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Morgan County Baseball - 1 April, 2011

Article Date: 
1 April, 2011 (All day)

By Bill Ross

 

As I mentioned in last weeks article baseball gradually made its way west in the late 1800’s. The Cincinnati Red Stockings went on a tour of the western United States and played exhibition games. As a result of these games many people were introduced to the sport of baseball.

One of those stops was  made in Morgan County. The game was played in April of 1893. Getting the Red Stockings to Morgan was as interesting as the game. The Cincinnati team boarded a train in Ogden for the two hour trip to Morgan. However, when the train reached Peterson they found the train tracks were compromised by the Weber River. During the spring of 1893 unusually ate spring runoff lead to high water levels of the Weber River. At Peterson the trip had to be abandoned. A farmer named Jedediah Wheelright had an idea to help the stranded team. He had a collection of handcarts leftover from the pioneer era and suggested the team use them for transporting them the rest of the way to Morgan. The team finally arrived in the evening of March 31st 1893. 

The game was to be played the next day which was a Saturday. The team stayed the night under the shelter of the handcarts as the only Hotel in town was filled with excited fans waiting to see the game of baseball. A parade was held the next morning honoring Morgan County’s new guests. 

A problem was discovered when Morgan County team revealed they had no equipment to play this new game. A local blacksmith by the name of William B. Smith had a suggestion. In his small blacksmith shop he had some fence posts made from cedar. Within an hour William crafted a baseball bat out of the cedar. It was said that the Cincinnati team treasured this bat and used it several times during their tour of the west. This bat makes its home in Cooperstown, New York at the home of the Baseball Hall of Fame. 

The game was played at the fairgrounds.  Home plate was facing to the west and if a batter hit a ball in the river it was called a home run. The Morgan team held its own against the mighty Red Stocking team. Some said later that it was part of the game to keep the score close so the fans interest would not wane. In the bottom of the 9th  inning and the score tied with two outs Morgan legend “Wee Willey” Johnson came to bat. Just as Wee Willey hit the ball down the third base line Ella May Hoovers cow LuLu worked her way to the green grass of left field. As LuLu crossed the foul line into fair ground Wee Willey’s ball hit her right in the head and the ball ricocheted into the river for a home run! As Wee Willey crossed home base for the winning run the Cincinnati team howled in protest. A telegram was sent to New York for a ruling on the play. The organization in New York said that it was a legal hit if the cow was in fair play. A local photographer named White Zel Gary just happened to take a photo of the play. The photo revealed that at the point of impact, LuLu’s back feet were just crossing the foul line into  the field of play! The run had scored and local team had won the first game in Morgan County! And that is the “udder” truth on April 1st, 118 years ago today!!!