The Ottumwa Courier

Sports

October 3, 2013

Ottumwa coach of yesteryear meant a lot to his players

(Continued)

"We had to dodge a few cow chips," Peters added.

Yet, Baker always did what he could to make the fields as nice as possible for his players.

"This guy did everything he could to make it smooth as possible," Peters said.

Bakers' team also played at another unusual location: The prison in Fort Madison.

"Imagine a bunch of kids going in there," O'Lear said.

Back then, he said, every town had a baseball team and Ottumwa's team traveled to play most of them. One field the Ottumwa team regularly haunted was the field at the old Naval Aviation Base where the Ottumwa Regional Airport is today. In 1949, the Baker's Jr. club became the Baker's Jr. Eagles after the Fraternal order of Eagles Association became their sponsor. With the new sponsor came an upgrade in equipment and uniforms.

"The Eagles had us all go out and pick out a bat, which was cool," O'Lear said.

Despite having to play against a lot a lot older teams, the youthful Ottumwa squad finished 35-14 in 1949. Meanwhile Dewey became a well-known figure in baseball. After the successful season Dewey was presented with a set of bats autographed by the National League champs Boston Braves and the World Series winner Cleveland Indians. In addition, he got a letter from Hall of Fame coach Connie Mack, who holds the record for wins as a skipper (3,776).

"He was a god in baseball," O'Lear said about Mack.

Peters still appreciates how his old coach impacted his life so many years ago.

"He's a great man," he said. "I didn't get around to telling him. He wouldn't care. All he wanted you to do to was play ball and play hard. He just did a lot for the young guys, I just couldn't say enough."

To follow Andy Heintz's Twitter feed, go to @heintz23

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