Manuscript of the Month, April 2014
"1995 Official Yearbook of the Des Plaines Chiefs"
by guest blogger Benjamin Ill
While combing through the archives located within the Des Plaines History Center, I came across a box titled “Local Baseball Teams.” Being a red-blooded American, I pounced on the box and enthusiastically rifled through its contents, and what I found was the 1995 Official Yearbook of the Des Plaines Chiefs. The Des Plaines Chiefs were an amateur baseball team, formerly the Kenosha Chiefs, that moved to Des Plaines in 1995. The yearbook itself contains a few pages of advertisements for local businesses, a copy of the teams 1995 schedule, player biographies, official scorecards, and an interesting article entitled “Business Before Baseball.” Historians or local history enthusiasts can utilize this document in a number of different ways.
The “Business Before Baseball” article found within the yearbook provides a number of insights regarding amateur baseball and the process in which a team can form. The new stadium, “Oakton Plaines,” was the result of Oakton Community College (OCC) and Kenosha Chiefs Owner Scott Barter realizing a mutually beneficial relationship through amateur baseball. For Scott Barter, it was an agreement that provided his baseball team with a much needed home. For OCC, it was a way to make much needed improvements to its baseball facilities. Realizing the mutual need and the opportunities a new stadium would create for both parties, the $575,000 dollar stadium project was agreed upon. The new facility was to include lighting, seating for 1500, concession and restroom facilities, locker rooms, and parking for 300 cars.
The article also provides information regarding investment and revenue. For instance, the $575,000 dollar stadium was broken down into different tiers. 4 investors contributed the bulk of the funding to the tune of $425,000 while 30 investors made up the remaining $150,000 with a minimum investment of $5,000. The group would then expect a return on their investment, projecting $159,775 in revenue generated in the first year by billboard advertisements, concession sales, and field rentals for local organizations and tournaments.
The team itself created an opportunity for local high school and college baseball players to continue playing throughout the summer. With 37 games scheduled between May and August, the Des Plaines Chiefs were expected to not only provide local players with a competitive opportunity, but also provide affordable entertainment for the local community throughout the summer. Upon examination of the players biographies found within the yearbook, 11 players listed on the roster attended OCC, 9 players attended other colleges, and 9 players were from local area high schools.
This Yearbook is very interesting for a number of reasons. First, who knew there was an amateur baseball team in Des Plaines?! I was born and raised in northwest Chicagoland and have never heard of the team. Second, the business side of amateur baseball is highlighted within the yearbook, providing insight into the cooperation necessary between an organization and locale in creating a successful stadium project. Third, it provides interesting insight into the players and coaches that made up the team. By leafing through this document an interesting, pure American story can be told regarding Des Plaines and its involvement in Americas Favorite Pastime!