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Flashback Friday: Goodbye, Goodland (1994)
02/11/2011 9:53 AM ET
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Last week's Flashback Friday took you back to story of the final game at Goodland Field.  This week's Flashback Friday is the story of the fans at - and the event of - the final game at Goodland Field.  Mike Woods wrote the story and it appeared in The Post Crescent on August 30, 1994.

Goodbye to Goodland
After 54 years, it's the last out for the Foxes' field

  • Appleton's minor-league baseball team won't call Goodland Field home anymore.  Those who lived and died with the Foxes wish it weren't so

It's hard to believe, but nothing happened.

Really.

When the Appleton Foxes' Wilson Delgado lined out to South Bend third baseman Greg Norton at 9:51pm Monday, minor-league baseball officially completed its 54-year run at storied but crumbling Goodland Field.

The Foxes were defeated by the Silver Hawks, 8-1.

Moments later, about 200 fans, mostly kids, stormed through a player' gate and took the field as Foxes players gave away everything from helmets to fanny packs.  Everything, including a pair of players' gloves, was taken.

Well, not quite everything.

Goodland itself went home unscathed.

In a complete abandonment of baseball tradition, not to mention natural human behavior, no one in the season-high crowd of 3,492 attempted to pick up a base.  Nary a soul went for a shovel to dig up home plate.  Every nut and every bolt on every bleacher seat remained intact and no living creature bothered to reach down for even one blade of Goodland Field grass.

They may not have wanted to see it go, but they didn't want to take it home either.

It's shortly before 7pm as "Pfat" and Doris Filz settle in for their last activity-filled evening at their immaculate Spencer Street home, across from Goodland.

As the organ sounds cascade upon their home and the aroma of ballpark food consumes the air, the Filz's thoughts turn to the future.

They have lived in this house for 47 years.  They readily recall when the maple trees in front of their home were so small that they could go upstairs and watch the game through their dormers, wave to radio play-by-play man Bob Lloyd and have him say hello to them over the air waves.

"Early in the year, when you'd start to hear the ol' crack of the bats, we really enjoyed that," said Pfat.  "We knew spring was coming."

Now, they can't imagine what spring will be like without baseball or even possibly without Goodland Field itself.

"I thought they should have fixed this place up," says Pfat, clearly unhappy with the Foxes' decision to build a stadium west of the city.  "Nobody complains about it around here.  It never bothers us."

Pfat says he and his neighbors want to see the park remain as it is.  He hopes tomorrow's children will be allowed to use the field for athletic endeavors, just as he did years ago.

But Pfat is not a man of faith when it comes to city government.

"You don't know what they're going to do down there at the city hall," he says.  "They could put anything over there.  A high-rise, anything.  I just hope they don't do anything foolish with it."

Fifth row of the bleachers.  Third-base side.  Above the Foxes' dugout.  Aisle seat.  This has been Patti McFarland's home away from home for the better part of 50 years.

Scorebook in hand, she's dutifully recording history tonight.  As she records each out, the emotions rattle around her head like a pinball machine.

"It's sad," she says, groping for the words to express her feelings.  "We've had a lot of good memories here.  We've made a lot of friends, made friends with the players, even the umpires."

The "we" Patti speaks of are the people she sits with at the ballpark.  They have become her family.

"Yes, this is definitely my second home," she says.  "I know a lot of people who won't be able to get to the new ballpark.  I'm going to miss all those people."

But she's thinking of doing something for them, as well as others.

"I've kept saying that someday I'm going to write a book and someday I think I might.  It'd be about life in the minor leagues.  It's been a good life."

Marge Hinchley was having an especially hard time Monday.  Nearly an hour after walking down to stand on the field and collect a souvenir towel from the Foxes' dugout, she was finally able to bid farewell and head home with her sister Mertz Bayer.

Reared just six blocks from Goodland, she's been coming here all her life.  But, no more.

"My mom's 91 and she came here until she was 88," she says.  "My brother's on the board of directors and was president for years.  We've all worked in the stands, my sisters, nieces, nephews and in-laws.  We've been attached to this field for a long time."

Goodland is in her blood.

"I haven't been to any other ballpark except the one in Minnesota (the Metrodome).  I have no desire to go to another big-league ballpark," she says.  "I think this is where it's at.  Players are happy to sign autographs.  It's just a good group of young kids.  I wish every one of them were my sons."

And she's done her level best to be a stand-in mother for several players over the years. She's supplied them with bedding, cookware, even birthday cakes.

"The fellas from the Dominican and that, they come here with nothing," she says.  "I've been a mother to a lot of them and I've loved it.  All these young kids are away from home so..."

As a parent of two daughters, Hinchley knows motherhood is a lifelong mission, no matter whose children you are assisting.

"To meet some of their parents, they're so thankful," she says.  "I know if I had a son, I'd love it if somebody was watching out for him."

For Appleton's Beatty Earle, Mae Ables and Dennis Sadler, the final game at Goodland Field was a rewarding experience.

Literally.

Earle and Ables, both senior citizens, went in on a ticket and won the "world's largest 50-50 jackpot." A tidy $599.

Earle had won once before and also cited the time her son won a trip to the Quad Cities on a Foxes promotion.  Ables, despite several trips to Goodland over the years, had never won anything.  But she was already contemplating how to spend the money.  Maybe season tickets to the new stadium.

"Yeah, I thought of that," she says.  "How much are they?"

Turning to Earle, Ables wonders, "Should we give it back to them?  Hey! That's a possibility!"

Monday's game was Sadler's first of the season.  He purchased a raffle ticket in the Foxes' yearlong promotion to give away a new pickup truck after the last game and promptly took it home.

"It's just unfortunate the Foxes didn't win," he says.  "It would have been a nice way to end the season and end the play here if they would have won.  But I won."

Steve Malliet is a confident man.  The Foxes general manager has witnessed what new parks have done for other Midwest League towns, and he has no doubts it will have the same impact here.

"What we've seen over the last few months, since it's been going up, is a renewed excitement," he says of the initial phases of stadium construction.

Accustomed to virtually begging for advertising dollars, Malliet now finds himself in the astonishing position of having advertisers practically beating down his door.

"People have been calling me every day," he says.  "I've been shocked.  I've been here a year now and I've never had businesses calling me asking for information on advertising for promotional nights next year.

"I've got businesses fighting over opening night next year and TV stations that want to televise opening night."

While focused on the future, Malliet, a Neenah native, says he won't forget the past.  Like a lot of people Monday, he was sad to see Goodland's reign end.

"I hope they keep its existence, this history here," he says.  "They should declare it a historical monument in my opinion."

Whatever Goodland's fate, much of its history will forever be tied to the people who graced its field.  It's been a time-honored proving ground that's helped launch innumerable Foxes to major-league careers.

Some names you may remember and perhaps never forget.

Pat Seery, Jack McKeon, Dean Chance, Pat Gillick, Boog Powell, Cal Ripken Sr., Earl Weaver, Dave McNally, Herm Starette, Dave May, Sparky Lyle, Bucky Dent, Terry Forster, Ken Frailing, Jerry Hairston, Goose Gossage, Lamar Johnson, Brian Downing, Pete Vuckovich, Marv Foley, Harold Baines, Steve Trout, Britt Burns, Harry Chappas, Lamar Hoyt, Ron Kittle, Greg Walker, Tim Hulett, Daryl Boston, John Cangelosi, Edwin Correa, Ron Karkovice, Doug Drabek, Bobby Thigpen, Greg Hibbard, Randy Velarde, Luis Salazar, Tom Gordon, Alex Rodriguez.

That's no minor accomplishment.

NOTES:

The only not I am going to add this week is this link to digitalballparks.com.  Take a look at some pictures of Goodland Field that you may not have seen.  There are pictures of it as it was and there are pictures of it as it is.  Just click on next in the top right-hand corner of each picture and see them all.

Past Flashbacks:

October 8: In fair territory (1994)

October 15: Fans flock to see Foxes (1987)

October 22: New Park (1995)

October 29: Logo Decision (1994)

November 5: Ed Sedar, Pitcher (1985)

November 12: Abarbanel no-hitter (1966)

November 19: McCauley no-hitter (1972)

November 26: Monroe no-hitter (1975)

December 3: Conner, Smith no-hitter (1990)

December 10: Pomp & Circumstance (1940)

December 17: Opening Day (1940)

January 7: Matt Erickson: Year One (1997)

January 14: Two Hits, Two Wins (1982)

January 21: Gil Meche (1998, 1999)

January 28: 18 K's for Ryan Anderson (1998)

February 4: Goodland Field Finale (1994)

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