A Century of Opening Days

July 17, 1915, was declared a holiday in Evansville. A band marched from Sunset Park all the way to the city’s brand-new athletic stadium, named after Mayor Benjamin Bosse. The Evansville River Rats, a baseball team from the Central League, won an afternoon game against Erie in front of a reported crowd of 8,082, much more than the listed capacity.

On that Saturday afternoon, Bosse Field instantly became an Evansville landmark. And when the first pitch of the baseball season was thrown this year, it marked the old ballpark’s 100th opening day.

Only two existing baseball stadiums are older than Bosse Field: Fenway Park (1912) in Boston and Chicago’s Wrigley Field (1914). Bosse Field was a project of the Evansville school board and, at a cost of $65,000, became the first municipally owned athletic facility in the U.S.

Bosse Field is two years older than both the McCurdy Hotel and the Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Coliseum, which both opened in 1917.

The field has undergone many changes. Home plate was moved closer to the grandstand in 1938. Since that date, no recorded home runs have cleared the brick wall in center field. The inner fence in the outfield was first installed in 1950, but removed for the 1951-1953 seasons. It was put back in place permanently in 1954.

The seating capacity was originally 7,180. Today, with some of the original bleachers long gone, the capacity is 5,110. The school board spent $30,000 on an upgrade in 1930, then undertook a $400,000 renovation in 1957.

It has been the home of 11 professional teams, including the Frontier League’s Evansville Otters, who have played their games at Bosse since 1995. It also served as the spring training home of the Detroit Tigers during World War II. And it briefly served as the home of the Evansville Crimson Giants, an early NFL franchise, in 1921 and 1922.

Bosse Field gained a bit of national fame in 1991, when it was used for the movie “A League of Their Own.” But Tom Hanks and Madonna were far from the first stars to visit. Baseball Hall of Famers Warren Spahn, Chuck Klein, Edd Roush, and Hank Greenburg all suited up for an Evansville team in their minor league days.

For more information on Bosse Field, visit evansvilleotters.com/bosse/info.

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