TERRE HAUTE — This Sunday, we pause from our usual editorial fare of heavy topics and pressing societal issues to comment briefly on two lighter items from the news this week that each says something good about our community.
It is gratifying to see the momentum that is building around the Terre Haute Parks Department’s great idea to name a playing field at Spencer F. Ball Park in honor of Tommy John, a Hautean native who has carried the credentials of his hometown with him wherever he has gone in the world of professional baseball.
His old hometown appears headed toward doing it right. First, the field — now a softball field but one upon which John played baseball for Gerstmeyer High School — will carry his name beginning at 5:15 p.m. Oct. 24 at a free event at the field. Second, his effects on Terre Haute will be honored — and, we’d guess, expansively reviewed — at a dinner at 6:30 p.m. that day at the renovated Indiana Theatre. Proceeds from that dinner are going to the ball park, the city says.
It will be especially fitting that, as we understand, John will attend and add his commentary to the event.
Bruce Rosselli, a driving force for the events, says the field also will be festooned in Gerstmeyer Black Cats orange and black. One has to applaud when one reads Rosselli’s telling our reporter that people “are going to know this is Tommy John Field.”
It is a fitting hometown remembrance for the 70-year-old John, who won 288 games while pitching in 768 Major League Baseball games, wearing six MLB teams’ hats, between Sept. 6, 1963, and May 25, 1989.
As hometowners, we hope that John one day is selected for the Baseball Hall of Fame. But even if he isn’t inducted into that esteemed body, we think it’s nice, in a full circle sort of way, that there long will be a field in Terre Haute bearing his name, where young boys and girls throw, run, field, hit for average and hit with power.
From another parks department — this one the Vigo County overseers of nature in the woods and ponds — it was fascinating to learn that 56 timbers recovered from the site of the historic Wabash and Erie Canal’s lock near Riley are, first, being preserved, and, second, being studied for their history and origin.
Someone was wide awake and fully aware in recognizing the value of those timbers, which had been buried in about two feet of silt. They have been kept underwater since 2007, when they were unearthed; keeping them submerged has protected them from airborne bacteria, the experts say.
And now not only do those timbers hold promise for an educational display somewhere in our county (perhaps submerged in a watery, see-through tank at the Terre Haute Children’s Museum?), but they also are a living classroom for professors and students in Indiana State University’s geography and geology classes. Those researchers will determine how old the wood is and undoubtedly its source and even perhaps the anthropology of the environment in which the wood was hewn.
Early indications are that the wood could have been 300 or so years old when it was cut for the timbers, sometime about when the canal was built in the 1840s or 1850s.
These timbers are far more than old wood. They speak to our community’s history, and it is good they are being safeguarded and studied for they can tell us about our forebears.