Thursday, September 17, 2015

Baseball in the Valley

With fall approaching many of us are reminded of the changing seasons with cooler days and the hustle of children returning to school. Lives move forward and families quickly settle into daily routines. As October nears, the rest of us turn our attention to baseball. The baseball season is finally coming to a slow and grueling stop after 162 regular season games—games that stretch over the full course of spring, summer, and fall and a national champion will be crowned. Watching the World Series is a special event.

Baseball has captured the imagination of generations and will continue to captivate more. There is something rather simple about a baseball game with its nine innings, twenty-seven outs, and four bases. Players attempt to move from base to base with the hope of scoring a run. Baseball isn’t as complicated as other sports; thereby, making it easy for younger people and newcomers to quickly catch on and enjoy the game. Professional baseball players are less idolized than football stars creating a more individual appeal, making baseball seem more “realistic” and players more approachable.

Baseball’s roots in the Shenandoah Valley can be traced back to when the sport was first invented.

Chaz Weaver’s history of local baseball The Valley Baseball League details the sports beginnings and current standings. The first recorded league was in the spring of 1866. The Staunton Baseball Club was one of the first teams and Harrisonburg quickly followed in July with The Lone Star Base Ball Club. Other leagues cropped up soon after and competition between the towns quickly developed (Weaver 2). Before long there were teams in New Market, Edinburg, Luray, and Woodstock. The development of these teams led to the Valley Baseball League that many still enjoy today.

In 1922 Harrisonburg joined the Valley League as a charter member (Weaver 27). Bleachers were quickly added to the field behind Harrisonburg High School and the field quickly gained the reputation as the best baseball facility in the valley (Weaver 27).  Harrisonburg won the title in their first year which more than verified their presence in the league.  The league shifted teams and jurisdictions throughout the early years causing Harrisonburg to lose the Turks from 1942-1948. This was a major blow to the city where many had quickly become fond of watching baseball during the warmer months.

1950 marks a monumental year with Harrisonburg joining the Valley League again and with the completion of Veterans Memorial Stadium. The stadium was named in honor of local men who lost their lives in World War II (Weaver 29). Throughout the 60s and 70s the Turks would continue a
pattern of success and win six championships. The Turks would go on to win the championship again in 1991, 2002 and 2012.  2008 marked dramatic change for the team. James Madison University purchased the old Harrisonburg High School building and grounds and Veterans Memorial Stadium was demolished. The new field, Eagle Field at Veterans Memorial Stadium seats 1,200 and is a state of the art facility. The Turks have seen tremendous success since moving to the new field and even won the championship in 2012 giving the Harrisonburg Turks a total of eighteen championships (Weaver 32).

This October we invite you stop by the library and check out our baseball display. Mr. Weaver’s book, The Valley Baseball League, will be available for you to borrow along with a generous selection of other baseball titles. We hope you enjoy the World Series by reading something new and enjoying the magic of October.

Weaver, Chaz. The Valley Baseball League, A History of Baseball in the Shenandoah Valley. Lulu Publishing Services, 2014.

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