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The Walkerville Chicks

by Mary Feldott

Back in the 1920’s, there was a semi-professional baseball team in Walkerville sponsored by a very successsful local businessman named Thomas Chick. Called "The Walkerville Chicks," they were quite a sensation. My father, Charlie Gatecliff, played infield. He was a good player and my grandmother collected hundreds of newspaper articles about him and the team. For over 50 years they were stored away.

Reading many of these articles and studying the pictures of these earnest looking young men, I came to realize that these articles are more than just about a baseball team. They are stories about Walkerville and its people. These young guys were having the time of their lives; baseball was their great love and they were good at it.

They knew the value of hard work, fair play, teamwork, giving it your all, while playing in tough conditions. One article described the Chicks playing in the snow when the season ran unusually long due to playoff games; another mentioned how spectators turned on their car lights to illuminate the field when a game continued after sunset.

The Chicks were subject to the baseball politics of the day when games were delayed or the opponents didn’t show. They played with primitive equipment and without a team doctor — when they were injured they kept right on playing.

They often attracted huge crowds for the big game — one report noted that 5,000 people attended a play-off game and that the townspeople from small towns enroute to the tournament, stood by the side of the road and cheered them — even after they had beaten their home team! They were local heroes and pioneers of the game, the team few could beat.

The Chicks stayed on top by recruiting the best players from the area. Prospects developed their skills by playing on a junior team called the "Chicklets."

My father’s baseball career ended when he broke his leg trying out for a spot on a professional baseball team. He never shared this part of his life with me — being a kid I never thought to ask him about himself.

The articles end in the fall of 1929. I am left with many questions: Whatever became of the Chicks? How long did they continue to play as a team? Did any of the guys ever make it to the major leagues? Were the Chicks one of the many casualties of the Depression?

Even if the players were unable to make it to a big league ball team, they were "big leaguers" to the people of Walkerville.

More Sports Heritage: The "Major"




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