This fall, on Friday, Oct. 5, Moline will celebrate the centennial of Browning Field. That day will be exactly 100 years since the first regular-season Moline High School football game was played. |
In that 1912 game, Moline defeated Maquoketa 34-0. This year on that date Moline will play Alleman.
Many sporting and celebratory activities have been held at Browning Field over the decades. Among them were visits by two major league baseball teams, the Chicago White Sox and Chicago Cubs.
The Moline minor league team, the Plow Boys, started playing in the Three-I League in 1914 at the Moline baseball park, sometimes referred to as Three-I Park, located at 37th Street and 5th Avenue. The Plows started their 1919 season there with a game against the White Sox on April 21, the day before the Sox opened the major league season in Chicago.
The game began at 4 p.m. to accommodate first-shift factory workers. The work train that carried employees of the Silvis shops to their homes in the Tri-Cities stopped at 37th Street to allow workers to attend the game. Some merchants closed early to allow their clerks to attend.
The Argus (April 22, 1919) summarized the outcome of the game: "Bombarding the outer gardens with base knocks, the Chicago Hose trampled over the Plow Boys and 1,700 supporting fans yesterday to the tune of 10 to 0 in a game featured principally by the nine misplays committed by (the Plow Boys)."
Later in 1919, Warren Giles took the reins of the Plows. Giles was starting a 50-year career in professional baseball in which he rose to become the president of the National League. With Giles in charge, the 1920 Plow Boys moved to Browning Field, where a new baseball grandstand had been built at the east end of the football field.
A large canopy covered the curved stands behind home plate, and in 1925 a similar covering was added above the third-base stands. The Dispatch (April 1, 1920) described the new facility as "… one of the most beautiful minor league athletic fields in the country. The fence, which will be of heavy wire mesh, will be hidden from view on the inside by a solid mass of green shrubbery and vines, not only presenting a beautiful background for the ball game but also compelling spectators to visit the box office in order to see the game."
The first game at the new Browning baseball diamond was on April 12, 1920, when the White Sox again came to town to play the Plow Boys. The exhibition game was scheduled for 2:30 p.m., so the Sox could catch an early train for Chicago. But the Sox brought only part of their team — apparently not the strongest part — and lost to the Plows 7-1.
Newspaper reports noted that the Sox players not only were incompetent but also in a hurry to finish the game to catch the train. Pressure had been put on Giles to cancel the game because of very cold weather. He refused, and only 500 fans showed up.
Eighteen years later, on April 14, 1938, the Chicago Cubs came to face the Plow Boys at Browning. The visitors spent part of the morning signing autographs in the lobby of the LeClaire Hotel. The 3,800 fans who showed up for the 1:30 game were treated to an early Plow Boys lead, 3-0. Cubs manager Charlie Grimm had promised to play his regulars for at least half of the game. He kept his promise, and by the sixth inning the regulars were in and the rout was on. In the end the Cubs prevailed 18-4.
Curt Roseman is a guest sports columnist for The Dispatch and The Rock Island Argus. Guest sports columns appear each Tuesday.
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