From the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette:
Work to raze the Memorial Stadium began in earnest Monday, but cranes and a wrecking ball won’t tear into the ballpark until next week.
The demolition brings an end to the stadium’s 16-year life along Coliseum Boulevard and the St. Joseph River. The stadium helped bring minor league baseball to Fort Wayne but is no longer needed now that the TinCaps have moved into Parkview Field downtown.
Tonight was the last game we’ll ever see the Fort Wayne Wizards take the home field in Fort Wayne. It was also likely the last professional baseball game we’ll ever see played in Memorial Stadium; which is slated to be demolished in 2009 shortly after the yet-to-be-named Fort Wayne team takes the field for the inaugural season at the ballpark at Harrison Square.
The stadium first fielded Wizards in 1993 as an affiliate of the Minnesota Twins organization. Future Twins, such as Torii Hunter, LaTroy Hawkins, Matt Lawton, Luis Rivas and Michael Cuddyer broke in their gloves while playing in the Summit City. In 1999, the Wizards became affiliates of the San Diego Padres. Since that time, future Friars like Sean Burroughs, Jake Peavy, Josh Barfield, Chase Headley and others kicked up dirt at Memorial Stadium. To date, 69 former Wizards players have made it to the Major Leagues – with many others sure to follow. And, for you trivia fans out there, here’s some:
- The last out in Memorial Stadium history was made by Danny Payne at 10:03PM Eastern.
- Former Norwell High School standout and Silverhawks prospect, Jarrod Parker dominated the Wizards through five innings of one hit ball. The Wizards offense came alive immediately after his departure . . . too bad they were already down 17 to 0.
- The last game at Memorial Stadium took place the same night that Major League Baseball first instituted instant replay availability.
- Dinger the Dragon faced off against former Wizard’ mascot, Wayne the Wizard in the Mascot Race. You would think one would finally win. Nope. They tied and therefore they both lost. Amazing.
- Olympian Gold Medalist, Lloy Ball threw out the ceremonial first pitch.
- My family came home with eleven softy balls, one Memorial Stadium replica and two bags of free potato chips.
And now, there is little else to do but turn our attention to the Major Leagues as the playoff races take shape. By early September, we may know the new name of the team and quite possibly have the opportunity to purchase (or receive) the new branded merchandise by the holiday season. And who knows, maybe I’ll publish another book during Spring Training! These are all some small milestones to help us endure another winter where following the Arizona Fall League just doesn’t quite cut it.
Oh, and there’s always this little vignette for Memorial Stadium that I put together. I’ll post a photo gallery tomorrow night.
It’s been a wonderful year. Thank you to the Wizards for keeping us entertained and providing me with the opportunity to take batting practice at Memorial Stadium, view an occasional game from the best seats in the house and so much more. To all those I have met and met up with at the Castle, I hope to see you downtown next season. I’m already looking forward to helping kick off a new era in Fort Wayne baseball history on Opening Day at Harrison Square.
- Fort Wayne Wizards say goodbye to Memorial Stadium (Chicago Tribue) (WLFI/Associated Press) (The Munster Times)
- Finale gets hometown touch: Parker faces Wizards at Memorial Stadium (Journal Gazette)
- Memorial Stadium, 1993-2009? (Journal Gazette)
- Big Send-Off For Memorial Stadium (Indiana’s News Center)
- Parker’s in Finale (News Sentinel)
- Final Game at the Slab Tonight (What’s Going Down(town))
- Charly Butcher Weighs in on Memorial Stadium’s Final Night Â (Indiana’s News Center)
- Norwell Grad Parker Winds Down First Professional Season (Dean Pantazi – Indiana’s News Center)
- Goodbye to All That (Rattler Radio)
- Goodbye to Memorial Stadium (Leeper, Sarvay, Pantazi, Olsen, Clabaugh –Indiana’s News Center)
- Goodbye “Castle” (Cathy Dee)
- Last Ballgame at Fort Wayne’s Memorial Stadium (AP/The Munster Times)
I’ll add others as I find them and have the time. If you find any, please comment. Check back late tonight. I’m planning on regapping the game with photos and video.
Since then, several outlets have reported the news ans many have produced wonderful recaps of her life and career.
A wonderful tribute to a treasure of a woman. Rather than produce my own, I’ve provided excerpts and links to the full coverage.
Collins made sure we’ll never forget legacy:
No one was more willing to do than Collins. No one was more cheerful or accommodating, more patient, more forgiving of those whose awareness of the AAGPBL was informed only by Hollywood, in the guise of the 1992 release â€œA League of Their Own.â€
Dottie became Dottie-From-The-Movie once that hit the screen, even though she wasnâ€™t. But what the hey. If it helped America reclaim a piece of its athletic heritage it had somehow forgotten, you could call her Santa Claus if you wanted to. (Ben Smith – Journal Gazette)
For Love of The Game: ’40s baseball ace was ambassador for girls league:
“She supported so many things in our league,” remembers Isabel Alvarez, who was recruited out of Cuba to pitch in the AAGPBL and had two separate stints with the Daisies. “The organizing she did. If it was for the league, she was right there all the time.”(Ben Smith – Journal Gazette)
Sports pioneer Dottie Collins dead at 84:
“Well into her retirement, Collins continued to promote the AAGPBL, providing interviews, speaking at schools, running a Web site and publishing a newsletter. She also served on the board of the Northeast Indiana Baseball Association and was inducted into its Hall of Fame in 1999.
That year Collins was 16th in The News-Sentinel’s rankings of northeast Indiana’s 50 greatest athletes of the 20th century. She was the fourth-highest ranked woman.”(Blake Sebring – The News-Sentinel)
Fmr. FW Daisy passes away:
“In 1981, Dottie helped to organize the first exhibition game for former players which renewed interest in the league. Her determined efforts resulted in the All American Girl’s Professional Baseball League Players Association and the movie “A League of Their Own.” She was instrumental in getting the league recognized by the National Baseball Hall of Fame and had the privilege of opening the first Women in Baseball Display in Cooperstown. “(Wane-TV)
WANE also has a great video segment.
Youâ€™ve probably heard the news about the local Fort Wayne General Electric plant. If not, there is great coverage at WhatsGoingDown(Town) and Fort Wayne Observed. Thatâ€™s in addition to the news in â€œtraditionalâ€ media like the Journal Gazette. But in short, the stories relay the sad fact that General Electric Co. announced plans to spin off its Consumer & Industrial business group, which includes the companyâ€™s Fort Wayne operations. Basically, it means there are 265 or so employees who are potentially impacted and there is an uncertain future in store for the widely recognizable campus.
But, yes friends, thereâ€™s a baseball story here!
In the 1880’s there was a race to innovate a facet of the game of baseball through the novel idea of playing a professional game at night through the use â€“ of all things â€“ lights. On June 2 of that year, Charles Jenney, owner of the Jenney Electric Company provided 17 arch lamps to illuminate League Park. The lamps provided 4,000 candlepower each, with three lamps fastened to the grandstand; one behind the pitcher’s box and the rest stationed along the baselines and in the outfield. The game between the professionals of the Northwestern League from Quincy, Illinois and a team from Methodist College lasted seven innings, with the professionals winning the contest by a score of 19-11. It was covered by the media The Gazette, The Fort Wayne News and The Sporting Life â€“ all of whom were critical of the use of artificial light. However, The Sporting Life did note that with the use of more lights, such events could be successful [source: Baseball History: 19th Century Baseball. Heck, it only took the Cubs a 100 years to catch up – must be something about centuries with them!
Jenney Electric Company was later to come under the umbrella of General Electric. Many claim this event to have been the first lighted baseball game on record, though there are others that claim the feat as many as two years earlier. Regardless, it was among the first and another innovation generated in Northeast Indiana.
But, yes friends, thereâ€™s more of a baseball story here! Our local electric innovation was more than features of the field. General Electric innovated on the field.
In the 1940â€™s, the GE Voltmen were the cityâ€™s baseball elite. The 1948 squad would go on to claim a national semi-pro championship, boasting a roster that included many members of the Northeast Indiana Baseball Assocation (NEIBA) Hall of Fame.
Pictured above, the 1948 GE Voltmen – (L-R) Standing; Coach Dee Hamilton, Bill Brandt, Paul Dyke, John Corridan, and Manager John â€œRedâ€ Braden. (Second Row) Bob Winters, Stan Shargey, Pete Elko, Truett â€œRipâ€ Sewell, Bill Hardy and batboy Jimmy Slack; (Third Row) Al Hazle, Olan Smith, Charlie Harmon, Rudy Rundus, Art Garbrielli, Hugh Orphan, and Charlie Shipman. Photograph courtesy of Don Graham.
The last major piece of steel was put into place today at a topping off ceremony. Members of the City Council, the Redevelopment Commission, Barry Real Estate, the Fort Wayne Wizards and the Northeast Indiana community were on hand for the occasion that saw many signatures and messages inscribed on the beam before being raised to is final location on the left side of the stadium’s entrance.
“Today is an achievement in the revitalization of the heart of our city,” said Mayor Henry. “The topping off marks an important point in the construction of the Harrison Square ballpark, just like Harrison Square marks an important point in making downtown Fort Wayne a great place to live, work and play.”
Video: Mayor Tom Henry Speaks (1:00)
Video: Barry Real Estate CEO, Chris Schoen explains the topping off (0:47)
Video: The Ballpark Gets Topped Off (3:31)
[note: sorry for the background vocals on the last video. They were right behind me.]
Gallery: Photos from the event
Note: I have often blogged about former Wizards and where their career paths have taken them since their Fort Wayne stint(s). For instance, I blogged about Vince Faison and his return to college to play football a few days ago. Even today, one of the most popular search phrases that hits this site is “Where is Sean Burroughs?” and I routinely get similar hits for Matt Bush (BTW: If you want to know, Bush had Tommy John late last season and will only pitch in instructional league play if at all in 2008. Burroughs is out of baseball to my knowledge . . . please correct if I am wrong). So with this post, I begin a new post category called “Wizards Where R They?” I’ll go back to some old posts and add them to this category when I have time.
First up, Greg Sain.
Greg Sain was selected by San Diego Padres in 5th Round (150th overall) of the 2001 amateur entry draft. In 2002, the infielder reported to the Wizards and appeared in 105 games. Over 287 at-bats, he compiled a .245 average with 13 home runs and 57 RBI’s. He also drew 25 walks and scored 54 runs with 95 hits. The following year, he was promoted to high-A Lake Elsinore where he boosted his average to .274. The future for the prospect held much promised.
However, as MadFriars.com Senior Writer, John Conniff reported in 2007, the baseball gods offered few opportunities and cast injuries on the first/third baseman to the point where he was forced to make a difficult decision.
[A]after six long years of chasing the major league dream he finally had enough. â€œI could see that my opportunities were getting smaller as I got older. I had to decide if I want to keep playing baseball just because I love it or to move on with my life, and I chose to move onâ€
Sain played in the Padres organization for five years and made three all star teams, led two leagues in home runs. He was ranked in Baseball Americaâ€™s Top 30 Prospects three times. Yet, he never had a single at bat with the Padres or with any major league club.
The unfortunate reality was that Sain never was in the right situation with the right club. There were either too many prospects ahead of him to block his development, or injuries and defensive difficulty eroded future big league aspirations.
In Spring Training of 2006, he was traded to the Milwaukee Brewers, and was released. Before the year was up, he was released from the New York Yankees and spend time in independent baseball. Despite some non-roster invitations in 2007, Sain chose to return to school and pursue his degree.
â€œYou can handle the low pay and the bus rides when you think something is at the end of the road, but when you canâ€™t see it anymore its time to get off.â€
Is there a former Wizards player you would like to know more about? Let me give it a try. Request a Wizards Where R They? by clicking here.
George Von Benko’s “Memory Lane” columns appear in todayâ€™s Herald-Standard has a great article about current Fort Wayne Wizards Manager, Doug Dascenzo. Von Benko recalls the young infielderâ€™s Cleveland, Ohio upbringing, his rise through college and an unexpected selection in the draft by the Chicago Cubs.
Dascenzo was raised in Brownsville. He graduated from Brownsville in 1982 and continued baseball at Florida College.
“It was a little Christian two-year school. I spent one year there and then ended up going to Oklahoma State my sophomore and junior years.”
As part of the Oklahoma State baseball team Dascenzo played on College World Series in 1984 and 1985.
“We could start naming all the players that came out of Oklahoma State, but you might run out of tape,” Dascenzo joked. “Guys like Pete Incaviglia, John Farrell and Mike Henneman the list goes on and on. It was a great program and still is a pretty good program. “
He was drafted in the round 12 of the 1985 draft by the Chicago Cubs. He hadnâ€™t expected it. At the time, he had planned to marry and return to college in the fall. Instead, he entered the world of Minor League Baseball.
Dascenzo rose through the Cubs’ minor league system and made his Major League debut on Sept. 2, 1988, against the Cincinnati Reds. In that game, he went 3-for-5. He stayed with the club through 1992 and played in a then-National League record 241 consecutive errorless games.
Dascenzo played parts of seven Major League seasons with Chicago (1988-1992), the Texas Rangers (1993) and the San Diego Padres (1996). He has a career .234 average with 42 doubles, 10 triples, five dingers, 90 runs batted in, 156 runs scored and 49 stolen bases.
In 1998, Dascenzo became a hitting coach in the Padres organization. 2008 begins his second campaign as manager of the Fort Wayne Wizards.