The Burlington Fire

The recent fire at West Michigan’s ballyard set me to searching for coverage of the only comparable event in Midwest League history, the fire at Community Field in Burlington, Iowa, on June 8, 1971. The best treatment I could locate was in the Des Moines Register on June 10.

The caption under Larry Neibergall’s front page photo read:

Firemen play streams of water on the burning grandstand at Burlington’s Community Field early Wednesday in a futile effort to save the stadium. Loss in the fire, which swept through the wooden structure, was estimated at $75,000. John Cox, general manager of the Burlington Bees professional team which plays its home games at the field, said he was working in the office at the stadium late Tuesday and though he heard a noise outside. He went to investigate and found a section of the grandstand in flames. Cox escaped moments before the grandstand collapsed.

There was more detail on page 2-8:

Burlington Damage Set At $75,000

A fire Tuesday night which practically destroyed Community Field, home of Burlington’s Midwest League baseball team, caused an estimated $75,000 damage, authorities revealed Wednesday.

The Bees’ office said workmen were tearing down the charred remains of the grandstand in preparation for this weekend’s action. The park’s new lighting system, with the exception of one pole, remained intact.

Bee General Manager John Cox was working in the team’s offices at the park when the fire broke out. Cox said he heard what sounded like footsteps outside his office at about 11:30 pm.

Cox investigated, but found no one. A short time later, he investigated again and discovered the first-base stands ablaze.

The fire destroyed one dugout, a concession stand, the press box, the team’s offices, a ticket booth and most of the wooden grandstands.

A car parked outside the grandstand belonging to Bee player Tommy Sandt was destroyed by the blaze, but three other autos and a camper were moved in time after their windows were broken. The Bees’ home uniforms were at the cleaners and escaped the fire.

The ball park, constructed in the 1940s, is owned by the American Legion, which leases it to the city. The city, in turn, leases the facility to the Burlington Baseball Association, which operates the Bees.

The Bees, who were playing at Appleton, Wis., Tuesday night, are scheduled to return home Sunday night for a game with Quincy, Ill. A high school doubleheader between Assumption of Davenport and Burlington was played at the stadium just hours before the fire.

The Burlington High School Invitation baseball tournament will go on as scheduled Saturday at the stadium, which will have temporary bleachers.

Burlington’s current facility dates from the 1973 season.

Found the newspaper coverage via NewspaperArchive.com.

Revision History:

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