“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
Fort Wayne in Allen County, Indiana — The American Midwest (Great Lakes)

League Park

League Park Marker image. Click for full size.
By William Fischer, Jr., December 30, 2008
1. League Park Marker
Inscription.  The first professional organized league baseball game was played here on May 4, 1871 ending in a victory for the Fort Wayne Kekiongas over the Cleveland Forest Citys by a score of 2-0. A wooden structure was built in 1883 and rebuilt numerous times over the next several decades. In 1908, Claude Varnell, whose Fort Wayne “Billikins” was a minor league team associated with the St. Louis Cardinals, rebuilt the park. This included the then unique idea of a grass infield. The field, located on the east side of Headwaters Park, was badly damaged in the great flood of 1913. It was, however, restored to be the host park to numerous semi-pro teams of Fort Wayne, such as the Lincoln Lifers and the Kips, as well as the Central League's Chiefs. Fort Wayne played one of the earliest nighttime ball games, (the very first to be played under lights was in Nantasket Bay, Massachusetts, on September 2, 1880), played between two amateur company teams using some of Thomas Edison's early incandescent lights. The game played in Fort Wayne here at League Park on June 3, 1883, was perhaps the second time a game was attempted under the lights, and was among
Great Meadow in Headwaters Park image. Click for full size.
By William Fischer, Jr., December 30, 2008
2. Great Meadow in Headwaters Park
Several markers along path circling the Great Meadow, looking south with downtown Fort Wayne in background.
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the first games ever played under lights by a professional team. The Jenny Electric Light Company of Fort Wayne provided the lighting with seventeen of its powerful “arc lights,” which were designed for outdoor lighting. Fire destroyed the stadium in 1930. A new, somewhat smaller grandstand, replaced the old ball park. By 1939, all the park buildings had been razed.
Erected by City of Fort Wayne and The Fred Zollner Foundation.
Topics. This historical marker is listed in this topic list: Sports. A significant historical month for this entry is May 1842.
Location. 41° 5.176′ N, 85° 8.325′ W. Marker is in Fort Wayne, Indiana, in Allen County. Marker is one of a series that ring the Great Meadow in Headwaters Park. This marker is about 50 feet southwest of the Hamilton Women Plaza. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 333 S Clinton Street, Fort Wayne IN 46802, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. These are the Hamilton Women of Fort Wayne (a few steps from this marker); Emerine Jane Holman Hamilton (within shouting distance of this marker); Jail Flats (within shouting distance of this marker); Duck Creek: Early Industry and Business Development (within shouting distance of this marker); The Floods (within shouting distance of this marker); Earliest Railroad
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(within shouting distance of this marker); The Wabash & Erie Canal (within shouting distance of this marker); Early Effort To Build A Park (about 300 feet away, measured in a direct line). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Fort Wayne.
Regarding League Park. This monument contains at least three egregious errors. First, the first professional organized game was not played there and there is not a baseball historian living or dead who has ever claimed it was. The whole idea is patently absurd. In 1871 this area was still a mud flat owned by Eliza Hanna, widow of Samuel Hanna. It had very limited access because of the canal and the lack of any existing contiguous streets. The area was platted by Eliza Hanna along with four other plats on September 11, 1873, all named Eliza Hanna Sr’s. The “Senior” was added to distinguish the elder Eliza from her daughter Eliza Hanna Hayden. At that time Clinton Street still did not reach beyond Duck Street.

The actual game was played at Camp Allen at the Kekionga Ball Grounds between Elm and Fair streets. We not only do not have a monument where the game was played, we instead have one we it would have absolutely absurd to have even attempted to play a
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game in 1871. Considering the fact that this game marked the inception of all professional league sports it is inconceivable that a city could be so ignorant of its own past.

The night game referred to was not played on June 3. June 3, 1883 was a Sunday. In 1883 playing baseball on any level on Sunday was considered Sabbath desecration. It is likely that both teams and perhaps even the spectators would have been arrested before the end of the first inning. The Cincinnati Reds were kicked out of the National League in 1881 for, among other things, playing baseball on the Sunday. The actual game was played on Saturday, June 2nd between two picked nines consisting of what the Fort Wayne Gazette described as “a couple of scrub nines composed of college boys and a few of the members of the Quincy nine.” The game was abandoned after seven innings and the Gazette refused to even print the score of the farce.

The monument also claims the 1908 team featured “then unique idea of a grass infield.” There are countless drawings and pictures of earlier ball fields with grass infields. League Park received a grass infield eight years earlier after the 1900 season. Note the following clip from the March 28, 1908 Fort Wayne News:

Manger Hendricks is well pleased with the manner in which Groundskeeper Donovan and his assistant, Jack Raldy, have gone about the work placing the grounds in perfect condition. Donovan got to work immediately on his arrival in Fort Wayne and with Raldy, the local man, has done wonders in renovating the playing grounds. It was Donovan’s intention to take up the infield sod and replace it again after placing a hard layer of earth on the surface, but owing to the lateness of his arrival this was deferred until later in the season.

This is not a monument to history; it is a monument to ignorance and a complete embarrassment to the rightful legacy of Fort Wayne, Indiana. This monument should be taken down and revised by someone who has at least a modicum of knowledge of Fort Wayne and Fort Wayne baseball.
Credits. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016. It was originally submitted on March 14, 2009, by William Fischer, Jr. of Scranton, Pennsylvania. This page has been viewed 1,816 times since then and 51 times this year. Last updated on September 22, 2012, by William Friggs of Fort Wayne, Indiana. Photos:   1, 2. submitted on March 14, 2009, by William Fischer, Jr. of Scranton, Pennsylvania. • Bill Pfingsten was the editor who published this page.

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Sep. 17, 2021