Miscellaneous Rumbles

Take Me Out to the Ballgame - or - There’s No Crying In Baseball

1

...being my annual baseball post,

apropos of nothing in specific, but its being the season of the boys of summer and the occasion of that annual celebration of all things America which is the 4th of July.

Never mind that it was in the 90s in southern Indiana yesterday, with nary a stirring breeze and the heat indexing at over 100 perfectly humid degrees, it was also the occasion of the Dubois County Bombers' annual July 4 home game and fireworks extravaganza. The Bombers play in League Stadium, but 7 country cornfield miles down the road from home, and it's my occasional summer tradition to catch at least one game a year (and more if I'm in the mood).

We have all four grandchildren here at the moment - two of whom are now San Leandrans and thus fans and occasional attendees of Oakland A's games. It made perfect sense to catch last night's game.

The Bombers play in the Ohio Valley Collegiate League, a group of seven summer teams out of Kentucky, plus the Huntingburg, Indiana-based Bombers. It's pretty relaxed baseball which proceeds at a stately pace, a step below the minors I suppose. But it perfectly suits an Indiana evening.

Yes, you may have heard of League Stadium. Huntingburg is a typical southern Indiana small town, population ~6,000, whose first baseball stadium was built in 1894 as home to the Rustics. The Greys, the Browns, the Babies, the Athletics, and the Merchants played there in turn through the decades. The original stadium was destroyed by wind in 1921 (see southern Indiana weather), rebuilt in time for that year's July 4 event.

During the barnstorming days of the early 60s, Satchel Paige and other greats played exhibition games in the park. But use of the stadium declined and by the mid-80s it had deteriorated to the point demolition was considered. Instead, the center third of the old wooden structure was shored up sufficiently to host local high school baseball and community softball.

None of this would mean anything beyond a small footnote to yet another small American town's participation in the national pastime - if Columbia Pictures hadn't scouted the historic structure for Penny Marshall's movie A League of Their Own.

They would need to expand the stadium and make adjustments to its positioning on its park property to suit the movie's needs. In one of the best deals a small-town mayor ever made, Connie Nass agreed to the changes on condition that their work be permanent, and the stadium remain as a fully operational period baseball park when the cameras left town. Columbia agreed.

In a little over two months in the summer of 1991, a crew of 40 used over 35 linear miles of treated lumber to build the current triple-wing covered grandstand - including raising the original section by 6 feet and moving it back 10 feet from home base. It cost Columbia 880,000.00 and is reported to be the most expensive prop ever left standing from a movie.

In three weeks, wrapping up on Labor Day with a crowd scene employing 3,000 area extras in period dress, Marshall and her cast (Tom Hanks, Madonna, Geena Davis, Rosie O'Donnell, et al) lived and worked in southern Indiana, filming both at the new stadium (real home of the fictional Rockford Peaches) and at the equally historic Bosse Field in Evansville, 60 miles away.

It's funny how appearing in a movie can validate and elevate a location, seemingly lending it more than everyday significance. Exteriors and interiors of my old Ohio elementary and high school were used in the 1985 movie Mischief, including shots set in the 50s which always carry me back almost bodily to my earliest memories of the place. Much closer to my current home, the school gymnasium two blocks up the street was used as the home court in the Indiana basketball classic Hoosiers.

So I tell myself League Stadium can't be as magical a place as it always seems when I go there - that afterimages from seeing the movie simply overlay the reality of the place, giving it at least an archetypal dimension if not a mythical one.

.

But it really does seem to be that quintessential mid-20th-Century local baseball park, a place where it's always 1943. And if it wasn't that way, it should have been.

There's nothing quite like taking in a game there. There's never a line, and never much of a crowd. The place may seat 3,000, but it's generally more like 500 of your friends and neighbors. Peanuts, popcorn, Cracker Jacks, pretzels, hot dogs, snow cones, beer if you want it. There's no play-by-play beyond lineup and at-bat announcements, but there are (recorded) organ fanfares, traditional singalong/clapalong bits, between-innings routines, hijinks, and silly contests.

The Bombers wear old-fashioned knickered uniforms (with stirrups), and local high school girls in Rockford Peaches uniforms act as hostesses: take tickets, hand out programs, paint children's faces and help with contests, and lead choreographed routines to "Cotton-Eyed Joe" and "YMCA." While a (reasonably) modern electronic scoreboard keeps up with the numbers, two old-timers sit in lawn chairs under the old wooden Peaches scoreboard from the movie, hanging up numbers manually. Outfield advertising signs maintain their vintage 40s look.

No matter what's happening on the diamond, it's a timeless way to pass a summer evening from just before dusk till the sun has settled and the green of the field glows under the lights. When it's over, you drive home to fireflies.

It's like nostalgia - only it's not, because it's just as real as it can be.

After the movie crews left in 1991, it took till 1996 for Huntingburg to get its own minor league team, the Dragons - who played, among other storied teams, the Toledo Mudhens. The Dragon era lasted through 2002 - what happened I don't know. But the Bomber story started in 2005, when they were part of the Central Illinois Collegiate League - till it joined the Prospect League in 2009. From 2013, the Bombers have played in the Ohio Valley League, leading it for the last several.

Between the Dragons and the Bombers, Huntingburg baseball has sent four players to the majors - including the Athletics' Sean Manaea. Southern Indiana's major league heritage goes back to the 19-teens with Bob Coleman, who played for the Pirates and Indians before going on to manage the Tigers - then minor league teams for 20 years before being picked up to manage the Braves from 1943-45, appropriately during the era of League of Their Own.

There's also Buddy Blemker, who made his debut with the KC A's in 1960 at age 22, pitching 1.2 innings in the major league. And Mitch Stetter, who struck out a record 15 consecutive batters in 2009 and currently coaches for the Royals. We've sent one player - Alex Graham - to the Yankees (then Yankees and Reds minor league teams), then onto the Seibu Lions in Japan.

[Edit for historical fitness per later post by Strummerson] It probably has to be acknowledged that Evansville's Don Mattingly's long and illustrious career makes him king of southern Indiana baseball. But surely we can claim princehood for Jasper's own Scott Rolen, who enjoyed an impressive 16 year career with the Phillies, Cardinals, Blue Jay, and Reds. (My cardiologist's office is on Scott Rolen Blvd.)

The Bombers were in great form last night, dominating the Owensboro River Dawgs (from just across the river in Kentucky) from the first inning. By the 8th, we were up 9-2 - then incredible back-to-back homers brought the crowd to its feet and four runners home. I felt bad for the River Dawgs, whose pitching just wasn't getting it done. That last half an inning had to be sheer misery for a sweating and exhausted team who surely just wanted to get it over with. At least they weren't shut out.

After the game, the Bombers opened the infield gates and let kids out on the field, then killed the lights for 20 minutes of fireworks ending with a suitably chaotic and booming grand finale.

At least for last night - as the man said, standing in front of the 3rd-base side dugout -

2

I am waiting right now to go to a AAA level game between the local Reno Aces (Diamondbacks affiliate) and the Sacramento Rivercats (Giants affiliate). Nothing like a ballgame on a summer's eve. The sights and sounds are so relaxing.

3

Got good seats for our AA team’s game next Saturday. I’m looking forward to it - archrival Tulsa in town, local beer on tap and fireworks after the game. That said, I’d love to spend some time in a venue like League Stadium - most of those places are memories now.

4

Nice write-up, Tim. Makes me wish I had been there.

5

What a way to spend an evening, eh Tim?

7

It's pretty good. It was 20° too hot, but otherwise perfect.

8

Under the lights and twilight desert sky.

9

That's the way to see a baseball game. That's how it was before it got expensive. This brought back memories of being a kid.

10

Tim, respectfully, with reference to your statement:

"....and the heat indexing at over 100 perfectly humid degrees."

Okay...…..time for a correction for all America, as a gift from Canada. There is no such condition that can exist to which the expression "heat index" used all across the US can be used. The correct expression for the weather condition whereby a high humidity makes it feel like the temperature is higher than it actually is, is appropriately termed the Humidex. This is a contraction of humidity and index because that's precisely what it is. It's the summer equivalent of Wind Chill. Wind Chill is correct and is used in both countries. Just for clarification, this term is used to describe how much colder the measured [dead] air temperature feels like when the wind speed is factored into the equation.

Heat Index is a meaningless term simply because it isn't the heat that's being indexed, it's the humidity, therefore making Humidex the correct term of reference for the summer condition of additional humidity making the temperature feel hotter that the normal humidity air. The result of the Humidex and Wind Chill serve the same purpose, that being, to make conditions for humans much more uncomfortable than they would be otherwise.

Please feel free to correct your local weather people.

BTW, regardless of any reference material from any source, calling the summer condition the heat index is completely incorrect on all counts.

12

An explanation so clear that I refer to it by its proper name: Windex.

13

Too rich, Ade. I often think of your “Winds of Dave,” which might now be appropriately contracted Windsodave, the correct term for prevailing bloviation from the west of Canada - making Windex a yet tighter contraction of a way to measure it. Now we just need a unit of measurement.


Yer a funny man, Dave.

This is one of your best:

Humidex the correct term of reference for the summer condition of additional humidity making the temperature feel hotter that the normal humidity air

(Emphasis added.)

Because what, pray tell, is “normal” humidity? I’m not aware of a universal standard.

Please at least consider the notion that language is subject to local/regional custom and variation, ever and always a matter of consensus agreement, not a domain of the absolute. The French language once had the Academy to consider and pass judgment on what is considered “correct.” Thank goodness (Canadian) English has...Dave.

I riffed on the term “heat index” on the occasion of our national holiday because that is the term familiar to us benighted Murricans for “feeling even hotter than the thermometer says.” (It’s never occurred to me to me to think “it feels wetter than the thermometer says.”)

I’d never heard of your cute national coinage “humidex,” which sounds like a card catalog for a humidor, so naturally didn’t employ it. Learning it now increases my sense of the depth and texture of the English language, my appreciation for regional variance.

But when in Rome...if one hopes to communicate, one speaks Roman. Had I used “humidex” in a sentence, not even I would have known what the hector I was talking about.


The result of the Humidex and Wind Chill serve the same purpose, that being, to make conditions for humans much more uncomfortable than they would be otherwise.

Why don’t y’all call it the Winchill?

14

Beautiful. But, ahem, the king of Indiana baseball must be none other than former Yankee first baseman, former Dodger manager and current Marlins manager Donnie Baseball Mattingly, of Evansville.

15

I was just watching a locally shot movie today, I thought I saw my ex-girlfriend’s house.

16

Humidity is heat. I think they call it "latent heat." Humid air has more heat energy than dry air.

Believe me, I grew up Baltimore, where, for a while, we lived a few blocks from Memorial Stadium and took in many a game (my dad was a huge fan) in uncomfortable summer conditions. There was a lot of talk of humidity.

17

Great write up, Tim. I really enjoyed that. Made me want to be there with you, with a hot dog and a cold one.. Save for the heat and high humidity (humi-windex-chill whatever thing).

18

Beautiful. But, ahem, the king of Indiana baseball must be none other than former Yankee first baseman, former Dodger manager and current Marlins manager Donnie Baseball Mattingly, of Evansville.

– Strummerson

And Don still lives here in Evansville. Lovely stadium, Tim, as is Bosse field in Evansville where the rest of the movie was shot. We just attended a game there, with the Otters team of Evansville, last week. Equally historically correct and exciting to visit with nearly the same look and feel that you described, as you stated above. There was a recent celebration over the anniversary of the movie here in town at Bosse field. Larry "The Bird" Fidrich, was from Evansville back when they were the triplets. He was the pitcher that would talk to the ball before pitching it. It does kind of take you back in time when attending ball games and they are about the least expensive thing to do here. Good times! Thanks for sharing, Tim.

19

Thanks for a wonderful piece, Tim! You have, again, painted beautiful pictures with your words.

A fan of minor league baseball, I attend a half dozen games per year with our local Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs (AAA, Phillies). You hit MANY nails "on the head" in capturing moments.

While major league games keep getting loooooooooonger and more painful to watch, minor league baseball moves at a pace that is still fun to watch.

20

Tim, respectfully, with reference to your statement:

"....and the heat indexing at over 100 perfectly humid degrees."

Okay...…..time for a correction for all America, as a gift from Canada. There is no such condition that can exist to which the expression "heat index" used all across the US can be used. The correct expression for the weather condition whereby a high humidity makes it feel like the temperature is higher than it actually is, is appropriately termed the Humidex. This is a contraction of humidity and index because that's precisely what it is. It's the summer equivalent of Wind Chill. Wind Chill is correct and is used in both countries. Just for clarification, this term is used to describe how much colder the measured [dead] air temperature feels like when the wind speed is factored into the equation.

Heat Index is a meaningless term simply because it isn't the heat that's being indexed, it's the humidity, therefore making Humidex the correct term of reference for the summer condition of additional humidity making the temperature feel hotter that the normal humidity air. The result of the Humidex and Wind Chill serve the same purpose, that being, to make conditions for humans much more uncomfortable than they would be otherwise.

Please feel free to correct your local weather people.

BTW, regardless of any reference material from any source, calling the summer condition the heat index is completely incorrect on all counts.

– Windsordave

As I've been blessed with COPD, I'm all too familiar with the humidity levels/heat index/humidex numbers. If I were to try to correct the weathercasters, I'd start with their horrid pronunciations of the English language. (It's Illinois, not Ellinois, you idjits!) Instead of the heat index, they talk about "The Muggies" and use the dew point as their main number. I hate doing mental math first thing in the morning as my ability to breathe is based on the amount of water saturated in the air. They say that below 60F, the humidity isn't a problem. I beg to differ. Humidity makes winter weather harder to take as well. Here, in the summer, the temperature and humidity are often similar numbers. I'm just happy if it goes below 50% humidity.

21

Strum, Mattingly point well taken, and agreed. I hereby bust Rolen’s royal rank down to prince.

I’m glad so many of us enjoy the traditional virtues of minor league (and “lower”) baseball. Free of the distorting forces of money and media, it seems like it’s where the heart of the game beats truest.

22

I'm with ya. When I lived in Sonoma County, there was a local minor league team, the Sonoma County Crushers, whose games were every bit as enjoyable as the big-league version, plus it didn't cost two arms and six legs to get there, park, watch the game and have some refreshments.

Going to a Giants game at AT&T Park is analogous to a big stadium concert (prices, crowds, distance from the action), whereas the minor league version is more like seeing a great local band at a nice club-sized venue or small theater.

I know which I like better!

23

The Dubois County Bombers, ya just can’t make that up. Thanks, Tim. Perfect for The Fourth, and all summer long.

And as for the Humidex-Shmoomidex, down here in Tennessee we call it what it is...The Feels-Like. As in, I know it’s 90 but if feels like 105. Even our local weather folks use the term.

24

Oh yeah, cost of a game at League Stadium: usually 5.00 a head for Gen'l Admission. For the fireworks extravaganza, they tacked on another two bucks. Giant soft hot pretzel with cheese: 3.00.

It's a cheap date.

25

It's a cheap date. -- Proteus

Wish that I could say the same. $22 tickets each, $11 parking, $19.25 for burger/fries and two waters. Hey! They have to send money up to the big league team, apparently.

(Our seats were a little closer to the action than where yours were, but, still...)


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