Local History Index: Sports Index

      Sussex-Lisbon Early Baseball History

also see Lannon Baseball, Land O' Lakes, and More and Sussex Land O' Lakes Baseball News

Compiled and transcribed by Michael R. Reilly

Updated 07/09/2014

This postcard photo is thought to be of a Colgate, Wis. baseball team. The uniform jerseys are circa-1910 or earlier (Note: Major league baseball teams were phasing out the collar type about that time.), Also, picture postcards like this were popular in the early 1900's. Click on photo to see full size. Any information about this photo would be appreciated.

    Did it take nearly 20 years for baseball to arrive in the Sussex/Lisbon area? The first recorded baseball game , the Knickerbocker Club of New York City against the New York Club was played at Elysian Field in Hoboken, New Jersey on June 19, 1846.

    Below are some of the earliest recorded base ball or baseball games played in the area. It's interesting to see that cricket players and base ball players competed against one another. The Sussex/Lisbon area was English origin and the game of cricket was a popular pastime. Somewhat similar in play, it's no wonder the teams played together.

    Baseball may have had its local roots at the college level, as shown by this Waukesha Freeman, June 25, 1867:

    Base Ball - Another very spirited games of base ball (national game) took place on the grounds of Carroll College on Friday afternoon. Both contestants were pretty confident of success. In the first three or four innings of the game, neither side played very brilliantly, but as the game progressed the contestants warmed up, and some very fine batting was done by both parties. Also good fly catches were made...

    Some of the players on the two team rosters were probably sons of Sussex-Lisbon area residents: Rankin, Wildish, Jeffrey, and possibly others. No doubt these college students brought the game back home.

    Base Ball At Sussex - The matched game of base ball came off at Sussex on the 26th last, between the Sussex B. B. C. (Base Ball Club) and the Sussex Cricket Club, which resulted in the defeat of the latter club by a score of 16 runs, but we think the Cricket Club done remarkably well as they had never played the game before, and was deficient of three their best players, but notwithstanding all the odds, that they had to contend with against, they made nine runs ahead up to the eighth inning, when a little bad fielding on the part of the Cricketers, and a little sharp management of the Base Ball boys, they won the game by 16 runs. The same clubs will play a matched game of cricket on Saturday next, at Sussex, for a new cricket ball, the wickets to be pitched at 10 o'clock a. m. Waukesha Plaindealer, September 29, 1868

Editor's note: This is the earliest mention of Sussex or Lisbon base ball found to date on the Ancestry.com website search of local newspapers.

    Base Ball - The match game of Base Ball between the Lisbon and Menomonee Base Ball Club and the Sussex Cricket Ball Club, on the 28, resulted in the defeat of the last named club by a score of 64 to 46. Waukesha Freeman, October 8, 1868. 

    On the 3rd (see below), a match game of Cricket Ball, between the above named clubs, the "Crickets" won by a score of 94 to 93 - the latter having eight wickets standing.
Waukesha Freeman, August 19, 1869. Editor's note: This article of Aug. 19, 1869 indicates either there was a separate base ball club called the Lisbon and Menomonee Base Ball Club or perhaps members of of both locales joined to take on the Sussex Cricket Ball Club (earlier called the Cricketers).

    Cricket Match at Sussex - Waukesha Plaindealer, Tuesday, October 13, 1868: Our Cricket match came off on Saturday the 3rd last, at Sussex, and proved to be a very interesting game, though the base ball boys were rather slack in making their appearance; but about 11 o'clock a goodly number of spectators - something less than ten thousand - has assembled on the ground. We decided to make a start by giving the B. B. boys the first innings. Their Captain, John Ross, took the bat and made some good plays by running up a score of seventeen runs before leaving the wicket. The balance of their boys did as well as could be expected. They finally retired for a few minutes. The sun now shining due south we thought it best to refresh the inner man. Accordingly we did a beautiful supply, furnished by the local good people of Sussex. One o'clock we again resumed the game and scored a good inning of sixty-two runs. Some fine batting was made by T. Mason, who scored eighteen runs, and S. Weaver, who made the same score. The B. B. boys now again took the bat and some fine play displayed by G. Hickmott, who ran up a score of 27 runs, which, with the balance, gave the B. B. a score of 54 on the second innings, the Cricket club - now had 80 runs to get to win the game. When Bob  Ridley and T. Mason took the bat and made a few runs, and at the fall of their timber, the Captain came to the rescue, and after a few of his well directed hits put an end to the contest by the Cricket club winning the game with seven wickets to spare. Among the spectators on the ground we noted our nominee for Assembly, who came forth in his usual frank manner and put up the lager to recruit the boys after their day of fatigue. Being somewhat refreshed and the sun yet shining, some two hours, it was decided to try our luck again at base ball. Accordingly we went to work, and at the finish of the game at dark, the score stood 20 tallies for the B. B. boys and 8 for the Cricket boys, thus we came out twice victorious. Our boys seemed quite elated as much so that they retired for a few hours to wind up with a little singing from old Bob - who by the way is always ready with something for such occasions. T. Mason and others also added to the harmony of the evening, and all left for home well pleased with their holiday. Each one wishing that in this place, cricket had more supporters. Below is the score.

Cricket Club 1st Inning 2nd Inning B. B. Club 1st Inning 2nd Inning
Henry Boots 1 9 John Ross 17 5
Ephraim Boots 0 0 Geo. Elliott 0 0
J. R. Weaver 2 0 A. Turner 2 0
Thomas Mason 17 2 A. Rosier 1 0
A. (Bob?) Ridley 1 7 Joel Weaver 2 0
Stephen Stone 6 0 Aaron Rosier 0 6
Stephen Weaver 9 3 Hugh Campbell 0 2
J. Weaver 17 0 Jas. Davidson 1 4
Charles Garr 0 0 G. Hickmott 3 27
Geo. Dongeldine 1 0 Albert Staul 4 0
W. Weaver, Jr. 2 9 W. Powrie 2 0
57 30 32 44
Byes 5 1 4 9
Wides 0 0 2 1
Total 62 31 38 54
93 92

    Umpires for above game were John Weaver, Jr. and Jeremiah Smith; Scorer - John Keating.

Editor's note: It's difficult to discern whether there was a single cricket game with two innings, which was won by the Sussex Cricket Club, a two-inning cricket game with an additional base ball game which the Base Ball Club won (20-8)? It is noteworthy that some of Sussex-Lisbon's finest citizens were engaged in the Cricket vs. Base Ball match games.

    A game of Base Ball will be played at County Fair in Waukesha. Waukesha Freeman, May 5, 1870

    The "Prairie Clippers"  (of Waukesha) and other clubs will have a match games of base ball. Waukesha Freeman, July 12, 1877

    Menomonee - We are to have a game of ball next Saturday. The Sussex nine are coming down and will play the Menomonees.

    A little fight stirred up the quiet village of Sussex on the 4th. The boys were having a game of base ball when one concluded that the umpire had given a base decision and accordingly used some base terms which brought on a base fight and two base ball law suits, which seem to please the base ball lawyers, who received the profits of the whole base job. Boys, the next time don't play so base. 

    Menomonee - The Sussex B. B. C. came into the village last Saturday with flying colors and flashing uniforms; but they went out a few hours after carry a score of 5 to 54 in favor of the Menomonees. There were but five innings played, the first two of which proved white-washes for the Sussex boys. Waukesha Freeman, July 19, 1877

    Editor's note: From the article above, it's seen that the Sussex Base Ball Club was in existence for at least 10 years.

Lisbon - The game of base ball played at the picnic on the grounds of Hon. Wm. Small last Saturday, resulted in a score of 40 for the Democrats and 30 for the Republicans. A closely contested foot race after the ball game was won by Elmer Weaver. Waukesha Freeman, June 27, 1889

Yesterday there was an unusually large crowd present and the various attractions (Waukesha County Fair) were well patronized. The base ball game between Sussex and Eagle went to Eagle by a score of 7 to 21. Waukesha Freeman, August 30, 1900

In the base ball game between Sussex and Menomonee Falls, the former team won. The score: Sussex, 8, Menomonee Falls, 1. Waukesha Freeman, September 6, 1900

The Merton and Sussex baseball teams played here [Merton] on Saturday. Score 12 to 6 in favor of Merton. source: Waukesha Freeman May 30, 1901, page 5 of 8

Brookfield defeated Lisbon by a score of 38 to 5 in a baseball game Sunday. McLaughlin, Kiefer and Gaynor played good games for Brookfield, while Detman and Hurtgen did good work for Lisbon. source: Waukesha Freeman May 8, 1902, page 8 of 8

The second annual picnic of the supervisors of the town of Lisbon was held last Thursday at Elmer W. Weaver's grove, a mile and a half south of Sussex... - The feature of the day was the baseball game between the Weber and Sussex teams, the former winning by a score of 6 to 1. The score by innings was as follows:
Sussex.....0 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 --1
Weber......0 1 0 1 0 0 2 1 1 --6
Waukesha Freeman, September 4, 1902

The following year's picnic, "A baseball game between the Weber and Sussex teams for the championship of the town of Lisbon will also be one of the features." Waukesha Freeman, July 2, 1903

At the 4th annual picnic - "A picked up ball team from Menomonee Falls defeated Sussex for a purse of $10 and the defeated team received free tickets to the grand ball in the evening." Waukesha Freeman, September 8, 1904

Both the senior and junior Merton basket ball teams were defeated at Sussex Saturday evening. Waukesha Freeman, March 20, 1913

The basket ball game Saturday evening between Merton teams and Sussex teams was won in both cases by our boys. The score of the first teams was 8 to 50; the second game's score was 4 to 18 in favor of Sussex Juniors. -- I wish to correct a statement that appeared in The Freeman last week, The game between the Sussex team and Waukesha High school team was won by the Sussex team, 18 to 42, and not by the High school, as was stated. Waukesha Freeman, March 20, 1913

The baseball score between Merton and Lannon should have read 5 to 4 in favor of Merton, instead of Lannon. Waukesha Freeman, July 16, 1914

Don't forget the date of the May ball held in Lee's hall Friday, May 14, given by the basketball boys. Waukesha Freeman, May 13, 1915

Arbor Day Sussex school contests included "baseball throw". Waukesha Freeman, May 11, 1916

Menomonee Falls - Ben Minten is organizing a baseball team. source: Waukesha Freeman April 21, 1921, page 2 of 8

Land o' Lakes Baseball League mentioned May 11, 1922

Merton - A baseball game was played on the home ground between Merton and Lannon--Merton boy team and Lannon boy team and Merton girl team; Score 1 to 16 in favor of Lannon. Waukesha Freeman, May 5, 1927

The Sussex girl's baseball team played the Merton girls team on Monday. The score was in favor of Sussex. Waukesha Freeman, May 25, 1933

The baseball boys are sponsoring a card party to be held in the Town Hall on Thursday evening. Waukesha Freeman, April 4, 1934

" The Sussex baseball team was defeated by the Slinger team at Sussex on Sunday by a score of 10 to 4."

Note: Not until about May 23, 1934 (see above), does the Waukesha Freeman's Sussex correspondent begin mentioning anything about a Sussex baseball team. Perhaps more coverage was provided in the Menomonee Falls News ?

Waukesha Freeman May 30, 1934 -  Sussex lost at Rubicon to that place's team on the previous Sunday afternoon.

Sports Dial...By Ferde Adams

The Land O' Lakes and Land O' Rivers baseball leagues are assured of a record breaking field for their 1947 season, the 25th successive campaign which will get underway throughout the circuits May 4. Fifty-six teams will be fielded on the diamonds throughout the leagues this season, a personal triumph for Director Martin C. Weber, the Merton farmer and insurance salesman, and the old-timers who came up that long climb with him.

It's been quite a pull since 1922 when only six teams---Oconomowoc, Hartland, Monches, Delafield, Genesee and Okauchee---had nines entered in the circuit. But it has grown steadily into the largest and oldest baseball league in the state. Only in 1934 was the league play suspended. However, even in that season, nearly all of its players entered in Uncle Sam's service, a tournament was held.

The Rivers league is an off-shoot of the parent loop, the Land O' Lakes, and several years ago, the Brooks was added to give younger players a chance to compete without having to mark time" for a year before graduation from Junior America Legion play to Rivers.

The three circuits will field more than 80 teams this season, the silver jubilee of the Merton sports enthusiast. Weber, who first started the league, and served as an umpire as well as the circuit's secretary, had held the destiny of the Land O' Lakes A. A. Inc., in his grip and watched it grow. And one of the ironies of it all is that Merton, the ol' home town, may not be able to field a team this season. Not because of a lack of home town talent, mind you, but because of the lack of a playing field.

With the growth of the league this season, comes new perplexing problems, that of enough umpires to handle the stepped-up schedule this summer. And Weber is ready to meet this challenge and is banking on help that has never failed to come in the past. He has called an umpire session at the Merton high school gymnasium for tonight, beginning at 8 p. m., at which time he urges that all men interested in becoming a bonified official this season to attend. More than 20 additional umpires will be required to handle the 1947 games.

source: Waukesha Daily Freeman April 21, 1947, page 8 of 10


Sports Dial...By Ferde Adams

To top off the 25th anniversary celebration of the Land O' Lakes organization, a 25 year book will be published giving a complete history and growth of all activities sponsored by the Land O' Lakes A. A. Inc., such as baseball, basketball, boxing tournaments, etc.

The book will contain pictures of championship teams, high scorers, batting champs and all outstanding feats accomplished by teams or individuals. It will begin with the first baseball pennant won by Delafield way back in 1922 and end with the 1947 winner. This information is being compiled by Martin C. Weber, Jr., son of Director Weber.

If you have any information don't hesitate to let him know. It will be picked up, catalogued and returned. The book will be edited by Russ Lynch, sports editor of the Milwaukee Journal. it has the endorsement of Francis H. Casey, executive director of the 1948 corporation. After publishing costs are paid, all proceeds will go into the Accident Benefit fund.

source: Waukesha Daily Freeman April 25, 1947, page 10 of 20


"Meanwhile, Martin C. Weber, the director of the organization, states that work on the 25th anniversary book is going forward at a rapid pace. It is a tremendous undertaking to secure all the picture of the championship teams in Lakes, Rivers, Valleys and Brooks since 1922 in both baseball and basketball. All the batting champs will also have illustrations and the 250 page book will be full of pictures.

The cost of this bound book with colorful plastic cover will go over $5,000, and will include this year [1947] winners and all the features of this year's pennant race.

Advertising in this book will be different than other types of advertising as the ads will include pictures of the industry, business, pictures of the officers and men who have made the business and been responsible for its growth. It will also mention if the members of the firm were players, managers or sponsors of the Land O' Lakes in the past 25 years."

source: Waukesha Daily Freeman May 28, 1947, page 3 of 14.

What is Vintage Base Ball?

Vintage base ball is the re-creation of the styles, speech, rules and terminology of the 1860s game. It's not only a competitive game, but also a re-enactment of baseball life, similar to an American Civil War re-enactment.

Back then, the game's name was two words rather than one. Vintage base ball incorporates historical details enjoyed by both players ("ballists") and fans ("cranks"). Players wield fat-handled bats at lemon peel-stitched balls. No one wears gloves and there are no strike zones. Above all, it's a gentleman's game in which there is no showboating or taunting, and the umpire is always addressed as "Sir."

Vintage base ball is a fast-growing sport in the United States. Until recently, the game had been mostly a local phenomenon, with clubs playing weekend games in open parks under a variety of rules. Now there are 225 clubs in 32 states.


1860s Rules

You'll be amazed at the rules that guided the 1860s teams. See them in practice at our vintage base ball games. These vintage rules, using vintage terminology, add a new or rather old dimension to the game.

The ball must be pitched, not jerked or thrown to the bat.

The striker is out after swinging and missing three balls if the behind catches the third strike on the fly or first bounce.

If three balls are struck at, and missed, and the last one is not caught, either flying or upon the first bound, it shall be considered fair, and the striker must attempt to make his run.

The striker is out if a fair ball is struck, and the ball is caught either without having touched the ground, or upon the first bound.

If an adversary stops a ball with his hat or cap, or takes it from the hands of a party not engaged in the game, no player can be put out unless the ball shall first have settled in the hands of the pitcher.

Clubs may adopt such rules respecting balls knocked beyond or outside of bounds of the field, as circumstances of the ground may demand; and these rules shall govern all matches played upon the ground, provided that they are distinctly made known to every player and umpire, previous to the commencement of the game.

The player is out if the ball is in the hands of a base tender before the runner steps on the base.

If two ballists are already out, no player running home at the time the ball is struck can make ace if the striker is put out.

The hurler must deliver the ball as near as possible over the center of home for the striker.

Foul balls do not count as strikes.

Any ball first touching the ground or touched by a player within the base lines is fair, even if it goes foul thereafter.

An ace shall be tallied when a base runner steps on the home base.

No person engaged in a match, either as umpire, scorer or player shall be, either directly or indirectly, interested in any bet upon the game.

Source: Beadle's Dime Base Ball Player, 1860


Vintage base ball is a stark contrast to today's modern game. It had its own lingo and our team's players stick to it. Batters are referred to as "strikers," a catcher is called a "behind," players are "ballists," errors are "muffs," and a scored run is a "tally" or "ace." Learn more vintage base ball terminology below.

Ball: apple Bat: ash, willow, timber Batter: striker Catcher: behind Error: muff, boot, juggle, mug Fans: rooters, cranks, bugs Fly Ball: cloud hunter, skyer, air ball Game: match Ground Ball: bug bruiser, daisy cutter, grass clipper, ant killer Hit: knock Hard Hit: hammer, stinger, stunner Hurrah!: Huzzah! Home Plate: Dish Innings: rounds Outfield: garden, outer garden Pitcher: hurler, bowler Player: ballist Run: ace, tally Shutout: whitewash Team: club, nine, match nine, side

Sports Scene

Nothing like 50s and 60s for baseball

While most people complain about getting old, I love it. I wish I was older, at least a couple of years so the government could send me those good social security checks, and maybe supply some health insurance while they're at it. As for my kids, maybe when I get older they'll quit begging me for all kinds of favors, mainly money.

As I drive around during these beautiful, warm, sunny afternoons, I never see a pickup baseball game, a game of strikeout, a wiffle ball game, a game of 500, maybe pickle or home run derby. Heck, I don't even see young kids on the street.

I know where they are. Instead of being outside, playing some baseball with their friends, they're inside their houses, playing X-Box 360 or whatever it's called. If not, they're playing other games on their computers, such as Call of Duty, Halo or Grand Theft Auto.

Back in the day, it was baseball all day. I packed a lunch, played a pickup baseball game in the morning, strikeout in the afternoon and then, two nights a week, it was time for a Little League game. When I didn't have a game at night, I was at the Land O' Lakes games in Hartland, watching the likes or Junior Klink of Hartland, Pete and Terry Stapleton and George Miller of North Lake, Jack Murphy of Merton, Chuck and Russ Bergles and Al "Stork" Hansen of Pewaukee and Ron Athas, Don Luko and Marty Barker of Oconomowoc.

I can remember leaving my house at 9 in the morning, putting my glove over the handlebars, holding onto my lunch and wearing my best pair of tennis shoes. Come to think of it, it was my only pair of tennis shoes, and most of the time they were worn out. Now, what, do kids have five pairs of tennis shoes, or more? Nowadays, they can't figure out which pair to wear, the Nikes or Addidas. For what one of those pairs cost, we could buy two pairs, a baseball glove, two hardballs and two bats.

In our day, every building we could find that had a brick wall (no windows close by, of course), some room to hit the ball, a fence or tree line to designate a home run, was home to a strikeout field. The strike zone was marked in chalk on the wall, and any pitch that hit the line or went inside it of it was a strike.

The strike zone was the same for everyone, whether you were 6-foot Clem Fetkenhauer, who was 25 years older than us, or 5-foot-8 Johnny Engel, who was impossible to strike out. As a 5-4 kid, you learned to hit pitches that were eye-high.

We played with fuzzy tennis balls and wooden bats. If you could hit the tree line at the old Hartland Grade School on Capitol Drive, you were Henry Aaron, Willie Mays and Harmon Killebrew wrapped into one. When the tennis balls broke, we went and bought a new can, and they were white then, not bright yellow. And if you could throw a curve with the tennis ball, you were either Bob Gibson, Warren Spahn or Sandy Koufax And Clem or Carl Benz had the best curve in town. Charlie Lippert had a big advantage on us playing strikeout. He lived right across the street.

The pickup baseball games were the best. Sometimes we only had six or eight guys. You ran the bases just like Major Leaguers, but each team had one or two imaginary runners if they needed them. With that few guys, you had to pick which side of second base you were going to hit to. If you hit it to the wrong side of second, you were out. I hated it when we had seven right-handers and one lefty, Bob Mallow. If we knew we had all righties, we'd conveniently forget to call Mallow.

We played with whatever kind of hardball we could find. Sometimes they were about as hard as a sock. Every now and then, somebody's mom would buy us a new one. As for bats, it was more like bat. We always had just one, two if we were lucky. When the wood broke, we got a couple of screws and put it back together. We played weeks with a cracked bat. Now, I have girlfriends that don't last that long.

These games were played all over the Lake Country: at Nixon Park in Hartland, the Armory in Oconomowoc and the Village Park in Pewaukee. The games were the same, only the players were different.

I just don't get why the baseball fields never have anyone on them during the day. Don't these modern-day kids get it?

Granted, we didn't have X-Box back then, not even computers. Maybe color television if we were lucky.

But what we did have is a love for the game of baseball, a love I know doesn't exist the same way today. And that's too bad.