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BASEBALL AND MILROY: A Fifty-Year Love Affair

TABLE OF CONTENTS

1954 Mythical State Champion Picture

Introduction

Milroy the Town

The Milroy Yankees

State Champions and the New Field

The Men Who Played

The Decline of Town Team Baseball

The Survival of Baseball in Milroy

 

Introduction

            Baseball is truly America’s game.  It always has been.  From 1930 to 1955 virtually every town in Minnesota had its won baseball team.  The game grew in popularity and many towns grew and thrived with their teams, such was the case in Milroy.  Milroy’s team had passed the test of time, while many of the town’s rivals had failed.  This small town wanted baseball to live, and somehow it did.

            From the time Alexander J. Cartwright established the rules of the game until 1996, this game has grown up in America’s cow pastures and backyards to the multi-million dollar stadiums of today.  On June 19, 1246, two amateur teams met on the Elysian Fields in Hoboken, New Jersey, and played a form of ball that no one had ever seen before.  From Cartwright’s design, the game flourished and spread to other regions of the United States.

            By the time the Civil War broke out baseball had spread all the way the West coast, and rural baseball had become a form of entertainment.  During the Civil War, the soldiers would play the games amongst themselves and from time to time they would play versus the soldiers they had captured.  The game relieved the boredom that often accompanied the soldiers’ lives.  When the war ended, the soldiers came home with new knowledge of the game and the rage for ball playing began.

            By the late 1800s a rough version of baseball was played all across America, from the farms to the large cities.  By 1865, thirty-two teams existed in Chicago, and in the rural regions pasture ball became a craze.  In the late 1800s a town would gather nine men and send a message to a town nearby to meet them.  The nearby town would round up nine men, and the two teams would meet in an open pasture and play all day.  As might be imagined, the players had to watch their step.

            As the1900s were ushered in, so was a more organized form of baseball.  The major leagues as we know them were in their infancy, and amateur teams and leagues were beginning to form.  By 1930 most Minnesota towns had teams and leagues.  Baseball became a form of competition between local towns.

            Then World War II struck not only a blow to the world, but baseball as well.  Towns could not supply the manpower needed to uphold a team, because they were all away at war.  The boys were gone, and baseball in the rural areas could no longer live.  Louis Dolan, a member of the Milroy baseball team from 1945 to 1953, recalls, “There wasn’t a lot [of playing] baseball shut down pretty much during the war years.  There weren’t enough young guys, guys were going in to the service right out of high school.”  From 1941 to 1945 amateur baseball suffered its biggest slump.

            With the end of the war came the reemergence of baseball as the “national pastime.”  The men came back, and so did the sport.  In 1946, baseball had everything going for it.  The National Football League did not have the fan base and was relatively small compared to baseball.  Television was not as prevalent in the rural areas, and people were on small incomes and could not afford to go on vacations.  With activities limited, baseball prospered.  The years right after the war were the high point for town team ball.

            In the late 1940s and early ‘50s, the town teams would play primarily on Sundays.  This allowed the family to pack up the car and drive into town for a weekly vacation.  Baseball was the only game in town, and it quickly became a place for a family to get together and support their town, along with catching the latest gossip.  In rural Minnesota, baseball games were said to attract crowds in the thousands for a single game.  Often times, there was a bigger crowd for town team practices than today’s games attract.

            While the ‘40s and ‘50s gave the fans a chance to cheer like crazy for their hometown heroes, the 1960s would again serve as a threat to baseball’s popularity.  Why this threat occurred and how it affected amateur baseball is a formidable question in itself.  The better question may be how and why did some small town teams survive and others did not?  One team that did survive was Milroy.

            Milroy, Minnesota, is small farming town located in the southwest corner of the state, approximately fifteen miles east of Marshall.  This tiny community, situated on the edge of Redwood County, gained recognition with its baseball, despite a population that has average about 260 people over the last thirty years.