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:

Umpire Huddle Leads to Protest (1962)

Found in the 7/21/1962 issue of The Sporting News, while looking for something else:

Here’s a new one in the line of protests. In the game between Burlington and Dubuque (Midwest), July 8, Walt Novick, Packers’ manager and Umpire Dick Williams were conferring outside first base. Plate Umpire Keith Harris did not notice the conversation and neither did Burlington Batter Bill Kuklenski. Kuklenski grounded to Ron Henderson at second base, but the infielder couldn’t make a throw because First Baseman Bob Iglesias was watching Novick and Williams. As a result, Kuklenski was called back to bat again. However, Jim Adlam, Burlington manager, claimed the batter should have been given first base, and when he was overruled, filed the protest. Dubuque won, 6 to 5.

The odd capitalization was in the original.

Also on page 42 of TSN that week:

  • Quad Cities drew 12,095 overflow-ground-rules fans for a game on an unspecified date.
  • Denny McLain struck out 16 batters for Harlan (Appy) in his second start of the season; his first had been a no-hitter. No dates were listed for either game. They misspelled his last name.
  • At their mid-season meeting the Alabama-Florida League discussed permitting Negro players to appear on the field. It seems they’d received an ultimatum from the major league farm directors. No decision was reached, though the Florida-based clubs were willing to integrate.

Much of the page was devoted to part of a long story featuring Flint Rhem, a colorful (hard-drinking) guy who played major league ball in the twenties and thirties, mostly with the Cards. Since I was (unsuccessfully) searching for information about 1962 MWL umpire Edward Rhem, that’s how I stumbled on the page.


TSN is now available via WorldVitalRecords.com. I’m so pleased to have it back.

Lugnuts Notes: The Burlington Bees

Four home games against Burlington. The Famous Chicken will entertain us on Saturday night, while Tuesday’s game will have fireworks and be televised on WLNS (Lansing Channel 6).

The Bees are affiliated with the San Francisco Giants and owned by local residents.

Chuq Von Rospach, a Giants fan who also oversees the Internet’s Minor League Maillist, maintains a Bees webpage [gone, of course]. The National Association’s page [broken] is about like its other pages.

Sort of related: A 1994 photo essay by Jeff Schrier of the Saginaw News about Bees pitcher (and former Central Michigan University student) Aaron Knieper [link, sadly, gone] won a prize from the Michigan Press Photographers Association.


The Bees are managed by Glenn Tufts with coaches Keith Comstock and Juan Lopez.


The Ballpark

While I haven’t seen Community Field, it’s reputed to be an extremely cozy, 4,000 seat ballpark with the seats close to the action. The center field fence is extremely short at 370 feet. The wooden grandstand dates from 1970, and is downtown.


The Team

All-Stars: Don Denbow (OF), Santos Hernandez (P).


Statistics quoted include games through Thursday, June 27.

The Bees played at a .500 clip for the first half, winning and losing 34 games en route to a second-place finish in the Western Division of the league; the Bandits beat them by three games. They have fairly good pitching; they have fairly poor hitting.

The Giants get by with only two squads in the low minors; Burlington here in the MWL, and Bellingham in the Short-Season A Northwest League. Last year’s Bees were 54-81 (.400), which was not quite the worst in the league. The Bellingham team, at 43-33 (.566), finished second in their league. This year’s Bees are drawn from both teams, approximately equally.

Burlington has one excellent hitter this summer: Outfielder Don Denbow is hitting .293 with 16 homers, 53 runs scored, and 49 runs batted in. He runs well (13 steals, 2 triples) and hits for power; this is a dangerous hitter. First baseman Mark Gulseth is having a good season; outfielder Alex Morales has an interesting stat line with some excellent numbers and some awful ones. Third baseman Michael Sorrow is a real threat to steal; so are Denbow, Morales, and outfielder Bruce Thompson.

This team also has one excellent pitcher: Lorenzo Barcelo has 7 wins, a 2.13 ERA, and a good strikeout ratio. The pitching staff has a couple weak spots but is generally very solid; runs will be earned. Closer Santos Hernandez has 19 saves, to lead the league. Jim Stoops, also used in late relief, appears to have a wicked strikeout pitch and excellent control.

joel


Revision History: