1948 - Night Baseball

To the Editor:

In early June 1948, the directors of the St. Johnsbury (Tri-County) Yankees baseball club of the Northern Summer (Collegiate) League were anxiously awaiting the arrival by train from Minneapolis the poles for the mounting of the $12,000 General Electric lighting system that would be constructed at Hazen Field.

As the paper of record noted, “[t]his venture will be the first ever attempted in Vermont, and the two pioneers of this, others call it a gamble, are Rutland and St. Johnsbury.” (“Poles Will Be Here This Weekend,” The Caledonian-Record, Thur. June 10, 1948, at p.5). The heralded evening arrived on Monday June 28, 1948: “St. Johnsbury’s baseball association opened a new era last night as the 209,000 watts of lighting was switched on for the night baseball opener at Hazen Field with a record attendance of 1309. Bill Krywicki’s Burlington Cardinals were the opponents as the Tri-County Yankees won the first arc light session 3-2. In pre-game ceremonies President William Blake of the Tri-County Yankees welcomed the baseball fans to the first night baseball game in St. Johnsbury. Town Manager Charles Sumner, also a member of the board of directors, welcomed the fans in their first history-making night baseball game at Hazen Field. Following this the Star Spangled Banner was played and as the 1309 fans heard the last note of the anthem die away, there was a thundering roar of ‘play ball’ sounded by Umpire Ray Fisher.” (“Cardinals Downed 3-2 By Yankees Night Baseball Opener Brings Out 1309 Fans,” The Caledonian-Record, Tues. June 29, 1948, at p. 5).

St. J. Yanks player-manager John “Whack” Hyder, along with his teammates Lusk and Szabo, scored the three runs in the Scale City win over the Queen City Redbirds. The win that Monday night raised the Yankees’ season record to 5-3 and fourth place in The Northern League. However, that first “night under the lights” proved to be one of the few bright spots for St. Johnsbury in the 1948 season as the Yankees finished in the NL cellar at season end with a record of 20 wins and 50 losses (.286 clip; 31 ½ games behind league champion the Barre-Montpelier Twin City Trojans).

Of note, the two 1948 Northern League season St. J. – Tri-County Yankees’ skippers were Whack Hyder (1912-2003) and Bill Kenyon (1898-1951). Hyder was a multi-sport athlete (baseball, track & field, basketball and cross country) during his years at Georgia Tech (Class of 1937). Hyder later served as head basketball coach at Georgia Tech from 1951 through 1973. Kenyon was a standout baseball catcher and football player during his student days at Georgetown University. A player for the New York Football Giants in 1925 during the inaugural season of the team, Kenyon would go on to serve, in various years, as the head coach of the University of Maine football, basketball, and baseball teams.

Christopher E. Ryan

Simi Valley, Calif.

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