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Baseballarama! Bainbridge museum celebrates history of America's favorite game

Baseball teams sprung up on the island out of its many work centers such as the Winslow shipyards and the mill in Blakely Harbor. They played each other as well as teams through out the Puget Sound. - Bainbridge Historical Museum photo
Baseball teams sprung up on the island out of its many work centers such as the Winslow shipyards and the mill in Blakely Harbor. They played each other as well as teams through out the Puget Sound.
— image credit: Bainbridge Historical Museum photo

Grease your gloves and get ready to swing for the fence. It’s time for Baseballarama, the island’s celebration of all things baseball.

The Bainbridge Island Historical Museum will host an all-baseball afternoon Saturday, May 19 to celebrate the island’s history and love of the national pastime.

The Mariner Moose will be in the lineup for photo opportunities and hall-of-famers’ Babe Ruth and Pee Wee Reese’s uniforms will be on display.The museum will also present a collection of island memorabilia from its baseball past.

“We’re having a display of baseball memorabilia, most of it is Bainbridge Island-related,” said Chuck “Bunny” Callaham, an island ballplayer who helped organize the event.

“We’re gonna have hot dogs and popcorn, baseball-style,” he added.

It might seem a bit out of left field, but the island has always had a passion for baseball. Since the 1920s, baseball teams sprung up from communities across the island.

“They were mostly town teams. In the ‘20s and early ‘30s, there were teams in Creosote and Blakely,” said Reid Hanson, who played baseball for Bainbridge High School in the late 1940s, in addition to playing for various other local teams.

Teams would also form from workers at the creosote plant, the mill at Port Blakely, or the shipyards in Winslow.

“When I started playing in the ‘40s we had a team from the Winslow Shipyard, this was during World War II,” he said.

“There were ballfields in Port Blakely, and Creosote, and Winslow. They all had uniforms and balls and bats,” Hanson said.

Though supplies weren’t always easy to come by. Hanson recalls taping up cracked bats to keep them in the game.

The teams would play each other and tour around the area, facing teams from Seattle, Bremerton and beyond.

Fervor for the sport was so high that nearly each island team had their own ballfield.

In fact, Winslow, as small as it was at the time, had its own field on the edge of town. Though today, most people recognize the place for that old-time gathering spot as the Town & Country Market.

“It was for the love of baseball and areas were pretty closely-nit,” Hanson said.

One of Hanson’s coaches was Charles “Squirrel” Callaham, “Bunny” Callaham’s father.

“Bunny” was named after one of his father’s favorite ballplayers in Olympia.

“Mom always said when she came to the island, she came with a squirrel, a bunny, a dog and a cat,” Callaham said.

Callaham and Hanson both played for the high school, at different times, and were involved with the local teams that sprung up on the island. Hanson remembers “Bunny” Callaham as his team’s bat boy.

“I was scorekeeper, ball boy, bat boy and I was in charge of the nickel can,” Callaham said. “Every time there was a foul ball hit, I’d give a kid a nickel to go get it.”

It was important to keep track of baseballs as they weren’t as plentiful as they are today.

“We might have had two baseballs if we were lucky, and we would use them all through the game,” Hanson said.

And if someone knocked home runs and sent both baseballs soaring?

“You sent the whole team to look for it in the weeds,” Hanson said.

Through the years the island has continued its support of baseball.

“In 1971 the park district started the island league and they had softball up at Strawberry Hill,” Callaham recalled. “I played on one of the teams for a couple years then I took over coaching.”

Callaham has been involved in baseball on the island, and the surrounding area, all his life. At 78, he currently plays for the senior center’s softball team.

Up until a couple years back, Hanson played on the senior team as well.

Saturday’s event runs from 2 to 5 p.m. and is free.

 


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