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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 tournament.

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 nine.

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



Salem professional baseball team, 1891

Salem Professional Team, 1891
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Salem ball park, 1920
Salem Ball Park, 1920
Biddie Bishops Baseball Grounds, South 12th Street, Yew Park, Salem, Oregon
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South Salem baseball team, 1911
Fairmount Athletic Club's South Salem baseball team about 1911. Photo by R. Lowenfeld.
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Salem Senators, 1941
Salem Senators, 1941
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