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McCulloch Park

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A color sketch of the McCulloch Park grandstand in late 1940s. (larger image below)

McCulloch Park is located in Muncie, Indiana. The park was named for local industrialist George F.McCulloch. Although baseball had been played in the park for over thirty years, the Grandstand, with a seating capacity of 4100 was not built until 1931. The field hosted two professional teams, the Fruit Jars in 1906 and 1908 and the Reds from 1947 to 1950. The grandstand burned down in 1952 and has never been replaced.

[edit] History

The Park's history began in 1892 when McCulloch, a local business man, newspaper publisher, philanthropist and one of Muncie's most prominent citizens, made a gift of 118 rolling, green riverside acres, to the community, for the use of parks and recreation. Mr. McCulloch died on March 15, 1915 and it was remarked at his eulogy, that the establishment of this park was the crowning achievement of McCulloch's benevolent life.

It did not take baseball long to become one of the parks main attractions. The first issue of the Muncie Star newspaper, founded by McCulloch on May 29, 1899, showed that the McCulloch field was home to a Muncie team's victory by a score of 7 - 3 over a Wabash, IN team in the semi-pro Indiana-Illinois League on the previous day.

In 1906 Muncie fielded its first professional baseball team, the Muncie Fruit Jars, playing in the class C Interstate Association. The team returned for the 1908 season in the class D Indiana-Ohio League which folded on June 8 with the team in last place.

Over the following years the McCulloch diamond was home to numerous semi-pro clubs. In 1931 a permanent wooden grandstand was erected. Following this a local team named the Muncie Citizens was founded and enjoyed many successful seasons, especially during the depression years. During the 1930s several Major League teams visited the ballpark and on one occasion the St. Louis Browns suffered defeat at the hands of the local squad.

On July 4, 1938, McCulloch Park was overwhelmed with an estimated crowd of 80,000 people, more than the population of the entire city. They came for an Independence Day church gathering, a baseball double-header, along with what has been described as the greatest fireworks display in the history of the park.

During World War II, as part of an effort by Major League Baseball to reduce travel expenses, the Pittsburgh Pirates came to Muncie for spring training. The National League club would call McCulloch Park its spring home from 1943 to 1945. During this era the Pirates were led by manager Frank Frisch and coach Honus Wagner, both Hall of Famers, who gained many fans for the team. These spring training years brought several other big league teams to the park for exibition games. It is said that Detroit Tiger Rudy York hit the longest home run ever out of McCulloch Park.

Following the war, professional baseball returned to McCulloch Park in the form of the Muncie Reds, a class D team, who called the park home from 1947 to 1950. During these years the team was an affiliate of the Cincinnati Reds.

After the Reds disbanded in 1950, the field went back to being used by Amatuer and semi-pro clubs. On Friday, June 13, 1952, fire struck the grandstand, completely destroying it. While the grandstand has never been replaced, the field was refurbished and has been maintained throughout the years. Click on Muncie Reds to visit that page.

[edit] Image

A color sketch of the McCulloch Park grandstand in late 1940s.
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