The History of Baseball in Wichita
Who’s ready to hear the echo of a hit, the roar of a crowd, a rousing rendition of "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" and lest we not forget, two weeks of tournament play in late July and early August.
That’s right folks, its baseball season in downtown Wichita at Lawrence Dumont Stadium.
Our Wingnuts return with an exhibition game against Friends University at 11 a.m. on Wednesday, May 9. Be sure to go to to check out this season’s schedule and promotions.
This is my favorite part of living in Wichita—we have baseball! It may not be the big show, but any kind of baseball will do. There’s something special about the game.
If you remember the movie Bull Durham, it was Susan Sarandon that quoted Leo Durocher when she said “Baseball is like church. Many attend, few understand.” Everyone loves going, they’re not sure what draws them in, but they’re loyal and they show up to root, root, root for the home team.
The Start of Baseball in Wichita
Baseball has been around the ICT since as early as 1872 when the first “Base Ball Fraternity” formed a club, according to Mark Eberle’s book "Kansas Baseball: 1858-1941." Just like the city itself, the location and game has evolved. He mentions that throughout the decades there has been amateur, semipro and professional baseball of some sort within the city. There has also been numerous fields and ballparks.
Did you know one of the first main diamonds was in Riverside Park? Eberle even describes a pasture that was used to hosts games. It was bordered by Central and Douglas on the north and south sides, with Washington and Hydraulic on the east and west sides. To put that in some geographical perspective, it was located just west of present-day I-35. Goes to show, you can really strike up a game of hardball anywhere.
Island Park was opened in 1912 near Douglas Avenue on Ackerman Island. That’s right folks, if you’ve not heard already, the Arkansas River in downtown used to be home to an island. Ackerman Island was eventually filled in along the shallow, western side of it to the mainland as part of a federal work relief program. Today, Exploration Place sits on what was Ackerman Island.
Island Park hosted games until the 1933 season when the grandstand was consumed by fire. If you’d like to see more historic aerial shots of the island from 1917, go to Wichitaphotos.org and search "sports" or "recreation."
One of the most notable tenants of Island Park was that of Raymond “Hap” Dumont. In 1931, he established what would become known today as the National Baseball Congress or NBC. Hap lobbied for a new ballpark that would sit at the corner of Maple and Sycamore. To prevent future damage from fires, the ballpark would be built of concrete. Construction of the park was thanks in part to federal work projects during the Depression era.
Lawrence Stadium was officially dedicated on August 3rd, 1934. In his book, Eberle notes the name of the stadium was named for a gentleman by the name of Robert E. Lawrence whom was an early settler in that area of the ballpark. Today we know the park as Lawrence-Dumont Stadium as it was changed in 1971 to include the name of the man who made it possible, Hap Dumont.
Since 1934, Wichitans still flock through the gates to climb up the concrete ramps to find their seats to enjoy a good ‘ol fashion baseball game. I would also recommend enjoying at least a hot dog, some peanuts and a cold beverage of your choice while there. There’s no other way to do it.
May is here and it’s time to play ball!