This article originally appeared in the April 2, 2018 issue of the Winnetka Current as Back In The Day: America’s pastime is also Winnetka’s pastime
By Peter Butler
America’s pastime comes to life again this year as the baseball season has started. School spring breaks are over, which means baseball has started in Winnetka, just as it has done across three centuries, longer than any other organized sport in Winnetka.
Sure, soccer is popular these days, but it didn’t get formally started in Winnetka until the 1960s. Hockey started with outdoor competition at Indian Hill Park in the 1930s, and like tennis, grew tremendously once their two indoor facilities opened in the 1960s and 1970s. Golf in Winnetka goes back as early as 1917, when Winnetka opened its first public course. And football started at New Trier in 1902, but interestingly, was discontinued from 1909-1913 due to a serious injury to one of its players.
But, baseball in Winnetka goes back to at least the 1890s. Baseball at New Trier started shortly after the school opened its doors in 1901, and over the years, the school has produced a few major leaguers. New Trier’s Chuck Lindstrom is a highlight.
Back in the 1950s, American Legion Baseball was a popular, national venue for summer baseball. In 1953, Winnetka’s American Legion Post 10 team was comprised of New Trier players, including Lindstrom. The team went all the way to the World Series in Miami, but lost in the championship game. Lindstrom was named the American Legion Baseball Player of the Year, but his real fame is having the highest batting average ever for a major league player. He played in one major league game, which was with the Chicago White Sox in 1958. He entered the game in the fourth inning, walked once and then hit a triple, leaving him with a 1.000 lifetime batting average. That was the extent of his major league career. His record may be matched, but never beaten.
In early 1900’s Winnetka, the Village Green was home to many baseball games, including as part of the annual Fourth of July celebrations. Baseball has migrated to the west side of Winnetka over the years — Skokie Playfield first, followed by Duke Childs Field. And now, a turf field and improved natural diamonds exist where previously, often-flooded fields somehow met the needs for so many years. While the playfields are now populated by many sports, baseball at all levels still dominates the summer landscape.
One other thing hasn’t changed. It sure seems cold and wet on some April days, especially when strikes for young pitchers are tough to come by and the games linger a bit longer than we’d like. But baseball in the spring renews our spirts, creates a sense of optimism, slows things down a bit, and provides a diversion, friendships and balance to the hectic pace that fills most of our days. No wonder baseball remains our pastime, here and throughout the country.
The Winnetka Historical Society promotes awareness of Winnetka’s heritage through artifact preservation, public access to their museum and Schmidt-Burnham Log House, and enlightening programs, exhibits and publications.