Baseball and Fort Wayne have always been synonymous. Since the 1800’s we have had deep roots in the sport. For instance did you know on June 2, 1883 the Jenney Electric Light Co. put up 17 arc lights around League Park in Fort Wayne so that a night game could take place? It is said to be one of the first night baseball games to be held in the country. How cool is that? Wouldn’t you have loved to be there? I am certain parents let their kiddos stay up late, eat something bad, and get dirty all over again. It makes me nostalgic just thinking about it. The history making did not stop there. All through the 1900’s there were amateur and semi-pro teams in town. There were the Billikens, the Spy Runs, the Wallace Street Stars, the South Waynes, and of course the popular Lincoln Lifers.
And then in 1927 something really awesome happened — the “Sultan of Swat” came to town. Not only did he grace our city, but Lou Gehrig did, as well. These two baseball greats came to play an exhibition game against our own Lincoln Lifers. The New York Yankees were in first place, Babe Ruth was on his way to 60 home runs for the season, and more than 3,000 Fort Wayne residents showed up to watch these men and their team take the field. Young and old were present and the men did not disappoint. They beat the Lifers 5-3 in the tenth inning.
In the same year, Babe Ruth was back in town for another exhibition game. The story goes that “The Great Bambino” hit a homerun so deep and long from the Old League Park on North Clinton Street that it hit a passing freight train and rolled right out of town. Somebody, somewhere found a baseball and had no idea of its worth I am sure. No one can verify the homerun landed on that passing rail car, but it is still a very cool story indeed.
And of course we all remember the movie, “A League of their Own,” a story about women and baseball starring Tom Hanks and Geena Davis. What you may not know is that movie was based upon the league the Fort Wayne Daisies played in from 1945-1954. The Fort Wayne Daisies were an all-women baseball team formed after WWII ended. There was a shortage of men to play so once again, the women stepped up. The team was popular with locals and played their games at North Side High School and Memorial Park. The team did well every year but failed to bring home the championship title any of the years they played. The league formally dissolved in 1954.
It would be many more years before baseball formally returned to Fort Wayne in the form of the Fort Wayne Wizards. The Wizards were a part of the Midwest League and they played their home games at Memorial Stadium for 15 seasons. In 2009, as a part of the downtown revitalization project, a new stadium became home to the Wizards and a contest was held to change their name. Opening day for Parkview Field and the TinCaps was April 16, 2009, where they played before a sold-out crowd.
Opening day 2014 for The TinCaps is April 3 at 7:05pm. Despite the cooler temps we have been experiencing I suspect plenty of Fort Wayne residents will be there to watch their local team take the field. Are any of you planning on attending? What do you look forward to the most? Whatever it is, eat some popcorn, drink a cold one, and have fun rooting for your home team!