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Prineville’s First Baseball Team

August 4, 2014

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Baseball was a serious sport in rural America near the turn of the century. It was a game that could be played almost anywhere and frontier towns took great pride in supporting their teams. Prineville was one of the first communities to establish a baseball team in Eastern Oregon in 1890.

Several new members of the community had played baseball in the eastern part of the country prior to coming to Prineville and decided to form a local baseball team to play other emerging communities in Central Oregon. Many businesses would close their doors when a game was being played. Strong rivalries developed among local teams and a game was a major event covered closely by local newspapers. People would come from miles around to cheer on their team. Before and after games general celebrating occurred with social gatherings that included picnics and merriment. The early “wagon gate” parties were fun for all.

The Prineville “nine” played for community pride and wagers amongst fans was common. Surprisingly many small towns had teams including Antelope and Shaniko. Later Lamonta, Powell Butte, Madras, Bend and Redmond had teams. After the turn of the century Prineville boasted of having players that had played college baseball back east, including Hal McCall, the father of later Oregon Governor Tom McCall. Players were well respected members of the community and viewed as local heroes.

Baseball and horse racing were the major sporting activities in frontier Central Oregon until football was introduced in 1911. Shevlin-Hixson and Brooks-Scanlon sawmills in Bend sponsored baseball teams and railroad construction crews also sponsored teams. It was exhilarating for local fans when their team defeated rivals and devastating when they lost.

Community teams began to fade in popularity as the twenties arrived and as high school competition began to emerge.

 

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