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.
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.
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