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.