Category Archives: Local Facts

RIP: Howie Schultz Loses Battle With Cancer

Howie Schultz was one of the first national two sport athletes, one of the few individuals to have played enough in both basketball and baseball to earn pensions from both has passed away after a long cancer battle.

Schultz’s contract was purchased by the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1943, and became the Dodgers’ starting first baseman. He was a regular with them until the start of the 1947 season, when his contract was sold to the Philadelphia Phillies to make room for Jackie Robinson.

“His first year, Jackie played first base,” Schultz said in a 2004 interview with the Star Tribune. “I’m a footnote in history — the guy who was benched to allow baseball to be integrated.”

His baseball career, which lasted until 1948, also saw him spend time on the Cincinnati Reds roster. But his Fort Wayne connections are due to his second professional sports career in basketball. He played with the Anderson (Indiana) Packers of the National Basketball League from 1946 to 1949. When the NBL was absorbed by the National Basketball Association he became a member of the Fort Wayne Pistons.

Will TinCaps Do Anything to Promote Local History?

One question that many folks have asked for quite a long while is with regards to the possibility that the TinCaps might do something to help promote the significant baseball history that belongs to Fort Wayne. While trying not to steal any of their thunder, I have quietly told people that I am sure they will and encouraged them to stay tuned.

Today, The TinCaps released details of once such avenue that they’ve deployed:

The rich and dynamic history of baseball in Fort Wayne will be on full display when Parkview Field opens in April. Drawing on more than 100 years of baseball in our region, the TinCaps have teamed with Federated Media to bring the city’s baseball history to life.

“During the planning of Parkview Field we were actively looking for the perfect way to integrate Fort Wayne’s storied baseball past into the ballpark’s design,” said TinCaps Team President, Mike Nutter. “There are so many great stories to tell and we wanted the chance to share those stories with our fans. We approached Federated Media with the idea of making the ballpark’s concourse a tribute to Fort Wayne’s rich baseball tradition and they were on board immediately.” Federated Media will be the presenting sponsor of the concourse.

“We knew that Federated Media wanted to be a part of what was happening at Parkview Field,” said Federated Media General Manager, Mark DePrez. “When the TinCaps began describing their vision for the concourse, it seemed like the perfect fit. Federated Media and our radio stations are focused on serving the community. By helping the TinCaps recognize Fort Wayne’s long tradition of exceptional baseball, we can educate and foster community pride by connecting with Fort Wayne’s baseball past, present and future.” Federated Media owns and operates six radio stations in Fort Wayne, including 92.3 The Fort, 97.3 WMEE, 98.9 The Bear, K105, News Talk 1190 WOWO, and 1380 ESPN Radio. 1380 ESPN Radio is also the radio home of the TinCaps, broadcasting all TinCaps home and road games live throughout the 2009 season.

“Fort Wayne has so many baseball stories to tell,” said Michael Limmer, TinCaps Vice President of Marketing. “We are glad to have a chance to shine a light on the teams and individuals that have played such a large role in baseball in this community.  We are also appreciative of Federated Media and all it has done to help us bring this wonderful history to life and educate the next generation of baseball fans in Fort Wayne.”

The Federated Media Concourse incorporates teams and individuals from Fort Wayne’s past into the section signage in the area around the main seating bowl. There are ten section signs located under the suite level which spotlight ten historic teams and organizations. Each of these signs are accompanied by a plaque describing the significance of each team or organization.  Those highlighted include,

  • the Kekiongas, the first professional team to play in Fort Wayne and participants in the first professional baseball game in 1871;
  • The Fort Wayne Daisies, Fort Wayne’s iconic representative in the All American Girls Professional Baseball League;
  • The Fort Wayne Colored Giants, Fort Wayne’s semi pro team from the 1920s;
  • The Fort Wayne Capeharts, who won the World Semi-Professional Championship in Japan in 1950;
  • Wildcat Baseball, which has provided opportunities for thousands of area youth over more than four decades.

Beyond the Federated Media Concourse, there will be nine additional displays located along the perimeter of Parkview Field.  Each will showcase a prominent individual that played in Fort Wayne or hails from the Fort Wayne area.

“This process has been quite an education for me,” said Limmer. “When you step back and look at the people we are talking about – people such as Dottie Collins, Ford Frick, Eric Wedge, Dale McMillen – these are some giants in the world of baseball, not just in Fort Wayne but in the entire country.” Other individuals honored include Red Carrington, Jake Peavy, Red Braden, Chick Stahl and Bill Wambganss. “Unfortunately we couldn’t include everyone who deserves to be recognized, there just wasn’t enough space, but we hope that by learning about just a few we will encourage others to find out more about the place Fort Wayne holds in baseball history,” explained Limmer.

Assembling this historical display was no small task—it took dozens of hours on the part of the TinCaps staff and would not have been possible without the assistance of many in the Fort Wayne community.  “I have to thank the Fort Wayne History Center, News Sentinel, Journal Gazette, Northeast Indiana Baseball Museum and Chad Gramling, author of the book ‘Baseball in Fort Wayne,’” said Limmer. “It was through them that we were able to gain a more comprehensive understanding of Fort Wayne’s rich tradition and acquire the photographs and other information that will help bring Fort Wayne’s baseball history to life at Parkview Field.”

Eric Wedge Baseball Camp Brings Experience of Perseverance

The Journal Gazette’s Ben Smith recently posted a great article about Eric Wedge and his baseball camp. In addition to telling the when and where, he frames the article around Wedges experiences of a rough 2008 season that turned around just a little too late:

Eric Wedge likes to draw on his own experience when he comes back to Fort Wayne in the dead of winter to teach baseball. And so this year, the lesson will be, among other things, perseverance.

Perseverance, after all, took Wedge’s Cleveland Indians from last place at the All-Star break in 2008 to within 7 1/2 games of first by the time the leaves fell and the ballparks went quiet.

 

“You talk about perseverance and not giving in. … We ended up having the best record in the second half. That’s what it’s all about,” Wedge said from his home in Cleveland last week.

“I think that’s a great example. You go out there and you play for the right reasons. Even if you don’t have a chance to win a championship, that doesn’t mean you don’t go out there and play as if you did. I think there’s a serious lesson involved in that.”

Expect it to be imparted on Jan. 24 at the Eric Wedge Baseball Camps, which will again be conducted at the ASH Centre with Wedge, former major leaguer and New Haven High School standout Dave Doster and a host of other area college and international coaches and players presiding.

Eric Wedge Baseball Camps
When: Jan. 24
Where: ASH Centre, 1701 Freeman St.
Cost: $65 a participant for morning session; $90 a participant for afternoon session
Information: 436-1507, www.ericwedgebaseballcamp.com

Fort Wayne Sports Corp. Banquet
When: 6 p.m. Jan. 29
Where: Ceruti’s Summit Park Reception Hall
Cost: $75 a person for FWSC members; $85 non-members
Information: 420-1305, http://www.ericwedgebaseballcamp.com/

Holiday Gift Ideas with Local Flavor

The holidays are close. Are you looking for that perfect gift for the history buff or person who is proud of their local Northeast Indiana roots? One thing I have tried to do at this site is help point you to resources about or involving the game of baseball on the local level. One way I have done so is by creating an astore at amazon. I guess it could be used for gift purposes too 🙂

Right now, it is fairly modest, thought I am adding to it whenever possible (feel free to suggest items to include if I have missed them). Just today, I added two baseball related tomes by local writer, Les Edgerton.

As you might notice, not all the selections are purely about baseball, but they do in fact have some connection.

Youth Baseball Thrives in Northeast Indiana 2

I guess this is a follow up to an earlier post about the state of youth baseball in Northeast Indiana. A lot of folks may not realize it, but there’s something going on in Fort Wayne that is a pretty big deal. The 28th Junior League World Series is taking place in several locales throughout the county. And Fort Wayne is serving as one of the host cities to determine who will make the final cuts and earn a trip to Taylor, Michigan for a chance to return as champions.

St. Joe Central Little League and Georgetown Little League will host the Central Region Junior League tournament, which fields 10 teams from the Midwest. Leo-Grabill is playing in the tournament.

but unlike Major League Baseball, this truly is a “world” series; pitting the best teams of 13- and 14-year-old players from around the world. Nine state champions and a tournament host team (from Fort Wayne) are in the running to become USA Central regional champions in Fort Wayne. The championship game is set for 6:30 p.m. tomorrow.

The winner will advance to Taylor on Friday, Aug. 15. The International championship game is scheduled for 5 p.m. and the USA championship game will take place at 8 p.m. The world championship will be decided at 5 p.m. on Aug. 16. That game will be shown live on ESPNU and broadcast via tape delay on ESPN2. All games will be broadcast via streaming audio on the Internet at www.cityoftaylor.com/listen.

There has been a lot of coverage through the nation, and I’ve provided some links below. Oddly, I found very little local press. Please point me in the right direction if you know of an.

Youth Baseball Thrives in Northeast Indiana

Think that Indiana doesn’t complete with the rest of the nation on the ball diamond? Perhaps you should reconsider those thoughts.

Take for example, the St. Joe’s Little League. Five of the league’s baseball teams recently won Little League District 10 championships in leagues that range from 11 to 15 teams from Fort Wayne and Northeast Indiana area. Three of those squads have already advanced through far enough state tournament berths.

“We’ve got a talented group of kids,” [league vice president, Greg] Hadden said. “My 12-year-olds alone, 10 of them have been playing together since they were 9- and 10-year-olds. That’s where you start” [source: The News-Sentinel].

But in addition to the state achievements like this, there are individual standouts who are preparing to play on the national stage with the Hamilton County-based Indiana Prospects Baseball Organization.

The organization seeks to help players with their total development by providing training, knowledge and the highest level of competition possible. This year’s U16 Blue roster included Garrett High School’s Spencer Burns and Carroll High School’s Curtis Wise. The U13 roster included Montpelier (Blackford) Middle School’s Ryan Spaulding, whose team qualified for the USSSA Elite 24 national championship at Disney’s Wide World of Sports Baseball Complex in Orlando, Fla. from Aug. 3-10.

“When we went into this, we were not on anybody’s radar; teams from Indiana don’t get a lot of hype compared to Texas, Florida and Alabama,” said Shane Stout, the coach of the U13 team, as the organization had only one team reach this level previously. “You’ve got to pinch yourself to realize what has happened” [source: IndyStar].

And as local players go on to excel in Little League or High School, look also to the tremendous number of local standouts who are excelling at the college level. Several others are playing in Minor League Baseball and even at the Major League Level. These homegrown players have learned to play the game the right way through solid leagues; like the St. Joes Little League, like Wallen Baseball, like Wildcat Baseball.

It’s the coaches and parents who volunteer their time and experience to serve as teachers and mentors. Folks like, Gary Rogers, who has served the sport over two decades at Bishop Luers. His record there is a 352-302 (that’s over 600 games folks), he’s worked with Wildcat Baseball and within the SAC and the state’s coaches’ associations. He coached Luers to its first state championship with a 14-8 win over Elwood this past June, and then served as head coach of the North All-Stars in the three-game series against at Notre Dame’s Eck Stadium.

Along the way, there are a number of lives he’s touched and kids he’s developed. The same is true for the many other coaches at local high schools, middle schools and on the Little League diamonds. It’s that being the case, it’s no wonder so many of our stars are excelling on and off the field.

You say baseball is all about ballparks, money, commercialism and merchandising? I say your watching the wrong game. Look to the smaller fields with the smaller stars. You see big time talent and big time hearts of those who help build their character.

Yes, the spirit of the game is alive and well in Fort Wayne and all of Northeast Indiana.

General Electric Plant News: There’s a Baseball Story Here!

You’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. That’s in addition to the news in “traditional” 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 company’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, there’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 – of all things – 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 – 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, there’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 1940’s, the GE Voltmen were the city’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.

The 1948 GE Voltmen

Pictured above, the 1948 GE Voltmen – (L-R) Standing; Coach Dee Hamilton, Bill Brandt, Paul Dyke, John Corridan, and Manager John “Red” Braden. (Second Row) Bob Winters, Stan Shargey, Pete Elko, Truett “Rip” 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.

See Also: GE Press Release regarding intent to spin off.

Dexter Rogers on Robinson’s Legacy

This was posted a month ago, but over at INK, Dexter Robinson discusses the waning luster of Jackie Robinson’s Legacy. In in, he quotes former Wizard, Torii Hunter; “This is supposed to be an honor, and just a handful of guys wearing the number. Now you’ve got entire teams doing it. I think we’re killing the meaning. It should be special wearing Jackie’s number, not just because it looks cool.”

Some very valid points and a great read overall. Certainly, it’s a topic that has received more discussion in recent years, especially in light of the influx of international talent to the game of baseball.

As depicted in Baseball in Fort Wayne (page 87), Jackie Robinson paid visit to the city in 1955. The event was held at Central Catholic High School. Another little known baseball in Fort Wayne fact.

Congrats to State High School Champion Bishop Luers

Congratulations are in order to the Bishop Luers baseball team. They also become the first school in Indiana high school sports history to win the football, boys basketball, and baseball titles in the same school year. Reade more at Wane.com and Fox 28 South Bend.

Update – 06/15/08 (1:10PM): The achievements of the Luers team has drawn more widespread attention. See more coverage at:

Unassisted Triple Plays

You could go here, here, here or here to read about Asdrubal Cabrera’s unassisted triple play that took place today. If found this interesting because there are a couple Fort Wayne ties (believe it or not).

The most obvious, Cabrera is the player who seized an opportunity to take the 2B position from former Wizard, Josh Barfield (who remains in Triple-A Buffalo). But what I also found interesting is the fact that the ONLY unassisted triple play in World Series play history was turned in by another member of the Cleveland Indians.

In the 1920 World Series, Bill Wambsganss turned an unassisted triple play. “Wamby” grew up in Fort Wayne, Indiana where he attended Concordia College. He later returned and managed the Fort Wayne Daisies in 1945 and 1946.