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Beardstown, Jacksonville among those with low minor league teams

About 1,000 people surrounded the field to watch the hometown baseball club of Springfield get attacked by a hitting machine from Jacksonville.

When the game was over, the score stood 80-39 in favor of the more talented Jacksonville Hardins. The year was 1866 and the popularity of baseball was just beginning to spread across America.

The Hardins are believed to be the first baseball team organized in Jacksonville. Linus “Line” Chandler, an Illinois College student, founded the club in the summer of 1865. The original team consisted of Morgan County Sheriff Smith Palmer, who played second base, and a center fielder named H.G. Whitlock, who left shortly after was elected a county. right.

Chandler, enthusiastic about the new game he had learned while a student back East, taught the rules of baseball to both young men from Jacksonville and his IC classmates. And several IC students joined the ‘Hercules Base Ball Club’, founded by Chandler in the spring of 1866.

The first baseball game played in Jacksonville was between the Hardins and the Hercules. And the first games, or matches, as they were then called, were played in Wolcott’s pasture on North East Street.

“The Hardins made a number of trips and became quite famous by their string of victories,” wrote Horace H. Bancroft of Jacksonville in a brief history of baseball in Jacksonville published in the Jacksonville Daily Journal in 1915.

According to Bancroft, the Hardins took second place in a baseball tournament in Bloomington in the late 1960s by beating a team from Chicago. The team returned home “with a beautiful ebony bat, mounted in silver and suitably engraved” as a trophy.

Many more Jacksonville teams followed the Hardins in the late 1800s, including the Jacksonville Stars and the Jacksonville Alerts. One of the most popular clubs, however, according to Bancroft, was the Jacksonville Blues.

The Blues played on a field north of the Illinois School for the Deaf, between North Webster Avenue and Finley Street.

One of the stars of the 1885 Blues team was Charles Frederick “Silver” King, who pitched and played center field. King went on to win 207 games as a pitcher in the major leagues in the 1980s and 1990s. His best season came in 1888, when he won 45 games of hurling for St. Louis of the American Association.

Later, Jacksonville baseball promoters became more ambitious and allowed Jacksonville clubs to join professional leagues such as the Western Association; the Kitty League, consisting of teams from Kentucky, Illinois and Tennessee; the Iowa League; the Central Association; and the Northern League.

And the competition was quite tough. For example, in 1894, Jacksonville fielded a team in the Western Association, with clubs from Des Moines, Peoria, St. Joseph, Missouri, Quincy, Lincoln, Nebraska, Omaha and Rock Island.

The manager of the 1894 Jacksonville team was Cornelius “Con” Strouthers, Ty Cobb’s first professional manager in 1904, when the future Hall-of-Famer broke into the Augusta, Georgia, Tourists, a Class C minor league team in the South Atlantic, or Sally, League.

Jacksonville remained part of the minor league system until the early 20th century. Jacksonville baseball enthusiasts could even attract knowledgeable baseball men such as Clarence “Pants” Rowland, who managed a Jacksonville team around 1910. From 1915 to 1918, Rowland piloted the Chicago White Sox, a team that won the 1917 World Series.

— Magazine-Courier