Pharos-Tribune

May 14, 2014

KITCHELL: Baseball once and always the Logan pastime


Pharos-Tribune

---- — It may have been a time, about 100 years ago this week when Johnny “Red” Corriden of Logansport spread the baseball fever to schoolboys throughout the city.

It was then that Corriden, according to newspapers of the day, had become the everyday shortstop for the Chicago Cubs. We don’t know much about him. We know he was 5-foot-9. We know he weighed 165 pounds and played third, shortstop and second base. We know he only homered six times in a career from 1910 to 1915, a career that involved stints with the Cubs, St. Louis Browns and Detroit Tigers. We know that one of his homers came off Eddie Cicotte, one of the Chicago White Sox’s greatest pitchers who also had the distinction of throwing the 1919 World Series against the Cincinnati Reds.

We don’t know if he was the genesis of what today is the Logansport pastime -- the game people come out to watch on weekday evenings and Saturdays at places like Tower Park and Fairview Park where there are no less than four baseball fields. We don’t know if Red was the seed for four state baseball championships and three other state finals appearances.

What we do know is that Logansport has lost many things over the years from the Pennsylvania Railroad to the Golden Rule. But it has never quite lost its lust for baseball. What we do know is that 100 years ago, the game was played at Spencer Park and the local semi-pro team, the Ottos, was beating the likes of Fort Wayne and Indianapolis.

What some of us know is that there is something more to baseball than uniforms and hats, spikes and bats. There is something more than sliding and umpires, concessions and rainouts. There is a tradition that we want to scoop out and taste as much as bubblegum, popcorn and even cracker jack.

When Jim Turner retired as Logansport’s most successful baseball coach in 1991, I tried in vain to get Detroit Tiger announcer Ernie Harwell to speak at Turner’s retirement dinner. He was unable to come, but if he had come, I would have enjoyed hearing him talk about baseball the way he did in his Hall of Fame induction speech. He described what baseball is to the country as well as any journalist ever has.

“Baseball is the president tossing out the first ball of the season and a scrubby schoolboy playing catch with his dad on a Mississippi farm. A tall, thin old man waving a scorecard from the corner of his dugout. That’s baseball. And so is the big, fat guy with a bulbous nose running home one of his (Babe Ruth’s) 714 home runs ...

“Baseball is a spirited race of man against man, reflex against reflex. A game of inches. Every skill is measured. Every heroic, every failing is seen and cheered, or booed. And then becomes a statistic.

“In baseball democracy shines its clearest. The only race that matters is the race to the bag. The creed is the rulebook. Color merely something to distinguish one team’s uniform from another.

“Baseball is a rookie. His experience no bigger than the lump in his throat as he begins fulfillment of his dream. It’s a veteran too, a tired old man of 35 hoping that those aching muscles can pull him through another sweltering August and September. Nicknames are baseball, names like Zeke and Pie and Kiki and Home Run and Cracker and Dizzy and Dazzy.

“Baseball is just a game, as simple as a ball and bat, yet as complex as the American spirit it symbolizes. A sport, a business and sometimes almost even a religion.

“Baseball is cigar smoke, hot roasted peanuts, The Sporting News, ladies day, “Down in Front”, Take Me Out to the Ball Game, and the Star Spangled Banner.

“Baseball is a tongue-tied kid from Georgia growing up to be an announcer and praising the Lord for showing him the way to Cooperstown. This is a game for America. Still a game for America,”

Couldn’t have said it any better.

Dave Kitchell is a columnist for the Pharos-Tribune. He can be reached at ptnews@pharostribune.com.