News From Terre Haute, Indiana

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September 25, 2013

Events honor baseball legend Tommy John

Field Dedication dinner planned to fete hometown baseball hero

TERRE HAUTE — Retired major league baseball great Tommy John and former world-class bobsledder Bruce Rosselli have more in common than just competing at the top of their sports.

Both are from Terre Haute and both relied on the same Biblical inspiration when times were tough.

Speaking Tuesday afternoon at Spencer F. Ball Park on the city’s north side, Rosselli said he and John, who have known each other for two decades, both leaned on the same biblical message in tough times – scriptures stating all things are possible to God.

That’s just one of the new things Rosselli said he has learned about John as he has prepared to honor the retired major-league pitcher Oct. 24 with two special events in Terre Haute.

First on the agenda that day will be a dedication ceremony at what-will-be-called Tommy John Field at the Spencer F. Ball Park, which is at 14th Street and 6th Avenue.

“There’s no other field that would mean as much to him as this one,” Rosselli said of the ball diamond. The field, now used for city softball leagues, was once the home field for Gerstmeyer High School’s baseball team, of which John was a member. In fact, John played his last non-professional game on that field before signing up with the Cleveland Indians in 1961, Rosselli noted.

Between now and Oct. 24, a lot of work is planned for the ball diamond, including replacing the scoreboard with a new one in the Gerstmeyer orange and black. There will also be an orange and black windscreen on the outfield wall.

People passing by “are going to know this is Tommy John Field,” Rosselli said.

After the dedication, John will be honored with a dinner at the Indiana Theatre. Proceeds from the dinner, hosted by the Parks Department and the City of Terre Haute, will go to the ball park, Rosselli said.

The Spencer F. Ball Park formerly was home to five baseball fields, Rosselli said. Immediately northeast of the Gerstmeyer field was the Garfield High School ball diamond, he said. In those days, there were no outfield fences so a well-hit ball from one field might intrude into another, Rosselli noted.

Now there is just the one softball diamond, which soon is set to become a showplace for the October dedication. Local baseball teams have been invited to attend the dedication, including area little leagues, the Vigo County high school squads and teams from Indiana State University and Rose-Hulman, Rosselli said.

The dinner will include a sports-related silent auction. Plans are also in place to launch a petition drive supporting John’s admittance to the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y.

Tommy John pitched 26 seasons in the majors, earning 288 wins, including two wins in World Series games. He is also known for a revolutionary elbow surgery that bears his name and resurrected his career in the 1970s.

Reporter Arthur Foulkes can be reached at 812-231-4232 or arthur.foulkes@tribstar.com

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