In-depth with Brad Byrd: History of baseball in Evansville

In Depth with Brad Byrd

Eyewitness News Brad Byrd goes in-depth with the author Kevin Wirthwein to talk about his book “Baseball in Evansville: Booms, Busts, and One Global disaster.”

BB: Welcome to Indepth. From a satellite image of Evansville, it looks like a nickel just sitting there north of downtown. But that represents more than a hundred years of America’s pastime. baseball. Bosse Field, built at a time America was evolving in the industrial age. So how do you put all of this into a book a story? I’m joined tonight by a man who has done just that. He is Kevin Wirthwein. is a journalist who has the love of sports running through his veins. His book is titled, Baseball in Evansville: Booms, Bust, and One Global Disaster. that title will get out attention right off the bat.

Kevin thanks for being here tonight. First question I got for you, who in the world is papa bear?

KW: Papa bear is my grandfather, who showed me baseball.

BB: How did he do that?

KW: When Evansville finally got a minor lead team back in the city after nine years without one. In 1966 my grandfather … box seats and would take me to game after game to see my favorite team the Evansville White Sox. Class double a team.. team of the White Sox’s. I learned baseball and I learned to love Bosse Field. There’s nothing like it.

BB: You were hooked. With this history lesson that you’re presenting in this book. Would it have been possible? Would it even be here now if Bosse Field has not been built?

KW: That’s hard to say but I can imagine that it would. Bosse Field as you know is iconic as only two other stadiums in the country right now. Wriggly Field and… Park. It’s the third-oldest professional continuous use field.

BB: And long before cookie cutters we had ours right here in Evansville. But it was way ahead of its time.

KW: It was way ahead of its time it was a multi-purpose stadium. Unheard of.

BB: Well, of course, we have the Otters today. That is a remarkable story in itself. But triple a baseball, this book is really taking us back into the 19 century and the 1800s. So give me a brief cliff notes version of getting to that point to triple a baseball.

KW: Well, you’re right, baseball in Evansville started really after the Civil War. So my book splits it in half. The first 50 years of baseball until Bosse Field was built. And the last 50 or so. Until Evansville reached the pinnacle of minor league baseball.

BB: And let’s take a look at just some of the pictures here that you’ve been able to present in this remarkable essay, memoir that you’ve got here. This history book as you will call it. It brings me to this poem. It basically the words of Bart Giamatti who was the commissioner of major lead baseball for just about 5 months before he passed away in the very late ’80s. He wrote, ” baseball is designed to break your heart. the game begins in the spring when everything else begins again. It blossoms in the summer filling the afternoon and evenings. And then as soon as the chill, the rains come it stops and leaves you to face the fall all alone.” Would you say that pretty well describe baseball in Evansville?

KW: It perfectly describes it. In my book, I start off with seasons of hopes and in despair. I will have decades of hope that end in despair. For instance, after the turn of the century, Evansville baseball was affected by two world wars, the war in Vietnam, Korea. Two major floods, a great depression. All kinds of events.

BB: The bleachers that were built before Bosse Field, near the stockyards that is a story in itself. In fact, that was the .. for Bosse Field to be built. Because in, that was called… Park. It was built out of wood. and in 1914 in field.. exercises in may the grand stance collapsed injuring 42 people. Which Mayor Bosse saw it as an opportunity.

BB: And speaking of opportunities, the number of teams in Evansville. I think that’s what surprised me. It’s remarkable there were so many teams. Well, of course, the Triplets and now the Otters. The Black Sox’s and that team basically were kinda prophetic in some kind of way.

KW: It was prophetic. After World War One ended and baseball started up again. It had basically shut down. The first minor league team that came back to Evansville was named the Evansville Black Sox’s. And prophetically at the end of 1919, a Chicago team garnered that named infamously.

BB: I’ve got just less than 30 seconds.

KW: Mhmm.

BB: You like the Otters? They’re not part of this book.

KW: I love the Otters. I think that’s the most remarkable organization.

BB: That takes us kinda back to time.

KW: It does, it does. Indpendent.

BB: Okay.

KW: As all ball players were back in the day.

BB: Alrighty well it is a fascinating history lesson right here. Baseball in Evansville: Booms, Busts, and One Global disaster.” Kevin thank you soo much for joining us tonight. Good to talk to you. I could have talked to you for another hour.

KW: I could talk forever.

BB: Okay, thanks for being with us. You’re watching Eyewitness News at 9 Brandon will be back in just a moment.

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(This story was originally published on March. 3, 2020

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