To look back on one’s past with satisfaction is to live twice, and that’s exactly what happened Saturday at the Katy Depot.
The Sedalia Area Chamber of Commerce honored the local legends of baseball with a showcase of newspaper clippings, photographs, baseball gear and, most importantly, stories from a different time in Sedalia’s history.
The Chamber held the event in conjunction with the unveiling of a replica of the stadium grandstand. The group commemorates a historic building each year.
There were no dark clouds looming over these baseball players. No talk of steroids or chasing a home run record. No holding out for more money or a longer contract.
These athletes played for the love of the game and contributed so much in
laying the foundation so children can continue to play baseball.
One of the favorite items on display at the Katy Depot was Bus Walker’s perfect game ball.
The date was July 21, 1946, at Liberty Park Stadium. The Sedalia American Legion Ramblers squared off against A.G. Thomas Motors of Marshall in a semipro state tournament.
“I was the manager of the team,” said Jessie “Jake” Sumners as he began to recall the historic game. “I’m not sure but I think he (Bus Walker) had been married for a short time, and he was my pitcher for the day.
“... He didn’t show up so I went out to his house to get him. He got out of bed sleepy, and he didn’t want to go so I practically begged him to come out there (Liberty Park), and he pitched that no-hitter. He brags about that no-hitter, but I’m the cause of it.”
Sumners played for the Sedalia Merchants as their catcher in the late 1930s through the early ’50s, including the opening game at the new Liberty Park Stadium.
Most professional athletes today have their careers end because of old age or an injury of some kind. Players in the 1940s had their careers end because of more pressing issues, like national security and World War II.
“An order came down ... every able body person had to go overseas,” said Sumners. “So that broke up the ball team.”
With stories aplenty, word circulated about ballgames where there were not enough seats at Liberty Park to hold all the spectators.
“They didn’t have anything else to do, so they came to the ballgames,” Sumners said. “We had good teams. We brought in good teams, yeah. We filled up those grandstands every time.”
From $50 contracts in the 1950s to million dollar contracts in the 21st century, baseball, like everything, has changed over time.
Most of the Sedalia legends still follow baseball and that likely won’t change anytime soon because the game is ingrained in their souls.
Sedalia is a blessed community to have such a rich tradition of baseball and by remembering the past heroes, it’s well on its way to continuing the tradition.