Joe Tinker memorialized in old-fashioned game
Story and photo by Ken Locke
It was an exciting day for the little town of Muscotah, just a little northwest of Jefferson County, July 27. The town swelled to nearly three times its everyday population of about 200 as over 500 people were present to honor Joe Tinker and watch a 1880s-style baseball game.
The first event of the day was a meeting in the city hall with four special visitors to the town. Joe Tinker’s grandson, Jay Tinker, and two greatgrandsons, Chris and John Tinker, who flew in from Baltimore, and a grandson, Richard Clapp, from California. Clapp is the son of Joe’s daughter, Ruby Tinker Clapp, and he lives in Palm Springs. This was his first visit with his Baltimore relatives.
Their welcome was overwhelming. John Tinker, the youngest of the great-grandsons, commented, “I’m totally amazed over the whole thing.” Jay Tinker, the only one of the four who had known Joe Tinker when he was a boy, praised the town saying, “If I wasn’t 74 I’d move back here in a minute.”
More than 70 people arrived early for the 1 p.m. presentation. They were crowded into the city hall with chairs up front for the four guests of honor.
The date of July 27 celebrates both the birth and death of Baseball Hall of Famer Joe Tinker, who was born July 27, 1880, in Muscotah and died July 27, 1948.
July 27, 2013, had been proclaimed officially Joe Tinker Day in the State of Kansas by the Kansas House of Representatives. Kansas House Rep. Randy Garber was present at the game to give out framed copies of the proclamation.
Tinker played with the Chicago Cubs from 1902 to 1912. During that period, the Cubs won four pennants between 1906 and 1910 and won the World Series in 1907 and ’08. Tinker is best known for being a part of the great double play combination of “Tinker-to-Evers-to-Chance.”
The vintage baseball game featured the re-enactment teams of the Hodgeman Nine from Hodgeman County and from Wichita, The Cowtown Vintage Base Ball Club. It was played in uniforms like they would have worn prior to 1900, and by rules of the game at that time.
While much of the game is unchanged, there were some rules that were quite different. A few changes included not using gloves, not counting balls—only strikes—and giving credit for catching a fly even when caught on the first bounce. They also pitched underhanded, the way they do presently for softball.
Because of the milder weather Saturday they were able to play an entire game, with the Hodgeman Nine winning 11 to 3 over the Cowtown Vintage Base Ball Club. The old-fashioned wool uniforms had been a concern due to how hot the weather often is late in July.
Several things the Tinker relatives shared were interesting about the old times. Jay showed a pocket watch his grandfather had owned. It had been given to Joe Tinker by his father. Jay said it was an “O” gauge watch. Joe was notorious for being late, so his father gave him the watch to help him remember to be on time.
Another story by Jay was when he had been on a train trip as a young child with his grandfather, Joe. It was about at the end of World War II and there were a lot of soldiers on the train, as he recalled. Babe Ruth came up and started talking to his grandfather. The “Babe” also talked to Jay, much to his joy. He said years later when he happened to be visiting with Ruth and reminded him of the incident, Ruth still recalled the occasion.
Many of the refreshments were old-fashioned too—hot dogs, Cracker Jacks, peanuts, homemade root beer, apple pie and ice cream.
The day before the game, Lucas artists Erika Nelson and Matthew Farley started work on a Tinker-themed mural on the concession stand. Nelson is best known as the curator of the “The World’s Largest Collection of the World’s Smallest Versions of the World’s Largest Things,” and had the collection there for those who wanted to see it.
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