The Boys of Summer - August 2014

2014-8-1

You remember when you were young and summer just seemed to last forever? Now that I'm older summer seems like it's over before it even starts. I use to spend my summer days outside riding my bike, climbing trees and playing with the neighborhood kids. We also spent a lot of time playing baseball. America's summer past time.
 
I have very fond memories playing sports as a kid growing up in Greenfield. I remember all my coaches, you remember making new friends, the team names that you played for and the spectacular plays that you made. There was nothing better than hanging out in Riley Park during the summer, chewing gum, eating hot dogs and getting dirty playing baseball.

There is a deep history of baseball in Greenfield, too much to cover in one article, so let's start by exploring history of Greenfield Youth Baseball Association, also known as GYBA, because for most youth in this community that like baseball this is where it would all begin.

The sport of baseball began to develop in 1845 when Alexander Cartwright published a book of rules which he developed for his Knickerbockers Club in New York. The first recorded game was between Cartwrights Knickerbockers who lost to the New York Baseball Club. The game was played at Elysian Field in New Jersey.

It's not exactly known when baseball came to Greenfield but it's safe to say that the sport was being played here by 1870-80's. You can comb through the various newspapers on micro film at the library and you'll find numerous articles of teams playing baseball. Teams were formed through school and through many local merchant teams that would independently form.

Eventually the Boys and Girls Club of Hancock County began running organized youth baseball leagues. Youth leagues were also being run in Maxwell. But by the 1970's it became apparent that this community was striving to develop baseball at a higher level and on January 26, 1971 a meeting was conducted at City Hall when representatives of the Baby Ruth Organization and the National Little League Organization meet to discuss how youth baseball could be developed and organized better in this community.

Babe Ruth was an organization that provided baseball for kids of older age groups. Little League was a national organization which was formed to help communities like Greenfield, in developing organized leagues. They helped assist communities with facilities, rules, coaching, umpiring and fund raising. What better organizations to look to in helping Greenfield get organized?

At that meeting everyone agreed that one organization should exist to provide baseball instructions to kids from 8-15 years old. They also agreed to become a member of the national organization and began creating by-laws, operating rules, insurance situations, training films and clinics, facilities and game times.

An inventory of fields at that time showed that there were ten fields of league size in both Greenfield and Maxwell. Seven of those fields were rarely used and needed some work.

Robert Caldwell, director of the Maxwell League, Gerald Rockey, Bill Herron, Dr. Al Melliere, Stan Deuitch, Asa Burkett, Dr. Merle Amundson, James Coleman, Nile White, Rev. Larry Curtis, and Norm Hammons were listed as men that participated in these first meetings. All were in favor of working together to improve the sport for the kids in the community. Don Pfaff, Athletic Director at Greenfield High School was also quoted as being in favor of working with the organization as well.

Over the next few months the group worked full time and was officially organized in March 1971. They were incorporated as a Non-for-profit in July of 1971. At that time youth from 9-12 years old would play Little League and 13-15 would play Babe Ruth.
 
2014-8-2
 
The first official season began in June of 1971 with Stan Deuitch as President. During that season 260 boys participated. There were five Babe Ruth league teams and 14 Little League teams. They had 20 paid sponsors and played a total of 114 games.
 
2014-8-3
Spring Practice at the Harris Field

Playing fields that were used in that first season for the Babe Ruth league was the Legion Field. This diamond was originally built sometime in the 1950's. It is located on the Northeast corner of Baldwin and Lincoln Streets, directly north of the Boys and Girls Club. When this field was first built it sat closer to Baldwin Street. In 1977 it was moved a little further to the east so that additional parking could be added in that area. Today this field is known as Hutton Field being named after Ralph Hutton and is used by GYBA for its senior league age group. Little League games were played at Weston South and East fields and Harris North and South fields.
 
2014-8-4
League Champions for the first year were Ernies Supermarket – Minor League, Hancock County Bank – Major League and Babe Ruth League was the American Legion Team. 
 
2014-8-5
Picture of the first pitch throw for the 1971 opening season of GYBA. This picture was taken at Harris Elementary School.  
 
 
2014-8-6
The first 1971 GYBA Babe Ruth All-Star Team
 
In 1972 numbers grew to 290 boys participating. They had five Babe Ruth teams and 17 Little League teams. There were 25 sponsors and they played 140 total games. In 1972 they added the Chapman field, which was located on the north end of Chapman Estates. And they began using what is now called the Rookie Field just east of the Boys and Girls Club on Howard St. This field was originally built by the Boys and Girls Club. In 1973 the league continued to grow increasing in size to 365 kids, six babe Ruth teams, 19 Little league teams, 25 sponsors and they played over 200 games. In 1973 they moved the Weston South field, did not use the Boys Club field and added the field at St. Michaels.

A March 1973 Daily Reporter article titled "Sportlight" written by Bob Dixon highlighted the excitement, support and success of the new league. By 1975 the league had 29 total teams and over 400 kids participating.

On June 14, 1976 the Greenfield Youth Baseball Association Constitution and By-Laws were officially signed. Walter Bowles was President, Herman Graddy and Keith David were vice-Presidents, Sharon Linton was Secretary, Tim Clark was Treasurer and Stan Douthy was Baby Ruth Manager. Other Directors signing were Ed Elmore, Jack Miller, Carmela Baty, Joan Modglin, Barbara Kasta and Roger Well.

At this time the Boys and Girls Club were running the league for ages of 7-8 year olds. Games were played on what is now the Rookie Field. Prior to the creation of GYBA the Boys and Girls Club organized a baseball league for all age groups, but the club was more than willing to turn that over to GYBA because it allowed them to focus more on other programs.

Over time additional fields were used for the league. What was known as the East Field was located between the National Guard Armory and the Shelter House, now current location of the swimming pool and Elmore Center along Apple St. The South Fields were located on what is now the County Highway property along Osage St. just East of Franklin St.
 
2014-8-7
Original Parks drawing of the future fields.

In case you were wondering league fees for the 1977 season were $10. Also today games start in April but in the 1970's we had those long summers and league play didn't start until June.

By the late 1970's the league began looking at consolidating its facilities. As more and more kids were playing it became difficult to host games at different sites. Parents with kids in different age groups did not have the advantage of being able to watch more than one of their kids playing. They also couldn't host tournament locally, they lacked proper equipment storage in the off season and they couldn't generate needed revenue for field maintenance without a concession stand.

In November 1976 the Greenfield Parks Board approved a plan to develop additional playing fields in Riley Park and to renovate the Legion, now Hutton Field.

Sponsors for the 1977 season were Indiana Knitwear, Elsbury reality, Macs Steakhouse, Henry County S & L, Johnson-Dudley, Graddy's Scrap Yard, American Legion, McDonalds, Robertson Drugs Store and Rollcoater.

The planning for the development of addition fields in Riley Park continued with arrangements in corporation with the City of Greenfield, whose mayor at that time was Keith McClarnon. A fundraising goal of $30,000 was set by GYBA. The goal was to have a state of the art facility that would be able to host state tournaments, have centralized playing facilities, proper concessions and storage. It would be something the whole community would be proud of.
 
2014-8-8
Stan Deuitch building the concession stand in October of 1977.

The committee that would be developing the fields consisted of Stan Deuitch – Project Manager, Bob Schmidt and Greg Alexander Co-Chairs, along with Herman Graddy and Tom Clark.

The whole community participated in a variety of ways and quickly the new fields were ready for play. In 1978 GYBA added 16-18 year old age group to their Babe Ruth League and that age group was open to everyone in the county.
 
2014-8-9
Greenfield competing against Center Grove in the 1977 District 12 State Tournament hosted in Greenfield. Notice the concession building still under construction in the background.
 
Currently GYBA is operating with the same five fields. They've made improvements to lighting, irrigation systems and built a newer concession, restroom and storage building. The original concession and restroom building became the much needed baseball equipment storage building.

The Boys Club league for the 7-8 year olds consolidated totally with GYBA. Today kids can begin playing baseball at the Rookie level at 5 years old. In 1991 GYBA won the Little League District 12 Indiana Championship. Many other teams would also have success in state tournaments.

Youth sports today have changed dramatically from when I played in the late 1970's and early 1980's. There are a lot of options depending upon the level of play you wish to be involved with. Along with that youth leagues must make changes to ensure that they can still provide the same mission to the kids of the community. With those changes come upgrades in facilities. Baseball still plays a big part of the kid's lives in Greenfield today at all levels.

Currently Mike Hubert is the President of GYBA. Many other dads in this community have served on the board, have volunteered to coach or pitched in on work days to help keep things nice and neat. Too many names to list but they know who they are and they should all be thanked for the role that they have played in continuing this organization.

Today GYBA finds them presented with a great opportunity to ensure that they can continue providing baseball to the kids of Greenfield. GYBA is currently in their 36 year of utilizing the ball diamonds in Riley Park. Time has taken its toll on the facilities and the five diamonds just aren't enough to serve the community.

Plans have already begun to develop a new baseball park, which is to be located in the field west of the current Jr. High school what will be off of McClarnon Drive. GYBA is teaming up with the Indiana Bandits Baseball Organization, a Greenfield based baseball group, to develop and maintain this new complex. Design are currently being developed but rest assured those involved will see that it will provide the same opportunities and facilities that the Riley Park diamonds have always done and more. This is a great opportunity for the kids in this community that enjoy playing baseball but also for those that just like to enjoy our parks system because with this it will open up and create new developed areas in Riley Park for people to explore and enjoy in the peaceful park setting that we love.

Today youth baseball is faced with the exact same situations it was faced with in the 1970's. The need for proper facilities that can help develop our youth through baseball in the future and the consolidation and corporation of different leagues and organizations coming together to work at ensuring that the leagues and facilities will be something we all can still be proud of.

I'm reminded of Babe Ruth's speech he gave in June of 1948 which was his last appearance at Yankee Stadium. Ruth died two months later. But in his address he said this: "You know, this baseball game of ours comes up from the youth. And after you've been a boy, and grow up to know how to play ball, then you come to the boys you see representing themselves today in our national pastime. The only real game in the world, I think, is baseball. As a rule, some people think if you give them a football or a baseball or something like that, naturally, they're athletes right away. But you can't do that in baseball. You've got to start from way down, at the bottom, when you're six or seven years old. You can't wait until you're 15 or 16. You've got to let it grow up with you, and if you're successful and you try hard enough, you're bound to come out on top, just like these boys here have come to the top now."

So as another chapter comes to a close for GYBA another excited chapter opens. Let the future history continue on. I look forward in future articles to exploring other areas of this sport and the success it's had on this community. So even though summer is almost over there is still a little time left to grab that hot dog, break open that box of Cracker Jacks and do a little stretching in the 7th inning.
 
By Greg Roland

Greenfield Daily Reporter
GYBA collective archives
Personal interview with Herman Graddy
Personal interview with Mike Hubert

More Greenfield History