January 17, 2009

The World Is A Small Place

This post must begin with the reaffirmation that the world is indeed a very small place. A few months ago, I was contacted by Jason Christopherson who found my blog randomly one day I blogged about my hometown of Eau Claire, WI.

It turned out Eric was from the Eau Claire area and had some Royals to trade with me. As we emailed back and forth he mentioned that he was also the author of a book about baseball in Eau Claire called...wait for it...Baseball in Eau Claire.

I had left Eau Claire in 2004 and had missed the publication of the book. But I thought I knew the history of Eau Claire baseball...that is, I knew the one story that stood above everything else. Heck, I didn't know there was something beyond THE STORY [more on that later]. But having read the book know, my little hometown of 60,000 has a pretty remarkable baseball history. Here are some of the highlights from the book [re-printed with the author's approval, thanks Jason]

This photo is the team photo of the Eau Claire Baseball Club at about 1900. The first thing to mention is the jerseys. How great are those right? How long must we wait until a team has the guts to return to the faired collar?

Who is the toughest player in the majors? A few years ago it would have been Curt Shilling and his bleeding sock right. And before that it was probably Nolan Ryan. Either way, every single player in this photo is tougher than any player playing today. And if they aren't tough enough for you they have what looks to be a pit bull that can take care of you.

This is a shot of Carson Park, the main baseball park in Eau Claire, from 1951. The park is still there today and I seen my share of games there but I've never been lucky enough to go to a game that was this packed with fans. Currently we have two teams that share the park: The Cavaliers [an amateur team] and The Express [a team in the Northwoods League]. My heart belongs to the Cavaliers and always will.

One of the little tidbits I didn't know about before reading the book was a little fact about the first manager of the Eau Claire team that would be apart of the Northern League. His name was Johnny Mostil and had played for the Chicago White Sox from 1921-1929. He is known for being the only player postioned at centerfield that caught a foul ball. This helps prove the point that nearly every player holds some kind of record.

One of my all-time favorites, Andy Pafko, made his pro debut in 1940 for Eau Claire. Twelve years later, Pafko would be on the first card of the most important set in baseball history.


Now onto THE STORY.

In 1952, during the time period that the Milwaukee Braves at a team [the Eau Claire Braves] in Eau Claire, the team signed a player named Henry Aaron to his first baseball contract. He would be paid $200 per month plus a little extra from a team in Evansville, Indiana. Hammerin' Hank played his first 87 games in Eau Claire before moving on and won the Rookie of the Year award from the Northern League.

Outside Carson Park today stands a statue in Aaron's honor.

And the team photo that will live in infamy in Eau Claire [Hank is on the middle row, far let]:

Thanks again Jason for the book!

1 comment:

Dave said...

I love looking at old baseball photos. These are no exception. The team shot with the dog was just great. Them's some tough lookin' dudes. The Henry Aaron shot was also great. He looks SO LITTLE!