The History of Keokuk Baseball Web Site

Welcome to The History of Keokuk Baseball Web Site! Keokuk has a long and colorful history, especially as it relates to baseball. Many famous players spent time in and around the Keokuk area playing the sport. Here are some highlights:
Bud Fowler plays for Keokuk Roger Maris plays for Keokuk
1931 Mississippi Valley League Champions 1955 Three-I League Champions
Some of the information on this site was compiled with the help of Greg Miller. Check out Greg's site and see if you have any baseball cards he needs for his collection. Shane Etter has also provided a great deal of information for this site. He has spent years compiling information, looking through microfilm, as well as interviewing and corresponding with former players and fellow baseball historians. His goal is to preserve local baseball history, and in the future compile this information into a non-profit publication. He would like your help by letting him look at any old photos or other memorabilia that might help him in unlocking Keokuk’s baseball past. Contact Shane at (319) 524-4479.

If you have anything to add to this site (photos, stories, etc.), or have any comments or suggestions, e-mail iwebmaster@pccon1.com. Just a note - many of the images on this site are "clickable." Click on them for a closer look.
Late 1800's - Early 1900's - 1930's - 1940's - Early 1950's - 1955 to 1962
1875 - National Association of Professional Baseball Players - Keokuk’s first professional baseball team was in this league. They played in a field beyond Rand Park known as Perry Park. The National Association became the National League in 1876, although Keokuk did not become a part of it. Keokuk's record for that year was 1-12. One famous player to play against the Keokuk team that year was one of early baseball’s greatest pitchers, Albert Goodwill Spalding. Spalding played with Boston, and was the founder of the sporting goods company that bears his name. The 1875 Keokuk Westerns entire roster included only eleven players.
1885 - Western League - This team, "The Keokuks," organized themselves in 1884 and entered the Western League on the AA level the following year. The Western League broke up June 29, 1885. The Keokuks were 29-8. Much information exists about the 1885 Western League Keokuks. Perhaps the most important figure on this team was Bud Fowler. He is the first African-American to play professional baseball.
1886-1903 saw a gap in professional baseball for Keokuk, but not in organized baseball. During this time Keokuk still had semi-pro teams playing great baseball. In the 1890's, baseball was being played at Sportsman's Park on the corner of 15th and Palean Streets. This was home of Keokuk's two main teams, the Carson-Rands and the Keokuk Reds. Hubinger Park opened in 1898, which included a race track, amusement park, theatre, pond, and grandstand. Baseball was played on Olympic Field there.

Keokuk had an outstanding semi-pro team in 1901. The team won 32 games in a row and played against teams from St. Louis, Chicago, and other Midwestern cities.

An interesting figure from this era was Keokuk native Jeremiah Peter "Jerry" Harrington, who played in the major leagues for the Cincinnati Redlegs.
This photo is estimated to be from the 1890's, and is most likely a team called the Keokuk Redlegs. Notice the thickness of the bats and the primitive catcher's mask. The players are unidentified - if you have any information about these players, please contact us! Click on the image for a closer look. 1890's photo
1904-1906 - Iowa State League - These three years Keokuk had a Class D team. They placed fifth each year.

1907-1915 - Central Association - Class D baseball was played these years. The 1907-1915 Central Association teams in Keokuk produced four major leaguers.
Baseball Today 1916-1928 was another long gap in organized baseball in Keokuk, but not for great baseball itself. Keokuk was home to semi-pro and amateur teams, and even turned out a couple pros. The early twentieth century photo (at left) shows the popularity of baseball in Keokuk: a banner hanging above main street advertising "Base Ball To-Day."
On June 9, 1920 land was obtained to build Joyce Park, the field where many of Keokuk's teams would play. From 1925-1928, Keokuk was also home to a very successful team, the Midgets, a team of boys coached by Artie Whiteley.
Jack Saltzgaver was from Croton, Iowa. He played in Keokuk for a team called the Cherry Blossoms, named after a soft drink. He went on to play for the New York Yankees with such greats as Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig. He was a utility player in New York from 1932-1937, and ended his career in 1945 with Pittsburgh.
Roxie Lawson, a native of Donnellson, played for a Keokuk semi-pro team, the Eagle-Legion. He went on to pitch for the Cleveland Indians in 1930. From there he went to Detroit, and eventually ended his career with the St. Louis Browns in 1940.
1929-1932 - Mississippi Valley League - After picking up the Marshalltown, IA franchise, Keokuk joined this league and played Class D baseball. They were known as the Keokuk Indians. A few players from the 1929-1932 Mississippi Valley League teams had careers in the Majors.

In 1930, St. Louis affiliated baseball came to Keokuk. Thanks to the St. Louis Cardinals, lights were installed at Joyce Park. It was one of the first parks in the Midwest to be lighted.
1931 was one of the best years for baseball in Keokuk. It was this year that a Keokuk team won their first organized baseball championship. A notable team that played against Keokuk was their major league affiliation, the famous "Gashouse Gang" Cardinals. The two teams played an evening game on September 9, 1931. Check out the the 1931 Indians, including their roster and a photo from the night game against the Gashouse Gang. 1931 Indians
1933 saw Class B baseball. This team sent Bill "Fiddler" McGee of Bachtown, IL to play for the St. Louis Cardinals from '35-'41. He finished his career with the New York Giants in 1942.
In 1934 Keokuk had no official team. On September 10, Thomas H. Joyce Sr. bought the baseball park and deeded it to the city under the conditions it remain a baseball park. The original stands are gone, but the field remains and has been in use by Keokuk High School. Joyce Park will soon be the site of a new grocery store, and the park rebuilt at another location.
In 1935 Keokuk took over the Topeka franchise in the Western League, playing Class A ball for one year.
1937-1938 - Mississippi Valley League - This team was known as the Indians and was semi-pro. The league lasted only two years and included Burlington, Galesburg, Ottumwa, Mt. Pleasant, Muscatine, and Keokuk. The Indians occasionally played against barnstorming professional Negro League teams, which included the Kansas City Monarchs, Indianapolis Clowns, and House of Davids.
The years 1939-1946 were a gap in pro baseball, but Keokuk still played organized baseball.
On July 19, 1941, The Keokuk Goats of the ILMO League defeat Dizzy Dean, 2-0. Harley Miller and Whitey Wilson hit doubles, and Rudy Peterson a single. The Goats originated from Goat Hill around 14th and Carroll Streets in the early 1930's. Jim Jones was the sponsor. Baseball in Keokuk was very territorial in those days and there were many teams.
1943 - The Keokuk Bulldogs, also of the ILMO League, merge with the Keokuk Goats.
1952 Gus Bell 1947-1949 - Central Association - Keokuk was affiliated with the Pittsburgh Pirates in Class C baseball. The 1948 Pirates placed second in the Central Association with a record of 74-54. The 1948 Pirates also produced two Major Leaguers, Gus Bell and Earl Smith.
1950-1951 Keokuk had no pro baseball these years, but the decade of the 1950's proved to be one of the finest for Keokuk baseball. Check out what Joyce Park looked like in this era. At right is a sign promoting the Keokuk Kernels of the Three-I League. The sign once stood in the lobby of the Hotel Iowa at 4th and Main Streets in the early 1950's. Keokuk Kernels
Chicken Dinner Also in this era, players for the Keokuk team could win a free chicken dinner by either being the winning pitcher or hitting a home run. This card was awarded to Byron Klapprott for being the winning pitcher. Mr. Klapprott is still a resident of Keokuk.
1952-1957 - Three-I League - This era saw the team's name change, championship baseball, and some new major leaguers. To the right is the score book cover for the 1952 Keokuk team. They played independent Class B baseball. Check out the Baseball Hall of Fame's information on the Three-I League. 1952 Scorebook
Hubinger Ad In 1953, the team was renamed the Keokuk Kernels. The new name was related to The Hubinger Company, makers of corn starch. At left is a Hubinger Company advertisement on the back of a scorebook from the mid-50's. Hubinger's was a big supporter of Keokuk baseball until the end of Keokuk's minor league days in 1962.
The Kernels were affiliated with the Cleveland Indians in 1954. The team ended the season in second place with a 78-58 record. The most notable figure of this team, and of all baseball in Keokuk, was Roger Maris. Maris went on to play with the New York Yankees in 1957. He holds the record for most home runs in one season (61) in 1961 beating the record previously held by Babe Ruth. Sometime between playing for Keokuk and in the Majors, Maris changed his name from Maras to the current spelling. 1958 Roger Maris
1955 Scorebook 1955's Class B team, managed by Merrill "Pinky" May, finished in First Place, winning 92 games. They were known as the Kernels and were affiliated with the Cleveland Indians. The teams Keokuk competed against in 1955 were the Waterloo White Hawks, Cedar Rapids Raiders, Burlington Bees, Quincy Gems, Peoria Chiefs, Terra Haute Tigers, and Evansville Braves. The 1955 Keokuk Kernels were the Three-I League Champions, and sent four players to the Majors. To the left is the program for the 1955 Keokuk Kernels.
1958 Coupon Book Shown here is a coupon book for the year 1958. Fans bought coupon books for the season and simply ripped out a coupon for admission to the game.
1958-1961 - Midwest League - During these years the Keokuk team was affiliated with the St. Louis Cardinals, and played Class D baseball.
1966 Tim McCarver In 1958, a microphone was put under home plate to better hear the chatter of the players on the field. It was plugged into the park's PA system and could pick up conversations for thirty feet. This was quickly discontinued because of the foul language of the players. The June 1, 1958 issue of Grit and the August 1958 issue of Popular Science featured stories on this "experiment." Tim McCarver (at left) caught for Keokuk in 1959, then went to play in the Majors for St. Louis, and even got his own baseball card.
For more information on the Midwest League, check out the web site at  www.mwlguide.com
1962 - Midwest League - The Dodgers took over for the Cardinals at the beginning of the season. Then, on August 8, the Dodgers refused to provide funds, and the team moved to Dubuque. An oddity about the move was the fact that Dubuque already had a Class D team for the Cleveland Indians. This move signaled the end of professional baseball in Keokuk.

Check out some interesting links that relate to this site.

[Return to Top]