It was nearly a century and a half ago that the sport of
baseball was born in New York, descended from the British
game of rounders, also called round ball, stool ball, goal
ball, post ball, or town ball. Credited with putting baseball
on the right path in 1845 was Alexander Cartwright, of the
Knickerbocker Base Ball Club, who set up new rules that called
for nine players, three outs per inning, 90 feet between bases.
But his rules forbid putting a base-runner out by hitting
him with a thrown ball.
The first game on record with these rules was June 19, 1846,
when the Knickerbockers lost to the New York Nine, 23-1, in
Hoboken, N.J. Baseball proved to be a contagious sport for,
during the Civil War, soldiers played the game behind the
lines, between battles, and would spread the interest in their
home states after the war.
Baseball reached Oregon seriously in the late 1860s, posting
high scores be-cause pitching had to be underhanded and the
ball bounce before the catcher is to catch it. There were
many scores in the 1867 game in Eugene between married and
unmarried players. The "marrieders" won three times--54-23,
53-48, and 41-30.
Willamette University Team
Also in 1867, a Willamette University graduate, Edward
E. Dodge, organized a W. U. team that defeated the town "Town
Team" 84-23 on a field that now is Willson Park, west
of the Capitol. Edward Dodge, the catcher, scored 10 runs.
The University nine lost to the Portland Pioneers, 92-25,
playing on the Fairgrounds diamond. But, in 1872, the Salem
College team defeated the Pioneers, 52-22, and 60-46, on the
site of today's Supreme Court Building.
Professional Baseball in Salem
Probably the first team officially organized was the one
in 1891, managed by Doug Minto, son of pioneer John Minto.
Doug Minto had connections with George Waters, in the tobacco
industry, and had played baseball with him. This introduces
Waters into the baseball history, for it was he who brought
the Class B Western International League franchise from Bellingham,
WA, and brought the pro team to Salem in 1940. It was on May
1 that the Salem Senators christened the new Waters Field
with 4,865 attendance and an 11-10 victory over the Yakima,
WA, team with five runs in the ninth inning.
Salem had a professional team (Senators and Dodgers) from
1940 until 1960, when a lack of interest finally forced the
team to fold. Highlights included a couple of half-season
titles, but never a League champion.
World War II stopped action for three years, 1943-45, but
when the 1946 season rolled around, the Senators got off to
a good start with 13 straight wins under Leo (Frisco) Edwards,
only to have the personable field boss die on a road trip.
In 1960, the locals teamed up with the Los Angeles Dodgers
and had a good thing until local interest faded in 1965.
Probably the top baseball performer of our area was Floyd
(Bill) Bevens--who went from the Western International League
to fame as a New York Yankee pitcher. In the 1947 World
Series against the Brooklyn Dodgers, Bevens came within one
pitch of a no-hit game, only to have Cookie Lavagetto double
and beat him with two outs in the ninth frame.
The 1954 Post 9 American Legion baseball team has to rank
as Salem's top junior outfit of all time. Coached by Vince
Genna, the locals won the State title, the area crown, and
then went to Hastings, Neb., only to lose in the regional
play which determined the final four teams for the National
In the 1960s, three of the old Salem Senators baseball team
and one umpire became Salem's baseball band and performed
to drum up support for the team.
Another coincidence was that when the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes
came to this area in the late 1990s, the franchise and team
were acquired from Bellingham, which had the lowest attendance
in 1996 in the eight-club Northwest League. They were
the Giants in 1996, and the Chinooks in 1940.
High School Baseball
In high school play, North Salem won the State AAA title
in 1967 with Don Schaefer at the helm. Serra Catholic,
with ex-Senator star Harve Koepf doing the coaching, won the
AA in 1961, and again in 1966 with Alva Brown bossing the
Two famous alumni from North Salem High School are former
Senator Mark Hatfield, and Matt Moritz, who was drafted by
the Kansas City Royals base-ball team in 1993.
Researched and written by Al Jones
Contact Mr. Jones for Bibliography sources
Photos from Mr. Jones personal collection