Flashback Friday: History Lesson

Maybe my favorite program cover from the Foxes era. Dave Taylor provided the artwork. (Appleton Professional Baseball)

By Chris Mehring / Wisconsin Timber Rattlers | January 20, 2012 6:13 AM ET

The souvenir program of the 1993 Appleton Foxes is quite a trip. For example, the image up top is from the cover. Yes, that is a cartoon fox.  (For the full image head over to Rattler Radio).  Notice the prominent 'S' patch on his sleeve?  That is to show that 1993 was the first year as an affiliate of the Seattle Mariners.

Also, for some reason, program is printed backwards. The front cover is where the back cover should be and what should be the last page is numbered as page one. It's quite odd.

Chuck Carlson of The Appleton Post Crescent provided an article for the 1993 program and that article is this week's Flashback.

Foxes Baseball: New Even at a Century Old

Appleton hasn't been a farm club for every team in the history of major league baseball. It only seems that way. The association between Appleton and minor league baseball has been long and storied. Over the years, a veritable parade of cities has made Appleton their home for developing major league talent. From Baltimore to Washington to Cleveland to St. Louis to Philadelphia to Boston to, more recently, the Chicago White Sox and Kansas City Royals, Goodland Field has seen literally hundreds of potential major leaguers pass through its locker rooms. From Boog Powell and Pete Vuckovich and Bucky Dent and Tom Gordon to Mike Garcia and Doug Drabek and Harold Baines and Bobby Thigpen, Appleton has proved a solid training ground for future major leaguers. And, it continues this season even though there will be a different look.

The Royals, who used Appleton for six years as its Class A Midwest League affiliate, have moved on only to be replaced by the Seattle Mariners. It's the first time in three years that the Mariners have been in the Midwest League (they last had a franchise in Wausau) and they couldn't be happier. "We've been trying to get back in the Midwest League for a long time," said Jim Beattie, Seattle's farm director. "Appleton was a great fit." So they're back, having recently signed a two-year agreement. In that time, the Mariners hope to get an idea of just who might someday be major league timber and help the Mariners gain their second winning season in the club's 17-year history.

The '93 Foxes figures to be a young club, but one that features some impressive talent. In fact, the bulk of the roster will feature players from Bellingham, Washington, which won the Class A Northwest League title last year. Other players will come from Peninsula, the champion of the prestigious Class A Carolina League. Still others may come from Seattle's Class A California League club in San Bernardino (relocated to Riverside this season).

The Mariners add another layer to the rich, vast history of minor league baseball in the Fox Cities. It started when four local businessmen posted a $200 performance bond to enter Appleton in the six-team Wisconsin State League that also featured teams from Green Bay, Marinette, Fond du Lac, Oconto, and Oshkosh. Appleton played its first league home game May 23, 1891 on a makeshift diamond near City Park. The opponent was Green Bay and nearly 500 people showed up to watch Appleton win 4-0.

It was the start of a long, and often turbulent, association between baseball and the city. The league lasted only one season and pro baseball did not return to Appleton until 1909 when local investors purchased the Wausau franchise of the Illinois-Wisconsin League. That league survived until 1914 and baseball didn't return to the Fox Cities until 1940 when a new Wisconsin State League was formed. That club, then known as the Papermakers, took up residence in a new park called the Spencer Street Athletic Field, which would eventually be renamed Goodland Field in honor of retiring mayor, John Goodland.

After two years, the league suspended operations, starting up again in 1946 following WW II. In those days, first as a farm team for the Phillies and then the old St. Louis Browns, baseball boomed in Appleton with attendance averaging 90,000 a season. But, in 1953 baseball again left the Fox Cities, returning for good in 1958 as the Foxes. The Washington Senators, Baltimore Orioles, White Sox, Royals, and now the Mariners have all brought their young talent to develop here.

Last season, Kansas City's last in Appleton, the Foxes used youth, speed and defense to carve out a first half Northern Division title under manager Tom Poquette. But success was a double-edge sword. With all the talent the Foxes had, including All-Stars like Joe Randa, Danny Miceli and Mark Johnson, the Royals had to move them up the ladder, thus depleting the Foxes roster. The Foxes, though not the same team as earlier in the season, still held their own in the second half, taking eventual league champ, Beloit, to the limit before losing.

Now, a new organization, a new philosophy and a new group of players will attempt to do the same. It's a new story. But after 100 years of baseball in Appleton, it's a familiar one, too.


City Park is located near Lawrence University in downtown Appleton.

The 1891 Appleton Papermakers featured four players who played in the big leagues:  Chauncey Fisher, George Hogriever, Joe Wright, and Frederick "Crazy" Schmit.

Fisher, Hogriever, and Wright went on to the majors after 1891. Schmit had been up with Pittsburgh in 1890 and went back to the big leagues in Baltimore in 1892. Click the links provided to see the major league careers of the players.

Future Flashback stories that need to be told:
The four businessmen who posted $200 to start the franchise in 1891
The first game of 1891
The local investors who bought the team in Wausau and moved them to Appleton
The building of Spencer Street Stadium
The formation of the 1940 Papermakers
The start of the Foxes in 1958

Guess I need to head to the library one of these days.

This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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