Thursday, August 1, 2013

Muscotah Wins on Joe Tinker Day

The Kansas House of Representatives declared July 27 as Joe Tinker Day in Muscotah.  It could have also been declared “One of the Best Days Ever” in Muscotah, a small town in western Atchison County.

Celebrating Muscotah native son, Joe Tinker, was the main objective but July 27 turned out to be much more.

First, some background.  Tinker was born on July 27, 1880 and died on the same date in 1948.  He achieved fame as part of the Hall of Fame double-play combination Tinker to Evers to Chance that helped the Chicago Cubs win the World Series in 1907 and 1908.

In the last couple of years, a group of committed Muscotah citizens has been working to put a spark back in Muscotah by creating Joe Tinker-themed attractions.  The old water tower tank has been converted into the World’s Largest Baseball with the intention of creating a community and rural baseball museum inside of it.  Beside the ball, a mini-infield and outfield fence is awaiting silhouettes of Tinker and Evers and Chance.  Memorial roses have been planted beneath the fence and Wrigley ivy will soon follow.  

On Joe Tinker Day, two vintage baseball teams, the Hodgeman Nine and Cowtown Vintage Base Ball Club using 1860s uniforms, rules, and equipment, entertained more than 500 people who lined the foul lines on lawn chairs, straw bales, blankets and the back of pick-up trucks.  Hawkers carrying trays of peanuts, popcorn, and CrackerJack strolled through the crowds.  Hotdogs, apple pie and ice cream were sold.  Leoti’s Simone Cahoj and a group of the vintage ball players led the crowd in “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” during the seventh-inning stretch.  Two goats were present to help reverse the 1945 Billy Goat curse on the Cubs.

The Chicago Cubs major league baseball team even got in the act by sending three bricks from the famed Wrigley Field brick outfield wall.  A bucket of infield dirt came with the bricks as well as a congratulatory letter from Tom Ricketts, the owner of the Cubs.

Artists Erika Nelson and Matthew Farley were on hand to talk about the historical baseball mural that they are painting on the concrete block concession stand.  
Relatives of Joe Tinker came from Baltimore and California to see their ancestor’s hometown and to witness  the effect  their ball-playing Joe has had on this small town of 200.  A standing-room only crowd enjoyed 75-minutes of stories and revelations in a Question and Answer session with the two grandsons (who had never met) and the two great-grandsons.  Afterwards, interviews and autographs were in high demand from these celebrities-for-a-day.
Many from around the state attended who had donated or volunteered time to help with the Tinker projects.   Mixed in the crowd that included locals, baseball fans, historians, and small town supporters, this special group watched quietly with pride in their contribution.

Nobody will remember who won the ballgame, nor does it matter.  What will stick in the minds of those who attended is the determination of this town to help itself as well as the quintessential Americana experience we all had on this day.  Words of praise for Muscotah from the Tinker family will long ring in our ears. 
photo by Tom Parker
Muscotah is the “little town that could” and long after the last run crossed the plate, those who live in Muscotah will continue to work hard with little fanfare for the town they love. 

Perhaps the moral of the story is that we're a better state, a better society when small towns thrive.  They need our cheers and participation in the game.  When we all come together, we all win.

The Muscotah Experience is a great one to relate to help people "Get Kansas."  KE #2 Marci Penner

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