By Chris Wendt
Published in The Rose Hill Reporter, Thursday, July 26, 2012
Rose Hill has a rich sports history, one that reaches back to the earl 1900‘s. Baseball was one of the most popular sports and was played by both the Rose Hill Town Team and at the Rose Hill High School. Two players went on to play pro ball in the major leagues.
One of the earliest town team rosters was listed in the Douglass Tribune on September 24, 1900 and included players Jesse Dennett, William Meanis, F.B. Staley, I. Keister, Charles Dennett, John Dennett, Hitchcock, Gilmore and Gillenwater. These players also met 30 years later in Rose Hill for a team reunion.
In 1909, the town team went undefeated in the southeast league with players Frank Gillenwater, Charles Cox, Bill Jones, George Dennett, Ross Swindell, Oscar Jones, Rudolf Swindell, Ernest Swindell Francis McCluggage, Leonard Mitchell, Frank Staley and Verne McCluggage, managed by Kent Johnson.
Ernest Swindell, born in Rose Hill July 5, 1883, played for the Wichita Baseball Club in 1907 and made a bid as a pitcher in the Western Association in 1908. He had been popular with the fans and made a good impression on the management staff. It was felt that he had a good chance for the position but there was no information regarding an actual appointment.
Swindell did however make a bid to play pro baseball and broke into the major leagues September 16, 1911 at the age of 28. He became the pitcher for the Cleveland Naps, pitching four games in the 1911 season and made an appearance as a pinch hitter during the 1913 season. His final game for Cleveland was played June 15, 1913. The team went on to become the Cleveland Indians.
A “great game of baseball” was scheduled for Saturday, October 21, 1912, between a hand-picked team of professionals from the Wichita and Rose Hill teams. Swindell, who had just returned home from the Cleveland American League team pitched for Rose Hill. The day had been chilly but elicited a large crown. The final score was 25-6 with Rose Hill winning the day. Match games were also played between Rose Hill and Mulvane in September with Swindell pitching both games but no scores were given.
The roster of the New Orleans Pelicans Southern Minor League team showed Swindell listed as a pitcher and hitter in 1912 and a hitter in 1913. He was touted in the Douglass Tribune as being the speediest pitcher in the Southern League. He returned to spend the winter of 1912 with his mother in Rose Hill. His latter years were spend in Fruita, CO, where he died March 19, 1969.
The early 1950’s showed a town team roster of Dale Carr, Paul Carr, Don Showalter, Bob Lee, Bill Mitchell, Frank Smith, Allen Hawks, Gayne Thorne, Marvin Webster, Merlin Landis and Austin Chance.
The July 25, 1954 Wichita Sunday Eagle reported a surprising turn of events at the state baseball tournament. The Rose Hill Town Team infield players Dale Carr on third base, Austin Chance as short stop, Bob Jones on second and Ray Ward on first, made a double play record for the state and national tourney. The record was taken away from teams having some of the best known names in baseball. Rose Hill tied for seventh place money.
The last known town team picture was taken in 1956 and included Jack McCune, Frank McMurphy, Del Wilks, Junior Pickett, Austin Chance, Paul Carr, Elton Carr, Bob Jones, Mike Showalter, Bob Lee, Ray Ward, Jack Carr, Jim Palmer, Jim Jefferies and Dale Carr and was managed by Thoral Pickett.
The team played in the Winfield Nightlys in Winfield at the old fairgrounds from 1939 to 1958. Current Rose Hill resident Helen McMurphy, sister of player Frank McMurphy, Kept score for the team during the games.
“They were always the team to beat and held first or second place in the Southeast Kansas League,” said Jack Carr, current Rose Hill resident. At that time Cambridge, Burden, Udall, Douglass, Winfield, Oxford and Bell Plaine made up the league. “Our only read competition was Cambridge,” said Carr.
Most of the team was drafted or signed up for the Korean War of 1950 to 1953 and the team broke up. Many of the players served in the armed forces until 1957.
High school baseball also left its mark on Rose Hill. One of the earliest rosters comes from a team picture for the 1915-16 season and included players Orville Mitchell, Harvey Hartenbower, Glen Staley, Oak Flemming, Millard Hall, Lowell Hinshaw, Harold Higgins, Jim Hartenbower, Harold Webster and Harold McCune and was managed by Otto Rayburn.
The team won the 1947 state tournament in May in Dodge City defeating Hanston High School with a score of 7-4. Rose Hill breezed through the tournament without appreciable opposition. The first three games found Rose Hill so far out ahead that the games were called in short innings. Frank Smith entered the hall of fame with a no-hit-no-run performance. Charlie McCune handled the catching during the entire tournament and Rose Hill School Superintendent L.B. Neece coached the team.
In subsequent years, RHHS teams went on to play in the state tournaments in 1950, 1952, 1961, 1962 and in 2008 but never won the title again.
Another shining star to rocket out of Rose Hill was Kendall Gammon who played multiple positions for the Kansas City Chiefs. He was originally drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers in the 1992 NFL Draft after a four-year career at Pittsburg State University. He spent four seasons in New Orleans and signed with the Chiefs in February 2000.
Baseball wasn’t the only sport back in the day in Rose Hill. There was a ladies tennis team around 1909 with Mildred Hall, Ruth McLaughlin, Bessie Mitchell, Bernice Cuttings, Bessie Stanley, Frankie Silknitter, Dorothy Dunlap, Edith Poston, Carrie Wallace and Dwana Baxter. There was also a ladies town team basketball pictured in 1904 that included Bertie Corn Hall, Ruth Hall Dunlap, Rena Smith Cox, Emma Meeker, Mattie Bales, Mary McKnight Corn, Elsie Hall Mitchell, Nellie Mitchell High, Della Chancy, Katie Moon and Hazel Haog.