One of the most enjoyable stops on our recent baseball sojourn to the Midwest was visiting League Stadium in Huntingburg, Indiana, home of the Dubois County Bombers of the Ohio Valley League (OVL). The OVL is a summer collegiate circuit as is Virginia’s Valley Baseball League.
The ballpark itself is a delightful time machine that whisks fans back to the 1940s as you’ll see in the video below. The producers of A League of Their Own certainly thought so when they discovered, and then refurbished the park, using it as the home field of the Rockford Peaches. The World War II era atmosphere is given a big boost by the Bombers’ uniforms which are classic to say the least. Furthermore, the concessionaires and attendants wear replica Rockford Peaches uniforms, adding further to the vintage ambiance.
Local fans certainly embrace their ballpark and their team as 2,003 of them made their way through the turnstiles for what was the final regular season game the night Al and I attended. This is a very impressive figure, especially considering that the population of Huntingburg is approximately 6,000.
The game we witnessed began as a tight, well-played, contest that somehow transformed into a crazy, base-hit filled affair that ended inn a wholly unique way. The home-town Bombers lead 3-0 through five innings over the Madisonville Miners, when the latter suddenly struck a vein of singles. The Miners scored six in the sixth and five in the seventh, ultimately taking a 13-4 lead into the ninth. Three walks and two singles plated two runs in the bottom of the ninth and the Bombers had the bases loaded with two outs when the Minersville manager, lineup card in hand, came strolling out to the plate umpire. Dubois County had brought their right fielder in to record the final out in the top of the inning, thus sacrificing their designated hitter. However, the new right fielder batted in the old right fielder’s spot who was still in the game as the pitcher. The game ended when he was declared out for batting out-of-order, a run came off the board, and the Bombers lost 13-5 in a game that featured 31 singles out of 34 total hits. Neither Al nor I (nor it seemed anyone in the stands) had ever seen a game end in such a fashion.
(Note: As it turns out, the Dubois County Bombers won their first OVL championship, defeating those same Madisonville Miners by winning the final two games in a best of three series on July 31st.)
As was the case, however, seemingly wherever we went on this trip, it was the friendship extended to us that comprised the most memorable part of the experience. Mary and Mike Uebelhor of the Bombers were happy to have us shoot an episode of Off the Beaten Basepaths and gave us the run of the park. Naturally, we enjoyed talking college summer league baseball with them. All of the Peaches were friendly and knowledgeable. It is hard to tell if their excellent sense of fan service is a result of good training or is just their natural Midwestern inclination to hospitality. I suspect a combination of both. Two Peaches in particular, Joyce Lawrence and Alexa Rasche were very gracious in posing for photos. Even the first base umpire came over to the fence along the right field line and chatted between innings.
Knowing that one can drive across the Indiana countryside, through seemingly endless fields of tall and shimmering corn to find a community coming together on a warm summer night to root for their home town team is reassuring. The summer, the game, the sense of belonging bestowed upon two strangers from the East Coast are all reassuring. Some moments are eternal.