"Encyclopedia Dubuque is the online authority for all things Dubuque, written by the people who know the city best.”
Marshall Cohen—researcher and producer, CNN
Affiliated with the Local History Network of the State Historical Society of Iowa.
Songs: "TALKIN' BASEBALL"
Year League Team
1974-76 Midwest League DUBUQUE PACKERS (1), (2)
1968 Midwest League DUBUQUE ROYALS
August,1962 Midwest League MIDWEST DODGERS
1954-1961 Midwest League Dubuque Packers
1954-1967 Mississippi-Ohio Valley League Dubuque Packers
1929-1932 Mississippi Valley League DUBUQUE TIGERS
1927-1928 Mississippi Valley League DUBUQUE DUBS
1926 Mississippi Valley League DUBUQUE SPEASMEN
1925 Mississippi Valley League DUBUQUE IRONMEN
1924 Mississippi Valley League Dubuque Dubs
1922-1923 Mississippi Valley League DUBUQUE CLIMBERS
1912-1915 Illinois-Indiana-Iowa League Dubuque Dubs
1911 Illinois-Indiana-Iowa League DUBUQUE HUSTLERS
1906-1910 Illinois-Indiana-Iowa League Dubuque Dubs
1903-1905 Illinois-Indiana-Iowa League DUBUQUE SHAMROCKS
1899 Western Association Dubuque
1898 Western Association Dubuque Tigers
1895-1897 Western Association Dubuque
1895 Eastern Iowa League Dubuque
1890 Illinois-Iowa League Dubuque Giants
1888 Central Interstate League Dubuque
1879 Northwest League Dubuque Red Stockings
Chicago White Sox, 1954-58 Pittsburgh Pirates, 1959-60 Cleveland Indians, 1961-66 Los Angeles Dodgers, 1967 Kansas City Royals, 1968 While technically a Royals farm, this was staffed as a cooperative team with at least 15 teams contributing players. Cooperative, 1974 Houston Astros, 1975-76
Minor League Titles---1905, 1927, 1929, 1955, 1962 (4)
Attendance record---97,220 (1959) (5)
BASEBALL. First played in 1839 on a diamond in Cooperstown, New York, baseball came to Dubuque in 1855 although there were no clubs or teams of lasting importance. (6) The first full nine-inning game with nine players on each side was played by the two teams of the Julien Baseball Club of Dubuque in the summer of 1865. Called at the time "the best game ever played in the city," the winning side made twelve fly catches, the losing side made nine, and the score was 21 to 12. In late September, the Empire team from St. Louis defeated the Juliens 35 to 29. In 1866 the Dubuque team played in a baseball tournament at Rockford, Illinois.
Organized baseball, at least the team had a manager and played against other towns, debuted in Dubuque in 1866. In that year, there were only four organized teams in the west. These included the Cream Cities of Milwaukee, Wisconsin; Unions of Chicago, Illinois; Forest City of Rockford, Illinois, and the Excelsiors of Dubuque. (7) Baseball players in those days did not wear gloves, masks, or chest protectors. The bare-handed catcher stood far enough behind the batter to catch the ball on the first bounce. One of the rules was that a foul caught on the first bounce by the catcher was an "out." (8)
In 1867 a group of young men formed the Young Men's Club which was soon renamed the Clipper Club. (9) Led by Al Clark, the Clipper Club defeated the Excelsiors for the territory championship in 1868 and then changed their name to the Excelsior Juniors and later the Excelsiors. The team played everyone and defeated the Omaha, Nebraska team twice. This led to a famous "switch." Omaha challenged the Excelsiors again. It was several days before the game that the Dubuque fans found out that Omaha had purchased the services of another club. This "hiring a battery" was not uncommon, but the Dubuque fans rightly feared a loss. It was to their surprise that on game day they found the Excelsior manager had hired a St. Paul, Minnesota "battery." This happened to be one of the finest in the game at the time and led "Dubuque" to a 2-1 victory. (10) The Excelsiors disbanded in 1872. (11)
During the 1870s Dubuque was one of the first cities in the United States to support professional baseball. In its history, Dubuque played under six different banners: Northwestern League, Three-I, Central Association, Mississippi Valley, Mississippi and Ohio Valley (MOV) and Midwest. A meeting to organize "a first class club" was held in the office of J. P. FARLEY AND SONS on May 3, 1878. (12) Ted Sullivan started an independent team in 1878 and helped organize the Northwest League, the first professional baseball league west of the MISSISSIPPI RIVER, which included Rockford, Illinois; Omaha, Nebraska; Davenport and Dubuque, Iowa. He was a leader in signing quality players including the famous Charles COMISKEY and managed Dubuque in 1879. (13)William B. LAPHAM became a charter member of the Northwest League, the first professional baseball league in Iowa. Dubuque was late in signing up players. Fortunately Sullivan knew of the Peoria Reds and signed up most of them for Dubuque which technically won the league pennant that year with a 19-5 record. (14) The season began on May 1ast and the league disbanded on July 17th with Dubuque in the lead 17-7. (15) The team went on to defeat Providence and the Chicago Cubs, the top two teams in the National League. The 1-0 win over the Cubs led Dubuque, with such talent as Comiskey and Charles RADBOURNE, to claim the world championship. The team remained in Dubuque only three seasons and played on what became COMISKEY PARK. (16)
An effort was made to organize a new league in 1880. The plan with teams from St. Louis, Topeka, St. Joseph, and Kansas City fell apart. In 1882 Dubuque fielded two amateur teams, the Blue Stockings and The Onwards. Amateur teams represented Dubuque through 1886. (17)
Dubuque's life in the Northwest League was short, and until 1888 it was out of professional baseball. During these years the city was represented by a traveling team that played in Duluth, Minnesota; Eau Claire, Wisconsin; and Rockford, Illinois.
In 1890 Dubuque entered the Iowa-Illinois circuit with Sanford A. ATHERTON the president of the Dubuque Giants, the local team and William B. Lapham as manager. Games involving league members Sterling, Ottawa, Joliet, Ottumwa, Aurora, and Cedar Rapids and later Galesburg replacing Sterling were played at NUTWOOD PARK After a 7-0 start to the season, Dubuque finished last (53-59) when the season closed on September 17th (18) In October 1890 players of the team learned that several members of the board of directors had not paid assessments. The other members did not feel it was their responsibility to make up the difference so the players were paid twenty-five cents on the dollar owed to them. (19)
In June 1894 J. P. Lux, W. Crawford, and Edward KEAS set about to form a new organization. Grounds for a field were found in the Linehan Park Addition and an amphitheater was planned at a cost of $400.00. The frequency of games was to be determined by the enthusiasm of the citizens and the patronage. (20)
In March 1895 a meeting in the Board of Trade led to T. J. Loftus being elected president of a group determined to organize a club. A proposal from a Mr. Shugart was read offering to coach the team for $50.00 per month and 20% of the net earnings. There was no action on this proposal. Chairman Loftus believed it was important to get subscriptions first and let these people decide a course of action. He considered between $2,000 and $2,500 would be needed to make preparations and carry the team through the season. Stock in the company should be priced at $10.00. Those collecting money would have two lists--one for those wishing to purchase stock and another for those simply wishing to donate money. In addition to collecting money, solicitors were to ask whether people believed control should be turned over to someone or whether the citizens should manage the new club. (21)
Ground nearly a mile closer to the center of town at the corner of 24th Street and Elm was purchased. The team, the Dubuque Colts, moved into the new Twenty Fourth Street Park (now Comiskey Park) in 1895, the year it joined the Eastern Iowa League. (22) Of the eight teams in the league, Dubuque, Burlington, and Davenport-Rock Island were "Sunday towns." (See: BLUE LAWS)In scheduling games, it was expected that weekdays and Saturdays would be used. Cities allowing games on Sunday could play exhibition games. (23) Dubuque finished first in the league that year with a record of 66-31 led by Joseph CANTILLON and Thomas Morrissey. (24)
Dubuque attempted to join the Western Association in 1895. Two issues prevented this from happening. One of the directors of the Dubuque club wrote a letter to the Cedar Rapids franchise saying that Dubuque could not support a Western Association club alone. He suggested that Cedar Rapids and Dubuque work together to get a franchise and then split the schedule between them. The second issue was a bill submitted by a Dubuque pitcher for $30 unpaid salary and the accusation that the club owed the association $60.00. (25)
By September, 1896 confidence in the team was near bottom. In reporting a game with Des Moines, the writer for the Dubuque Daily Herald commented,"The Dubuquers play ball like a bunch of Sunday school teachers" and went on to suggest fining the players for poor play, like the manager of another team, might be a good idea. (26) In November 1896, the Dubuque Baseball Company wrote an open letter to the citizens of Dubuque asking for their financial support. The Western Association was to be re-organized and "Dubuque could not afford to be out of it next year." (27) On November 20, 1896 it was announced that Dubuque would be represented in the reorganization meeting to be held in Des Moines. Dubuque would insist on a cash guarantee of $1,000 to finish the season and a salary limit of $1,000. (28)
At the meeting in Des Moines of the Western Association, it was decided that each franchise put up $500 in cash as a guarantee they would finish the season and would not exceed a salary limit of $900. It was also agreed to a guarantee of $40 per game rather than a division of gate receipts. (29) These understanding and more were part of the contract mailed to interested teams in January 1897. The contract, in addition to the previously mentioned items, bound the clubs not to borrow players from any other clubs under the protection of the national agreement, not to refuse or fail to play scheduled games within three consecutive days, and to submit to the president of the association the players during the preceding month and their salary. If it was found that a club exceeded the $900 salary, it would be expelled and forfeit the $500 deposited with the association. The money would be divided among the remaining teams. (30)
Financial concerns in which "Ted Sullivan's management left the team in the hole" led to Manager Hodge seeking subscriptions to support the team in 1898.
He has called on quite a number and only in one or two instances did he meet with a refusal to subscribe. In these instances he was not only refused but given a tongue- lashing...It is hoped the generous people of Dubuque will continue to subscribe... (31)
The team disbanded before the 1898 season was half over. It reformed and replaced Quincy in the Western Association in the last part of May, 1899 but the league fell apart before July 4th. The last official standings from June 17th showed Dubuque in last place with 11-21. (32)
In 1903 Dubuque appeared in the Three-I League when Comiskey convinced Clarence (Pants) Rowland to leave his pool hall business and manage the Dubuque team. The team finished the season in 7th place with a record of 49-72. (33) Pitching for Dubuque from 1909 to 1910 was Urban "Red" FABER. Dubuque remained in the Three-I League through 1914 before dropping out.
Baseball fans beginning in 1904 offered the sport a magnificent field at Washington Street and 27th. Streetcars carried fans to the game and then stayed there until the game was finished. A creek running from about 26th to 29th forced those driving to leave people off at the viaduct from which they had to walk to the ball park. To keep fans from seeing the game from outside the park, canvass was strung between telephone poles. No attempt was made to block the view from the many knotholes in the fence surrounding the field. (34)
The park had a skinned infield (no grass) with good drainage. The fences were deep, about 310 feet to the left, 410 to center and about 255 to 265 feet to the right. The seating capacity was estimated at between 2,500 and 3,500, but the opening day of the 1908 season saw 4,000 in attendance. Charles Comiskey hired the Woodlawn Barge from Chicago to pick up passengers from other river town to take them to Dubuque for the game. (35) With Charles BUELOW managing the team finished 1904 and 3rd place with a record of 69-54. (36) The Dubuque Shamrocks finished 1905 in 1st place with a record of 70-53. (37)
Renamed the Dubuque Dubs in 1906 the team finished the league in third place with a record of 64-55. In 1907, they fell to 8th place with a record of 22-109. The team reached 5th place in 1908 with 67-69 and 6th place in 1909 with 64-71. (38)
In 1910 financial concerns faced the local team. On July 21, 1910 stockholders of the Dubuque Base Ball and Amusement Association decided to retain the franchise and to sell the remaining stock of the company. At the time, only about $1,000 of debt could be easily handled. The park valued at $15,000 was without debt. There was, however, no money to pay the team while it was away. The problem would be resolved when the players returned to Dubuque to play a series at home. (39) The season ended with the team in 6th place with a record of 60-79. (40) The team did not play in 1911. Returning in 1912, the Dubs reached 5th place with a record of 65-73 and in 1913 rose to 2nd place with 74-62. (41)
With the end of the 1913 season less than two weeks away, the treasury of the Hustlers was empty. Low attendance in other cities was blamed with receipts when divided with the host club not meeting the costs of lodging and food. To raise money, the management made arrangements for a river excursion on the steamer, Sidney, on September 3. The boat would leave Dubuque at 9:30 a.m. for Bellevue and would return at 6:00 p.m. A moonlight ride was available from 8:30 until 11:30 p.m. Tickets for both trips were sold at the same time for the same price, fifty cents. It was claimed that numerous businessmen in the community had offered to help make the event a success. (42)
At the end of the 1914 season, the Three-I ball park at 28th Street was closed. The decision was reached by members of the Dubuque Baseball Association at their meeting on August 7, 1914. Everything was to be sold from the fence to the grandstand. It was originally considered to sell the property in lots. This was rejected; the decision was made to sell the entire lot as one piece. (43)
In 1915 the team played on the a new ballpark donated to the city by Fred LEISER located at the DUBUQUE ATHLETIC FIELD. In July, the team refused to travel to Peoria, Illinois to play, however, unless back salaries in the amount of $1,050 were paid. Money raised from the sale of dollar baseball tickets had already been paid to them for salaries before June 15th. C. R. Scherr, Eugene ADAMS and William M. Kretschmer who had been backing the club felt that the players were only owed $600. (44) The season ended with the Dubs in 5th place with a record of 64-59. The team moved to Freeport in 1915, did not play in 1916, and relocated to Charles City, Iowa in 1917. (45)
There was the chance to sell the franchise to Quincy and make a good profit. This was not seriously considered. Rather than ask for money, the decision was made to sell the stock, worth $3,500. The stock to be sold was on the team, franchise, and all real estate owned by the company. A committee was chosen to meet with businessmen who might purchase shares. An effort was also planned to increase attendance. "Unless the attendance improves, the outlook looks doubtful." (46)In 1922 Dubuque returned to professional baseball as part of the Mississippi Valley League. Comiskey again helped out by finding another manager. Joe MCGINNITY had a record of 247 victories in ten seasons with Baltimore, Brooklyn and the New York Giants when he came to Dubuque. The Dubuque Climbers finished the season with a record of 44-84. (47) In 1923, Dubuque won the first place pennant with a record of 78-50. (48) McGinnity, part owner and player-manager of the team, led Dubuque to the Mississippi Valley championship while pitching in 206 innings and winning fifteen games for his Dubuque club. John ARMSTRONG.
Dubuque was represented in the Mississippi Valley League in 1925 by the Dubuque Ironmen. Managed by Joe McGinnity and then John Armstrong the season finished with a 5th place and 60-65 record. (49)
In 1926 the team was renamed the Dubuque Speasmen. Their season was rough with a 6th place finish and a record of 56-63. (50)
Dubuque returned to naming its team the Dubuque Dubs in 1927 and 1928. The team won another pennant in 1927 while managed by John William SPEAS, Sr. The record for the year was 66-41. (51) The 1928 season's record was 63-60 which resulted in a 4th place finish. (52) A third pennant from the Mississippi Valley League was won in 1929 when the team was managed by Pat Patterson.
Dubuque's baseball team from 1929 through 1932 was named the Dubuque Tigers. The 1929 season proved a triumph with a record of 75-51 and a 1st place pennant. (53) In 1930 the dream of night baseball came to Dubuque in the hopes of stimulating interest and operating profitably. (54) The FOURTH STREET BASEBALL FIELD, a dream of Leiser, was said to have the best lighting system of its day. It was also the first municipally-owned baseball field in the United States. This was five years before lighted baseball came to the major leagues. The first game was played on July 14, 1930, when the Tigers lost to Moline 13-7. The season ended with an 8th place finish and a record of 55-71. (55)
In September 1931 Leiser, president of the Dubuque baseball club since 1925, announced that he was not planning to direct another baseball team in the city. He was ready to sell the franchise to a Dubuque fan's association if one could be organized and properly financed. There was a deficit of $8,000. Although lighting the field was initially popular, interest dropped and total attendance for the season did not reach 15,000. Even some Sunday games did not meet the average week-day crowds in past seasons. (56) The 1931 and 1932 seasons were equally dismal with 8th place finishes each year. The record in 1931 was 51-74 and in 1932 the team's record was 47-80. (57)
Officials of Dubuque Baseball Inc., a non-profit created for backing a Dubuque team in organized baseball, called a second open meeting for fans and volunteer workers in March, 1954. Progress in bringing baseball back to Dubuque was discussed and plans were outlined for fundraising needed by the organization. Representatives of the organization had met with the City Recreation Commission to discuss using the FOURTH STREET BASEBALL FIELD. Contacts had been made with a major league team and with applicants for the position of general manager. The Mississippi-Ohio Valley League informed Dubuque that the schedule called for Dubuque to open in Clinton on May 2 with the home opener on May 4th. (58)
Professional baseball returned again to Dubuque in 1954. The Mississippi Valley League changed its name to the Mississippi and Ohio Valley League and Dubuque became a member. Through the efforts of many people including Bill Croker, Don Birkett, and Jake Sloan, the Dubuque Packer baseball team was started in Dubuque. The team name was decided in a contest won by Carole Ann Pins, the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Arthur Pins. In November, Dubuque Baseball Inc. announced a profit of $1,489.13 at the stockholders' meeting. (59) John PETRAKIS promoted the program beginning in 1955, and the city set a minor league attendance record drawing over 100,000 fans to the games.
Opening day saw Charles Comiskey II return to Dubuque. The White Sox became the parent club for the team known as the Dubuque Packers. Dubuque, a farm club for the White Sox from 1954 to 1958, was then a member of the CLASS D-Ohio Valley League. This became the Midwest League in 1956 and was designated a CLASS A league in 1963. The team was an affiliate of the Pittsburgh Pirates (1959-1960), Cleveland Indians (1961-1966), Los Angeles Dodgers (1967), Kansas City Royals (1968) and the Houston Astros. (60)
Between 1954 and 1976, the last year Dubuque played in the Midwest League, the city failed only twice, in 1955 and 1976, to produce a major league player. New York Yankees pitcher Tommy John started with Dubuque in 1961. Rookie of the Year (1963) Gary Peters, of the Chicago White Sox, pitched for Dubuque in 1957. In 1966 Tommie Agee received the same award when he played for the White Sox. Agee played for Dubuque in 1961. Voted to either the American or National League all-star teams during their careers, in addition to Agee, Peters, and John were John Romano (1954 with Dubuque), Gene Alley (1959), Joe Rudi (1965), Steve Blass (1969), and Terry Puhl (1975). Joe HOERNER was one of the first relief pitchers named to the National League all-star team in 1970.John PETRAKIS took charge of baseball in Dubuque. Attendance that year reached 100,000, in fifty-eight dates, or one-quarter of the total attendance in the Midwest League. While most teams at the time were operating in debt, the Dubuque Packers made $11,400.
By 1959 the baseball field was in poor condition. The city council had gone on record as offering $20,000 for additional improvements to the Fourth Street park if the public rejected building a new one. The $20,000 brought the amount to keep the field operating since 1950 to more than $75,000. It was estimated that a new field would cost around $250,000. After the 1958 season the Chicago White Sox had left Dubuque over the issue of the park conditions. The Pirates agreed to come to Dubuque if the park was be remodeled. Bill Turner, representing the Pirates, was quoted as saying,"The general feeling is that there are only two or three parks in organized baseball as poor as this one." (61)
In November 3, 1959 Dubuque voters were asked to participate in a straw poll. Although the results had no legal status, the question placed before the public was whether the city should hold an election for a bond issue for the purpose of constructing a new baseball park. (62)
On August 7, 1962, Dubuque took over the failing Keokuk franchise. When Petrakis offered to operate the club in Dubuque. Dubuque joined Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Chicago, and New York having two professional teams-the Packers and the Midwest Dodgers. At the end of that year, Dubuque became the only city to have two doubleheaders with four teams playing the same day. The Midwest Dodges placed 5th that year with a record of 67-57. (63) In 1968 the Dubuque Royals of the Midwest League placed 7th with a record of 54-61. (64)
In its years in Dubuque the Packers had the following: (65)
1954 Record (62-61) Finish 4th 1955 Record (74-52) Finish 1st 1956 Record (66-57) Finish 3rd 1957 Record (73-51) Finish 3rd 1958 Record (59-63) Finish 6th 1959 Record (56-68) Finish 7th 1960 Record (66-56) Finish 2nd 1961 Record (64-61) Finish 5th 1962 Record (71-52) Finish 2nd 1963 Record (47-76) Finish 10th 1964 Record (59-63) Finish 7th 1965 Record (47-73) Finish 9th 1966 Record (44-73) Finish 10th 1967 Record (49-71) Finish 10th 1974 Record (44-78) Finish 10th 1975 Record (58-67) Finish 7th 1976 Record (59-71) Finish 7th
Professional baseball left Dubuque after the 1976 season. The Astros moved their primary Class A affiliate to the Florida State League. In 1967 Municipal Stadium was renamed Petrakis Park after the longtime baseball promoter.
During the 1994-1996 seasons, the Dubuque Mud Puppies played in the NORTHWOODS LEAGUE, a summer "wooden bat" circuit for college underclassmen. Jeff Weaver, a pitcher for Dubuque, became the first player to reach the Major Leagues and won the deciding game as a St. Louis Cardinal in the 2006 World Series. (66)
In 2003 Michael Gartner, chairman and co-owner of the Triple-A Iowa Cubs, with partners Sam Bernabe and Michael Giudicessi planned to move their Midwest League team from Battle Creek, Michigan to Dubuque. The owners had planned to use their long-term relationship with the the Chicago Cubs to sign a player development contract. Dubuque residents, however, did not agree with the financing of the project. By a nearly two-thirds majority they rejected a $6 million bond issue that would have contributed to the $15 million needed to construct a 4,000-seat ballpark at the Port of Dubuque. Following the bond issue vote, the investors sold the team. (67)
In 2007 Joe Chlapaty, a person instrumental in financing growth at the UNIVERSITY OF DUBUQUE, investigated the possibility of bringing a team to Dubuque. He found that purchasing a team was not a problem. He presented stadium proposals to city officials but finding a franchise within the Midwest League and obtaining the league's approval to move it to Dubuque were major issues. Determining the ownership of the teams was difficult. Many were community-owned. (68)
Although major league teams move their affiliates around, host cities tend to remain the same. Major league clubs then sign two-to-three year player development contracts with the city. The Midwest League has sixteen teams all affiliated with big league teams. As the player development contracts expire, affiliates look around for new locations between mid-August and late September. Rules do not allow talks between potential host cities and affiliates outside this short period. Teams are guaranteed an affiliation, but matches may not always be between interested parties. (69)
If a team could be obtained, Dubuque could be ready for baseball in about two years according to City Manager Michael VAN MILLIGEN. The Port of Dubuque property that was mentioned in the 2003 referendum was still available in 2014. The former site of DUBUQUE PACKING COMPANY was also a possibility. The cost of purchasing a team and the need for significant city funding have made the likelihood of Dubuque moving ahead with minor league baseball beyond 2014 look remote. (70)
In 2013 the team was the subject of "A Pitch in Time: The Story of the Dubuque Packers," a documentary produced and directed by journalist Katlyn Gerken. (71)
In January 2017 it was announced that the Dubuque Area Youth Baseball and Softball Club planned to bring the Northwoods League franchise back to Dubuque in 2019. The club proposed a 30-acre, five diamond complex located between Derby Grange Road and Asbury Plaza. Fundraising for the $5.5 million plan was to begin immediately. The complex would serve as the base for the local Protect Our Nation's Youth organization with the Northwest League being the principal tenant of the 1,500-2,000-seat stadium. The League would lease the stadium from the non-profit group and manage the complex. The Northwest League, a group of twenty teams, in 2017 was the largest collegiate summer league in the United States. (72)
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Riley, Carl V. "7th Inning Stretch," Dubuque Folklore, American Trust and Savings Bank, 1980, p. 99-103