Ellwood City And Baseball

We can not talk about the history and memories of Ellwood City without mentioning baseball. The two seem to go hand in hand. The first “official” baseball game in Ellwood City took place in 1892, the same year the town was founded. At the time, the town’s baseball field was located on Spring Avenue separating Fourth and Fifth Street. Shortly after the town’s founding, it got another field for the growing population and its love of the game. The new baseball field was named Fullner Field but was known more as Tunnel Field because it was located on the Ellwood City side of the B&O Railroad tunnel. Other fields in the surrounding area at that time included a field in Hazel Dell (the North Side) and the baseball field at the amusement park, Rock Point Park, complete with an elaborate grandstands.

When the Shelby Tube Company started its own baseball team to represent Ellwood City along with the previously established Steel Car Forge Team, Ellwood got its newest baseball field. The Shelby Steel Tube Company purchased a large lot of land in what is now known as Ewing Park to build houses for its employees. The “Shelby Land Company’s Plan” had a little patch of land between Joffre Street and Petain Street that was turned into a baseball field and called Shelby Field. The Shelby Tube team competed with other teams located on the Pittsburgh, Harmony, Butler & New Castle Trolley line (also known as the Harmony Line). In only its second season the Shelby team won The Trolley League Championship beating teams like Mars, Evans City, and Butler.
An article in the Ellwood City Ledger stated that both Terry “Cotton Head” Turner and Bill Marshall were local players that once starred on this team and made it to the Major Leagues. We have been unable to find any other reference to either player ever playing or living in Ellwood City, so if you know for sure please let us know.
‘Cotton Head’ played 19 seasons with the Cleveland Indians after starting his professional career with the Pittsburgh Pirates. When he retired, his 1,619 games played was a team record and he also held six offensive team records including 264 sacrifices ranking him 26th all-time. Sportswriter Gordon Cobbledick once wrote that Turner was “a little rabbit of a man with the guts of a commando.” ‘Cotton Head’ was also the pioneer of the head first slide because of ankle injuries earlier in his career. Bill Marshall played only two seasons, one with the Boston Red Sox and the other with the Cincinnati Reds.
Two other players that played on the Shelby Tube team but did not live in Ellwood City also made it to the Major Leagues. First baseman Jack Lewis played pro ball in Brooklyn and Howard Shanks of Monaca played on a couple of Ellwood teams before making it big with the Washington Senators.
By the time Ellwood City celebrated Community Day in 1921, the town had a new field in Ewing Park complete with a fence and grandstands. The town celebrated the remodeling of the new field by hosting the Homestead Grays with the largest crowd in the history of Ellwood. Largest crowd that is until Ellwood City hosted the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1930.
    Baseball attracted crowds in Ellwood City, but one kid in particular seemed to always attract a crowd long before Ellwood City had a Youth league. “… People frequently walked far out of their way just to pass Shelby Field to watch Lew (“Hack” Wilson) bat out long home runs and slide on his belly around the outfield. Careful coaching from (Connie) Wardman combined with Lew’s natural talent produced a ten-year-old who played as well as boys many years older. Most of the adults who came to watch this talented youngster also noted that he did little to conceal his pleasure at playing before an audience.” excerpt from “Hack” written by Bob Boone and available at the Ellwood City Library.
When Ellwood City started the Little League and Knee Hi programs, the games were played at the field by Lincoln High School until moving to a field on the football practice field in Ewing Park. While the games were played there, the teams practiced on the old Shelby Field that was now used primarily for Men’s softball leagues. Dave Weingartner shared with us his memories of the ball field at the current Veterans Municipal Swimming Pool parking lot. He recalled in 1954 his team, the Eagles, using this field as practice and was able to explain to us how the field was laid out. Home plate was just across the street from the entrance to the pool and right field was in the direction of the tennis courts. We have talked to many people from the area that used to play baseball…
“Most of the boys wore the ball caps from their little league team all the time and became identified by the team we played for. When I received my first little league uniform at our coach’s home in Ewing Park, I can still remember how happy and proud of that uniform I was. The coach’s name was Carl Meise, the uniform was yellow and grey and the number was 4.” –  “The parking lot of Nick’s Snack Bar and later Dairy Queen next door would be full of kids on their bicycles and each one had his teams hat on to let everyone else know who they were.” – “All the clubs in Ellwood had a team like the Eagles, Elks, Moose… and you wore their jersey and hat like a badge of honor.”  – “Kids today can’t even imagine the number of bicycles that used to line the field. Parents didn’t drive you there, you rode your bike and after the game you rode over to Nick’s to get your free hot dog if you hit a homerun.”
In 1965, the Little League Field was built at the opposite end of the high school field along Woodside Avenue in Ewing Park. All the games in the complex were all played during the day as the both fields did not have lights. Then in 1970, the Pittsburgh Pirates played their last game at Forbes Field in Pittsburgh and Ellwood City league commissioner Denny Schill stepped in. Through Mr. Schill’s negotiations, the Ellwood City Borough managed to buy the old lights from Forbes Field so the kids in Ellwood City could have night games.
Thanks to the many, many volunteers that have coached and shaped the youth of the area through the years, many great players have played in Ellwood City. Some went on to fame, some are remembered for that one great play they made, and others are simply remembered by those they played with. Not many reached the level of success as Major League Hall of Famer Hack Wilson, but he is by far not the only Ellwood native to achieve success at the next levels. Butch Babcock pitched for the Texas Rangers for three seasons and Don Schaly of Ellwood City was the head coach at Marietta College for forty years. When he retired in 2003, Schaly was the winningest coach in NCAA Division III history with a 1442 career wins and only 329 loses. His winning percentage of .814 is still the highest percentage in any NCAA Division ever.

        If you have a memory you would like to share about baseball in Ellwood City, please leave a comment below or email me at info@elwoodcitymemories.com. We know we just touched on the history of baseball in Ellwood City and there is much, much more. If you would like more information, a great site you may want to visit is Ellwood City Amateur Baseball Federation.

Ellwood City Memories would like to thank Dave Weingartner & Charles Hall for providing information for this post.

13 thoughts on “Ellwood City And Baseball”

  1. Baseball under the lights during the 50’s and 60’s in Ewing Park was really something and the place to be on those warm summer evening. I’m writing again my memories of that time, since so much of our comments were lost in the web site “crash.”
    First since I only played in what was call the Farm System for those cut from Little League and then Little League my memories of the “big field” are of others who really could play.
    I remember the Pony League usually started off the evening. Little League played on the football practice field back then and only on the big field for the championship game. It was funny a fence was put up for homeruns during that championship play that seems to me, thinking back not far off the infield dirt. Maybe 20 or 25 ft.. Maybe someone else can narrow that down to the actual placement.
    After the Pony League game it would be time for the American Legion League game, if Ellwood was at home. I believe even other teams played in Ellwood if the field was open. Maybe someone can set that record straight also, if I’m wrong.
    Then came the big boys. Not sure what that league was called but it consisted of the Manufacturers, AFL-CIO, B’nai-Brith and others that I can’t for the life of me remember right now. I would ride my bike to the park for games, not every night ( it was a safer time back then) but a lot of them. Friends in the neighbor played on these teams. When this league wasn’t in action you could be treated to the team that has been mentioned before “Rocco’s.” These were men at the time. I believe there is a picture of the team on this site.
    After graduating from high school in “65” I didn’t get down there much. Memories from someone else, who can also correct anything I got wrong, we all welcome. Ellwood has always had an outstanding baseball program down through the years. Coach Spellman comes to mind. But even before him it was wildly popular from the time the men who wore the Rocco uniform were playing Little league.

  2. If I could remember right little league, knee high, and pony. I played for the manufactures..Its been over 60 years now thanks

    1. Mr. Elchison,

      If you look at the website, ellwoodcitybaseball.com, there is an article about you leading the Manufacturer’s to 1955 American Legion League Championship. It’s under the menu section…1892-present.

  3. Don I never really looked into the site before. I went their to see pictures you posted of some little kids this year from trophy night. I will visit it more often now. Lots of names I remember from the 50’s and 60’s. Like this site Don, it’s a real pleasure to go to the baseball site and step back in time. Thanks.
    Sonny nice couple games of pitching to win that 1955 championship.

  4. In the lead-in to this story, Don Scaly was mentioned. He achieved great success as the coach at Marietta College but let’s not forget Bill Frazier who also achieved success at Gulf Coast college in Florida. I remember him well as I played on the Elks farm team when I was 8 and he was the coach.

      1. Sonny, I pitched against you and my brother played first base for the Manufactures. I played for the Clover Farm team. Olive in Fort Worth, Tx. My grandson made Alstate team, in baseball. He will be a senior this coming year. His dad is Scott and played on Packers football and Wolverines.

  5. I happened to come across your site and was looking over all of the great memories of Ellwood City Baseball. Growing up I used to go to all of the games with my father.in the 60’s and 70’s.
    I can’t believe there is no mention anywhere of one of the best pitchers to ever play in Ellwood City. TONY JOSEPH.
    He was a great pitcher and was virtually unbeatable…He also had the best pick off move there ever was..
    I know he was drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates out of High School.

  6. My dad was Albert Miller and my uncle was Harry Miller they both played baseball in Ellwood and ran the American Leagin teams for a while.

  7. I was the ground keeper in 1960 to 1963 and we had lights on the field back then – not in 1970. I installed the first PA system for the field with wireless mikes so the announcers could go onto the field for trophy awards. We had packed evenings back then with our concessions stand doing great business. I have previously sent in pictures of the prices for the items for sale. If anyone wants to see these, contact me.
    Chuck Maggi

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