It was 100 years ago today that Evansville’s Bosse Field first hosted a professional baseball game. Since then, 100 Hall of Famers have played on the storied field – and one of the most historic facilities in the sport is still going strong.
Bosse Field opened on June 17, 1915, at a time when baseball was rapidly growing in stature as America’s Pastime. With the established National and American Leagues fighting off the advance of the Federal League – the circuit that gave us the Chicago Chi-Feds/Whales and Weeghman Park, later renamed Wrigley Field – the affiliated minor leagues were booming, with 32 leagues scattered across the country. That first team, the Evansville Evas, were part of the Class B Central League. A few former and future major leaguers were on that Evas roster: Arthur Hauger, for example, was a career minor leaguer who had a brief 15-game stint with the 1912 Cleveland Naps.
Bosse Field replaced Louisiana Street Park, a dilapidated wooden ballpark near the stockyards. There was no grand farewell to the old ballpark during its last game on June 16 – in fact, the team couldn’t wait to move to the brand-new ballpark, per the Evansville Courier:
“The game went along as usual and ended with no significance except an immediate bustle on the part of the ground keeper and concession stand proprietor to hurry paraphernalia to Bosse Field. Before the rubber slab at home plate was hardly cooled off, it had been uprooted and tossed into a wagon on its way to Bosse Field.”
It didn’t take long for the old ballpark to be torn down – demolition was set to begin the same day Bosse Field open:
“Tomorrow the wreckers will attack the old bleachers and the amphitheater and the new grand stand with axes and hammers. The boards which have resounded to the stampings of uncounted thousands of feet and the hammering of innumerable pop bottles will be so much junk. The last of the thunder from feet and bottles has been heard.
“The solid concrete at the new park will give forth no sound. The rooting there will all be by lung power.”
That the new ballpark would be built of concrete and steel was a source of pride to a rapidly growing city. The Central League encompassed rapidly growing cities – Youngstown, Dayton, Erie, Fort Wayne – and a new steel and concrete ballpark at a time when old-fashioned wooden facilities were still the norm was made Evansville stand out.
Over the years Evansville was a staple in the minors, including a stint hosting the Triple-A Evansville Triplets at a time when the Detroit Tigers sent many stars there: Jack Morris, Lance Parrish, Mark Fidrych and Kirk Gibson all spent time in a Triplets uniform, and Jim Leyland managed there. Bosse Field also served as the sports center of the city: Hall of Famer and former Miami Dolphin Bob Griese played high-school football there, as did the University of Evansville football squad.
Many baseball fans are familiar with Bosse Field even if they don’t know it: It was the primary set for the classic A League of Their Own, the movie about the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League.
Today, Bosse Field is a classic venue, hosting the Evansville Otters (independent; Frontier League), and it now has a new address after a dedication ceremony: 23 Don Mattingly Way. The city renamed the street in honor of one of the city’s most famous and accomplished natives. There aren’t many 100-year-old ballparks out there; here’s to another 100 years.
Top image of the ballpark right before its June 17, 1915 opening courtesy Willard Library, Evansville.