Town Team Baseball

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Town Team Baseball is a variety of amateur baseball played in the United States. In Town Team baseball, sometimes also called townball, the teams represent either a given city or town, or a commercial enterprise which sponsors the team. Usually a statewide governing body sets uniform rules for two or more classes, including proximity (how close the player must live to the town for which he plays) and other eligibility rules, pay or stipends for players and coaches, boundaries, and rules to prevent players from switching teams without reason. Such governing bodies may also coordinate annual statewide playoffs, facilitate communication between teams and leagues, and help to arrange for training and placement of umpires.

History[edit]

The history of Town Team Baseball varies from state to state. In addition to the states included below, Townball was played in Iowa, Kansas, and Wisconsin.

Minnesota[edit]

Townball has been played in Minnesota since the 1920s. Townball enjoyed its peak of popularity in the 1940s and 1950s, with as many as 799 teams participating in the 1950 season.[1] The first town baseball team in Minnesota is believed to have been Nininger's, in 1857.[2] Although many towns in Minnesota have fielded baseball teams continuously since the 1880s, townball as we know it really came into existence in 1924 with the organization of the State Tournament, masterminded by the Saint Paul Pioneer Press and Saint Paul Dispatch writers Roy Dunlap and Lou McKenna.[1] One year later, the AM-ABL was formed as a governing body for Townball in Minnesota. This organization still exists as the Minnesota Baseball Association.

Numbers of teams and leagues operating in Minnesota peaked between the end of World War II (1945) and the arrival of Minnesota's new Major League Baseball team, the Minnesota Twins, in 1961. Since the minimum number of players required to field a team for a single game with no substitutions is nine, then at least 7191 (and in actuality a much larger number) individuals participated in Minnesota townball in the peak year, 1950.

Historic divisions[edit]

Historically, Townball teams in Minnesota were divided into three classes: AA, A, and B. In Class AA leagues, teams were permitted three players from outside the local area, and salaries were unlimited; essentially, whatever the team's owners or shareholders could afford, they could pay. Because the unrestrained competition and unlimited budgets bankrupted many teams and forced others to move to a lower class, this form of Townball disappeared in Minnesota by 1960, its leagues all victims of their own excesses. Legendary football coach Bud Grant played Class AA townball in Minnesota and Wisconsin and remarked, "I made more money playing [town team] baseball than I did playing for the Minneapolis Lakers...And we won an NBA title while I was playing for them." [3] Another perspective came from a former official from Bird Island, Fabian Sheehan: "We priced ourselves out of the business, but we sure had a good time doing it." [3]

Nonetheless, some teams were able to turn a profit at this level. Former Fergus Falls pitcher Harley Oyloe said, "As far as Fergus Falls, anyone who was around back then remembers those days and talks about them still. You tell the young kids that we used to have two or three thousand fans for a game and they think you're nuts."[3]

At the Class A level, teams were permitted two players from outside the local area, and salaries were still unlimited. Class B teams were required to draw all their players from a 15 mile radius from city limits, and no salaries were permitted, although many players were enticed to relocate to towns with B-level teams by offers of employment in local schools or establishments. Because this was the most economical level of Townball, it was also the most prevalent. However, it was always the least prestigious level of amateur baseball in Minnesota. It was not unheard-of for a town to field a B-class team in addition to an A or AA level team. Some towns even fielded three teams, with lower-level teams developing talent and feeding it to higher-level teams.

Today[edit]

In some states, townball is all but extinct in its traditional form. In others, particularly in Minnesota, it remains vibrant and popular.

Minnesota[edit]

Today there are more than 300 active Townball teams in Minnesota,[2] playing in over 30 leagues throughout Minnesota,[4] with major concentrations in the southern and central areas of the state.

Modern divisions[edit]

The classification system was revamped in 1986 to restore Minnesota amateur baseball to a 3-tiered format.[2] Today the three classes are A, B, and C. Class A is reserved for teams from the Minneapolis-Saint Paul metropolitan area[5] and Class B teams are typically composed of larger outstate towns and teams that have won the Class C Championship.[5] As of 2000, there were 48 teams in this class.[2] All remaining teams are in Class C. There are 230 teams in this class as of 2012.[6] This division is equivalent to class B under the old classification system.[2] The 2012 champions in Minnesota are:

The Class B / Class C state tournament is awarded to different towns throughout the state each season. Typically, 2 towns in close proximity host the tournament. The tournaments for both classes are held in conjunction with each other at the same venues.

Notable Players[edit]

Notable players from Minnesota Town Team Baseball include Herb Brooks, Carmen Cozza, Bobby Dill, Paul Giel, Bud Grant, Sam "Toothpick" Jones, Dana Kiecker, Jerry Kindall, Dick Lanahan, Tom Mee, Eugene McCarthy, Gread McKinnis, Les Munns, Frank O'Rourke (the sports and western author, not the Major League infielder), Jim Pollard, Jim Rantz, Frank "Pep" Saul, Howie Schultz, Herb Score, Dick Siebert, Whitey Skoog, Moose Skowron, Hilton Smith, Terry Steinbach, Dick Stigman, Hy Vandenberg, Rudy York, and Bert Blyleven (for one game in the 2007 season), Jim Eisenreich.

Nebraska[edit]

In 2007 in Nebraska, under the auspices of the Nebraska Baseball Association, there were nine leagues fielding over 50 teams. By 2009, the organization has grown to 75 teams and reaches beyond the borders of Nebraska to accommodate out of state teams that have no other league in which to belong. Just three years old, the Nebraska Baseball Association has begun to pick up momentum and increased exposure. More towns are now assembling teams.
The Nebraska Baseball Association structure was made possible with the research and assistance from the North Dakota Baseball Association, South Dakota Amateur Baseball Association, and the Minnesota Baseball Association. Nebraska, South Dakota, North Dakota, and Minnesota are the only states in the country that have amateur state baseball organizations featuring legitimate qualifying district and state tournaments. Wyoming is seeking assistance from these states to establish another state baseball organization.

2007 Class A
State Champions: Lincoln Lawlor Polecats
State Runner Up: Lincoln Reds
State tournament site: Dunlap Field, Cairo, Ne.
District tournament sites: Hastings, Ne.; Crete, Ne.

2007 Class B
State Champions: Ogallala Moose Lodge #1624
State Runner Up: Hartington Bankers
State tournament site: Dunlap Field, Cairo, Ne.
District tournament sites: Schuyler, Ne.; Hartington, Ne.

2008 Class A
State Champions: Lincoln Dirtbags
State Runner Up: Kearney Kernels
Tournament MVP: Jeremy Fries, Lincoln Dirtbags State tournament site: Kearney, Ne.

2008 Class B
State Champions: Wakefield Capitals
State Runner Up: Yutan Pilots
Tournament MVP: Max Greve, Wakefield State tournament site: Wakefield, Ne. Eaton Field
District tournament sites: Sidney, Ne.; Tekamah, Ne.; Chadron, Ne.; O'Neill, Ne.; Wakefield, Ne.

2009 Class A
State Champions: Lincoln Diablos
State Runner Up: Kearney Kernels
Tournament MVP: Kevin Hanley, Lincoln Diablos
Class A state tournament site: Kearney, Ne.
District tournament sites: Omaha, Ne., Lincoln, Ne., Gibbon, Ne., Alliance, Ne.; Scottsbluff, Ne.

2009 Class B
State Champions: Hartington Bankers
State Runner Up: Haxtun, Colorado Bombers
Tournament MVP: Brett Bosn, Hartington Bankers
Class B state tournament site: Wakefield, Ne.
District tournament sites: Ashland, Ne.; Wakefield, Ne.; Cairo, Ne.; Imperial, Ne., Chadron, Ne.

2009 Roy & Ross Speece Umpire of the Year: Tim Higgins, Grand Island, Ne.

2010 Class A
State Champions: Kearney Kernels
State Runner Up: Lincoln Reds
Tournament MVP: Kyle Kraska, Kearney Kernels
Class A state tournament site: Kearney, Ne.
District tournament sites: Omaha, Ne., Lincoln, Ne., McCool Junction, Ne., Scottsbluff, Ne.

2010 Class B
State Champions: Haxtun, Colorado Bombers
State Runner Up: Chadron Titans
Tournament MVP: Jake McClain, Chadron Titans
State tournament site: Sidney, Ne.
District tournament sites: Pierce, Ne.; Yutan, Ne.; Scotia, Ne.; Haxtun, Co.; Chadron, Ne. 2010 Roy & Ross Speece Umpire of the Year: Mike Davis, Yutan, Ne. 2010 Max Greve Player of the Year: Travis Boyll-Kearney Kernels

2011 Class A
State Champions: Omaha Tigers
State Runner Up: Lincoln Reds
Tournament MVP: Caleb Zimmer, Omaha Tigers ***first legion player to earn MVP***Omaha Central
State Tournament sites: Brown Park at John Stella Field, Omaha Central at Boyd Park
Class A Max Greve Player of the Year: Kevin Hanley, Lincoln Diablos
Roy & Ross Speece Umpire of the Year: Ray Manske

2011 Class B
State Champions: Valley Roughriders
State Runner Up: Mead Steam Engines
Tournament MVP: Chris Riley, Valley Roughriders
State Tournament sites: Dunlap Field-Cairo, Grover Cleveland Alexander field-St. Paul
Class B Max Greve Player of the Year: Jake Stutzman, Cairo Camels

North Dakota[edit]

The 2007 champions for North Dakota are:

In 2009, amateur baseball in North Dakota re-organized into a league known as the Great Plains Amateur Baseball league. The league featured two divisions, with the "Three Rivers" Division representing teams that were at the AAA level, and the "Southeast Division" representing teams at the AA level and below.

In 2009, Fairmount won the league championship. In 2010, Enderlin was league champion.

In 2011, the league organized under a new name, the North Dakota Amateur Baseball League. The league will feature 16 teams, split into four divisions of four teams each. The league tournament is scheduled to be played in Valley City July 30–31.

There remain a handful of teams that are technically independent and not affiliated with any league. They play independent schedules and are still eligible for the state tournaments in August.[7]

South Dakota[edit]

Great Town Team Baseball teams and players from South Dakota are honored by the South Dakota Amateur Baseball Hall of Fame in Lake Norden. The 2010 champions for South Dakota were:

  • The Brandon Valley Merchants in Class A

~ Nick Bruning State MVP ~ Nick Bruning, Bryce Ahrendt, Nate Alfson, & Tyler Pierson members of the BV Merchants who made ALL-STATE Team

  • The Dimock-Emery Raptors in Class B

Wisconsin[edit]

The Wisconsin Baseball Association (WBA) is Wisconsin's largest amateur league. The WBA has over 60 teams, located throughout Northern Wisconsin, and in Western Wisconsin along the St. Croix and Mississippi River valleys from Grantsburg to LaCrosse. Unlike leagues in other states, the WBA is not split into divisions. On average, however, the level of competition could probably be compared to Class B in Minnesota, although many of the teams advancing to the post-season are Class A caliber.

  • 2012 Wisconsin Baseball Association Champions: Menomonie Eagles, St. Croix Valley League
  • 2011 Wisconsin Baseball Association Champions: River Falls Fighting Fish, St. Croix Valley League
  • 2010 Wisconsin Baseball Association Champions: Haugen Knights, Independent League
  • 2009 Dairyland League Champions: Bonduel Broncos
  • 2008 Wisconsin State League Champions: Lombard Orioles

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Town Ball, the Glory Days of Minnesota Amateur Baseball, Armand Peterson and Tom Tomashek, University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis and London, page x (introduction), ISBN 0-8166-4675-9
  2. ^ a b c d e [1][dead link]
  3. ^ a b c "de beste bron van informatie over minnesotatownball. Deze website is te koop!". minnesotatownball.com. Retrieved 2014-02-26. 
  4. ^ [2][dead link]
  5. ^ a b "Website Disabled". Adaathletics.homestead.com. Retrieved 2014-02-26. 
  6. ^ [3][dead link]
  7. ^ "North Dakota Amateur Baseball League". Ndabl.com. Retrieved 2014-02-26. 

External links[edit]

Bibliography[edit]