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