Kansas Baseball, 1858-1941

Mark Eberle

Ferguson Kansas History Book Award

As baseball was becoming the national pastime, Kansas was settling into statehood, with hundreds of towns growing up with the game. The early history of baseball in Kansas, chronicled in this book, is the story of those towns and the ballparks they built, of the local fans and teams playing out the drama of the American dream in the heart of the country.

Kansas Baseball History, 1858–1941 is a winner. It loads the bases inning after inning, chapter after chapter, with lively player profiles and stories about baseball games, record-setting performances, and town rivalries throughout the state. Taking a full cut and making solid contact time and again, Mark Eberle scores with detailed accounts of women’s play, segregated and integrated teams, Indian baseball, minor league vicissitudes, and surviving ballparks.”

—Joseph L. Price, Genevieve S. Connick Professor of Religious Studies and Co-Director, Institute for Baseball Studies, Whittier College

“Mark Eberle’s Kansas Baseball, 1858–1941 is a valuable study of the under-appreciated role of baseball as a mirror of the social, cultural, and economic influences in the state as it navigated its formative years. His examination of teams of immigrants, women, African-Americans, Native-Americans, and Mexican-Americans is a treat and reveals much about Kansas society and character during the period prior to World War II. The author’s impressive use of local and regional newspapers, county and city archives, and recent websites has produced a model study that will not be duplicated. It will be a wonderful book to take on a road trip across Kansas to explore its past.”

— John Dreifort, editor of Baseball History from Outside the Lines: A Reader

Mark Eberle’s history spans the years between the Civil Warera and the start of World War II, encapsulating a time when baseball was adopted by early settlers, then taken up by soldiers sent west, and finally by teams formed to express the identity of growing towns and the diverse communities of African Americans, Native Americans, and Hispanic Americans. As elsewhere in the country, these teams represented businesses, churches, schools, military units, and prisons. There were men's teams and women's, some segregated by race and others integrated, some for adults and others for youngsters. Among them we find famous barnstormers like the House of David, the soldiers of the Seventh Cavalry who played at Fort Wallace in the 1860s, and Babe Didrikson pitching the first inning of a 1934 game in Hays.

Where some of these games took place, baseball is still played, and Kansas Baseball, 1858–1941 takes us to nine of them, some of the oldest in the country. These ballparks, still used for their original purpose, are living history, and in their stories Eberle captures a vibrant image of the state’s past and a vision of many innings yet to be played—a storied history and promising future that readers will be tempted to visit with this book as an informative and congenial guide.

About the Author

Mark E. Eberle teaches in the Department of Biological Sciences at Fort Hays State University. He is a coauthor of Kansas Fishes and Fishes of the Central United States, Second Edition, both published by Kansas.