talent League.
The high school team had also started practicing and 19 potential players had shown up for the first practice. Coach Bernie Golz, assisted by Gene Schulz, trimmed the team to 14 players by the first game played with Cambridge.
Dick Meyers, Rollin Zilliox, Ross Sperry and George Franklin were the returning lettermen. Larry Amidon, Arlyn George, Bob Ovre, Don Anderson, C. J. Powles, Dave Rowley, Harry Becher, Jerry Propst, Richard Haakenson, and Norman Hull also made the cut when the team roster was finalized. Managers were Tom Wickersham and Terry Jones.
Wild pitching and errors were given as the reasons for the first defeat at the hands of the more skilled Cambridge team. Cold and rainy weather caused the postponement of practices and games in the early part of the season.
Though Evansville won against DeForest, they were defeated in conference play by Stoughton. Coach Golz said “Evansville’s performance at the plate leaves much to be desired.” He pushed his young players to better performances in the next game against Oregon and they won 18-1 with Larry Amidon pitching a three-hit game.
This put them in a three-way tie with Stoughton for first place in the western division of the conference. By the end of the season Golz was much happier with the team, as they took the championship. He secured funds from several local businesses and ordered medals for the 13 players and two managers of the team.
Golz encouraged the eligible players to join the team that was forming to play in the Stateline Junior Legion Baseball League. Forrest “Frosty” Parrish and Stan “Peck” Sperry had agreed to coach the team, with the assistance of Golz and Gene Schulz. Games were scheduled with teams from Orfordville, Edgerton, Brodhead, Janesville and Beloit.
The Home Talent League, Junior Legion and a Little League team gave Evansville baseball fans plenty of opportunities to see local games. The Little League team was a traveling team and won every game except a loss to a team from Sharon. There was also baseball for kids 8 to 11 in the park program. Some of the young players would benefit by this early training and later appear on the high school rosters. Listed on the Little League team were Jim Ganoung, Bill Bewick, Ken Nelson, Tom Cain, John Peterson, and Randy Decker.
The Home Talent League played the usual opponents in the summer of 1956, Utica, Cottage Grove, Deerfield, and Albion. Bob Elmer, Malcolm Hull, Norm Tomlin, Larry Amidon, Bob Olsen, Mickey Finnane, Pat Finnane, Roger Venden, Ron Brigham, Jerry Apfel, Bud Hatlevig, Jim Knapp, Bert Schenck and Peck Sperry were on the roster for the 1956 Home Talent League. The team ended in 4th place in the league.
By the spring of 1957, some of the playground baseball players of earlier summers were ready for high school baseball. Barry May, Chuck Peterson, Don Albright, Ken Wood, Randy Decker, Paul Brown and David Jusleth had played summer ball in the park recreation program. Now these former sandlot stars were considered potential baseball players for Coach Bernie Golz.
Pat Finnane had agreed to manage the Evansville Home Talent team for the 1957 season and Randy Feldt had returned from military service. Feldt, Bert Schenck and Larry Amidon took turns on the mound as the local players met teams from Belleville, Monroe, Stoughton, Albion, Deerfield, and Cottage Grove.
Howard Beecher volunteered to manage the Junior Legion baseball team. Twenty three players had signed on to participate on the team. Don May and Russell Peterson were assistant managers and coaches. George Walk, Gene Schultz, Harold Robinson and Frosty Parrish umpired for the home games. Baker Manufacturing had contributed enough to buy insurance for team. The City Council agreed to furnish lights and preparation of the field.
Although all three teams tried their best, none had a winning season in 1957. It was July before the Junior Legion baseball team got a win. They ended the season with 5 wins and 14 losses. Leading hitters were Chuck Peterson, Don Spooner and Harry Becher. Edward Wood had the highest batting average, but he was only at bat twice and had one hit for a .500 average, while the others were at bat between 45 and 60 times.
Feldt, in his return to local baseball, was praised for spearheading the Home Talent team with his excellent hitting. Amidon and Schenck also received praise for the pitching abilities. Norm Zee, the short stop, did well in defensive plays and at bat.
However, the Legion Home Talent team was plagued with injuries. Malcolm Hall was hit by a line drive while pitching batting practice late in May and was considered lost for the season. Peck Sperry had injured his knee. The team also lost Doug Hall who was serving in the Navy.
The next year proved to be brighter for the Evansville High School Team. Chuck Peterson and Barry May were the pitchers most often taking the mound in the 1958 season. Peterson pitched “masterful ball” in a 9-0 defeat of the DeForest High School team in an early season game.
Then Bernie Golz’ high school team moved up to second place in the conference with a 24-3 win over Oregon. Chuck Peterson, Dave Rowley and Bob Carlson rallied the team with their hits. A win against Sun Prairie brought the team into a first place tie in the Madison Suburban League. The Evansville team was defeated by Edgerton in the first game of the district tournament with score 3 for Evansville and 14 for Edgerton.
Though the high school tournament season had ended, the high school players were ready to take on the other teams in the State Line Junior Legion League. Barry May and Chuck Peterson continued their pitching and Paul Brown’s hitting abilities got special notice early in the season. Ken Wood and Randy Decker received praise from coach and manager, Howard Becher who said that he thought the boys showed “a lot of hustle.”
By the end of the 1958 season, the Evansville Junior Legion baseball team had won 16 games and lost six. This put them in 3rd place in the Western Section of the State Line League. Janesville and Beloit teams were in the number one and two spots.
The Home Talent team did not play in the 1958 or 1959 seasons. The younger ball players were getting a chance to shine.
The summer playground program at the park was headed by Harry Becher and he divided the baseball program into two sections with boys 10-13 in one section and boys 13-15 in another. He also arranged for the playground group to attend a Braves game in Milwaukee. The trip was sponsored by the Tri-County-YMCA.
Evansville High School coach Bernie Golz had left the school system. The 1959 team’s new coach was Phil Schroeder, a University of Wisconsin graduate hired to be the Physical Education and Social Studies teacher at the high school.
The team included David Jones, Bob Natz, Ed Wood, Don Filter, Scott Sperry, Randy Decker, Tom Cain, Paul Brown, Bob Carlson, John Weber, Steve Crull, Dan Weber, Steve Petersen, Barry May, Rod Carlson, Mel Schneeberger and Ken Wood.
Barry May and Dan Weber pitched winning games against Edgerton, Cambridge, and Edgerton, and Whitewater College High School. The team won the district baseball championship and was pitted against Orfordville for the WIAA sectional tournament. The game was held in Evansville.
At the top of the fifth inning, with Evansville leading 3-1, Orfordville’s coach filed a protest with the umpire that Evansville had 16 ball players in uniform. The WIAA ruling was that a team could have 14 players suited for the game, with a coach and a manager on the bench during tournament play. Although Evansville won the game against Orfordville 11 to 1, the WIAA ruled that Orfordville was correct in protesting on the technicality and Evansville had to forfeit the game.
No Junior Legion or Home Talent games were mentioned in the summer of 1959. Local baseball fans watched the younger boys play ball in the park program or waited for the spring of 1960 for baseball to resume on the local diamonds.
There were enough players to form varsity and junior varsity teams. Dan Weber and Eldon Peterson pitched for the varsity team, who had a winning season and entered the tournament season with a 4-0 record. Roger Bollerud, Randy Decker, Robert Lay, Jim Ganoung were listed in the reports of the winning season and heavy contributors to the success of the team.
The Evansville High School Team won the WIAA district tournament. Dan Weber pitched a no-hitter against Clinton in the first game of the tournament and a 6-hitter against unbeaten Orfordville. Evansville won the Orfordville game by a score of 8 to 2.
The tournament games were played so close together that Coach Schroeder needed to relieve Weber. The team’s number two pitcher, Eldon Peterson had to attend a funeral, so Schroeder called on freshman Robert Lay to pitch against Juda. Lay struck out 10 men during the game and Evansville won with a score of 14 to 4. Decker, Bollerud and Ganoung each got three hits, insuring the team’s victory.
As the team moved on, hoping for a state championship, they lost to
Wilmot. Pleased with his team’s good work, Coach Phil Schroeder told
the reporter for the Review, “The boys did a wonderful job this season
and had the will to win. I’m as proud of them as any coach could be and
I’m sure the town is, too.”