BATESVILLE — In anticipation of next year’s 100th anniversary of Liberty Field, parks commissioner Mike Baumer gathered together three men – Fran Effinger, Ace Moorman and Ham Struewing – who played baseball on this field. They shared memorable moments and stories from the past.
Back in the day, Liberty Field was busy just about every night.
“At one time, Batesville had two teams playing at the same time, the Tri-County league and the Southeastern Indiana league,” Struewing recalled.
“When we played, the big issue then was a lot of us were still playing in high school. We had to wait until our season was over to play on those leagues, which started a month or so before our high school games were finished.”
Moorman reported, “Players could come from anywhere.”
Individuals could play from the time they were in high school to when they couldn’t play anymore. Struewing said, “I think most of us played until we were about 40 .... You had a lot of encouragement from 200, 300 or 400 fans per game.”
Effinger added, “You didn’t have anything else to do but play ball. That’s all there was.”
In addition, Struewing commented, “No one had a field like Batesville’s. Everyone wanted to play here because it was a premier field.”
There were also American Legion teams. Moorman said the Legion started with a softball team right after World War II, and they played all around.
Baumer read that “during the Depression, they would charge a nickel to get into a game. That was your entertainment for the week.”
The former ball players reminisced about the old grandstand, which burnt down Oct. 22, 1956.
Moorman noted, “I can remember they had 2-by-4-foot spots set up, where people could buy a place to sit and bring their own chairs .... People wanted to sit there so no one would be in front of them.”
In the grandstand, “when you walked in, on the left side was the concession stand with snacks, and the right side was where they sold the pop.”
Effinger revealed, “The dugouts were down under the grandstand.”
The Batesville teams were very competitive, the trio said. They played other area groups from places such as Oldenburg, Manchester, Huntersville, Yorkville and New Alsace. “To play, you had to sign a contract .... The league was more organized than you think. Umpires had to belong to the umpire association,” Struewing pointed out.
“One time when we were playing at Oldenburg, somebody hit a long fly to the outfield. Alfie Hartman caught the ball, but he fell over the fence .... There was a big ruckus about whether that was a fair catch or not or if it was considered a home run because he was out of the park.”
Effinger announced once when he was playing on the Oldenburg field, “Floyd Werner hit one in center field and I caught the ball, but I fell over the fence right into poison ivy. The next day, I had poison ivy all over.”
Struewing said, “In all the games I’ve seen and played in Liberty Field, I don’t recall a no-hitter, and we had some excellent pitchers through the years.”
The Batesville resident also said, “The field was used for a lot of other things, too. When Johnny Hillenbrand was running for governor, he had a big gathering on the ball diamond.”
Moorman noted, “It was also used for horse shows.”
Baumer reported that the field is not used as much anymore.
More information on the 100th anniversary celebration of Liberty Field will be coming next year.