Flashback Friday: First Night Game (1939)

This is Goodland Field in 1961. The light pole by the dugout was installed for a game in 1939.

By Chris Mehring / Wisconsin Timber Rattlers | March 7, 2014 11:41 AM ET

Night baseball arrived in the Fox Cities before the Papermakers. This week's Flashback Friday is about the first night game played at Spencer Street Field.

The first story is from July 1, 1939 and promotes the historic event. The second story is from July 3, 1939 and recounts the events of the game on July 2, 1939.

Story #1

Night Baseball Will Make Debut
Inaugural Game to be Played Under Lights Sunday Evening


Becher Taverns, Athletics to Settle Superiority Dispute

Appleton is doing its part to observe baseball's one hundredth birthday by making night games available to local fans.

Dedication of the new lights at Spencer street field will get underway about 8:15 Sunday evening with an informal ceremony and will feature a game between two leading Appleton baseball teams.

Mayor John Goodland, Jr. will toss the first ball and will try to get it past Alderman George Brautigam at the plate. Gordon McIntyre, sports editor of the Appleton Post-Crescent, will don the big mitt while former Alderman R. H. Kubitz will serve as umpire.

Brautigam, who has been identified with baseball in Appleton for more than 25 years, is chairman of the city council committee on recreational activities. Kubitz was chairman of the committee when the purchase and installation of the lighting equipment was recommended.

Topnotch Diamond

The new lights give Appleton one of the best diamonds for night baseball in the state. Louis Luebke, city electrician, supervised the installation. The total cost of the equipment is approximately $3,500.

Becher Taverns of the Fox River Valley league and the Athletics of the WInnebagoland league will tangle in the inaugural game. Both teams boast plenty of talent and the merits of the two squads has been a topic of much debate.

Supporters of the two squads have been claiming superiority for their respective teams all season and the game has been arranged to settle the argument.

Manager Wally Murphy of the tavern team will start Cliff Burton or Hunter Lake on the mound and Hank Stein, a newcomer, will do the receiving. Both of the pitchers are well known. Stein is a polished catcher who has proven popular with the fans.

Tavern Infield

The tavern infield will show Cy Burton at third, Orv Wonser at shortstop, Ralph Mueller on the keystone sack and Bob Cotton, a leading slugger, at first base. Mel Pope is the only outfielder certain of his position. Norm LaMarr has been looking good and may get the call for centerfield. Tom Murphy, Glenn Bowers and Ray Rippl will fight it out for the third outfield post.

"Big Bill" Noffke, who has been mighty stingy with hits this season, will get the pitching assignment of the Athletics, who are in league play. His teammates will be at somewhat of a disadvantage for they meet Oshkosh in a doubleheader in the afternoon while Becher Taverns play Manitowoc in a morning game.

Showing in the Athletic infield will be N. Kirk at first, O. Kirk at second, L. Grishaber at shortstop, Paul Grishaber at third. E. Horn will do the receiving. The outfield will have G. Swamp, F. Kroiss and R. Dietzen. The Athletics are batting .304 so far this season.


Story #2

Night Baseball Gets Rousing Sendoff as 2,000 Turn Out to See Athletics Trim Becher '9'

Night baseball was given a rousing sendoff in Appleton when over 2,000 persons, including 500 on the outside of the fence, saw the Athletics trim Becher taverns, 8 to 0, in an inaugural game under the new lights at Spencer street athletic field last night.

Speakers during the brief dedication ceremonies promised better seating facilities would be provided next year, indicated organized baseball may be developed and urged support for night contests.

C. O. Baetz, former president of the Wisconsin State league, introduced the speakers who were Mayor John Goodland, Jr., Alderman George Brautigam, former Alderman RH Kubitz, and Gordon R. McIntyre, Post-Crescent sports editor. The mayor "burned" the first ball past Brautigam into McIntyre's waiting glove and Kubitz called it a strike.

The new lights, costing about $3,300, give Appleton one of the best lighted diamonds in the state and players last night said they had no trouble in hitting or fielding the ball.

"Big Bill" Noffke found the lights to his liking and allowed but five hits, Orv Wonser being the only Tavern player to connect for more than a single. Featuring the game was a triple by George "Lefty" Fredrich with the bases loaded in the seventh frame.

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

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