A Decade Of Baseball
with the Columbus Merchants
by Julian Piercefield
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A DECADE OF
BASEBALL Columbus. Indiana. 1945-1954
the years of World War II, 1941-1946, Softball became a very popular
spectator and participant sport. Many industrial teams, even Leagues, were
organized for morale, exercise and recreation for those workers and
citizens on the home front. The game did not require a great area, nor
excessive facilities or equipment. It was easily played, especially with
pitching restrictions or specifications of the ball.
the Columbus area two leagues operated with night-time double headers held
four or five nights a week. Two local industries supported their own
"Factory Leagues", namely, Arvins and Cummins. There was a
traveling Ail-Star group (more like a semi-pro team) providing a premium
product for the Columbus area fans of the sport. This team was the "Columbus
Auto Supply" team, sponsored by Ray Erickson. It was both well
known and regarded through out the State of Indiana and its four adjoining
states. Some of the memorable players like Pete Ray, Orris Manley, Emerson
Daughtery, Red Watson, Eppie Harden, Clyde Carter, and Bill Hutson among
others were led by one of Columbus's most colorful sport figures, Wilber
Pancake. Wilber was (kindly) rotund, with a clear, loud, hi-pitched voice.
His sharp staccato wit was a show in itself. Many enjoyed Wilber's slow
march to the first base coaching box and its culmination there with three
sharp kicks to the wooden light pole located there. Pity the poor pole if
the team needed a rally that particular inning!
competition in these All Star games was fierce and made for an enjoyable
evening out for a family. Some well known rivals would draw crowds in the
range of five to eight hundred fans.An interesting note, (especially to
the writer who later would do considerable officiating), was the umpiring
for the nightly leagues. The All Star games were always capably and
efficiently handled by a cadre of George Baldwin, Bud Enochs, Vern Doles
and, every kids friend at that time, postman, Howard Wright. With little
or no structured support to back them up, these umpires handled the very
few real arguments with fine diplomacy and dispatch. And, yes, there were
Eighth Street Ball Park was the center for most all of this League and
intercity softball play. In a simpler time, the owner: Columbus City
Schools was able to have working agreements with a Softball Assn., some
industries and the Auto Supply team. I wonder what paper work and hearings
would be required now to effect the multi use of these facilities. Tho, as
written a Junior group has been tendered use of the field.
sport, in its form at this time was extremely popular and the
"hey-day" extended from 1940 to the beginning of the fifties, a
decade in its own right. WCSI-FM in its early stages, circa 1948,
originated a play by play remote from Logansport, IN as the Auto Supply
team vied for the State Softball Championship.
so it was in 1946 that High School competitions changed from Softball to
"Hardball" or Baseball. In the summer of 1945 a group of high
school players and those just graduating, approached Earl Dickey, then
Coach of the Boys Club Softball Team. They sought his wisdom and help in
finding a way that this group, and others, might continue to play baseball
rather than softbali, the only game in town at the time.