Serendipity: The Life of Kenesaw Mountain Landis

*Post written by Mona Meyer, Archives and Special Collections Metadata Librarian.

You just never know what you will find when you dive into one of our photographic collections!  The collection in question here contains the work of Helen Wallace. Helen Wallace was born on December 5, 1891 in Mt. Carmel, Indiana. She studied at the Chicago Art Institute and was a staff artist for the Chicago Herald Examiner during the 1920’s. She worked as a portrait painter, illustrator, and fashion sketcher. Wallace passed away on November 22, 1979.

Amongst the drawings of fashion and socialites, this sketch appeared. On the back it was innocuously labeled, “Former Judge Landis as he appeared the other day at a Salvation Army campaign luncheon at the Sherman Hotel listening to the reports of the campaign.”  It turns out there’s quite a story behind this dapper man enjoying his cigar.  First, there is his name—Kenesaw Mountain Landis. For reasons variously attributed to his parents’ inability to agree on a name, to his father’s insistence, he was named for the site of a Civil War battle in Georgia.  His father, Abraham H. Landis, was a surgeon with the 35th Ohio Volunteer Infantry Regiment and was wounded at the Battle of Kennesaw Mountain in 1864.  (Note that the name of the mountain was misspelled when given to the child.)

Sketch of Kenesaw Mountain Landis smoking a cigar by Helen Wallace, n.d. Source: Helen Wallace collection, MSS 056-012.

Sketch of Kenesaw Mountain Landis by Helen Wallace, n.d. Source: Helen Wallace collection, MSS 056-012.

That is quite a name to live up to!  Landis was up to the challenge. The family moved to Logansport, Indiana, and Landis later played first base for a semipro team in Goosetown, IN and became its manager at the age of 17.  He dropped out of high school and held a variety of jobs, among them a court reporter. It was here he began to shine—he caught the attention of influential men and first was an aide to Indiana’s Secretary of State.  At the age of 21, he was admitted to the Indiana bar.  At this time, there were no educational or examinational requirements to pass the Indiana bar—Landis had not even been to law school!  He eventually did enroll in and graduate from law school at what today is Northwestern University and opened up a practice in Chicago. Continuing his climb, he was secretary to Grover Cleveland’s Secretary of State by the age of 26, and in 1904, President Theodore Roosevelt appointed him to a newly created federal judgeship in Chicago.  He made a name for himself in United States v. Standard Oil of Indiana, taking on John D. Rockefeller himself and levying a fine of $29.2 million.  An appeals court later overturned the verdict.

Taking on John D. was no small task, but that is not really, why Judge Landis is remembered to this day.  Remember that 17-year-old first baseman?  Landis loved baseball, and he really loved Chicago’s teams.  “In 1915, Landis presided over an antitrust case involving Major League baseball, as it had been established for a little more than a decade, with its American and National leagues. The upstart Federal League charged that the Major Leagues were, in essence, a huge trust, and the structure should be dismantled. The Federal League, it claimed, should have equal access to every player now under contract, and should be allowed to offer players as much money as the market would bear, as in an open economy. Landis knew this was a time bomb of sorts, and could have far-reaching implications. Knowing the flimsy legal structure of organized baseball, he issued a stern warning to both parties, saying, “Both sides must understand that any blows at this thing called baseball would be regarded by this court as a blow to a national institution.” His decision was — to make no decision, until the Federal League gave up the pursuit. A sports writer opined, “Many [people] felt that Landis had saved baseball in 1915.”” (http://www.u-s-history.com/pages/h2074.html)  As if baseball’s reputation wasn’t tarnished enough after this, the Black Sox scandal soon hit the news–members of the Chicago White Sox were accused of throwing the 1919 World Series.

In an attempt to restore public faith in America’s game, Landis agreed to become baseball’s first commissioner in 1920.    National League President John Heydler said,  “We want a man as chairman who will rule with an iron hand.  Baseball has lacked a hand like that for years. It needs it now worse than ever. Therefore, it is our object to appoint a big man to lead the new commission.”  Heydler and his colleagues got this in spades in Judge Landis.  He decreed, “Regardless of the verdict of juries, no player that throws a ball game, no player that entertains proposals or promises to throw a game, no player that sits in a conference with a bunch of crooked players and gamblers where the ways and means of throwing games are discussed, and does not promptly tell his club about it, will ever again play professional baseball,” He banished the 8 players for life.  He took on those who gambled on baseball, blacklisting 7 players and suspending 38 others.  No one was too big for Landis to take on.  Babe Ruth attempted to cash in on his fame in 1921 by booking post-season exhibition games, but Landis said no go.  When Ruth defied him, Landis fined him all his World Series winnings and suspended him for the first 6 weeks of the next season.  The Babe was not happy, but he never crossed Landis again.  Over the next 24 years, the judge did much to improve the game of baseball and restore its reputation.  Players and fans loved him; those in authority, not surprisingly, did not.  Kenesaw Mountain Landis served as Major League Baseball’s first commissioner until his death in 1944.  Two weeks after his death he inducted into Cooperstown’s Hall of Fame.

All this from a simple pen drawing in a collection mostly associated with fashion!  You just never know…

Resources consulted:

National Baseball Hall of Fame website (https://baseballhall.org/hall-of-famers/landis-kenesaw

Major League Baseball history website (http://mlb.mlb.com/mlb/history/mlb_history_people.jsp?story=com_bio_1)

U.S. History website (http://www.u-s-history.com/pages/h2074.html)

Society for American Baseball Research website (https://sabr.org/latest/richards-legacy-judge-kenesaw-mountain-landis)

Watson, Bruce.  “The Judge Who Ruled Baseball.” Smithsonian. v.31, no. 7 (October 2000) p. 120+ (https://login.lib-proxy.usi.edu/login?url=https://search.proquest.com/docview/236865919?accountid=14752 )

 

Posted in art collections, Baseball, sports | Leave a comment

Gone, But Not Forgotten

Four Freedoms monument in Evansville, Indiana, 1978. Source: Gregory Smith collection, MSS 034-2350.

Four Freedoms monument in Evansville, Indiana, 1978. Source: Gregory Smith collection, MSS 034-2350.

*Post written by Mona Meyer, Archives and Special Collections Metadata Librarian.

If you have watched the 4th of July firework on Evansville’s riverfront or driven down Riverside Drive, you’ve probably seen this. It’s the Four Freedoms monument, celebrating freedom of speech, freedom of oppression, freedom of religion, and freedom from fear. These rights are guaranteed by the 1st amendment to the U.S. Constitution:

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for redress of grievances.”

Draft of President Franklin D. Roosevelt's speech on freedom, 1941. Source: https://fdrlibrary.org/documents/356632/390886/ffdrafts.pdf/48fdda5f-b33f-4097-b040-6248fe56d69b

Draft of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s speech on freedom, 1941. Source: fdrlibrary.org/

In his 1941 State of the Union address, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, attempting to rally support for the Allied forces in World War II (keep in mind this was before Pearl Harbor, so the United States was not yet part of the war effort), talked about these freedoms as rights that every human being ought to enjoy. “These freedoms, Roosevelt declared, must triumph everywhere in the world, and act as a basis of a new moral order. “Freedom,” Roosevelt declared, “means the supremacy of human rights everywhere.””

But back to Evansville’s Four Freedoms monument, built to celebrate the nation’s bicentennial in 1976–it also contains 13 steps which represent the 13 original colonies, and 50 pedestals with each state’s name and seal.  But those limestone columns are the interesting part.

Each is 26 ft. tall, topped with an Ionic-style capital. They pre-date this memorial by nearly 100 years.  Back in the age of train travel, Evansville had a number of different railroad depots.  The one for the C&EI Railroad (Chicago and Eastern Illinois) was built in 1882.  Standing at 28 SE 8th Street, the entrance to the depot was adorned by 4 columns, 26 feet tall, with Ionic capitals…that’s right—the columns for the Four Freedoms monument came from the C&EI Railroad station.  The depot itself was razed in the 1960’s, but the columns were saved and repurposed some years later on Evansville’s waterfront.

Central & Eastern Illinois (C.&E.I.) railroad station in Evansville, Indiana, 1965. Source: Sonny Brown collection, MSS 228-0645.

Central & Eastern Illinois (C.&E.I.) railroad station in Evansville, Indiana, 1965. Source: Sonny Brown collection, MSS 228-0645.

Before and after pictures–looking pretty good for 136 years old!

Four Freedoms momument, 2012. Source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Four_Freedoms_Monument,_Evansville,_Indiana.JPG

Four Freedoms momument, 2012. Source: Wikimedia.org

The first and third photographs in this blog are from collections owned by University Archives and Special Collections.  The first is from the Gregory Smith (1956-2012) collection.   Smith was a local boy who graduated from UE with a degree in journalism.  The third photograph is from the Sonny Brown (1932-2015) collection.  Brown was a photographer for the Evansville Courier newspaper.

Resources consulted:

Four Freedoms Monument

Franklin D. Roosevelt Four Freedoms Park

Rice Library Digital Collections, specifically:

Gregory Smith collection (MSS 034)

Sonny Brown collection (MSS 228)

United States Courts

Posted in Evansville, Indiana, Landmarks, Local history | Leave a comment

100th Anniversary of the End of World War I

*Post written by Mona Meyer, Archives and Special Collections Metadata Librarian.

November 11, 1918—specifically, on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month—World War I ended with the signing of an armistice in a railroad car outside Compiégne, France.  WWI was also called the Great War, and “the war to end all wars.”  That phrase was coined by author H.G. Wells, who hoped that the horrible destructiveness of the war would forever deter humankind from resorting to war to settle political disputes.

The shot that started the war was fired on June 14, 1914 in Sarajevo, and killed Archduke Franz Ferdinand, the heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, and his wife, Sophie. Eventually, the players in the conflict were Austria-Hungary and its allies, Germany, Bulgaria and the Ottoman Empire (the Central Powers), lined up against the Allied Powers of Great Britain, France, Russia, Italy, Romania, Japan and the United States.  The United States, very isolationist at that time, tried to remain neutral and did not enter the war until late in the game.  The 1915 sinking of the Lusitania and the subsequent loss of 128 Americans aboard that British ship distressed the United States but did not push it into war.  In March 1916 a German U-boat torpedoed the French passenger ship the Sussex, killing many, including Americans.  The U.S. threatened to cut off diplomatic relations with Germany.  Germany responding by claiming that she, too, cared as much about the “sacred principles of humanity” as the Americans did, and took every precaution to safeguard non-combatants.  Dutch editorial cartoonist Louis Raemaekers (1869-1956), who later toured the U.S. to sway popular opinion, made it abundantly clear in this cartoon just how credence he put in Germany’s protestations.

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The cartoon’s caption was, “Indeed, I am the most humane fellow in the world.”

Tensions escalated: “On January 31, 1917, in an effort to end the military stalemate in Europe, Germany declared that it would wage unrestricted warfare against all shipping vessels, neutral or belligerent, in the war zone. Although Wilson broke diplomatic relations with Germany, he refused to ask Congress for a declaration of war, arguing that Germany had still not committed any “actual overt acts” that warranted a military response.” (https://www.apstudynotes.org/us-history/topics/us-entry-into-wwi/)  Those overt acts soon occurred with the sinking of four unarmed American vessels; in April 2017 President Woodrow Wilson asked for and received a declaration of war from Congress, and the U.S. was now in World War I.

Entering into the war meant that the U.S. needed soldiers, and Evansville played its part.  Here, draft numbers are posted outside the Evansville Courier newspaper office at 125 Main St., and a crowd waits to see who was called up.

3. MSS 264-2981

Posting World War I draft numbers in Evansville, Indiana, 1918. Source: Tom Mueller collection, MSS 264.2981.

Silent film heartthrob Douglas Fairbanks came to Evansville to promote war bonds in April 1918.

Douglas Fairbanks promoting war bonds in Evansville, Indiana, 1918. Source: Tom Mueller collection, MSS 264-1166.

Douglas Fairbanks promoting war bonds in Evansville, Indiana, 1918. Source: Tom Mueller collection, MSS 264-1166.

More than 135,000 Indiana citizens served in World War I, and 3,000 of those paid with their lives.  A local boy by the name of James Bethel Gresham was one of the first three Americans killed in the war.  He was born in Kentucky in 1893 but moved to Indiana in 1901 and attended Centennial School.  He enlisted in 1914, and his unit, Company F, 16th Infantry, was among the first of the American Expeditionary Forces to set foot in France, where he was killed in a raid November 3, 1917.

James Bethel Gresham, an Evansville, Indiana native, was one of the first three American soldiers, 1920. Source: Book, Sons of Men, 1920.

James Bethel Gresham, an Evansville, Indiana native, was one of the first three American soldiers, 1920. Source: Sons of Men, 1920 (Book).

In memory and honor of his sacrifice, a local fund drive raised money to build a house for his mother at the corner of Wedeking and Herndon Avenues.  She lived there until her death in 1927; the house is now being restored as transitional housing for veterans.  This photograph came from Willard Library (https://www.willard.lib.in.us/online_resources/photography_gallery_detail.php?ID=15)

James Bethel Gresham memorial home, n.d. Source: Willard Library.

James Bethel Gresham memorial home, n.d. Source: Willard Library.

Another local boy who made the ultimate sacrifice was Everett Burdette.  Born in 1895 at Fort Branch, IN, he, too, was educated at Centennial School.  In May of 1918 he was sent to Calais, France, and on September 1 of that year was killed by a shell at the battle of Mt. Kemmel.

Everett Burdette, namesake of Evansville's Burdette Park, 1920. Source: Sons of Men, 1920 (Book).

Everett Burdette, namesake of Evansville’s Burdette Park, 1920. Source: Sons of Men, 1920 (Book).

Burdette Park at 5301 Nurrenbern Road, a very popular park and swimming pool in Evansville, is named in his honor.

Pool at Burdette Park in Evansville, Indiana, c. 1980. Source: Regional Photographs collections, RP 031-013.

Pool at Burdette Park in Evansville, Indiana, c. 1980. Source: Regional Photographs collections, RP 031-013.

The U.S. entry into World War I helped to turn the tide in the Allies’ favor.  While it would be unfair to the other Allied combatants to say that we “won” the war, the benefit of the infusion of fresh troops and equipment at a critical time cannot be discounted.

Liberation of Luxembourg by American troops, 1918. Source: Roy Kennedy collection, MSS 256-009.

Liberation of Luxembourg by American troops, 1918. Source: Roy Kennedy collection, MSS 256-009.

Luxembourg is a small landlocked country bordered by Belgium, France, and Germany.  Although a neutral country, it was invaded by Germany in 1914.  It was permitted to keep its own government and political system, but the German army was omnipresent.  As the war came to an end and Germany withdraw, it was agreed that the American forces under the command of General Pershing would be the ones to liberate Luxembourg.

The war won, now the U.S. faced the logistical nightmare of getting all its troops home.  The public wanted its boys home by Christmas, but this simply wasn’t possible.  The Navy commandeered cargo ships, passenger ships, battleships, cruisers, and even German ships to get the job done.  Doughboys received an enthusiastic welcome home with ticker-tape parades, marching bands, etc.  Here’s a postcard produced by the YMCA that echoes that sentiment.

YMCA postcard welcoming returning American soldiers home, 1918. Source: Roy Kennedy collection, MSS 256-077.

YMCA postcard welcoming returning American soldiers home, 1918. Source: Roy Kennedy collection, MSS 256-077.

For more information on this topic, take a look at some of the sources used in this blog posting.  In addition, Rice Library’s University Archives and Special Collections has a number of photographic collections that deal with American military history.  Of particular interest for this blog is the Roy Kennedy collection, MSS 256.  Kennedy not only fought in WWI himself and took photographs, he also had contact with German photographers (presumably after the war) and received many photographs of scenes behind German lines.

References Consulted

Aboukhadijeh, Feross. “U.S. Entry into WWI” StudyNotes.org. Study Notes, LLC., 17 Nov. 2012. Web. 25 Jun. 2018. https://www.apstudynotes.org/us-history/topics/us-entry-into-wwi/

The History Channel: This Day in History (https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/world-war-i-ends)

1914-1918-online. International Encyclopedia of the First World War  (https://encyclopedia.1914-1918-online.net/article/raemaekers_louis)

Raemaekers’ cartoon history of the war, compiled by J. Murray Allison.  New York, The Century Co., 1918-19.   Available in Rice Library Special Collections  D526.2 .R37  (v. 2 only)

Sons of men: Evansville’s war record / compiled by Heiman Blatt.  Evansville, Ind.: Abe P. Madison, c1920.  Available in Rice Library Special Collections/Regional Collection D570.85 .I7 E97

U.S. World War I Centennial Commission/Indiana WWI Centennial (https://www.worldwar1centennial.org/index.php/indiana-wwi-centennial-home.html)

“Why is WWI called the “war to end all wars”?” eNotes, 7 May 2013. https://www.enotes.com/homework-help/why-wwi-called-war-end-all-wars-433321. Accessed 25 June 2018.

World War I: United States–Bringing the Boys Home  (http://histclo.com/essay/war/ww1/cou/us/after/w1cusa-btbh.html)

“Why is WWI called the “war to end all wars”?” eNotes, 7 May 2013. https://www.enotes.com/homework-help/why-wwi-called-war-end-all-wars-433321. Accessed 25 June 2018.

World War I: United States–Bringing the Boys Home  (http://histclo.com/essay/war/ww1/cou/us/after/w1cusa-btbh.html)

Posted in European History, Evansville, Indiana, history, Local history, World War 1 | Leave a comment

North and South – Civil War Diaries

*Post written by Mona Meyer, Archives and Special Collections Metadata Librarian.

General William Tecumseh Sherman famously said, “War is hell.”  A common adage says, “War is long periods of boredom punctuated by moments of sheer terror.”  Taking a look at diaries kept by those fighting the war, both on the battlefield and at home, can serve to illustrate this.

Rice Library’s University Archives and Special Collections is fortunate to have a Civil War diary kept by James C. Greuzard, a member of the 38th Illinois Infantry.  (See this amUSIngArtifacts blog posting from October 8, 2013 for more information about this fascinating character.)  His diary has entries from Missouri, Arkansas, Mississippi, Tennessee, Kentucky, Georgia, and Alabama.  NOTE: the following entries have been lightly edited for spelling and clarity.  No content was altered. He gives these accounts for September 1863 at Chickamauga and Crawfish Spring (Crawfish Spring was the site of the federal hospital in Chickamauga).

“We now stopped at Crawfish Spring and got some water.  When on going further we heard the most terrible firing of muskets I ever heard.  We were soon on the double quick and in to it.  I cannot see how anyone escaped that murderous fire of lead.  After firing several volleys we retreated.”

He then talks about meeting Chaplain Wilkins of the 21st and helping to “put the wounded in ambulances.  Going on I had just picked up a blanket and piece of dog tent when there was a bullet whizzed past my head and I concluded to leave.  … I understand that the Rebels captured those ambulances.”

That surely was the “sheer terror” part, but there are plenty of entries that speak of boredom.

May 27, 1862, Corinth, MS:  “Day in camp all day.  It seems the nearer the boys get to battle the more they gamble….there is hardly a shade tree but what has a squad of the boys under it playing cards.”

January 18, 1863—Murfreesboro, TN: “Nothing going on in camp.  I started for Murfreesboro to see what I could see.  I went to the Pioneer Café and got a good dinner of fresh pork.  I then sauntered through the town….”

June 6, 1863—also Murfreesboro: “All quiet on the lines and in camp also after many days of rain.  We have a fine sunshiny day which makes the squirrels come out and affords fine sport to the boys catching them.”

Diary of James C. Grezuard while in Danville, Mississippi in June 1862. Source: Ken McCutchan collection, MSS 004-1.

Diary of James C. Grezuard, 1862. Source: Ken McCutchan collection, MSS 004-1.

For the view from the “other side of the aisle,” i.e., from a woman with Confederate sympathies, take a look at Mary Chesnut’s Diary, aka Diary from Dixie.  Mary Boykin Chesnut was born into a wealthy, influential planter family in South Carolina.  At the age of 17 she married James Chesnut Jr., and in 1858, he was elected a U.S. Senator from South Carolina.  After South Carolina seceded from the Union, he became a personal aide to Jefferson Davis and brigadier general in the Confederate Army. Her diary is one of the leading resources for this time period.  Although there is no doubt about her Southern sympathies and attitudes, she was not naive about what war would mean.

Mary Chesnut (1823-1886) is must known for her diary from the Confederate point-of-view, n.d. Source: https://www.battlefields.org/learn/biographies/mary-chesnut

Mary Chesnut (1823-1886) is must known for her diary from the Confederate point-of-view during the American Civil War, n.d. Source: https://www.battlefields.org/learn/biographies/mary-chesnut

Shortly after secession, in March 1861, she had this entry.

“We separated North from South because of incompatibility of temper.  We are divorced because we hated each other so.  If we could only separate, a ‘separation à l’agréable,’ as the French say it, and not have a horrid fight for divorce.” (p. 18)

As the war wore on, she commented on this “horrid fight” in her July 26, 1864 entry.

“When I remember all the true-hearted, the light-hearted, the gay and gallant boys who have come laughing, singing, and dancing in my way in the three years now past; how I looked into their brave young eyes and helped them as I could in every way and then saw them no more forever; how they lie stark and cold, dead upon the battle-field, or moldering away in hospitals or prisons, which is worse—I think if I consider the long array of those bright youths and loyal men who have gone to their death almost before my very eyes, my heart might break, too.  Is anything worth it—this fearful sacrifice, this awful penalty we pay for war?” (p. 276)

By the time the war neared its end, she was somewhat fatalistic in her outlook.  On September 2, 1864 she wrote,

“The battle has been raging at Atlanta, and our fate hanging in the balance.  Atlanta, indeed, is gone.  Well, that agony is over.  Like David, when the child was dead, I will get up from my knees, will wash my face and comb my hair.  No hope; we will try to have no fear.” (p. 284)

Upon receiving news of Lincoln’s assassination, she remarked in her April 22, 1865 entry,

“I know this foul murder will bring upon us worse miseries. …The death of Lincoln I call a warning to tyrants.  He will not be the last President put to death in the capital, though he is the first.”  (p. 331)

No matter how much research you read about the Civil War, little beats learning about it in the words of people who lived through it.  For more Civil War diaries in our collection, check our online catalog.  You might also enjoy Ken Burns’ The Civil War DVD, which uses diaries along with photographs, readings from documents, and historical materials to tell the story of the American Civil War.  It is available in the DVD area: E468.7 .C58 2009.

References Consulted

Chickamauga Campaign Heritage Trail. (http://chickamaugacampaign.org/pdfs/crawfishspring.htm)

Civil War diary of Louis G. Puster. MSS 178 (in University Archives and Special Collections, 3rd floor.

Mary Chesnut’s Diary / Mary Boykin Chesnut.  New York: Penguin Books, 2011.

General Collection  E487 .C52 2011. (This book is sometimes referred to as Diary from Dixie).

Posted in American history, Civil War, history | Leave a comment

Take Me Out to the Ball Game!

*Post written by Mona Meyer, Archives and Special Collections Metadata Librarian.

As the World Series gets near, I thought it might be interesting to look at Evansville and baseball.

First, look at this beauty—Bosse Field.   It opened June 17, 1915, making it the third oldest professional baseball park still in use in the country, behind only Fenway (1912) and Wrigley (1914).  It was named for the then mayor of Evansville, Benjamin Bosse.

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Baseball uniform of the Rockford Peaches, 2018. Source: Library of Congress Magazine (July/August 2018), p. 6.

Rockford Peaches baseball uniform, 2018. Source: Library of Congress Magazine (July/Aug. 2018), p. 6.

If you have not been there, but still think it looks a little familiar—A League of their Own, with Tom Hanks, Geena Davis, Rosie O’Donnell, and Madonna was filmed here.  It is the story of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League during WWII.  They were portraying the Rockford Peaches; this is an authentic uniform from that time, from the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, as shown in the Library of Congress Magazine July/August 2018, p. 17.  The Material Girl famously complained that being in Evansville was like being in Prague, but that is another story….  If you have not seen it, check it out from our library—it is in the DVD section with the call number PN1997 .L4342 2004.

Here’s a quick listing of the 12 teams that have called Bosse Field home:

Evansville have had ten different baseball teams at Bosse Field: the River Rats, Crimson Giants, Bees, and Triplets.

The two most recent teams to play at Bosse Field were the Triplets and the Otters.  “The American Association Evansville Triplets called Bosse Field home from 1970 to 1984. The Triplets were affiliates of the Minnesota Twins in 1970, the Milwaukee Brewers from 1971 to 1973, and the Detroit Tigers from 1974 to 1984. At least three future Hall of Famers played minor league baseball for Evansville at Bosse Field, including Chuck Klein (Evansville Hubs in 1927), Hank Greenburg (Evansville Hubs in 1931), and Warren Spahn (Evansville Braves in 1941).”

6. MSS 034-1710

Evansville Triplet baseball player, Mark “the Bird” Fidrych signing autographs at Bosse Field, 1977. Source: Gregory Smith collection, MSS 034-1710.

One of the better-known Triplets was Mark “The Bird” Fidrych, who played at Bosse Field in 1975 until he was called up to the Detroit Tigers.  His nickname came from his resemblance to the Sesame Street character, Big Bird.  “The curly haired right-hander was the American League Rookie of the Year in 1976, when he went 19-9 with a 2.34 ERA and 24 complete games. But injuries cut short his career, and he ended up spending only five seasons in the major leagues, all with the Detroit Tigers. He was 29-19 with a 3.10 ERA.”  Here he is signing an autograph for a young fan back in August 1977.

One of the funny/interesting/shocking? (You pick the adjective) things about Major League Baseball during the 1970’s-1990’s was the appearance of Morganna the Kissing Bandit.  She was an exotic dancer who was known to rush the field during (mostly baseball, but not exclusively) games and plant a kiss on a player.  Johnny Bench, George Brett (twice), Steve Garvey and Cal Ripken Jr. were all objects of her affection.  On June 14, 1978, she visited Bosse Field and surprised Triplets’ pitcher Fernando Arroyo.

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Evansville’s own Don Mattingly also got smooched.  Mattingly played high school baseball for Memorial High School at Bosse Field in the late 1970s before signing with the Yankees.  In point of fact, the official address of the field is 23 Don Mattingly Way.

Evansville Otters baseball logo, n.d.Since 1995, Bosse Field has been home to the Evansville Otters, an independent Frontier League team.  They were the first franchise team to attract more than 100,000 fans in a season.  The Frontier League’s 14th Annual All-Star Game was played at Bosse Field. The West Division, in which the Otters play, won that game.  That was in 2006, and the Otters won the League championship over the Chillicothe Paints; the Otters won again in 2016.

Interest in baseball in Evansville preceded the building of Bosse Field.  In the earliest part of the 20th century, Evansville teams were part of the Three-I League.  “The Illinois-Indiana-Iowa League was colloquially known as the “Three-I League”.  Formed as a Class D League in 1901, the Three-I became a Class B operation in 1902 and stayed at that level until its demise after the 1961 season.  Like most minor leagues of the era, the Three-I went dark for a several seasons during World War I (1918), the Great Depression (1933-1934 & 1936) and World War II (1943-1945).  In addition to Illinois, Indiana and Iowa, the Three-I League also included occasional entries from Kansas, Minnesota and Wisconsin.  After dropping to only six clubs in the league membership during the 1961 season, the Three-I League folded on January 7, 1962.”  On the 1901 scorecard below, the Evansville team was the River Rats.

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Song cover of "Take Me Out to the Ball Game", 1908. Source: Library of Congress (https://www.loc.gov/resource/ihas.200033481.0/?sp=1)

Song cover of “Take Me Out to the Ball Game”, 1908. Source: Library of Congress (https://www.loc.gov/resource/ihas.200033481.0/?sp=1)

The title of this blog is obviously a reference to the classic baseball song, famously sung during the 7th inning stretch.  It’s the third most song sung after “Happy Birthday” and “The Star Spangled Banner.” All that we generally hear is the chorus, but the verse tells of a girl who was baseball-mad. When her beau arrived Saturday to take her to the movies, she said no, but you can “take me out to the ball game….” This simple but memorable little song was written in 1908 by a man named Jack Norwich.  While riding on a subway in New York, he saw a billboard about an upcoming baseball game, took a scrap of paper, and penned the well-known lyrics. Ironically, Norwich had never been to a baseball game!  Although the song was an instant hit, it did not become a part of MLB games until 1934.  (Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress.)

There’s even a slight Evansville connection here. Norwich’s second wife was Louise Dresser, an actress from Evansville. Dresser was her stage name—she was not related to songwriter Paul Dresser or novelist Theodore Dreiser (Paul Dresser’s brother).  Her family was friends with Paul Dresser, and it was thought that having the same name would help her career. The ploy worked, and she went on to a successful show business career.

Here’s hoping the semester is going well for you, and that “your” team wins the World Series. Play ball!

Resources Consulted

Deadball Baseball: Baseball Outside The Time And Space Continuum (blog)

Fidrych, 54, dies in apparent accident  (AP article April 14, 2009 on ESPN website

Frontier League History

Fun While It Lasted: Lively Tales About Dead Teams blog.  Three-I League (1901-1961)

History of Bosse Field

Jewish Women’s Archive: Encyclopedia– Louise Dresser 1878-1965. Erticle by M. Alison Kibler.

JUGS Sports: The True Story Behind “Take Me Out to the Ballgame”

Library of Congress Magazine July/August 2018  (the entire issue is about baseball)

Reichard, Kevin.  “Bosse Field: A century of baseball history.” Baseball Digest online, June 17, 2015.

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