Keokuk Indians

Keokuk Indians
(1952–1962, 1947–1949, 1935, 1929–1933, 1904–1915)
Keokuk, Iowa
  • Class-D (1958–1962, 1929–1932, 1904–1915)
  • Class-B (1952–1957, 1933)
  • Class-C (1947–1949)
  • Class-A (1935)
Minor league affiliations
League Midwest League (1958–1962)
Previous leagues
Major league affiliations
Minor league titles
League titles 2 (1931, 1955)
Team data
Previous names
  • Midwest Dodgers (1962)
  • Keokuk Dodgers (1962)
  • Keokuk Cardinals (1958–1961)
  • Keokuk Kernels (1952–1957)
  • Keokuk Pirates (1947–1949)
  • Keokuk Indians (1904–1915, 1929–1933, 1935)
Previous parks
  • Joyce Park (1929-62)
  • Hubinger Park (1904–1915)
  • Sportsman's Park (Keokuk) (1875–1903)

After baseball began in Keokuk, Iowa in 1875, the Keokuk Indians was the primary nickname of Keokuk minor league baseball teams. After the Indians (1904–1915, 1929–1933, 1935), Keokuk was home of the Keokuk Pirates (1947–1949), Keokuk Kernels (1952–1957), Keokuk Cardinals (1958–1961) and the Keokuk Dodgers (1962).[1] Notable Keokuk alumni include Bud Fowler, Roger Maris and Tim McCarver.

Keokuk baseball history

Baseball in Keokuk started in 1875 when the Keokuk Westerns played in the National Association, a league that directly evolved into today's major League Baseball. On May 4, 1875, the Keokuk Westerns hosted the Chicago White Stockings (present-day Chicago Cubs) and the teams played the first professional baseball game in Iowa.[2]

In 1885, Bud Fowler played for the Keokuk Westerns. Fowler became the first known African-American to play professional baseball, becoming a pioneer for baseball players.[3]

Early Keokuk Indians teams played in the Iowa State League (1904–1907), Central Association (1908–1915), Mississippi Valley League (1929–1933) and the Western League (1935). They were affiliated with the St. Louis Cardinals in 1935.[1]

In 1947, the Pittsburgh Pirates established an affiliate in Keokuk that played in the Central Association through 1949. In 1952, Keokuk joined the Illinois–Indiana–Iowa League and used the "Kernels" nickname, which was related to The Hubinger Company, who made corn starch.[4] The Kernels became a Cleveland Indians affiliate in 1954. In 1958 they became the Cardinals, after becoming a St. Louis Cardinals affiliate and joining the Midwest League. Keokuk became a Los Angeles Dodgers affiliate in 1962, but the team was moved by the Midwest League to Dubuque, Iowa on August 2 and renamed the Midwest Dodgers for the duration of its final season.[1]

Notable Keokuk franchise alumni included: Roger Maris, who hit 61 Home runs in 1961 and was 2-time AL Most Valuable Player; Bud Fowler, the earliest known African-American player in organized professional baseball; All-Star player and announcer Tim McCarver; World Series hero Jesse Barnes; Chautauqua Sports Hall of Fame inductee Ray Caldwell; All-Star Mudcat Grant; Five time MLB All-Star Gus Bell and future MLB Manager Russ Nixon.[5] Announcer Brent Musburger was first an umpire and worked behind the plate for McCarver's first professional game.[6]

The ballparks

The Keokuk teams played at Joyce Park from 1929–1962. The park dimensions were (LF-CF-RF): 320-381-265 (1961) 306-385-345 (1962) It had a capacity of 3500 (1962).[7] On September 9, 1931 the Indians played an exhibition game at Joyce Park against the St. Louis Cardinals squad, nicknamed the Gashouse Gang.[4]

Previously, early Keokuk Indians teams played at Hubinger Park, beginning in 1904 . It was located at North 15th Street & Grand Avenue. The 1875 Keokuk Westerns of the National Association had played at Perry Park.[2] The 1885 Omaha/Keokuk team of the Western League played at Sportsman's Park located at 15th Street & Palean Street. Due to no Sunday baseball by law, the 1885 team would take a ferry across to Illinois to play at High Banks Park.[8][9][10][11]

1955 Championship team

Keokuk won league tiles in 1931 and 1955. The 1955 championship team was ranked thirtieth in the All-Time Top 100 Minor League Teams by Minor League Baseball and historians Bill Weiss and Marshall Wright.[12] A year after having Roger Maris on the roster, the Kernels finished the 1955 season with a record of 92–34 in the Three-I League. Their Manager was former Indiana University Manager Pinky May and the team had several players who made Major League teams, notably Mudcat Grant and Russ Nixon. Finishing 22 games ahead of runner up Waterloo, team's .730 winning percentage was the highest in the last 50 years. Despite their great record the Kernels drew on only 39,179 fans for the season, signaling difficulty in sustaining a franchise.[12][13][14]

Home plate microphone

In 1958, the team placed a hidden live microphone under home plate in order to broadcast the players' talking over the PA system. It could reportedly pick up conversations within thirty feet. The first usage was on May 16, 1958. However, foul language led to discontinuing the practice after the season. Magazines Grit (June 1, 1958) and Popular Science (August 1958) had stories on the Microphone usage.[4][15][16]

Notable Keokuk alumni

Cincinnati Reds All-Star Outfielder Gus Bell, 1953


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