Baseball season has just wrapped up with the Washington Nationals beating the Houston Astros to win their first World Series title ever. It reminds me of a baseball game played here in Perry back in 1922.
In October of 1922, Babe Ruth and a less popular but still very successful player in his own right, Bob Meusel, came to town to play an exhibition game. There was a lot of hype and excitement, as you can imagine, leading up to the event. The Perry branch of the American Legion had organized the event and hoped to make a tidy sum of cash off of ticket sales. Unfortunately, the day ended up being cold and dreary, and even though the rain mostly stopped an hour or so before the game began, the attendance was much lower than hoped. Ruth and Meusel ended up taking most of the profits home with them. I guess that’s what happens when you play a baseball game on Friday the 13th.
The game was against Pella, and Meusel played for them while Ruth played for Perry. Meusel hit a homerun and Babe hit a couple of triples. You’d think “The Sultan of Swat” could have managed at least one homer, but apparently the outfield wasn’t enclosed by a fence, which enabled the outfielder to get to the ball and throw it back in before the lumbering Ruth could get past third base.
I hadn’t realized until recently that the Ku Klux Klan was very active in Perry around that same time. I also didn’t know that the KKK was extremely anti-Catholic. Babe Ruth was Catholic and is said to have even visited St. Patrick’s School while in town. You would think given the fact that, according to a The Perry News article, a KKK grand master lived in town, there would have been protests and maybe even a cross burning. In reality, Babe Ruth coming to town was such a big deal that KKK members decided to forgo their prejudice for the day and instead sat in the stands and cheered for him and the hometeam along with everyone else. I guess that’s what happens when you play a baseball game in Perry. God bless America.
Hello and welcome back to the Hometown Heritage!
The date is August 6, 1902, and you are boarding the train on the Milwaukee line heading to Milwaukee. It is a sunny afternoon, and everything seems normal. As you board the train, you can see engineers and other workers rushing around preparing the train for departure. As the whistle blows signaling the train will be leaving the station soon, you hurry toward your seat and place your baggage above you on the rack. You then settle into your seat, ready for what you assume will be a standard trip on the train. Little do you know, this train will never make it to its final stop.
An hour or so passes on the train, and everything seems normal. People talk in hushed tones around you, keeping mostly to themselves. The conductor, having collected all the tickets, returns from the back of the train, heading toward the front. As you watch him walk past, you wonder what he does during the trip and admire his fancy hat, but soon return to the book you brought with you. More time passes, and you hear the train whistle blow loudly as the train pulls into the station. Seeing that this is the station at Collins, you return to your book, not paying much attention to those boarding and disembarking. Your eyes grow heavy, and soon you fall asleep as the train pulls out of the station.
The train lets out an ear-piercing whistle, jarring you awake. You look out the window, and are surprised to see that the train is not near a station at all. Another shrill whistle sounds, and it fills you with a sense of urgency. You try to lean as close to the window as you can to get a glimpse of what is ahead, but you cannot see anything. A third whistle sounds: now other people on the train are starting to talk. Everyone can feel something in the air, but no one knows what exactly it is. A fourth whistle, even more urgent sounding than the third, and suddenly you are thrown from your seat as the sound of metal crashing into metal fills the air. Chaos ensues as people are flung about the train. Your head pounds, and as you put your hand to your temple you feel a hot, sticky liquid and pull your hand back to see your fingers coated in red. The conductor, his clothes a mess and without his hat, comes back through the train, asking people to quickly and quietly leave the train. You do as he asks, and as you move down the train you seem some people following his advice, while others sit eerily still. Once off the train and a fair distance away, you look and it finally dawns upon you that you have just survived a horrible train wreck, one in which some people will not be leaving alive.
Although this may not have been exactly how it happened, a train wreck did occur on August 6, 1902 between Collins and Rhodes Iowa. As you can see in the picture, the locomotive is in a bad state, having just run into a work train. Nine people, including an engineer from Perry, died in the crash. Although our records do not state the exact details of the crash, it seems likely that the work train was not supposed to be on the tracks. In reality, only those on the train could have known what truly happened, but who knows, maybe my description is closer than I think!
As a reminder, the next Gary Ernest Smith event is on October 13th at the Hotel Pattee from 4:30 – 6:30! This time Adrienne Gennett, the Assistant Curator of Collections and Education at University Museums in ISU will be here! I hope to see you there!