Peabody Singing Tower

 NORTH MANCHESTER HISTORICAL SOCIETY
 North Manchester, Indiana

Recipient of Indiana Historical Society's Awards--"2013 Outstanding Project Award" &
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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.

Play Ball

by L. Russell Long    Source: NMHS Newsletter Feb 1994

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, either.

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.