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By Linda Emley
A few years ago, the mayor of Swanwick told me that the great baseball player, Satchel Paige, played a game there. Some of you might wonder where Swanwick is and why I was so amazed that Satchel Paige played there. Swanwick was a small town that was located just a short distance west of Richmond. I’m working on a story about Swanwick so you will hear more about it later.
Satchel Paige was a baseball player who played for the Kansas City Monarchs, a Negro League baseball team. He was active in baseball from 1926 until 1967. He played for the Monarchs in 1935, 1936, 1939 to 1948, 1950 and 1955. He also played for the Kansas City As in 1965. Satchel is buried in the Forest Hill Cemetery in Kansas City. I visited his grave a few years ago and according to his tombstone, he was born July 7,1906 and died June 8, 1982.
I’ve always heard that Satchel didn’t know for sure how old he was because he didn’t have a birth certificate. Many people from his generation didn’t have one, so the family Bible was some times the only place your birthday would be recorded. Satchel once said, “How old would you be if you didn’t know how old you are?” I love this quote because age doesn’t really matter.
I haven’t found proof yet that Satchel Paige played in Ray County, but I keep hoping that one of these days I will find an old newspaper article that tells us all about it.
Earlier this summer, Phil Dixon called the museum and asked if we could look through some of our old newspapers and see if we could find where some of our Ray County baseball teams played against the Monarchs. I told him my story about Swanwick and Satchel Paige and agreed to look up some articles for him.
After talking for awhile, we decided that he needed to come to Ray County and tell his story. On Saturday, Aug. 30, at 2 p.m., Phil is coming to the Ray County Museum and is going to share some intersting stories about the Negro Baseball Leagues.
His story starts like this. “The Kansas City Monarchs is our hometown. Most people have heard of Jackie Robinson, some have heard of Satchel Paige, many have heard of the Kansas City Monarchs, but few know how connected they were to the local community. In honor of the 90th Anniversary of the Monarchs’ first World’s Championship in 1924, I am returning to 90 cities where they played games to present this team’s unique history, and I do so with a local twist – I talk about games the Monarchs played in your city against local competition – as well as discuss the history of African-American ball players from your community who participated in the Negro Leagues (when the opportunity presents itself).
“My program is appropriately titled, ‘The Kansas City Monarchs in our hometown.’ It’s a tribute tour, a goodwill visit done with sports history. It is a 30-45 minute Power Point presentation with historic photographs, entertaining stories and colorful baseball poetry.”
Phil is a published author, and will have some of his books for sale on Saturday.
This summer Phil Corwin volunteered at the museum and really enjoyed looking up stories in the old newspapers about the Negro League ball teams that played in Ray County. Phil Dixon gave us some dates to check and we were lucky to find several good stories. I’m going to share a few now, but you will hear many more when you come join us on Saturday afternoon.
The Richmond News, Oct. 7, 1921, page 2: “Monarchs Won Two Games. The famous colored ball club, the Monarchs, of Kansas City, defeated the Richmond Colored team, the Giants, in the game at Bryan Park here Wednesday afternoon by a score of 15 to 4, and yesterday afternoon, the Richmond Athletics, the white team was defected by the visiting Negroes by a score of 15 to 4.
“The score in both of the games would look like the playing was one sided and it was, but the two amateur teams of Richmond were up against full-fledged professionals and the showing was really better than could have been expected. The Monarch nine is undoubtedly one of the finest teams in this section of the country.
“The Richmond Athletics will go to Lexington Sunday to play the second game of a three-game series with the Lexington Athletics to decide the 1921 championship of Lafayette and Ray counties. The game was scheduled for last Sunday and was postponed on account of rain.”
Once again, I found some interesting local stories while looking for articles about the 1921 baseball season.
The Richmond Missourian on Oct. 6, 1921, told how our local boys got to enjoy the World Series. “Showing World Series. Local baseball fans are able to see the World Series games, play by play, through the means of the electric score board that has been placed over the front of the Richmond Drug Company’s store. News of the plays is being sent over the lines of the K.D.L. Telephone Company. Mr. M. V. Geary of the Santa Fe station, Manager J.J. Stephens and Mr. H. P. Lohman of the telephone company are handling the telegraph instruments and the electric scoreboard.”
It’s hard to imagine enjoying baseball just by seeing the score and missing all the action. This helps explain why the local baseball teams were so popular during this time of our history.
The same page in the Missourian had a story that gives us another look at the way things were in 1921. “Do Camp Grounds Pay? The publisher of the Richmond Missourian, following a bit of a trip to the northwestern states last year, advocated the opening of a little local camping ground for touists.
“Some folks poo-hooed the remark, and said it would hurt the hotels and not benefit the merchants or the community. Our investigation had proven to the opposite, taken from some personal observations of the actual results of municipal and Chamber of Commerce camping grounds of towns larger and smaller of Richmond.
“Herewith is a sketch which has lately been floating around and is convincing. Mexico, Columbia and Jefferson City are among the towns that opened local camping grounds. The comment follows: A newspaper reporter in an Illinois city went out to the auto tourist camp of his town to find out if the camp brought in any returns.
“The reporter discovered 22 campers on the lot the evening of his visit. He took their names and addresses and discovered a range extending from Ohio to Kansas. Every member of the entire party had spent money in town during the stop at the camp.
“This reporter quizzed the tourist about how much they had spent, and quickly struck a total of $220 for one night’s stay. Small amounts went for dry goods, repairs and shows. About one-fourth of the total was spent for tires and tubes, and nearly half of it was provisions and groceries. Figuring 100 good nights of tourist camping, which is conservative enough, the motor nomads would leave $22,000 in that one town, and with hard roads that figure would be increased for the full spring and autumn seasons of travel.
“One Kansas town that boasts a population of 250 offers free campgrounds, free kindling and free water nevertheless. This little town was satisfied that the tourist camp paid.”
Now I’m on a mission to see if Richmond ever got its camp ground. I also need to figure out where the Bryan Baseball park was located. If anyone knows, please let me know.
In closing, I thought this would be a good time to share a little-known fact about Richmond. If you ever have someone looking for a campground in Richmond, you can contact the Ray County Fair Board.
Out behind the museum, there are several RV hook-ups that can be rented. Every summer we have someone who comes from out of state and camps out back. Then they come up to the museum several days in a row and work on their family tree. It’s always fun when you get to spend time with new friends and watch them fall in love with Ray County.