On July 18th, Al and I ventured to Bosse Field in Evansville, Indiana, on what may be mildly described as a warn evening. The heat index, which had risen to 113 during the day, was still over 100 degrees at game time, which was 7:05. Naturally, this did not deter us and we happily took our front row seats behind the home town Otters’ dugout.
Evansville is one of 14 teams in the independent Frontier League, which is now based in the Mid-West. This night, the Otters were taking on the Joliet Slammers. An independent league, as the name implies, is unaffiliated with Major League Baseball. The players play for the love of the game or for one more chance to get noticed by a major league organization. A league rule sets the team salary at $75,000 and yes, you read that correctly: That’s the salary cap for the entire team and so, these boys average a little over $3,000 per season given the 22 man roster. Players live with a host family each summer. Also by league rule, players must be under 27 years of age with the exception of one player per team who may be designated as a “veteran.” The veteran must be under 30 years of age. (Click here for official player eligibility rules.)
Bosse Field, the Otters’ home, is what initially drew us to Evansville. Opened on June 17, 1915, Bosse Field is the third oldest professional ballpark in the country behind only Fenway Park (1912) and Wrigley Field (1914). The park was used as a set in A League of Their Own, the 1992 film about the All American Girls Professional Baseball League in which it served as the home ballpark of the Racine Belles. For a more in-depth look at Bosse Field, click here for a video history of the park, and here for David B. Stinson’s excellent post on Bosse.
Bosse Field is not just an old ballpark; it is a place where the wonderful ambience of ballparks past remains alive not only in the architecture, but also in the buzz from knowledgeable and friendly fans who fill the seats.
We saw an exciting 4-2 Evansville victory by the first place Otters, a team night whose 41-19 record makes them as hot as the night we attended. (The Otters continue to lead the Eastern Division as of this writing nine days later,) Neither the game, nor the ballpark, nor the heat was the most memorable aspect of our visit to Bosse Field, however. What we most enjoyed was warmth of a different kind—that which emanated from the fans with whom we sat. We talked at length with Dave Meyer, a local teacher and athletic director who was there with his dad and his daughter. A well-versed baseball fan in his own right, Dave was eager for us to meet General Manager Bix Branson who in turn was more than happy to take us to his office and show us the photo taken on the day that Bosse Field was officially opened one hundred years ago. Such congeniality was a given on our trip through Kentucky and Indiana, and I know I speak for Al when I say that this is the “souvenir” that we will most cherish whenever we reflect on our trip.
Coming soon, a post on League Field in Huntingburg, IN.