This is the launching page for my research on baseball teams in the Grand Rapids, MI area from the early 1900's. My starting point was this photo of the 1926 GR Body Co. team - my Great-Grandpa Konyndyk was the pitcher. I am interested in what became of the players of this team, what other teams they played for and the location of the games. My first question when seeing this photo was "What's indoor baseball?" This site is the random stuff I have collected so far.
1888-12-25 - 1st indoor baseball game played at fairgrounds in Philadelphia
1907 First successful Indoor Baseball League is organized in Grand Rapids.
From the “Grand Rapids Leader” newspaper January 23, 1920:
INDOOR LEAGUE TO BE FORMED HERE SOON TEAMS WILL EACH PLAY ONE GAME A WEEK AT ARMORY The Indoor Baseball league sition of Grand Rapids is expected oon to be in full swing Two games ave been played up to date 011 vs and Elks vs Badgers The Badgers are the mi team to organize and altho not in their first game show some good material The son and Normington teams dated before the game and have formed quite a strong nine C A Normington is at the head organization and working toward a permanent league It is the purpose of the founders of this idea to form a six team league and allow each team to play at least one game a week The Consolidated have ed two teams but have made no ther action to play All ing concerns or institutions of any kind are asked to organize a team and get in Request for admission may be made to Mr Normington A meeting will be held Saturday or Sunday.
From Paul Dickson, The New Dickson Baseball Dictionary [New York: Harcourt, Brace and Company, 1990], p. 268):
The Library of Congress has more than one thousand of these guides, believed to be the largest collection held by any institution. A small sample is offered here in Spalding Base Ball Guides, 1889-1939; in the future, the entire collection may be digitized and made available on this Web site. The twenty Official Indoor Base Ball Guides and fifteen Spalding's Official Base Ball Guides currently presented are examples of the annuals described above.
While the game of baseball covered in Spalding’s Official Base Ball Guides is well known to most Americans, the game described in the Official Indoor Base Ball Guides may at first seem unfamiliar--yet in its current incarnation it is probably played by more Americans than traditional baseball. According to The New Dickson Baseball Dictionary, indoor baseball is “[t]he original name for the game from which modern softball derived. Its rules were written by George W. Hancock of Chicago who was one of the group of young men who created the game, using a boxing glove for a ball and a broomstick for a bat, while waiting at the Farragut Boat Club for the telegraphed results of the Harvard-Yale football game on Thanksgiving Day, 1887. Thus, softball in its first incarnation was baseball played inside a gymnasium” (Paul Dickson, The New Dickson Baseball Dictionary [New
York: Harcourt, Brace and Company, 1990], p. 268).
Grand Rapids’ Professional Team Nicknames and League Affiliations from 1883-present 1883 – 84 Grand Rapids Northwestern League 1889 – 90 Grand Rapids Michigan State League 1890 Grand Rapids Shamrocks International League 1894 Grand Rapids Rippers Western League 1894 Grand Rapids Rustlers Western League 1895 Grand Rapids Blackbirds Western League 1895 – 97 Grand Rapids Goldbugs Western League 1897 Grand Rapids Bobolinks Western League 1898 – 99 Grand Rapids Cabinetmakers Interstate League 1899 Grand Rapids Furnituremakers Western League 1900 Grand Rapids Boers International League 1901 Grand Rapids Woodworkers Western Association 1902 Grand Rapids Colts Michigan State League 1903 – 05 Grand Rapids Orphans Central League 1906 – 09 Grand Rapids Wolverines Central League 1910 Grand Rapids Raiders Central League 1911 Grand Rapids Grads Central League 1911 Grand Rapids Furnituremakers Central League 1912 Grand Rapids Black Sox Central League 1913 Grand Rapids Bill-Eds Central League 1914 Grand Rapids Champs Central League 1915 – 17 Grand Rapids Black Sox Central League 1920 – 21 Grand Rapids Joshers Central League 1922 Grand Rapids Billbobs Central League 1923 Grand Rapids Billbobs Michigan-Ontario League 1924 Grand Rapids Homoners Michigan-Ontario League 1926 Grand Rapids Black Sox Michigan State League 1934 Grand Rapids Tigers Central League 1940 Grand Rapids Dodgers Michigan State League 1941 Grand Rapids Colts Michigan State League 1945 – 54 Grand Rapids Chicks All-American Girls Professional Baseball League 1948 – 51 Grand Rapids Jets Central League 1994 – present West Michigan Whitecaps Midwest League
TIMELINE OF BASEBALL IN GRAND RAPIDS
Grand Rapids Base Ball / Baseball Timeline
1859 First amateur baseball club, the Pioneer Base Ball and Cricket Club, is organized in Grand Rapids.
1867Kent Base Ball Club is organized in Grand Rapids.
1882 First professional team is organized in Grand Rapids. It has no league affiliation. Baseball Park opens in September, with 1,000 seats, at southeast corner of Jefferson and Franklin. It is dismantled in 1885.
1883First professional league team in Grand Rapids, plays in the Northwestern League at Baseball Park.Dick Pierre (Grand Haven) plays in majors.
1885Walt Walker (Ionia) plays in majors.
1889Fountain Park, with 1,200 seats under wooden grandstand, opens at northeast corner of Fountain and Grand, dismantled in 1894. Alger Park opens at south shore of Reeds Lake, 2,000 seats, dismantled in 1899. Bud Fowler (John W. Jackson), an African American player, is on the roster of the Greenville team in the Michigan League.
1891 Grand Rapids native Thomas F. (“Grandpa”) Letcher plays six games with Milwaukee.
1892Recreation Park opens, dismantled in 1899. Material used to build Reeds Lake Park.
1894George “Deacon” Ellis organizes the Rustlers in the Western League. Recreation Park opens at South Division, south of railroad tracks, 2,200 seats, dismantled 1899. John Houseman (Holland) plays in majors in 1894 and in 1897.
1895 African American team, Adrian Page Fence Giants begin playing. On 14 April they beat the local entry in Central League, the Gold Bugs, 8-7 in bottom of the ninth in an exhibition game. The Gold Bugswin the next day 18-13.
1896Grand Rapids Yellow Jackets (Western .League) are beaten twice by Adrian Page Fence Giants. The 12th of the 15 games in a “world series” between the Adrian Page Fence Giants and the Cuban Giants is played in Grand Rapids.
1897 Future Hall-of-Famer, Rube Waddell, pitches for Grand Rapids. Another future Hall-of-Fame inductee, Sam “Wahoo” Crawford, plays centerfield on the same team.
1898Frank Kitson (Hopkins) plays in majors until 1907.
1898 Grand Rapids-born Frank J. Quinn plays 12 games for Chicago Nationals. Charlie Hemphill(Greenville) plays in majors until 1911. Emil Frisk (Kalkaska) plays in majors until 1905
1900Reeds Lake Park built from material moved from Recreation Park, takes the place of Alger Park. Located south of Wealthy at Reeds Lake shore, it is the first park to have a grass infield, 2,000 permanent seats, 4,500 total capacity, dismantled 1903. Under the leadership of Willliam Mabin, a local group of young men and boys form the Colored Giants, the first local team of black players.
1901Grand Rapids Lambs play in the Western Association
1902Monte (Henry Monte) Beville, who had played in Grand Rapids and will spend his life after baseball in Grand Rapids, plays (1902-3) with the New York Americans (Yankees). Wish Egan (Evert) plays in majors until 1906. He has a subsequent long career as a scout with the Detroit Tigers. Jack Lundblom(Manistee) plays in majors. Ike Butler (Montcalm County) plays in majors.
1903Detroit and Washington play an American League game in Reeds Lake Park, May 24, Detroit wins 5-4.
1904Ramona Baseball Park is built on the site the former Reeds Lake Park, 2,500 seats, dismantled 1938. Jess Elster, who comes to be known as “Grand Rapids’ Mr. Baseball,” moves to town and begins playing with the Grand Rapids Colored Athletics. Loyalty Park opens southeast of Hall and Ionia, 2,500 seats. First park to have a press box on the roof of the grandstand and an adjacent field for automobile parking, dismantled 1909.
1906Grand Rapids Central League team, known as the “Ganzeloids” wins pennant (first for the city).Jess Elster is elected captain of the Colored Athletics and leads the team, excepted for a few years during the 1930s, until his death in 1950. Frank Oberlin (Montcalm County) plays in majors until 1910.Frank Hemphill (Greenville) plays in majors until 1909
1907 First successful Indoor Baseball League is organized in Grand Rapids. Red Killifer (Van Buren County) plays in majors until 1916. Neal Ball (Grand Haven) plays in majors until 1911.
1909Wib Smith (Evert) plays in majors. Bill Killifer (Van Buren County) plays in majors until 1921
1910 Grand Rapids born Cy (Frederick Joseph) Alberts pitches for the St. Louis Nationals. Cadillac wins Michigan State League pennant. Ed Hendricks (Zeeland) plays in majors
1911 Manistee wins Michigan State League pennant.
1912Island Park opens, located west of Market south of US 131, at Williams, 3,500 seats, dismantled 1939. Manistee wins Michigan State League pennant. Bundy Brief (Remus) plays in majors until 1915.
1913Bill-Eds (aka Black Sox) win Central League pennant, leading in the standing from the last week in May through the end of the season. Grand Rapids resident Wally “Lefty” (Walter Clement) Pipp begins 15 year career with Detroit Tigers; played most of his career with New York Yankees. A first baseman, Pipp played in three World Series and led the American League in home runs in 1916 and 1917. Grand Rapids born John Leonard (Doc) Lavan begins 12 year major league career with St. Louis Browns. Grand Rapids native Alfred Frederick Joseph (Al) Platte plays seven games with Detroit Tigers. Manistee wins Michigan State League pennant. Rex De Vogt (Clare) plays in majors. Bull Wagner(Muskegon) plays in majors.
1914 Muskegon wins Michigan State League pennant. Ed Hemingway (Montcalm County) plays in majors until 1918.
1916House of David Team (aka The Bearded Giants) plays one of its first road games in Grand Rapids.
1917Bill-Berts (aka Black Sox) wins Central League pennant. Grand Rapids Colored Athletics (black semi-professionals) have the best record of independent semi-pro teams in the state. Walter Carl (Lefty) Anderson pitches for Philadelphia Athletics; also in 1919, interrupted brief career for Army service in France during WWI. Injury sustained while in service ended his career. Grand Rapids resident Walter Guy Morrison begins two year major league pitching career. Ira Flagstead (Montague) plays in majors until 1930.
1918Albert E. (“Opie”) DeVormer begins major league career catching for the Chicago White Sox; 1921-22 & 1927 with New York Yankees, spends 1923 with Boston Red Sox.
1918-19 No professional baseball played in Grand Rapids due to WWI.
1919John Henry Wisner begins major league pitching career, 131 innings over four seasons.
1920The Colored Athletics are included in the annual Reach Baseball Guide. Grand Rapids wins Central League pennant, league consists of Grand Rapids, Kalamazoo, Ludington and Muskegon. Danny Claire(Ludington) plays in majors.
1921 Ludington wins Central League pennant. Hod Fenner (Martin) plays in majors.
1922 Billbobs win Central League pennant.
1923Jess Elster leases Ramona Park for Colored Athletics’ home games.
1924John Dobb (Muskegon) plays in majors.
1926Grand Rapids Body Co. wins Indoor Baseball World Championship by beating the Chicago Postls—who had a record of 270-1 over previous seven seasons—twice in three-game series.
1928Fox Jewelry Colored Giants are organized, first local black team of professional players.
1933Pere Marquette Colored Giants organized by Clarence Foster.
1934The Dixie Gas Colored Giants play a schedule of 109 games, winning 84.
1937 Baseball interest is at an all time high in Grand Rapids. Forty local baseball teams play in eight leagues and 56 fast-pitch softball teams play in nine leagues. Bigelow Field built, 3871 S. Division, burns in 1952.
1938Jenison born Benjamin Jenison “Benny” McCoy receives a $45,000 signing bonus, and begins 4-year major league career with Philadelphia Athletics.
1939 June 12, St. Louis Cardinals play against Dutch Kraft Paints as part of baseball centennial celebration. Cardinals win 6-1.
1940-41Dodger-Colts, a farm team of the Brooklyn Dodgers, managed by Burleigh Grimes, play atBigelow Field. Playing in the Michigan State League, they are the first professional league team in Grand Rapids since 1922.
1941Louis Bernard “Lou” Stringer begins six-year major league career with Chicago Cubs.
1943 Moline native Frank (Stubby) Overmire begins 10-year major league career with Detroit Tigers.
1944-54Grand Rapids Chicks, of the All American Girls Professional Baseball League, move from Milwaukee to Grand Rapids. Team plays at South High School Football Field and later, briefly, atBigelow Field.
1947Grand Rapids Chicks and other AAGPBL teams hold spring training in Cuba. Grand Rapids Chicks win AAGPBL pennant. Ted Rasberry forms the Grand Rapids Black Sox
1948Grand Rapids Jets begin playing in Central League.
1953Grand Rapids Chicks win AAGPBL pennant
1954Jim Command, born in Grand Rapids plays third base for St. Louis (1954-55).
1959Donald Johnson “Don” Eaddy plays 25 games at third base for Chicago Cubs.
1965Mitchell Jack “Mickey” Stanley begins 15 year career with Detroit Tigers.
1971Richard Alan “Rick” Miller begins 15 years major league career with Boston Red Sox. Robert Walter “Rob” Ellis plays with Milwaukee Brewers; also in 1974-75.
1994West Michigan Whitecaps begin play in the Midwest League and open Old Kent Park (Fifth Third Park) in Comstock Park. They win championships in 1996 as an affiliate of the Oakland A’s, and 1998, 2004, 2006 & 2007 as an affiliate of the Detroit Tigers.
Above is an aerial photo of the field at the Kelvinator plant - perhaps the home field of the GR Leonards? This is near the corner of Clyde Park Avenue and Chicago Drive.
Below is the site today, part of the Godfrey Lee Schools athletic complex. It looks like the track is in about the same location but the baseball field is now east of the track.
Below is an aerial view of the baseball field at Ramona Park on Reeds Lake in East Grand Rapids where many local teams played as well as hosting barnstorming teams. The Detroit Tigers once played an official home game here.
Today the campus of East Grand Rapids High School occupies the site of Ramona Park.
James Dalton Command (Igor or Gor)
Bats Left, Throws Right
Height 6' 2", Weight 200 lb.
Debut June 20, 1954
Final Game September 20, 1955
Born October 15, 1928 in Grand Rapids, MI USA
Jim Command, nicknamed "Igor", was signed by the Philadelphia Phillies in 1947 to a contract that a newspaper said made him one the highest paid first-year class B players in the country. He was farmed to Terre Haute of the Three-I League, the same league his father, John "Ike" Command played in 35 years earlier. The elder Command had also been a golden gloves boxer.
Command was a third baseman in the majors for the Phillies in 1954 and 1955. His first hit was a grand slam home run, hit at Ebbets Fieldoff Carl Erskine in the first game of a doubleheader. The homer drove in Earl Torgeson, Granny Hamner and Del Ennis. He also started the second game, doubling in two more runs and accounting for all of his major league RBI.
Command played catcher for the Omaha Cardinals in 1957 where he was teammates with Tom Cheney and Bob Gibson.
He was the coach at Grand Valley State University from 1971-1973.
In 1996, Command was inducted alongside Gerald Ford into the Grand Rapids Sports Hall of Fame.
(I have not confirmed that this is the same Johnny Lucas in the photo of the 1926 Grand Rapids Body Co.)
John Charles Lucas [Buster]
(February 10, 1903 – October 31, 1970) was a backup outfielder who
played briefly for the Boston Red Sox in the 1931-32seasons. Listed at 5 ft 10 in (1.78 m), 186 lb., Lucas batted right-handed and threw left-handed, a fairly unusual combination. He was born in Glen Carbon, Illinois.
In a four-game career, Lucas went hitless in three at bats. He did not have fielding chances in two outfield appearances.
Lucas died in Maryville, Illinois at age 67.