Negro League Kansas City Monarchs defeated Sheboygan Chairmakers in 1937

It would be hard to overstate the dominance of local baseball in communities across Wisconsin throughout the first half of the 20th century – before the distractions of automobiles, television, digital media, and capable screens. unimaginable.

In Sheboygan, the Chairmakers, the local semi-pro baseball club, were at the forefront of fans’ minds. The team was in second place in its league as the July 4 weekend approached in 1937.

Among the fans was Dolores Koechel, 11, who lived with her family just behind North Side Athletic Park, just north of Superior Avenue. His mother and father were avid gardeners, so when fake balls occasionally found their way into the Koechels’ garden, they were quickly removed and later returned to the Chairmakers in exchange for free entry to their ball games.

When the Chairmakers weren’t playing regular championship games, they sometimes filled in the gaps with exhibition games. The Kansas City Monarchs, leaders of the Negro American League, did exactly the same. When the Monarchs bus appeared in Sheboygan for a game against the Chairmakers on July 2, 1937, Dolores grabbed her free pass and little red autograph book and headed for the stadium with a handful of others. neighborhood children and their parents.

The Monarchs were no ordinary black ball club. They were eternal leaders in the American Black League. They won the Negro League World Series in 1924 and again in 1942.

Kansas City Monarchs team 1936

The Sheboygan press gave a preview of the game ahead of time, citing the Monarchs’ victory over the Chairmakers in 1936 and Sheboygan manager Joe Hauser’s hope to even the score.

The article highlighted the Monarchs roster full of players who likely would have been in the big leagues if they hadn’t been men of color.

With such a talented lineup, we could expect a full house for the July 2 game. Frank Duncan, considered the best receiver in the Negro American League, was behind the plate; Willard “Home Run” Brown played in left field; and Ed Mayweather maintained the opening goal. All three turned that night in a Kansas City 20-4 rout against the local Chairmakers.

Two famous Sheboygan players – Hauser and John Posewitz – also scored in this game.

According to The Press coverage the next day, July 3, 1937, the Kansas City pitchers “sent bullets so fast through the groove that the locals didn’t have time to hit them, and so far as the” stuff ‘on the ball. , they seemed to come full circle before they reached the plate.

The quick Monarchs overwhelmed the chairs, collecting 20 points on 20 hits.

In short, the Kansas City Monarchs displayed the talents of a major league team that deserved the advanced publicity offered by the media coverage.

The Monarchs were co-owned by Tom Baird and JL Wilkinson, two white men. Wilkinson, the founder of Monarchs, was known to have respect for the all-black team. Andy “Lefty” Cooper, a star pitcher in the Negro League, led the team and was assisted by another well-known twirler, Wilbur “Bullet” Rogan, who was nearing the end of his career.

The Monarchs would return to Sheboygan in 1938 to defeat the Chairmakers for the third time in another exhibition match.

RELATED: Sheboygan once boasted of the title of “Chair City” as a leader in the furniture industry

RELATED: Sheboygan’s historic Northern Star Tavern is at the heart of the city’s social life

These guys were good. Really good. Good major league. Yet if we played the popular “Jeopardy” television game show, I would dare say that many contestants might quickly name baseball’s home run icon Babe Ruth, but have no idea which team won the league championship. the Negro American League in 1937, much less who led this team with a batting average of 0.368 and an OPS of 1.049. It would be the Kansas City Monarchs and Willard Brown.

So Dolores and her fellow Chairmakers fans were entertained by the best of baseball’s top talent that July night, but it was only recently that the baseball community saw fit to recognize the then black leagues as real major leagues. The door was opened to recognize and commemorate the rich baseball talents of players such as “Bullet” Rogan, Andy Cooper and Willard Brown, not to mention Monarchs owner JL Wilkinson, without whom the Monarchs may never have excelled. .

We just don’t know how Dolores Koechel’s autograph book ended up in the hands of the monarchs that night. What we do know is that when Dolores got home that night, she had autographs from JL Wilkinson, Andy Cooper, Willard Brown, and “Bullet Rogan”. It wouldn’t be that bad, except these baseball greats have finally found their rightful place in the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown.

Note: Thanks to Dolores (Koechel) Thiel, who still lives in Sheboygan. A lifelong baseball fan, she raised three passionate baseball sons. I am one of them.

Wallace Thiel grew up in Sheboygan and now resides in Presque Isle.

Comments are closed.