FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – On May 4, 1871 the first-ever professional league baseball game was played in Fort Wayne as the host Kekiongas beat the Cleveland Forest Citys 2-0 at what is now Camp Allen Park on the westside of downtown.
With the 150th anniversary approaching, WANE-TV brought you a half hour special entitled “Summit City Hardball History” to celebrate the importance of that game and Fort Wayne’s place in baseball’s storied history. The full show is listed above, with the show edited into its four segments below.
The show aired at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, May 1 on WANE-TV and was hosted by WANE-TV sports director Glenn Marini.
The first segment (below) chronicles the evolution of the 1871 game with Major League Baseball’s official historian John Thorn and local baseball historian Chad Gramling, author of the book “Baseblal in Fort Wayne.” The first segment also includes a story on Babe Ruth and the Murderers’ Row Yankees stopping mid-summer in 1927 to play in the Summit City as recounted by Blake Sebring, author of the book “Fort Wayne Sports History.”
Segment two focuses on how Fort Wayne played a role in the diversification of America’s past time. That includes a recollection of Jackie Robinson’s most famous visit to Fort Wayne in 1962. Colton Howard also reports on Noble county native Ford Frick, who eventually became the third commissioner of Major League Baseball, and – prior to that – played an integral role as the president of the National League when Robinson broke baseball’s color barrier. Tim Tassler, the chair of the Kekionga Chapter of the Society for American Baseball Research, also regales baseball fans with the history of Black Baseball in Fort Wayne, including when it was at its peak with the Fort Wayne Colored Giants of the 1920s.
In the third segment of the show author Don Graham, who wrote the recently published book “Daisies, Diamonds, and Dugouts,” discusses the history of the Fort Wayne Daises in the Summit City, as the franchise played in the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League from 1945-54. Dennis Auger, a published biographer for the Society for American Baseball Research, tells the tale of Avilla native Chick Stahl, a turn of the century star from northeast Indiana who was on his way to a Hall of Fame career before committing suicide in 1907. The segment closes with a look back at the unique career of Maples native Harley Hisner, who stands as a footnote in baseball history as the pitcher to give up Joe DiMaggio’s last hit while pitching just one game in the big leagues in 1951.
The fourth and final segment brings you up to date on the current status of baseball in Fort Wayne, as professional baseball returned to the Summit City on April 19, 1993 when the Fort Wayne Wizards hosted their first game against Peoria at the newly constructed War Memorial Stadium. Presently, the Fort Wayne TinCaps will serendipitously open their 2021 season on May 4 at Parkview Field – 150 years to the day of the famous Kekiongas game, and just over a mile as the crow flies southeast of the where the Grand Duchess used to stand.