A BASEBALL STORY
By Karen Utter Jennings
What can you find when you research old family photos, old high school yearbooks and old newspapers? You can find a great family history story. Old photos may hold clues to where and how your family lived and what they did for recreation. My dad, Ronald Utter, and his brother, Wayne Utter, played baseball or softball during their high school years at Rocky Comfort, Missouri. I found many pictures of them in the old Rocky yearbooks. After graduation, they played for local town teams in Rocky Comfort and Wheaton, Missouri. I’m lucky to have their ball pictures in my photo collection.
In one of the photos, Dad is wearing his ball uniform and holding his ball glove during the summer of 1953. When I asked him about the photo, a smile spread across his face as he remembered that time long ago. He said on the back of his jersey is “Nu Grape” and his ball glove was a Phil Rizzuto. Rizzuto debuted in the major leagues in 1941 with the New York Yankees. Rizzuto claimed the MVP in 1950 and won the Babe Ruth Award in 1951. He was a five time All Star Selection, seven time World Series Champion and was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1994.
I researched the history of baseball and found that prior to the Civil War, baseball, known as town ball, was played in the New England States. In the 1860s, baseball expanded into a national game and the National Association of Base Ball Players (NABBP) formed. By the end of the War, there were almost 100 baseball clubs in the NABBP. That number grew to over 400 clubs by 1867 and that year the championship went to the Chicago White Stockings, which later became the Chicago White Sox. Baseball was on its way to prominence in national sports.
Through the years, baseball and softball has evolved into a mighty pastime with Americans. From the National and American Leagues all the way down to the little summer teams, the game is one of
My brother Bill Utter, found newspaper articles from the old Wheaton Journal (now on DVD) about the ball teams in Rocky and Wheaton. Dad said they won more games than they lost and the articles back up his stories. My grandfather, Perry Utter, owned the Conoco Station in downtown Rocky Comfort, Missouri and managed the Rocky Comfort Conoco team in 1953. Dad pitched for the team that summer with the team composed of
Wheaton and Rocky boys.
Another photo in the family collection is the 1957 Rocky Comfort town team. With the help of my dad and Jerry Payne, a family friend, the team members are identified as Noble Flaxbeard, Carl Richmond, Wayne Utter, Donnie Richmond, J.W. “Dub” Johnson, John Howerton, Stanley Ford, Ronald Utter, Dale Lee Flaxbeard, Donnie Dyer, and Dale Richmond. Max Ford and Jerry Kerr were just youngsters back in 1957, but they are proudly posing with the team.