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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