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June 13, 2016

Baseball in Noblesville and Hamilton County: 1890-1910

Baseball in Noblesville and Hamilton County: 1890-1910

By: David Heighway, Hamilton County Historian

1897 BaseballFollowing up on the two previous baseball posts – Baseball in Noblesville and Hamilton County: 1868-1880 and Baseball in Noblesville and Hamilton County: The 1880’s. I thought would look at how the local teams developed in the next couple of decades.

The quality of player changes in the 1890’s. They became largely more blue-collar and somewhat rowdier. Most of them were workers at the big factories on the southwest side of the city – the cardboard factory or the enameling plant. Typical of them was Jack Kerwin, the right fielder (seated, center in photograph), who was discussed in a news story in the Noblesville Ledger from July 2, 1897.

“A gray-haired old gentleman named Thompson, who has been around town for several days, selling clocks, rugs, and various other articles, proved himself to be somewhat skilled in the art of self-defense night before last. Jack Kerwin, a Strawboard employee, who placed himself on the outside of a quantity of bad whiskey early in the evening, met the old gentleman in front of Nagler’s restaurant and took him to task for leaving a rug at his home. Thompson warded off the blows a la Corbett-style and had Kerwin at his mercy several times, but refused to punish him. No arrests have been made.”

One member of the team was Leroy Roberts, (back row, second from right), an African American player who was mentioned in the post about Nan Roberts. Incidentally, if you look closely at their uniforms in the picture, the position that they played is sewn on the collars.

Even as some aspects of the game were changing, not all of the players were roughnecks. This is a neighborhood team from 1901 called the “Mosquitoes”.  The young man sitting on the left of the image is the one taking the photograph – note the string in his hand. (You might say this is a very early selfie.) He is Earl Brooks who, besides being an athlete, grew up to become one of the best-known naturalists in the Hamilton County area. After 1900, a separate African-American baseball club was formed in Noblesville. They were called the Black Diamonds and had some very successful seasons, particularly 1905.

1908 baseballThe last of the really well known teams from the county was the 1908 team, a collection of veterans and ringers that pretty much devastated the opposition. The team manager was George “Curley” Stevenson (back row, second from left) from the 1880’s team. Down in front (center), you have Frank Hare as team Captain and third baseman, fresh from being scouted by the pros. The pitcher, Clarence Bales (front row right) went on to play for the Indianapolis Indians. And the cheerful fellow in the back (second from right) is Johnny Fisher, the shortstop. He had been a member of the Indianapolis club in 1904 before being kicked out for arguing with the manager. In a later post, I’ll explain why the first baseman, Clarence Wyant (front row, left), became the most well-known player in the summer of 1908.