The residents of Muscotah understand that baseball was mostly just the excuse for getting together last Saturday.
The main event was a community showing its pride in itself and having some fun with its relatively minor connection to a piece of baseball history.
Maybe you’re familiar with the baseball poem “Tinker to Evers to Chance,” about a famous double-play-making trio that played for the Chicago Cubs during the team’s glory days in the early 1900s. But did you know that Joe Tinker, who played shortstop for the Cubs back then, was born in Muscotah? So what if he moved away when he was 5 years old. That’s no reason not to celebrate his Kansas connection and use his ties to Muscotah to anchor a signature event.
According to the Journal-World’s report, more than 300 spectators — about double the town’s population — gathered in Muscotah on Saturday to celebrate “Joe Tinker Day.” They looked at the former water tower tank that had been repainted like a giant baseball and heard about the vision for turning it into a mini-museum in Tinker’s honor. They ate Cracker Jack and had a chance to say hello to some Tinker descendants who came to Muscotah for the event. Then, they got to step back in time and see two nine-man baseball teams in vintage uniforms play the game the way it was played in the 1870s: with bats and balls but no gloves (ouch!).
This was no small undertaking for a town the size of Muscotah, but it serves as a great example of what a few committed people can accomplish if they set their minds to it. The effort was aided by about $6,000 and 40 volunteers from the Kansas Sampler Foundation, which celebrates and supports small towns around Kansas, but it wouldn’t have happened without an enthusiastic group of local residents.
Saturday’s gathering in Muscotah was about baseball, but it also was about a little town with a sense of pride and a desire to share that with other people. There are communities like that all across Kansas, including some right here in Douglas County.
Joe Tinker Day should serve as an inspiration to other small communities around the state that have a story to share. Maybe the Muscotah effort could be expanded into a vintage baseball tour with teams staging exhibition games across the state. If not baseball, almost every little town in Kansas has some reason to want to toot its own horn and invite visitors to join the celebration.
Various state programs have offered tax credits and other enticements to help rural Kansas towns attract and retain residents, but nothing is more important to the health of a small town than a group of committed residents, like those in Muscotah, with a sense of pride and a sense of fun. We applaud the residents of Muscotah and look forward to the next celebration of Joe Tinker Day.