Old baseball parks possess ambience
Just the other day while driving through the north end of Houghton County, I came across the old ballpark in Ahmeek.
While the park is still in the same location, it’s been modified as a Little League facility.
It’s not the same place where Twilight League teams once played. But it struck a memory chord for me as I started thinking about the ball diamonds that were used around here 50 or more years ago.
Believe me, there were some ballparks that possessed their own ambience.
Take the Hancock Driving Park.
Before the current improvements were made at the site in the late 1970s, it was almost like a local version of the old Polo Grounds in New York.
For one thing, there was a pretty comfy right field. At 275 feet down the line, it offered an inviting target for left-handed batters.
But was the cavernous centerfield that caught your attention on first sight.
The sign in dead center read 513 feet, but it was so distant that it could have been 800 feet.
It was said that only one or two batters ever cleared the distant barrier. One of those was Tapiola’s “Fats” Haapala, who was reputed to have the power usually reserved for the Babe Ruths and Lou Gehrigs of the world.
The old park in South Range was another place that just oozed atmosphere.
With its old wooden grandstand and high wooden fences, it was virtually like stepping back into the 1920s.
In a 1948 appearance in South Range by a group of barnstorming major league players, Dizzy Trout of the Detroit Tigers stole the show.
Late in the game against a local all-star team, Trout bet a local businessman $5 that he would clear the fence on his next appearance at the plate.
Now, this was when five bucks had some real worth. You could probably make a down payment on a car with it.
Trout — one of the real characters in baseball back then — promptly belted one into the bleachers. He danced over to the businessman to collect his bet.
One more additional unique old park was the one in Wolverine.
There was a slab of concrete in centerfield that was approximately 6 by 8 feet long. I’m not kidding.
More than one unwary outfielder went for a sliding catch out there — and came up with the strawberry of all strawberries.
Space doesn’t allow me to talk about Slag Stadium in Ripley or The Crusher in South Range.