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DELAWARE COUNTY--Birthplace of BIG LEAGUERS
For several decades this baseball park occupied the land north of the B. & O. station in Chester, at Twelfth and Upland Streets.
Probably no other city has produced more major league ball players than Chester. This has always been a baseball town a baseball county in fact. Many of our local boys have risen to diamond fame. Many others have come from elsewhere to play on Delaware County teams and then gone on to "the big show." Right now three local boys are winning fame on big league diamonds. Chester's John Podgajny promises to be a pitching star; much to the Phillies' delight. Hustling Danny Murtaugh, who came up late from the Texan League to the Phils, has stolen more bases than anyone in the National League since Max Carey. This is the more remarkable when one realizes that he doesn't sport a top heavy batting average, doesn't "get on" as often as a consequence. Mickey Vernon of Marcus Hook bats in the cleanup spot for the Washington Senators and promises to fill the shoes of Joe Judge and Joe Kulel former Washington stars.
The spectacle of ten thousand Chester and Delaware County fans led by the Sun Ship Band, which thronged Shibe Park one day last season to honor Murtaugh (a Sun Ship alumnus) and Podajny, prove that in peace or war this is a baseball country. So we'll briefly turn back the curtain and review its history since the days that Abner Doubleday and Harry Wright evolved baseball from a game that was played by country school boys in the days of Andy Jackson.
Back in the eighties, William L. Briggs, sporting goods dealer, tells us a man named Decker made and used the first catcher's glove. It was an ordinary right hand glove with the finger cut out. In fact you bought and wore a pair. Prior to that the catcher took them on the bounce. Six balls constituted a base on balls, later five and then four. When men were on base the catcher moved up to nail base-stealers or nip runners at the plate, returning when bases were clear.
Here's a lineup from a Ross-Houston game in 1883.
Chester Creek was the dividing line. If you lived east of the creek you rooted for the Ross team, which took its name from Robert E. Ross, for many years a haberdasher on Third Street west of Market. This team played at the park which was just north of the B. & O. station on Providence Avenue. Old timers will remember Hamilton Lutton, better known as "Ham." Until his death Mr. Lutton was connected with the Chester-Cambridge Bank. His daughter Mrs. Elsie Jones supervises affairs at the Delaware County Historical Society. Mr. Lutton was the first man to throw a curve ball, insiders say. Judge McDonough's book "The Old South Ward" says, "The best way to hit Lutton was to wait until the ball came around again. He pitched a 'dropaway' long before the great Christy Matthewson's 'fadeaway'." If you lived west of Chester creek you were a Houston rooter and no back talk. The Houston Club played at Third and Highland Avenue, under the aegis of the late S. Everett Sproul.
Then there was the team of the Catholic Literary Institute, a strictly amateur nine manned by players who, had they been able to hit as well as they fielded, would have become great.
In those days Chester had plenty of room to play ball on its many open lots - and plenty of time. There was no golf caddying to be done, no movies to attend, no radio to listen to. Boys played baseball so often and so hard that it's no wonder they grew into teams of experts.
The Stars of the Nineties
Today Polish, Ukrainian and Italian ancestry are indicated by the names in most local lineups, but at the turn of the century Irish ancestry predominated in the names of county ball players. How Green Was Our Valley when Conahan's Chester team played on July 30th, 1896!
At the Turn of the Century
Baseball became so big an attraction that towns the size of Chester could and would patronize two teams. Fierce was the rivalry between the Frysinger and Wiegand teams. Records show that the latter won most of the games between the two. At one period there was a reluctance on the part of one club to meet the other. Eventually a new street was run through the Twelfth Street Park and it passed from the scene.
Jesse Frysinger collected a fast team which played two seasons at the Twelfth Street Park, then was lured almost en masse to Wilmington in 1902. There the team played a famous "thousand dollar game" with the Brandywine Club of West Chester.
In the picture are: (back row) Harry Kuhn SS., "Snake" Deal lb., "Chick" Hartley P. and C. F., Winham P. Aubrey 3b; (middle row) Russell R. F., Harry Tate L. F., Stirlith C., Jesse Frysinger mgr., Harry Barton C., "Doc" Blough P. and C. F.; (front row) O'Neil 2b., Bert Everson P. The mascots were anonymous Wilmingtonians.
Among the players in Weigand's Chester Athletics about 1900 were: Tommy Campbell, "Johnson" (actually Malcolm MacDonald, Philadelphia "cop" who loved the game and slipped away to play under an alias), "Curt" Wiegand, Charlie Boyle, Harry rate, Stirlith, Pete Jackbon, Mullen, Harry Kuhn and "Reddy" Maxwell.
On the two teams at various times were Agnew, a catcher; Bonner, Broderick, Maury, Munch, Diggins and the two McCabes, all infielders; "Snake" Deal and Linderman, great first basemen; Johnny Barthold and Cy Voorhees, pitchers; "Iron Man" Bert Everson, who was accustomed to pitch three games a week; Harry Barton, catcher par excellence; also Tom News, another fine catcher; George Noblit (still residing in Chester), outfielder; Ollie Plummer, pitcher; "Bris" Lord, great outfielder and left hand pitcher and his brother Bill, built like an elephant but as graceful as a gazelle, a fleet-footed smooth second baseman and a terrific hitter; "Stony" McGlynn an "iron man" pitcher; Jack Townsend, also a twirler. Wilmington A. A., Wilmington B. B., Brandywine of West Chester, Media, Atlantic City, and the great negro club, the Cuban X Giants - furnished the opposition.
Chester and Upland came back into the picture in the twenties with fast clubs. Their headline players were Dick Spalding and Howard Lohr, outfielders of class; "Home Run" Baker, ex-Athletic star from the Hundred Thousand Dollar infield; Jake Munch and Ad Swigler, sluggers both; Rube Chambers, another iron man; George Mangus, exPhilly; Vernon Touchstone from Prospect Park, an exceptional pitcher. One of the County's first families in baseball was the Ogdens, Johnny and Curly from out Boothwyn way and "Hads" Ogden who played in Lansdowne. Eddystone, Fifth Ward, Seaboard and Media were also in the running.
Baseball in Media
Medes have always been in the thick of the baseball fray. Back in 1895-96-97 they had a bitter county-seat rivalry with the famous Brandywines of West Chester. Media could hold its end up, but verbal warfare and newspaper barrage of scurrilous repartee goaded both teams to the point that they raided the big league clubs of Philadelphia, Boston, St. Louis and Baltimore (then in the 12 club National League) for players. The score was (censored) and Media wasn't the winner.
The regular Media lineup in those days included Harry Barton and Chick McShane, catchers, Ollie Plummer and "Pop" Everson, pitchers; Cheese Anderson Ib, the late Squire Al Mathues 2b, Jack Stackhouse 3b, "Tricky" France ss, George Noblit, to be seen daily at the Franklin Fire House or Birney's Cigar Store, Phil Carlin, Pete Reilly, manager and outfielder. Also wearing Media uniforms then or subse. quently were Jack Egan, W. C. Alexander, Walter R. Johns, Jay Murray and Bill Diggins.
In more recent days Media has had Lew Krausse, skilled pitcher; "Sid" Agnew, fleet outfielder, and Buddy Behrends, still Phillies property but busy in Uncle Sam's pay
THE MEDIA TEAM OF 1897
The handlebar mustache was in its hey-day when this team played at Third and Edgmont in the County Seat. (Back row) Scorer Donnelly, Graham SS., Phil Carlin R. F., Harry Barton, who got around, C. Bert Everson P., Leiper C. F., Henderson. (Front row) Curt Weigand, 2b., "Cheese" Anderson lb., Smith, Taylor mgr., Murray 3b., and "Squire" Al Mathues.
During the War when Daylight Saving Time started twi-light baseball came into the picture, followed by Sunday ball - first played sub rosa until legalized. They didn't then dream of night ball under powerful lights
UPLAND BASEBALL TEAM
This husky team of approximately the same vintage brought fame to Upland as some of their players graduated to the big league. (Bottom row) Fred Seaman, Al Parkinson and Bris Lord. (MiddIe row) - Hickey, Sam Johnson, Tommy Hart, Billy Lord, Fred Ousey, and two unidentified. The solemn-faced gents standing are Bill Macklin, Dick Hannum and Frank Miller.
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This page last updated 03/25/06
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