Fielding a team: From Sox to Twins
By Kris Leonhardt
While the Wisconsin Rapids Rafters begin their 11th season on May 31, the team’s origins has a long, storied history of providing entertainment while showcasing talent from all over the country. Continued from previous week
CENTRAL WISCONSIN – The Wisconsin Rapids White Sox were a Chicago White Sox affiliate team that began play at Witter Field, in Wisconsin Rapids, in 1940.
Baseball was put on hold two years later due to World War II, as young, able men were either drafted or enlisted to serve the country. Over 500 major league players served during the war, along with thousands of minor league players.
Baseball continued during the war, but looked a lot different, with women’s league instituted and opportunities opening for those who had previously been denied access to the leagues. For Rapids, however, the “Boys of Summer” were gone.
The Wisconsin Rapids White Sox did not return to Witter Field until 1946.
During the 1949-50 seasons, Witter Field got much-needed improvements, as wooden bleachers were replaced with a metal grandstand.
After the 1953 season, the Wisconsin Rapids White Sox team became inactive when the Wisconsin State League suspended operation.
The following year, a Tri-City Sox team entered the Wisconsin Valley Semi-Pro Baseball League, made up of local talent. The team operated independently with uniforms and equipment from the Wisconsin Rapids White Sox. Home games were played at Witter Field.
But, the following year, the team struggled to field a team.
Professional baseball in Wisconsin Rapids was stagnant until December of 1962, when Washington Senators Farm Director Walter Brock visited the city and approved a working agreement with Wisconsin Rapids for Class A Mid-West Baseball League operations.
Brock said that he was impressed by the city’s “progressive attitude” during the visit.
He relayed that players from the Pensacola, FL, Alabama-Florida State League team were to be assigned to Rapids, as that Alabama-Florida league was dropped in the reorganization of the minor leagues. The Pensacola team had won the league pennant the previous year.
The Senators also operated clubs in the Eastern League and the Pony League, among others.
The Senators played one year in Wisconsin Rapids before the Paper Cities’ Baseball Association changed major league affiliation for the 1964 season.
The Minnesota Twins approached the association after the Washington Senators asked to be released from the Midwest League, to consolidate their farm club functions on the East Coast.
The Wisconsin Rapids Twins inaugural game was held at Witter Field on April 26, 1964, headed by manager, Joe Christian.
Continued next week