America's Great Game
The early Twentieth Century has been called “Baseball’s Golden Age.” According to one historian, “From start to finish, through thick and thin, baseball persevered for these 100 years with resilient popularity and remarkably little meddling of its rules.”
Major League Baseball was coming into its own, but far from the roar of the big city crowds, baseball was a unifying factor in small towns across America. North Dakota was no different.
Baseball has been played in North Dakota for well over a century. Soldiers posted at Forts Abraham Lincoln and Buford passed what leisure time they had playing baseball. Homesteaders following the dream of claiming their own land brought their love of baseball with them. The parts of Dakota Territory that became North and South Dakota battled it out for baseball supremacy before they even became states. As the railroads pushed across the Great Plains, the railroad workers relaxed with impromptu games of baseball. Fargo and Grand Forks began playing each other in 1880, and by 1883 they traveled for games in Minneapolis and St. Paul. By the early 1900s, virtually every city and town across North Dakota boasted a local baseball team. It was a source of community pride.
But it cost money to field a team, and the course of small-town baseball did not always run smoothly. On this date in 1910, the Hope Pioneer was dismayed that the local team was on the brink of disbanding. The newspaper warned of the team’s “unnatural death this summer due to a lack of funds.” The paper asked readers, “Do you want Hope to be a back number this year and have all the little villages around hurling challenges at us which we cannot call because of the lack of someone to take the bull by the horns and start things moving?” The newspaper did, indeed, spur local businessmen to action, and the town was able to field a team that summer.
Dozens of major league baseball players have had ties to North Dakota. Roger Maris was certainly the most famous, but the importance of local teams should not be underestimated. The small-town team was a source of community pride and unity, and offered a recreational break for early settlers.
Dakota Datebook written by Carole Butcher
Hope Pioneer. “Business Men of Hope.” Hope ND. 3/24/1910. Page 1.
This Great Game. “Birth of the Modern Age.” http://www.thisgreatgame.com/1900s-baseball-history.html Accessed 3/23/2020.
ND Baseball Weekly. “North Dakota Baseball History.” https://ndbaseball.weebly.com/ Accessed 3/23/2020.