Home   |   About Us   |  Inductees   |   Nominations   |   Donate   |   Contact Us   |   Centralia Links

1865-1870 Centralia Liberty Base Ball Club
The Centralia Sports Hall of Fame
2007 Veteran's Team Award Winner


 

Centralia baseball tradition began in the 1860’s when the Liberty Base Ball Club appeared as Centralia’s first town team.

Standing proudly for their 1865 team picture were our first diamond stars: Lou Houch, Bill Hay, Ed Clark, Jim Erick, Jack Condit, Henry Condit, Frank Fletcher, Free Johnson and Bill Johnson.

Substitution was only permitted for injury or illness in those days, and even then the opposing captain had to approve. In a 1925 Centralia Sentinel interview catcher Henry Condit recalled, “We played the whole season without a substitute, and finished every game with nine men on the field. Maybe a fellow would get hurt, but he was game, and unless he was killed, he got back in there.”

It was an era before the advent of catcher’s equipment, or even fielder’s gloves. Modern players might say that pitching back then was underhand, but Condit wanted it noted that, “It didn’t ease up when a heavy hitter leaned on one and sent a sizzler to the infield or outfield.”

Statistics for 1865 have proved elusive. By 1866, some restructuring was necessary as four Libertys were having trouble sharing travel expenses. On May 16, 1866, the “Egyptian Base Ball Club” was established. During the next two tumultuous seasons, as many as eight of the original Libertys appeared on the Egyptians. Partial statistics and a good deal of anecdotal information highlight the next several seasons. It was the Egyptian edition of Centralia baseball, with considerable guidance and manpower from the Libertys, that blazed a discernible sporting trail.

The Egyptians got the attention of baseball “cranks” (fans) around the state by going to Decatur, dispatching the West End club 50 to 40 and then stopping off en route home to edge Pana 18-17.  Perhaps because of those wins, Centralia received an invitation to the Greater Western States Tournament, to be held in Decatur from September 16-21, 1867.

After a roaring send off by wildly enthusiastic locals, the Egyptians ran into a dilemma. They were placed in the Senior Division of the tournament and ran head on into the Chicago Excelsiors, one of several excellent Windy City clubs (A slightly better one called the White Stockings (Cubs) became a charter member of the National League a few years later). A stinging defeat by their big city brethren called the Egyptians bravado, but a second place prize of $250 and a “golden baseball” worth $50 more was worth the trip.

Back home, the Egyptians donated the ball as a traveling trophy for a new four-county Union Fair Association tournament. They reportedly also contributed financially to the purchase of the Fairground property, which is today know as Fairview Park.

In an area that is sadly undervalued and little understood today, there were tournaments, beer games, cash prizes, brawls, hand-sewen team banners, bands playing, 102 degree doubleheaders, trophies, adoring fans, train rides and banquets - more than a few cigars and shots of whisky, too.


 

 

©2009 The Centralia Sports Hall of Fame Committee  -  all rights reserved
Site design by
Illinois Websites