RIPPEY, Iowa — “Rippey is a baseball town,” according to a description embedded on a large rock outside the center field fence. The first game was played here in the 1880s, when the team was called the Hard Scrabble Boys, and now baseball will once again be played in Rippey with a three-day tournament scheduled for May 14, 15, and 16.
In the old days, people walked or rode horseback or came in buggies for those Sunday afternoon games but now, some 140 years later, players with the South Dakota Jakalopes, the Crystal Cubs, and the St. Michael Angels from Minnesota will travel more quickly in order to play the rebirthed Rippey Demons, with the lead-off game set for Friday, May 14 at 6 p.m.
Four games will be played Saturday, May 15, and the tournament will conclude with two games on Sunday morning. This tournament is the fulfillment of many hours of labor to upgrade the field and the grounds of the Rippey diamond, including restoring the classic wooden grandstand.
With financial contributions coming from many individuals who played baseball between the 1940s and the 1960s, along with support from the Greene County Board of Supervisors and the Greene County Community Foundation, the field and grounds are looking good. The safety track on the field has been widened, and the wooden grandstand repaired to assure safe seating for fans.
Even a new home plate and bases were donated.
The current ballfield was built in 1940 and was called the Martin Field because “Grandpa” Martin was the only Civil War veteran living in Greene County at that time. In 1949 lights were added through a broad community effort by selling $50 shares to 100 persons.
It was not until 1959 that the electronic scoreboard was added, which shows not only the score but the number of strikes and pitches called by the umpire.
The field has been renamed Walt Anderson Field in honor of Walt, who was an avid baseball fan and general promoter of Rippey baseball. The field hosted the finals of the Iowa Baseball Tournament in 1953.
Rippey Baseball Commissioner Mel Murken and his helper Merle Jackson have spent numerous hours scraping and then repainting the dugouts and grandstand. Their labors have also extended to the playing field, assuring the infield is level and minimizes unexpected hops of the ball.
David Hick, who played for East Greene on this field in the 1970s, has been instrumental in bringing this tournament to Rippey. An economic side benefit of the event will see the out-of-state players staying at the Cobblestone in Jefferson and consuming food and beverages locally.
Kevin Hick and the Friends of Rippey will be serving pulled pork sandwiches and other concessions during the tournament, with all profits going toward further improvements of the ball diamond and grounds.
Come and listen for the crack of the bat, enjoy baseball concession food and visit with others who love baseball, America’s pastime.
Mary Weaver is a member of Friends of Rippey.