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Bismarck Municipal Ballpark to be renovated this summer

Bismarck Churchills

Bismarck Municipal Ballpark, which has seen plenty of history (including the likes of Satchel Paige and Ray Dandridge gracing the playing field) over the years, will be upgraded this season — to the tune of $1.5 million.

The ballpark currently seats 800 in a run-down grandstand. The project, funded with private donations and administered by the local park board, will increase seating capacity to 1,800 with a new grandstand, new press box, new concessions and perhaps a display highlighting the history of baseball at the ballpark. Chief among that history: a semi-pro integrated team featuring a young Satchel Paige and other Negro Leaguers, as a local car dealer worked to buy a winner. From our previous story:

One such clash came in 1933, when Paige, then with the Crawfords, felt Gus Greenlee was underpaying him; he walked away from the Negro Leagues to play for an integrated semi-pro team in Bismarck, N.D., for $400 and and the use of a late-model car. The team was organized by local car dealer Neil Churchill (hence the car); it’s sometimes referred to as the Bismarck Churchills, but that name was not used during the team’s existence. That stint lasted only a month, and afterwards Paige returned to the Crawfords to finish out the season.

In 1935, the same situation arose: Greenlee refused to raise Paige’s pay past $250 a month, so Paige returned to Bismarck under the same pay rate as before. Paige had one of the best years of his career — he went 29–2 with 321 strikeouts and issued only 16 walks — on an integrated team that included Negro Leagues stars like “Double Duty” Radcliffe. The Bismarck team was invited by Hap Dumont to play in the inaugural National Baseball Congress at Wichita’s Lawrence-Dumont Stadium, and the Paige-led Bismarck team won the crown and the $7,000 purse. (Most, but not all of the team is shown in the photo above.)

One other potential development: an upgraded ballpark would be a perfect home for a summer-collegiate Northwoods League team.

RELATED STORIES: Satchel Paige, Bismarck and Lawrence-Dumont Stadium


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