Decatur Commodores

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Decatur Commodores
Founded in 1900
Decatur, Illinois
Previous Class-A (1963-74)
Class-D (1952–1962)
Class-B (1902–1909; 1911-15; 1922–1932; 1935; 1937-48)
Minor league affiliations
Previous leagues

Midwest League (1956–1974)

Mississippi–Ohio Valley League (1952-55)
Illinois–Indiana–Iowa League (Three-I) (1901–1909; 1911–1915; 1922–1932; 1935; 1937–1942; 1946-50)
Northern Association (1910)
Central League (1900)
Illinois-Indiana league (1889)
Central Interstate League (1888)[1]
Major league affiliations
San Francisco Giants (1962–1974)
Detroit Tigers (1957–1961; 1932)
St. Louis Cardinals (1955-56; 1946-47; 1937–1942)
Cincinnati Reds (1950)
Chicago Cubs (1948-49)
Minor league titles
League titles (4) 1928; 1952; 1953; 1957
Team data
Nickname Commodores (60 Seasons)
Previous names
Decatur Cubs (1949)
Decatur Nomads (1911)
Unknown (1888-89)[1]
Previous parks
Fans Field (1924–1974)[2]
Staley Field (1915–1922-23)[3]
Downing Racetrack (1901)[4]

The Decatur Commodores were a professional minor league baseball team based in Decatur, Illinois that played for 64 seasons. The Commodores are the primary ancestor of today's Kane County Cougars. They played, with sporadic interruptions, from 1900 to 1974 in a variety of minor leagues, but spent the majority of their existence in the Illinois–Indiana–Iowa League (the "Three-I" League), later joining the Mississippi–Ohio Valley League (1952 to 1955) and the Midwest League (1956 to 1974). While they spent most of their years as an independent without formal major league baseball team affiliation, their primary affiliations were with the St. Louis Cardinals and later the San Francisco Giants, with isolated affiliations with the Detroit Tigers, Chicago Cubs and Philadelphia Phillies.

The ballparks[edit]

The Commodores played home games at Fans Field (1924–1974). Fans Field had a 5,200-seat grandstand which was demolished when the team moved to Wausau, Wisconsin in 1974 and became the Wausau Timbers. The field is still in use as a softball field.

Prior to the 1924 construction of Fans Field, the Commodores played at Staley Field (1915, 1922–1923). They shared Staley Field with the football team for which it was built, the Decatur Staleys. The Staleys were the early NFL franchise started by A.E. Staley and headed by George Halas that relocated from Decatur in 1922 and became the Chicago Bears.[5] The Commodores began play at Downing Racetrack (now called Hess Park) in 1901.[3][4][6]

Commodores nickname[edit]

The nickname Commodores refers to Stephen Decatur, for whom the city is named. The team was often called the "Commies" for short, from a time before that became a slang term for "Communist". In their final years, they wore hand-me-down Giants uniforms, although still called the "Commodores", leading some fans to call them the "Commodore Giants".

League Championships[edit]


The following no-hitters were pitched by Decatur pitchers in Midwest League play:

  • 5-31-52 Ed Garrett, Mt. Vernon 5-1
  • 7-28-54 John Bumgarner, Clinton 1-0
  • 8-3-58 Gerald Fields, Clinton 5-0
  • 8-18-60 Bob Sprout, Waterloo 3-0 22 strikeouts
  • 6-20-61 Vern Orndorff, Clinton 3-0 7 Innings Perfect Game
  • 8-13-63 Ollie Brown, Wisconsin Rapids8-0
  • 6-7-66 Jesse Huggins, Wisconsin Rapids1-0 7 Innings
  • 8-15-69 Gary Lavelle, Clinton 4-0 7 Innings
  • 5-31-72 Doug Capilla, Appleton 1-0 7 Innings
  • 6-12-74 Jeff Little, Dubuque 1-0 7 Innings

Hall of Fame alumni[edit]

Notable alumni[edit]

Memorable games[edit]

  • May 30, 1909 – The Commodores win a 26-inning, 5-hour marathon over the Bloomington Bloomers 2-1. The 26 innings stays the record for the most innings in a completed professional game in the United States for 57 years.[10]
  • August 18, 1960 – 18-year-old, left-handed pitcher Bob Sprout of the Commodores pitched a no hitter against the Waterloo Hawks. In that game, Sprout struck out 22 hitters, which stands as the MWL single-game strikeout record.[11] The Commies won by a 3-0 score.

In fiction[edit]

The Commodores appear in Harry Turtledove's Worldwar series, an alternate history in which aliens invade Earth in 1942 and the Second World War turns into an interplanetary war. Members of the team are on a train which is attacked by the aliens at the beginning of the invasion. One ball player is kidnapped by the invaders and is eventually taken by them to China, while another player and the team's manager escape and join the forces fighting the invasion. A considerable part of the series is described from these three characters' points of view, in which their baseball background plays a significant role in a number of ways.


External links[edit]