Ever since baseball was first introduced in the early nineteenth century, both men and boys have enjoyed this popular sport. Many communities like Fredericksburg have all shared this common thread of sports play. All of our neighboring towns-including Jonestown and Lickdale fielded teams and no doubt visited many times over the years. These friendly rivalries played themselves out on the field of spirited competition in which the spectators watching were hopeful for a win for their home team.
One of the earliest teams to play in Fredericksburg dated from 1876. The community fielded a small amateur team of men to play the sport. The team was called the Fredericksburg Molly Maquires and fielded several of the boys from the town. Some of which included; Richard P. Paine, Jacob F. Strauss, B.M. Strauss, Shepps, Meily, Weaber, M.J. Stroh, Wagner, and Fox. On July 29, 1876 the Fredericksburg team played the Lebanon Max Baseball Club reported in the Lebanon Daily News. For the home team the game didn’t go well, with the final score at the end of the game 20 to 7. The article stated that the our boys were unable to get hits against the “Max” pitcher Deitzler. It is unknown how long this team was organized and played as a club.
Another of the early organized baseball teams that played in the community was the team that represented the Schuylkill Seminary. The school was located on the extreme west end just outside the town limits, in the area locals call College Hill. The buildings have been long since been abandoned and are in poor condition. When the seminary opened its doors in 1886 to students-the desire to field a team was almost immediate and baseball was played on the campus. The team that played for the college was reorganized in 1888.
The Lebanon Daily News reported: “The Athletic Baseball Club of Schuylkill Seminary, Fredericksburg has been reorganized with J.D. Wertz as manager and M.L. Miller as Captain. New outfits are to be purchased and field practice will be commenced at once”. In 1890 the Seminary baseball team sat for a group photograph. The men are numbered on the photograph; #1-John D. Neitz, #2-Edward D. Rank, #3-James G. Overholser, #4-Harvey D. Miller, #5-Albert J. McHose, #6-Homer A. Addams, #7-H. Franklin Schlegel, #8-Harvey P. Walter, and #9-Charles H. Wagner. In the short two years after their reorganization-both M.L. Miller was no long the Captain and J.D. Wertz no longer served as the manager.
Another team that played baseball was called the “Fredericksburg Nine” from the late 1890’s through at least to 1910. Some of the players over the years included: William R. Behney, Clifford Strauss, Martin P. Strauss, Charles G. Kemp, Charles G. Gerhart, Jacob G. Gerhart, Harry O. Behney, Martin Wise, John E. Lentz, and Jacob Abling. All of these young men were in their late teens and early twenties and were natives of town. Being amateur ballplayers the team played many local teams including the Reinoehlsville Baseball Club, Swatara Creek Boys’ Brigade, and the Reistville Baseball Team near Myerstown, PA. This baseball team sat for a group photograph in front of the old Schuylkill Seminary about 1900. Looking closely at their jackets-the letter “F” can be clearly viewed on their jerseys.
Fredericksburg again would organize another community sponsored baseball team. In Lebanon County in the late 1940’s the town sported a Class-D minor league baseball club. This team started out as a semi-pro team in 1945 and was called the College Hill Chix. The team played their first organized season in the Lebanon High School Stadium. The following year in 1946, through the financial generosity of Coble E. Grimes a new stadium was built and dedicated. The stadium was then named after the benefactor and was built along Rt. 22 just east and outside of town.
Some of the more popular baseball players who played for area teams in the 1940’s included; Carlos “Lucy” Luciotti, Jimmy Miller, Ray Deck, Buck Fields, Allen “Snowball” Klepper, and former former major league ballplayer Jimmy Bucher. In 1949 the major league baseball club St. Louis Cardinals had a farm team visit the Coble E. Grimes stadium. This became the start of the Lebanon Chix who played with the North American League. This team lasted only 2 years-with Hal Contini as the manager. The team however did play long enough to give local pitcher Kenny Boyer his start in baseball that led him to a major league career as a third baseman and manager for the Cardinals. The first season ended in 1949 with the Lebanon Chix showing a winning record of 80-56 wins,and the following year in 1950 the team improved its records with 87-46 wins and took the league championship.
Gone are the days of many of the old town baseball teams. But communities don’t really change all that much. Baseball is still loved in Fredericksburg and the citizens of town will always remember the time when their hometown team and some of her players made something more of an impact in the annals of baseball.
Photograph of 1890 Athletic Baseball Club courtesy of Albright College, Special Collections, Photograph Collection; Photograph of Coble E. Grimes courtesy of Lynford Krissinger; Photograph of Lebanon Chix courtesy of Mathews Library-Fredericksburg PA