Knox College baseball traced to 1800s
Tuesday, March 27, 2007Baseball at Knox College was one of the institution's earliest intercollegiate sports. During the 1860s baseball became a frequent source of diversion for Knox male students. Four baseball clubs were listed in the first Knox College yearbook. The inaugural game was played without gloves and participants had to learn the art of catching a swiftly thrown ball bare-handed. During the 1870s a game that resembled baseball occurred several times with Lombard, Monmouth and Illinois Industrial University.
Knox baseball records reveal that in the period covering 1888 to 1931 the "Siwash" compiled a record of 205 wins, 179 losses and 6 ties. The Knox baseball team first won the Illinois Intercollegiate championship in 1889, defeating a University of Illinois nine captained by George Huff by a 16-2 score. Knox won the Illinois championship again in 1920 and experienced an undefeated season.
Due to a lack of players and proper facilities the college dropped its baseball program from 1931 until 1951. Athletic director Dean Trevor announced in 1950 that Tip Downing had been hired to coach the basketball and baseball teams and resume the diamond game at Knox. This was the time of the completion of Memorial Gymnasium and in general improved outdoor athletic facilities. Knox College played home baseball games at Willard Field, in the general area of the current Fine Arts building across from Memorial Gym. In the early teens Knox often played professional teams at Willard Field, including the Chicago White Sox.
Before the 1963 baseball season a new state-of-the-art baseball facility was constructed on the Knox campus adjacent to Memorial Gym and the T. Fleming Fieldhouse. Blodgett Field is a symmetrical facility that contains its own sprinkler system. It measures 310 feet down the lines and 400 feet to center field. The soil composition of the original field was identical to that of Wrigley Field in Chicago. The complex contains a drainage system that allows games to be played following a heavy rain storm.
Longtime Knox basketball coach Harley Knosher had the honors of managing the Siwashers during their opening double-header on the new Blodgett Baseball Field on April 6, 1963. The 24-man Knox baseball squad of 1963 included eight lettermen. The inaugural Blodgett Field team included Otis Cowan, Ed Havens, Fred Lundeen, Jeff Sandburg and Owen Muelder from Galesburg. Cowan, Havens, Lundeen and Sandburg also starred on the basketball floor for both Galesburg High and Knox College. Muelder, is the director of the Knox College Underground Railroad Freedom Center.
Unfortunately Knox took it on the chin, losing to Chicago University in the first game ever at Blodgett Field by a score of 12-0. Otis Cowan, Knox shortstop registered the first base hit on the new field during the opening game. Things were much different in the second game as Knox beat Chicago 4-1. Knox scored their first run ever on Blodgett Field in the third inning of the second game when Jeff "Goose" Sandburg scored in a run-down from third base. Ed Havens was credited with the first "run batted in" via a single in the third inning that put Knox out in front to stay.
Tom Wilson is a local historian. Write to him at email@example.com or at The Register-Mail, 140 S. Prairie St., Galesburg, IL 61401.