Fun on the prison ballfield
In the summer of 1959, our fastpitch softball team was sponsored by the Eagles Aerie No. 55.
Once in a while we were invited to play inside the Kansas State Prison at the prison baseball field. We all loved to play there because we were always treated to a good steak dinner after the game. We usually played our games at Hawthorn Park in Leavenworth, so this was a real treat.
These special games were not league games. We would play on a Saturday afternoon. Since all of our regular players could not play on Saturday, so we would pick up other players from some other local teams to make up the difference.
We would all gather in the parking lot in front of the prison administration building and go in together. We went through one gate into a cage about 12 feet long and heard the loud “click” behind us. It was a strange, trapped feeling for me. The guard seemed to enjoy watching our reaction and it seemed he took his time opening the second gate to let us move out into the open yard. We then walked down the brick walk east to the ball field.
The field at that time was inside the stone wall next to what is now Kansas Avenue. The stone wall was the complete outfield. Centerfield was at the tower at what is now Third Street and Kansas. Since this was actually a baseball field, they had to change the bases and pitching mound to make it a softball field. When we were up to bat, we faced southeast and the wall was between 300 and 400 feet away. My desire was to hit that ball out of the field and over the wall, but that did not happen. The closest I came to doing that, the ball hit a little over half way up on the right center wall at 367 feet. I still feel bad about not making it, but it was still a good hit for a softball.
The inmates always cheered for us and yelled at their own players. They gave us all nicknames, and for some strange reason my nickname was Red.
Some of the players on that Eagles team are still around. They are R. Hessenflow, Charlie McQuillan, Louis Zinser, Charles Hilscher, J. Dancer and D.W. Woodson. The deceased members were Bob Kaeding who was our manager, Jim Studdard, Tom McCarthy, Don McQuillan and Don Clark.
Those were the days.