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Archive for March, 2011

Batter up! Baseball and Hershey

 

 

 

Hershey Athletic Field, Hershey vs. Ephrata; Abe Dieroff up to bat.  1913

Hershey Athletic Field, Hershey vs. Ephrata; Abe Dieroff up at bat. 1913

 

 

Hershey and baseball have been together for over a century.  Soon after the opening of the Hershey Chocolate Factory in 1905, the community’s first baseball team was assembled by John Snavely.  Hershey fielded more than one baseball team, particularly after the Y.M.C.A. was established in 1910.  In addition to local community teams, there was also an “Industrial League,” which consisted of teams from the Knockout, Office, and Shipping Room departments (in the chocolate factory), battling the Improvement Company, Store Company, and Craftsmen teams.  In the 1913 anniversary celebration, games against Lebanon and P.&.R. of Harrisburg were featured events.  The teams were sometimes small in the early years, but the games played on the Hershey Park athletic field were often attended by large and enthusiastic crowds.  Spectators packed the grandstands to watch Hershey take on teams from Elizabethtown, Lebanon, Harrisburg, and their intense rivals, Palmyra.  The Hershey Press covered the games offering highlights as well as batting and fielding averages and league standings.

 

 

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Hershey Baseball Team, ca. 1910 Bill Murrie is in first row, 4th from left.

 

William F.R. Murrie, president of the Hershey Chocolate Company, managed many of the early baseball teams.  As a young man Murrie played in a semi-professional league as a pitcher.  He enjoyed many sports, particularly baseball.  Players were drawn from the employees and community residents.  Several players were also recruited from the Carlisle Indian School.  Several American Indian students worked in the chocolate factory in the summer, playing on Hershey baseball teams and other sports for Hershey teams during their stay. The Carlisle students came to Hershey because of a personal friendship between Bill Murrie and Glenn “Pop” Warner, the Indian School’s football coach.

 Milton Hershey even came close to owning a professional baseball team.  Although no one is certain why, Milton Hershey strongly disliked William Wrigley, Jr., founder of the chewing gum company.  Wrigley owned the Chicago Cubs, a professional baseball team in the National League.  Milton Hershey sent John Myers, owner of a Lancaster baseball team, to try to purchase the Philadelphia Phillies baseball team, which would compete with the Cubs in the National League.  While Milton Hershey would have overpaid to acquire the team, Myers refused to pay the $350,000 the owner was asking.  Since Milton Hershey could not beat Wrigley on the baseball field, he began to manufacture chewing gum, selling six sticks in a pack instead of five, to try to compete with Wrigley.

Year Round Entertainment: Hershey Central Theater

Hershey Press advertisement for Hershey Central Theatre, January 1, 1926

Hershey Press advertisement for Hershey Central Theatre, January 1, 1926

 

I’ve been working on a new powerpoint presentation to tell the story of the history of entertainment in Hershey.  While modern Hershey is well known as being a destination for all sorts of entertainment, providing a broad range of entertainment opportunities was part of Hershey’s allure from its earliest years. The Hershey Press (available online from the Archives website) is a great resource for learning about Hershey during these early years.  Hershey Park offered vaudeville and band concerts from the beginning.  But the park was not the only venue for entertainment.
 
 
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After the M.S. Hershey Consolidated School opened in 1914, McKinley School, the original public school building, was remodelled and renamed Hershey Central Theater.  Developed to present a wide range of entertainment during the Park’s off-season months, the Central Theater operated as a movie house, showing movies 2-3 times a week (Monday, Saturday and sometimes Wednesdays) for $.10.  The theater was also used for vaudeville, lectures, concerts, political rallies and church services.  Sunday afternoons frequently featured presentations by inspirational speakers and concerts by the Hershey orchestra, Hershey Glee Club and other local groups.
 
Live theater was also alive and well in Hershey during these early years and the Men’s Club, Women’s Club and other organizations presented a variety of theatrical performances.
 
As an early center for community life, Hershey opened a Visitor Information Bureau here in 1915.  That same year the Hershey Public Library moved to this facility.  The library and the information bureau operated from this building, until it was demolished to make way for the new Community Building, which opened in 1933.