Play Ball! – Baseball Town Reading, Pa

Reading Police Department “Base Ball” Team Photo, 1924 (From the Homan Collection, BHC’s Research Library)

For baseball aficionados, nothing says Spring as much as the words “Play Ball!” Reading, Pennsylvania has a long history in baseball, dating back to 1875 when the Reading Actives organized one of the first professional minor league teams.  Playing the game at what is now 17th and Perkiomen Avenue, players wore no gloves or other protective equipment.

Over the decades there were changes in both teams and leagues beginning in 1890. Teams such as the Coal Barons, the Keystones, the Chicks, the Indians and the Red Sox played in Reading from 1919 through 1940. Leagues included International, New York-Pennsylvania, Inter-State and Eastern.

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The Reading Actives (From The Historical Review of Berks County, vol. 8, no. 4, 1943)

From 1907 until 1941, Reading professional teams played at Lauer’s Park Stadium at 3rd and Elm Streets. 1919 to 1932 were great years for the International League. The Reading Aces, later called the Keystones, were managed by Charles Albert (Chief Bender), a Hall of Famer who invented the slider.  In 1929, George Quellich,  playing for the Keystones, set a professional baseball record that still stands: 15 hits in 15 consecutive at bats.

A Game at Lauer’s Park (From the Photograph Collection, BHC’s Research Library)

Poor attendance caused teams to leave Reading, which resulted in ten years without a team or stadium by 1942. The first ball tossed out at the new Reading Municipal Stadium was on July 15, 1951. In 1957, the Reading Indians were post season champs. Notable Reading Indians players included Rocky Colavito and Roger Maris.

Concession stand items from the 1955 Reading Indians:

  • Hot Dogs                        .20
  • Coca-Cola                       .10
  • Cracker Jack                  .15
  • Y-B Cigars                      .10 +  .25
  • Cushions                        .25  (Rented only)

The  Phillies have been in Reading since 1967. Here are a few notables who have appeared on their roster: Ron Allen, Larry Bowa, Mike Schmidt, Bob Boone, Pat Burrell, Jimmy Rollins,Greg Lusinski and Marlon Byrd. The state’s approval in July 1973 of the sale of beer at the stadium turned things around financially.  Improvements and repairs were made including the new electronic scoreboard. The Reading Phillies, bought by the Philadelphia Phillies in 2008, are the oldest team in the Eastern League to play in their original city with the most seasons under their original name. They are tied for the longest affiliation in Minor League baseball.

Today, the Reading Fightin Phils’ are ready for the start of the 2017 season at First Energy Stadium. Play Ball!

Sources and Further Reading:


  • Tales from Baseballtown: Vignettes from the Storied History of Baseball in Reading, Pennsylvania and Baseball in Reading: Images of Baseball both by Charlie Adams
  • “Early Baseball in Reading,” by Bruce K. Gerhart, The Historical Review of Berks County vol. 8, no. 4, 1943.
  • “Berks Players in Major League Baseball, Part I,” by David Q. Voigt, The Historical Review of Berks County, vol. 34, no. 4, 1966.
  • “The Reading International League Baseball Team — 1919 to 1962,” by Jack Linton, The Historical Review of Berks County, vol. 55, no. 3, 1990.
  • “Reading’s First Two Pennants — Outlaw and Otherwise,” by Kevin Tully and Brian Englehardt, The Historical Review of Berks County, vol. 80, no. 4, 2015.
  • Reading’s Big League Exhibition Games by Brian Englehardt

Article Researched & Written by Gail Corvaia

Scholla: The Declaration House July 1, 1942

The Declaration House  7/1/1942

Where did Thomas Jefferson write they Declaration of Independence? This question puzzled historians and antiquarians for nearly 100 years and several old Philadlephia houses claimed the honor. In 1883 Thomas Donaldson established the fact that Jefferson established the fact that Jefferson penned the immortal document in the home of Jacob Graeff Jr., 700 Market Street, Philadelphia. The processes by which he arrived at this conclusion form interesting reading today.

Early Pennsylvania tradition had it that the document was penned at the Indian Queen, an ancient hostelry near the State House in Philadelphia, now Independence Hall. This tradition was based upon the assumption that Jefferson frequently rented rooms at the Indian Queen and the belief was that the year of 1776 was no exception.

In September, 1825 less than a year before Jefferson’s death, a Mrs. Clymer, then residing at 700 Market St., advanced the claim that Jefferson had lodged in the house she was occupying and there wrote the immortal document. Her claims interested one Dr. James Mease who knew ex-president Jefferson well enough to write him and ask for the facts. The following is a portion of the letter which Jefferson wrote in reply:

“So far, I state from written proof in my possession. At the time of writing the instrument (Declaration) I lodged at the house of a Mr. Graff, a new brick house, three stories high, of which I rented the second floor, consisting of a parlor and bedroom ready and furnished. In that parlor I wrote habitually and in it this paper (the Declaration) particularly. The proprietor, Graff was a young man, son of a German and then newly married. I think that he was a bricklayer.” (Jacob Graeff Jr. was a building contractor 1774-1808). From other sources it was learned that Jefferson took rooms at Graff’s on May 23rd, 1776, paying 35 schillings sterling per week. He took his meals elsewhere.

In 1777 Jacob Graeff sold his house on Market Street to Jacob Hiltzheimer, just a few weeks before that lover of fine horses was forced to flee from Philadelphia to escape the invading British, and make his new home at Angelica in Berks County.

Jefferson’s letter had established the fact that the Declaration was written in the Graeff house, but there was still some doubt as to just which house on Market Street had been the original Graeff dwelling. Jefferson was not sure, 50 years after the writing of the Declaration, whether it had been 700 or 702 Market Street. He did remember that the house stood alone at the time of his tenancy. All records showed that both houses were built and owned by Jacob Graeff in 1777.

In 1883 Thomas Donaldson watched the demolition of the two colonial brick houses which stood on the southwest corner of Seventh and Market Streets. He noted the condition of the walls; the way the rafters and beams were placed and how the masonry was joined. His observations proved, beyond the vestige of a doubt that number 700 was built before 702 and that therefore that was the spot where the Declaration of Independence was born.