News From Terre Haute, Indiana

May 19, 2013

Historical Treasure: The 1947 Terre Haute Phillies and the history of baseball in America’s Crossroads

Cory Burger
Special to the Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — As another spring blossoms, it is time for another season of baseball to descend upon the city of Terre Haute. As Indiana State University men’s baseball team finishes another season and the Terre Haute Rex start another one, we harken back to the days when Terre Haute baseball captivated thousands of residents with the excitement and thrill that only baseball can provide.  

By 1947, with the war in Europe and Japan at an end, life was quickly returning to normal and in Terre Haute that meant another season of Class B baseball with the Terre Haute Phillies. Managed by Ray Brubaker, (whose signature can be found on a team signed baseball at the Vigo County Historical Society) the team consisted of many great minor league ball players and some who would go on to play in “the big leagues.”  

Playing in the Illinois-Indiana-Iowa League, the team would begin their wild season by dropping a preseason game to the Milwaukee Brewers of the American Association at Memorial Stadium. Throughout the season, the Terre Haute Phillies excited residents with their strong pitching and powerful hitting. Though their season would end in the playoffs, sadly, the season is most remembered for the tragic loss of manager Brubaker from a heart attack during an early season game.  

As exciting as the 1947 season was, it was one in a long and illustrious history of minor league baseball in Terre Haute. Beginning in 1883 with the Terre Haute Awkwards the history of baseball in Terre Haute has seen many teams including the Hottentots, the Browns, the Highlanders, the Terre-iers, the Stags, the Phillies, and the Tigers just to name a few.  

As well as a large number of teams, the history of baseball in Terre Haute includes an array of famous players like Asa “Ace” Stewart, Paul “Dizzy” Trout, Jim “Jumbo” Elliott, Art Nehf, James T. McGuire, Tommy John, Brian Dorsett and more. Terre Haute was even home to Hall of Fame players including Mordachi “Three Fingers” Brown, Max Carey, and Paul Frisz who did not play, but was at one time the largest baseball memorabilia collector in the nation, as well as a founding member of the Society of American Baseball Researchers.

Additionally, the history of baseball in Terre Haute includes a number of connections to major players and events that have shaped not only baseball’s history but the history of the United States. The most famous connection was that of Branch Rickey who was well known for the signing of Jackie Robinson and breaking the color barrier. What’s not as well known is that he played minor league baseball for the Terre Haute Hottentots in 1903. These connections and more can be found by visiting the archives and sports exhibit at the Vigo County Historical Society.