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WHEN BASEBALL WAS AN INFANT,
The News-Journal, June 4, 1936
Who among the old timers recall the day away
back yonder when the red uniformed Pierceton "Operas"
defeated a picked team of base ball players from Wabash
by a score of big figures to little ones? Jim Taylor and
Charles Felter, two of the almost pioneer base ballists
of this locality, were reminiscing yesterday, but could
not fix the date more than that it was before the Hayes
and Tilden campaign of 1876, probably about 1874. Felter
recalled that he lived in Liberty Mills
at that time, and walked here to see the game. He and
Taylor both occupied positions of honor on a rail fence
that surrounded the ball ground, which at that time was
about where the present Church of the Brethren stands on
North Walnut street. The rail fence surrounding the
field was opened to let in the spectators, while the top
rails furnished ideal bleachers for the fans.
Cal Quinn is credited with arranging the game, the
Wabash players being led to believe they could take the
game and the glory away from the Pierceton Operas, then
considered the leading base ball team of Indiana. But
expectations went wrong. Base ball rules were different
then. The pitcher really pitched the ball much as in
soft ball of today, while the batter could stand and
wait until a ball came along he felt like striking at.
Jim remembers that they used two catchers one behind the
first to chase the balls that got away, also that
catching a ball on the bounce put the batter out.
And then Jim and Charley's minds reverted to later days
in local base ball, when they had left off setting on
the rail fence, and had gotten into the game. This was a
game between another Pierceton club and the North
Manchester aggregation. The Pierceton team was six or
eight runs ahead. North Manchester had about five sure
batters, and the rest of the team was poor at bat. Joe
Cowgill was score keeper, and he kept calling the good
hitters to bat, leaving out the poor ones until the
balance stood about eight the other way.
by L. Russell Long
Source: NMHS Newsletter Feb
The mention of ball these days brings to mind basketball
immediately. But this is not the subject at hand.
Baseball was one of the activities that took advantage
of North Manchester's county fairgrounds. The diamond
was located in the center field of the race track for
many years. The team that played there was sponsored by
the local merchants and managed by "Blick the Barber" Blickenstaff. It was part of a traveling league made up
of teams from around this part of Indiana. The
fairground was eliminated in 1929 and that resulted in
the loss of the diamond.
The townspeople didn't waste much time, however. Very
shortly a new diamond was developed east of the then new
Thomas Marshall School. This diamond was used both for
baseball and softball. The high school, junior legion
and merchants teams all used it to play baseball at one
time or another over the years.
Softball was the big attraction though. An adult league
started immediately on completion of the new diamond.
These games were played five nights a week. George
"Shorty" Smith was responsible for the field for several
years. The first five teams consisted of Hill's
Cleaners, Oppenheim's, Heeter's Bakery, Kiwanis and The
Foundry. Quite a rivalry arose among these teams.
Soon there was an explosion of interest with the number
of teams eventually rising to sixteen, divided into two
leagues. League games were played four nights a week,
with Wednesday night set aside to bring out-of-town
teams in to play one of the league teams or a team of
all-stars selected from among the various rosters. This
popularity of the game was because the depression forced
most people to stay in town and it created quite a fan
following. Of course, television had not arrived,
The middle 1930's also saw the formation of the local
recreation program for kids. Hank Wade was hired to run
this program, based on the Thomas Marshall school
grounds. Activities of all kinds were available for
youngsters afternoons during summer months with adult
softball continuing at night. Hank was loved by the kids
and did a fantastic job looking after all the
activities. He later moved on to become an important cog
in the Boys Club of America, working in the southeastern
area of the U.S. Many of us remember Hank to this day.
The Thomas Marshall diamond was later named Mike's
Diamond in honor of Russell "Mike" Michaels. He played
major roles at that diamond. An active player for many
years, he started out on the Kiwanis team. He also
sponsored and played on his own team, and sponsored a
kid's team. In fact, many of the players on his kid's
team ended up playing on his adult team. The youngster's
team was the brain child of Hank Wade, but Mike
furnished shirts, hats, and equipment. This team played
afternoon games with teams from surrounding communities.
A number of families played significant roles in the
adult softball program. Eight Clark brothers formed a
team bearing their name one year with only two other
players added to complete their starting lineup. They
picked up a sponsor the second year and became the
Economy Drug Store team. Four Beery brothers played at
one time. The three Hoover brothers played on the West
Manchester team and then later on the Peabody team.
Other names with more than one family member playing
included Basicker, Olinger, Windmiller, Faudree and
Piper to name a few.
Eventually the adult program waned and was taken over by
Little League and Pony League baseball. The Chester
diamond came into being, expanding the facilities. In
more recent years, the Chester diamond was also the home
field for a traveling fast pitch team, which has been
discontinued. The softball described earlier in this
article was also fast pitch. Most softball played today
is slow pitch.
Time passed and schools changed, forcing baseball and
softball to look for homes elsewhere. This brought a new
complex into being north of the high school. It has been
named the Glen Ruppel Recreation Center, with the first
games played there in the summer of 1992.
May the fun of playing ball never disappear from the
North Manchester scene. Currently, Little League and
Pony League baseball for boys continues to thrive along
with two girls' softball leagues. Adults still enjoy a
church sponsored slow pitch league.