Even though the 2015 baseball season is over, we all know that old baseball stories never die, and Waseca County has one to tell.
It is one of the unique stories showcased in the new permanent exhibits at the Waseca County History Center, âWhere the Big Woods Meet the Prairie.â
Waseca County had an integrated baseball team at the turn of the 20th century.
Itâs well known and celebrated that Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in professional baseball in 1947, but more than 46 years earlier, there were five African-American baseball players who would play for the EACO Flour âMillersâ, also known as the Waseca âEACOS.â They were Ed âDoggieâ Woods, pitcher; Bob Footes, catcher; Robert âBillâ Joyner, shortstop; Billy Holland, pitcher; and âBig Georgeâ Wilson, pitcher.
The team sponsor was a flour mill built in 1870 next to the Minneapolis & St. Louis Railroad tracks near Loon Lake. Its brand name, EACO, stood for Everett and Aughenbaugh Company.
Wasecaâs famous baseball team of the 1900 and 1901 season, in particular, was managed by W. J. Armstrong (who built the three-story Southern Minnesota Grocery Warehouse, now the Miller-Armstrong building in Waseca). R.P. Ward was president and L.W. Sterling was treasurer of the team.
EACOâs team won 57 games and lost 15. They played the best clubs in Minnesota, Iowa and Wisconsin, traveling all over the Midwest, including Chicago to play the Flandreau Indians, and the Chicago Marquettes among the many teams they came up against. In 1901, the Waseca EACOs won amateur titles in Minnesota, Iowa and and South Dakota.
The rivalry between Waseca and Litchfield that year made the state championship game Aug. 11 one of the great attractions of the summer.
The owners of the Lexington Park field in St. Paul were offered a percentage to host the game. They refused, thinking they could not even pay the ushers out of what they thought the gate would bring in. So Waseca and Litchfield rented the grounds for a flat $50 â to the everlasting sorrow of the Lexington Park managers.
The team was so popular that extra trains were scheduled to transport all the fans to see the game. In all, the game drew over 10,000 spectators. The score was 9-2. Waseca won.
Pitcher âBig Georgeâ Wilson stole a base, got two hits and struck out nine. Wilson was considered to be one of the best baseball players in the country, black or white.
Baseball history is rich with the events of individuals and teams, their successes and failures. Wilson, Woods, Footes, Joyner and Holland played for many teams because they and so many others simply loved the game of baseball. And, âthereâs always next year . . .â
In its Aug. 17, 1901, edition, The Waseca Radical glorified the team with this ditty â âWeâre the monarchs of all we survey. Our rights there are none to dispute. From the amateurs up to the Leagues, Waseca can skin the galoots.â