WICHITA, Kan (KSNW) – As a new chapter of baseball begins Tuesday night at Riverfront Stadium, KSN takes a look back at the air capital’s rich history of America’s pastime.
“It’s not really known when the first ballgame was but probably the game was first played here by solders during the Civil War,” said Bob Rives, the author of the book “Baseball in Wichita.”
“I grew up with baseball,” Rives said. “The first professional team in Wichita was in 1887. It was a team called the Braves.”
He said the Braves were a short-lived team, and from then, baseball teams were in and out of Wichita until the Wichita Jobbers.
“It was a very good team, in fact, in 1906 or 7 it was considered one of the best minor teams ever to play,” said Rives.
In 1912, the Island Park Baseball Stadium was built on Ackerman Island, an island that once existed where Exploration Place now stands, but Rives said that stadium burned down years later.
“According to the news accounts, it was a discarded cigarette,” he said.
In 1934, Lawrence Stadium was built.
“From 1935 to 1950, there wasn’t professional baseball in Wichita, so the only baseball that played was NBC games,” said Kevin Jenks, the director of National Baseball Congress.
Numerous minor league teams have since played at Lawrence Stadium, which eventually became Lawrence-Dumont Stadium. The final team was the Wichita Wingnuts, which ended its run in 2018. Lawrence-Dumont was torn down shortly after.
History will continue on Tuesday when the Wind Surge opens Riverfront Stadium.
“What’s great about this year and the years to come is we are going to see future Hall of Famers come play through Wichita,” Jenks said.
Jenks said, starting Tuesday, Wichitans will be able to watch some players in their early years before he believes some will go on to be household names.