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Baseball in Waterloo

Who Are Those Guys?

1999's Lansing Lugnuts and Michigan Battle Cats both made assaults on the league record books in a number of slugging categories. One record neither team captured was Team Home Runs, Season; the 1961 Waterloo Hawks, then a Red Sox affiliate, hit 155 home runs in 128 games, besting the Luggie effort by eight.

So, what famous sluggers played for the Hawks in 1961?

  Player               HR
  Bob Lawrence         30
  Dave Hall            22
  Dick Waite           22
  Paul Jernigan        17
  Vanity Rushing       13
  Harry Kalbaugh       11

Not a Famous Name in the bunch; in fact, there's no one on the entire Waterloo roster that summer I recognize as a major league player.



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Noteworthy:

  • 40 of those homers were hit in the first 20 games of the season.
  • Hall, Lawrence, or both homered in the first 15 games of the season.
  • Hall had 11 home runs in 12 days.

Hall was promoted to Johnstown (Eastern League) on June 29; at that time he had this incredible half-season stat line:

   G  AB   R  H 2B 3B HR RBI  AVG
  59 238  53 97 17  2 22  90 .408

The Sporting News Guide called Hall's performance "probably the most spectacular early slugging pace of any player in all O.B. [Organized Baseball] history."

Lawrence stayed until the season ended, and compiled this equally incredible stat line:

  
   G  AB   R  H 2B 3B HR RBI  AVG
 127 476 113 145 25 1 30 127 .305

The Hawks scored 876 runs, and only permitted 671; as you'd expect, they led the league in wins--but not by a lot (one of the losses, by the way, was a forfeit). Quincy defeated them in the championship playoff, 3 games to 1.

Hall, Lawrence, and Waite all ended their playing careers after the 1964 season; only Waite was able to play at this level again. Jernigan had a long career in the PCL.


When a version of this essay was posted to the Midwest League mailing list, it generated some questions about context.

Municipal Stadium: In 1962 (I don't have '61) the dimensions of the Waterloo field were 335-360-335; which is pretty cozy. Dubuque and Keokuk were really short to right in '61 (250 & 265 feet, respectively), while Kokomo played in a toy ballpark (294-340-270). In contrast, Clinton's ballyard was enormous (385-490-415). The MWL's other teams played in parks we'd all call conventional.

Home runs for all MWL teams in 1961 (a 126 game season):

  Waterloo 155
  Dubuque  121
  Kokomo   119
  Quincy    93
  Clinton   87
  Keokuk    61
  Davenport 59
  Decatur   58

Home runs for Waterloo in adjacent years (all 126 game seasons):

  1959   83
  1960   90
  1961  155
  1962   96
  1963   84

Notes

This record's listed in the MWL Record Book, of course, but I found my first clue about the details of this remarkable season while browsing in SABR's Total Baseball Index, an electronic bibliography created and maintained by the members. It was clear that Dave Hall's performance rivalled Austin Kearns' 2000 homer streak, but I needed better details.

The 1962 TSN Guide had a writeup, and the full stat lines for the players. I checked careers in Patric Doyle's Professional Baseball Player Database.

The 1961 ballpark dimensions are from that season's Baseball Blue Book. Waterloo's numbers are from the 1962 edition.


Bob Lawrence, who coached baseball at Indiana University after his playing career, found this essay one evening and dropped me a delightful note.


This summary originated as the August 6, 2000, Midwest League Tidbit on the Midwest League Mailing List. Additional information was published to that list on November 18, 2001.




The Midwest League plays Single-A, professional baseball in America's agricultural and industrial heartland. 16 teams play a 140 game schedule which begins in early April and ends Labor Day weekend.

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