| It All Began
In the spring
of 1877, baseball was the first organized sport to be played at Coe -
except the "Coe" was Coe Collegiate Institute, not Coe College. As the
1903 Ziz! Boom! Gee! put it, "When the campus was a sand hill
topped by a single small building, Coe had a baseball team." These
young men played against the Valley City Club, and according to
Eriksson's unpublished history of Coe College, "the 'Coe College Boys,'
as the newspaper called them, played a game with the 'High School
Boys,' winning by a score of 13 to 8." Filling the positions of Coe's
first athletic team were: Asa Ames, catcher; David Wood, pitcher;
Taylor Carpenter, James E. Dixon, and More Bird around the bases,
Ossian Ladd at shortstop, and William Ladd, Ossian E. Wheaton, and A.
Blalock in the outfield. Although impossible to verify, one
suspects that this would be the last time Coe would ever have two
Ossians playing on one team. In a 1911 issue of the Cosmos,
there is a brief mention of the fact that Orville and Wilbur Wright
played on one of Coe's early baseball teams. The Wright Brothers
did at one time live in Cedar Rapids, but we have not been able to
confirm the accuracy of that brief paragraph in the college's paper.
first baseball team was organized in the spring of 1882 during the new
institution's first year. Inexplicably identified as the "Coe
Sleepers," the team was involved in the college's first intercollegiate
athletic event on April 28, 1882, when they were defeated by the
Cornell nine, 35-4. The game received the following remarkable
sentence in the Daily Republican:
Sleepers" were rather roughly awakened from their slumbers on Friday
last by the Mount Vernon base ballists, who swooped down upon them,
carried off their new ball and left the astounding record behind them
of thirty-five tallies for the M.V.'s to four for the C.S's, which goes
to prove, of course, that it has been at the expense of the physical
man that the "Sleepers" have devoted themselves so closely to their
books for the past six months.
organized other baseball games after this ill-fated beginning, this
lone meeting with the boys from Cornell appears to have been the only
intercollegiate baseball game until the spring of 1893.
years, students had been asking the faculty and trustees to provide
athletic grounds on the campus. Finally in 1893, with the support of
several Cedar Rapids businessmen, a football field, baseball diamond,
and track were constructed on the northwest corner of the campus, south
of Avenue B, at that time the northern boundary for the campus.
Students soon took advantage of the new facilities by forming a
baseball team. They joined a city league with teams representing the
"Printers"; the Farmers' Insurance Company; and the Burlington, Cedar
Rapids, and Northern Railway Company. The Coe team also played
five "non-league" games this season, ending with a record of 5 wins and
4 losses. The Cosmos reported that George Bryant, later
Professor of Latin and Athletic Director, was the steadiest hitter on
the team, striking out only twice during the season. "The team did not
play evenly together and this is where we lost at critical points of
the game. Bowlus, who pitched three of the games is only thirteen years
old, and of course did not have the experience to sustain him when most
Intercollegiate play began not long after this, and soon conferences
were set up in the area. The 1902 team was dubbed the "Champions of
Iowa," with only three losses in fifteen games, including victories
over the State University of Iowa and the Iowa State College at Ames.
The 1915 team tied with Iowa Wesleyan for the Iowa Conference
championship, and the 1923 squad also found success in the recently
formed Midwest Athletic Conference, a success best described in the
1925 Acorn's quintessential sports prose:
champions-- that's the title which the 1923 baseball club finally
landed after a season in which almost every game was a battle.
Prospects were good at the beginning of the season for a ball team of
all around strength, but (head coach Ira) Carrithers was worried about
a pitcher. With Captain Wernimont behind the bat, he was fortified with
one of the best college catchers in the west, while Sutherland was an
infielder around whom a strong defense could be built.
Collins, athlete extraordinary [and one of the first African-Americans
to attend Coe, graduating in 19 ], was available again for
his old position in center field, and Pence and Skinner were also back
to man their old berths in the outer garden. Plenty of good freshmen
enabled 'Cary' to fill in the positions left vacant by graduation, and
he soon had a ball team in the field which rivaled any nine which ever
represented Coe on the diamond.
pitching problems were relieved by the emergence of "Johnny Rush,
freshman twirler who came through with a vengeance." Despite the
team's immediate success, the interest in the college game appears to
have waned, and as other colleges dropped their teams from the
intercollegiate program, Coe had fewer and fewer teams to play. In the
fall of 1930 a faculty committee decided the college should emphasize
its intramural and physical education programs, resulting in the
elimination of baseball as an intercollegiate sport at Coe until after
the Second World War.