Baseball in Middletown: Uncovering the National Pastime in Muncie, Indiana
Up until the 1950s the city of Muncie, Indiana, historically known as Middletown because of its representation of the average American city, could successfully boast several teams that participated in intercity leagues. These leagues included semiprofessional teams like the Muncie Citizens and the Muncie Reds as well as industrial and other company teams. There were teams like the Shamrock Athletic Club. The 1906 Shamrocks were the champions of the city league that year. Athletic Clubs existed for willing men and idle youths in the years before the Great Depression, and baseball was the most popular choice of most.
This is in contrast to the old days when teams would schedule games against the semiprofessionals (Muncie Citizens) for fun and for profit. Baseball`s popularity into the 1950s meant that a great deal of fans willingly spent money to watch their favorite teams compete with local rivals.
Company teams like those sponsored by Warner Gear and Marhoefer Meats would also compete on a citywide level in Muncie. Though companies like Warner Gear still promote league sports for employees, it is often in the form of inter-company softball leagues.Though the fans still come to games, it has been argued that the advent of television kept fans away from the baseball parks, like the popular facility at McCulloch Park in Muncie.
The 1906 champion Kitselman Brothers Knights
1914 Muncie National Institute Team. The Institute is now Ball State University.
Presumably, teams like the Muncie Reds could exist no longer because of the declining revenues associated with the convenience that television offered fans. Muncie was not alone. Similar teams in Indianapolis, Richmond, and in Dayton, Ohio folded as well. Television is not entirely to blame, either. The increasing appeal of major league baseball also lured fans away from the local parks. Muncie`s baseball stars like Clyde Crouse were slowly forgotten as fans turned their admiration to men the likes of Willie Mays and Joe DiMaggio. Baseball had grown top-heavy, and the teams on the bottom would bear the burden of the major leagues growth.
1944 Pittsburgh Pirates roster. The Pirates trained in Muncie in the spring during World War Two.
This exhibit illustrated the important role of the local teams that played in the years preceding World War Two. The Muncie Reds, the Muncie Citizens, and company baseball teams were only a few of the squads that provided Muncie`s population with America`s most exciting spectator sport of the time, baseball. It is these teams, the players, and the memories of their success that can be recalled by taking a glimpse into the exhibit.
The 1917 Muncie Greys
This exhibit was displayed in Bracken Library from July 1, 2003 through September 30, 2003. This online version presents selected items from the exhibit.