On a June afternoon with high temperatures in the '90's the Frontier League's Evansville Otters take on the River City Rascals at Bosse Field in Evansville, Indiana. Just another one of the thousands of games that have been played at this 1915 ballpark, the third oldest regularly used professional ballpark, trailing only Fenway Park and Wrigley Field.
A 1915 stadium means an extensive roof. "Beautiful old ballpark, you don't get toasted in the sun," says Evansville Otters Booster Club member Bill Spurrier who sits down the third baseline with his wife Judy. Even in the shade it is warm. At least on this day no director will holler, "Cut!"
"Hot. I mean that one day we must have had 20 re-takes on a play," remembers Bill Spurrier. The re-takes were part of the shooting of the 1992 film, "A League of Their Own."
The classic "There's no crying in baseball," movie starred Tom Hanks, Gena Davis, and Madonna as figures of the 1940's and '50's All-American Girls Professional Baseball League. While the movie primarily features the Rockford Peaches and the Racine Belles, Evansville ("Racine") and nearby Huntingburg ("Rockford") were the two primary shooting locations (along with Wrigley Field for a few minutes of the movie).
The fictional games played in front of film cameras at Bosse Field are some of the most memorable for the Spurriers. "I was sitting on the first side, right up underneath the last 'E' in Racine Belles," notes Judy Spurrier.
While those games in Evansville didn't count in any record books, the needs of Hollywood helped Bosse Field financially. "They really spent a lot of money here," says Otters Color Commentator Bill McKeon, who played and coached at this park. "Fixing it up and putting it in the condition it is in today."
Over the years some details at Bosse have changed. There's a fence within the original outfield fence. Home plate has been moved back several feet from the original location.
"Bosse Field, it's one of the crown jewel ballparks in all of America," says Mike Radomski, the play-by-play voice of the Otters and McKeon's press box partner. "And you can just feel the seats and embrace the history that someone sat in that same spot as you, 80 or 90 years ago."
Bosse Field isn't exactly as it was in 1915, but as it nears its 100th birthday, it allows baseball fans a chance to step back in time for a baseball experience that can only be found at a handful of ballparks.
Bosse Field Notes: The park is named for Benjamin Bosse, former mayor of Evansville. The stadium was built by the local school district and was the first municipally owned sports facility in the United States. The original construction costs were $65,000 and bleacher seats on Opening Day in 1915 cost 25 cents. Historic photos of the ballpark through the years hang on the exterior of the facility. Bill McKeon is the brother of Jack McKeon, a manager with five Major League organizations including the 2003 World Series Champion Florida Marlins. Bill McKeon played for the Evansville Otters in the 1950's and tells a great story about the Braves' caravans in the 1950's and a meeting (or two) with the Iowa State Patrol on the roads of the Illinois-Indiana-Iowa League.
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