Side Streets: Babe Ruth Visit Part of Colorado Springs' Baseball History

Article excerpt

As the Sky Sox prepare for their home opener Friday evening at Security Service Field, it's a good time to go into extra innings talking baseball in Colorado Springs.

My recent column about Melvin Barhite winning a 1949 Gazette Telegraph-sponsored contest to name the new minor league franchise brought back lots of memories among readers.

Dee Niehans said Melvin and his wife, Florence, contributed much more to Colorado Springs than simply naming the team.

Dee said they played a major role in creation of the Little Britches Rodeo program in the Pikes Peak region.

"Mel and Florence put a lot of effort into the local program that gave young people a chance to experience the sport of rodeo and learn some important lessons in life," Dee said in an email.

A surprising email came from reader Mick McLaughlin, son of the late Tom McLaughlin, a former G-T sports editor I quoted in my column.

"The article was a trip down memory lane as I grew up at Memorial Field with the original Sky Sox," Mick wrote. "My childhood was spent going to all Colorado Springs sporting events with my dad and his typewriter."

Tagging along with his dad instilled a love of sports that influenced him to pursue a career in baseball.

"I am still coaching high school baseball after 47 years largely due to my love of the game and fond memories of growing up with the Colorado Springs Sky Sox," Mick said, attaching a photo of an original Sky Sox uniform he has framed.

Then I hit the jackpot of historic baseball photos when I took a call from Roger Hadix, author of "Baseball in Colorado Springs - Images of Baseball" published in 2013.

Hadix is a native of Colorado Springs who grew up listening to St. Louis Cardinals games on the radio. He played sandlot baseball with his friends growing up and softball in high school and college before discovering, about 20 years ago, the Colorado Vintage Base Ball Association in which players don historic uniforms and play according to rules in effect in 1864.

"I thought: 'How can I get involved in this?'?" said Hadix, a teller at First Commercial Bank of Colorado.

He began playing with a Denver team, wearing a replica uniform of the "Millionaires" - the city's first professional team formed by the Colorado Springs Base Ball Club that played in 1901-05.

He started researching Colorado Springs' baseball history so he could better represent his hometown in the vintage games. From a May 31, 1873, story in The Gazette, he learned of the first organized baseball team, the Denver & Rio Grande Reds, named for the railroad owned by Colorado Springs founder Gen. William Jackson Palmer. (The team also was known as the Colorado Springs Reds. By the way, the Reds will play games July 19 in Victor and Sept. 1 at Rock Ledge Ranch.)

A great excerpt from that Gazette story: "Colorado Springs is to have a Base Ball club. And why not? We find it hard enough to string together a page of local items for the Gazette and anything which will produce a few more 'accidents' will be a perfect Godsend to us."

And just as the newspaper helped name the Sky Sox in 1949, the Gazette of 1901 gave the Millionaires its nickname. …