Championship Baseball Team

From left to right, back row: Jack Murphy, Bert Phipps, Frank Kelly, Gust Evers, A. M. Baldwin. Left to right, middle row: Andrew Sinclair, William D. Sinclair, James Sinclair, Ira L. Shroyer. Sitting, left to right: Matthew Tamber, Chester A. Hoar.

Lacking such modern means of entertainment as television, movies and other similar diversions, early day residents of Griggs County turned to sports, particularly baseball, with enthusiasm and vigor. Players religiously trained and practiced with a seriousness that produced some of the best semi-pro ballplayers the state has ever seen.

A leading star in Griggs County's baseball drama at the turn of the century when this county dominated semi-pro baseball play was W. D. "Billy" Sinclair, retired Hannaford postmaster and brother of former Congressman James Sinclair. Billy, James, Wallace and Andrew Sinclair together with Chester Hoar, Jack Murphy, Bert Phipps, Frank Kelly, Gust Evers, A. M. Baldwin, Ira Shroyer and Matt Tamber made up a team that held undisputed title to the state championship three years in a row.

Field trips to Minnesota baseball centers were taken when amateur teams of the state objected to scheduling games with a team they could not defeat. Fargo, Valley City and Jamestown clubs were shut out repeatedly. In fact, the club members would make wagers that they would shut out an opposing team as a method of making a game more interesting.

A game that many will long remember was played at Cooperstown in 1907 between Hannaford and Binford, both strong baseball centers. It was in this game that Billy Sinclair pitched the southern Griggs town to a 2 to 1 victory over the always rugged Binford nine in a grueling twenty-two innings. In this highlight of his thrill-studded ,baseball career this iron man performer from Hannaford yielded only six hits. Guliver Peterson pitched magnificent ball for Binford, and the superb fielding of Adolph Melgaard kept Binford in the game when Hannaford's heavy sluggers repeatedly threatened to end the prolonged tussle.

In another exhibition of stamina Sinclair pitched a full nine innings for a Litchville team and after only fifteen minutes of rest went the full route for the same club against another team.

Billy recalls that at one time, pitchers were spaced sixty-six feet instead of the present sixty feet from home plate. This proved no disadvantage to Sinclair who used the extra distance to perfect his wide swerving curve.

Enthusiastic fans drove for miles and often came long distances by train to witness, a game between two well-matched teams. Enthusiasm reached fever pitch in close games and it was not uncommon for fist fights to break out among over-enthused fans. Regardless of whether the town possessed a grandstand or not, rabid fans would crowd the base lines and often many times during the game the umpires would call time and move the crowd back to give the players ample playing room. So vociferous would some fans become that many times after a game many could not talk above a whisper.

Substantial purses and bonuses added much to the competitive spirit of both players and fans. To fully record baseball activities in the county would take volumes and here in Griggs it would be one of the most interesting to be found in any part of the state.

Source:  Cooperstown Diamond Jubilee 1882-1957 Page 45

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