In the summer of 1935 St. Mary’s softball charity game proved to be a memorable one. It pitted teams from the McHenry Elderly Men and St. Mary’s Holy Name Society and featured a bonus game that between the Married Men vs. the Single Men. People were really looking forward to the game as it featured Major League Baseball Hall of Famer, Red Faber. Faber spent over twenty years pitching for the White Sox and was a crucial part of the 1917 World Series team. The recently retired Faber owned a home in Pistakee Bay and was in town for the summer.
The umpire was a famous wrestler of the time, Charles Peterson. Like Faber, Peterson was in town as he owned a vacation home in Pistakee Bay. It was thought that the event was to be so well attended that extra stands were built just for the game. The game did not disappoint as over 500 people were in attendance. Faber, who won 250 games in the major leagues, won 12 to 10 against the team led by St. Mary’s Msgr. Charles S. Nix. In the second game, the single men won against the married men, 9-8. Faber and Johnson weren’t the only big names playing in the game. Some names that played are still known in town today. Freund, Miller, Justen and Altoff just to name a few.
“Red Faber To Pitch” McHenry Plaindealer 25 Jul. 1935: 1. Newspapers.com. Web. 7 Mar 2016.
“Red Faber Now A Local Resident” McHenry Plaindealer 1 Aug. 1935: 5. Newspapers.com. Web. 7 Mar 2016.
Baseball was a small town’s game and many towns featured semi-professional clubs during the 1900’s. McHenry was no exception. The baseball team the McHenry Blues started in 1905 and played through 1909. The town was also home to the McHenry Shamrocks who played from the early 1930s until the mid-1960s.
Semi-Pro baseball was similar to today’s minor league baseball in that many players were hoping to make it to a professional team. Players back then didn’t make a lot of money and probably had a second job, but playing with the local team kept the dream of playing professionally alive. For the fans, it was great entertainment. This era of baseball was also known as “townball”, due to the fact that most teams were financed by a local business or businesses. Sometimes other events were arranged the same day as the ballgame, such a dance or fundraiser.
On April 28, the Blues opened the season with 13-0 win over the Pekin Giants of Chicago. It took twelve innings to beat the Elgin Tigers 9-8. The following week was another blowout again with the Blues winning 12-2 against the Rock Island Athletics. The Blues even beat the Elgin Code of Honor team in June and the Waukegan city All-Stars in August. Overall , the Blues did very well for themselves. However, they had one huge problem.
Even back then, baseball ran off of ticket sales. In the early 1900s the cost of attending a game was 25 cents for adults and 10 cents for children . If your attendance was too low, your team wouldn’t be able to make any money. Even worse, if they did too poorly they might not be able to pay their players and would have to cut their season short. That is exactly what happened to the Blues in 1907 when their poor ticket sales caused them to cancel the last eight games on their schedule. Again, this wasn’t due to poor performance, as they only lost one of their games. Sadly, this would happen to the team again in 1908, although the 1908 club wasn’t as good as its predecessor. Poor attendance seemed to affect many of the other local teams as well, which led to some to question as to whether the game was dying out. McHenry didn’t really have a baseball team with any continued success until the McHenry Shamrocks formed in the 1930s.
Please stay tuned for further historical updates on the famous McHenry Shamrocks baseball team appearing here in our local history blog in the Spring.