The Frontier Baseball Club of Leavenworth, chartered by the Kansas secretary of state on Jan. 29, 1867, was the first officially organized baseball club on record in Kansas.
The Civil War had ended and the team consisted of Leavenworth war veterans and businessmen. A.A. Hyde, a young Leavenworth bank clerk, was one of the incorporators and later became famous as the manufacturer of Mentholatum.
Upon his return to Leavenworth after the war, Col. Thomas Moonlight, who had commanded the 11th Kansas regiment, desired to promote the welfare of the river city by providing wholesome recreation for its young men.
Baseball back then was more like playing cricket with all players in the lineup batting before the inning was over. The game became popular and nearly every town had a team.
By 1886, teams from Topeka and Leavenworth were the state’s first in the minor leagues. These minor leagues boomed in Kansas from the turn of the century until the Great Depression. In the early 1920s, big league heroes like Babe Ruth got people excited about the sport.
The Leavenworth County Historical Society is sponsoring a free presentation at the Carroll Mansion Museum on June 16 at 1 p.m. by Mark Eberle, biology instructor at Fort Hays State University and author of “Kansas Baseball 1858-1941.”
Eberle’s interest in writing the book began with a curiosity in old baseball parks but soon discovered interesting stories behind the parks and those who played in them.
His book parallels the state’s history, beginning prior to the Civil War through the beginning of WW II, providing a mirror of social, cultural and economic influences that occurred during these years.
The Institute for Baseball Studies recently proclaimed “Kansas Baseball History, 1858-1941” is a winner.
“It loads the bases inning after inning, chapter after chapter, with lively player profiles and stories about baseball games, record-setting performances and town rivalries throughout the state,” they wrote. “(Eberle) scores with detailed accounts of women’s play, segregated and integrated teams, Indian baseball, minor league vicissitudes and surviving ballparks.”
Books will be available for sale following the presentation. For more information, contact the Carroll Mansion Museum, 1128 Fifth Ave., or call 913-682-7759.