The crack of the bat will be heard in Paducah again this summer at History Hits a Brooks Stadium
In 1903, Paducah was a booming river city; and any well-respected, American city of that day had a baseball team. The minor league Paducah Chiefs team made their debut that year as a part of the KITTY League (Kentucky–Illinois–Tennessee League). For the next half-century, the team remained a Paducah staple, affiliated with major league teams such as the Cincinnati Reds, the Pittsburgh Pirates, the Brooklyn Dodgers, and the St. Louis Cardinals.
And if Paducah was a baseball town, its capital was Brooks Stadium. Opened in 1949 under the leadership of J. Polk Brooks, baseball aficionados and fans instantly recognized Brooks Stadium as one of America’s premiere parks.
By 1996, however, the stadium sat in disrepair and was on the slate to be demolished. The Chiefs were long gone, and it looked like Paducah’s baseball days were finished. Dr. Frank “Doc” Hideg would have none of that, however. He quickly became the J. Polk Brooks of a new generation, enlisting an array of volunteers to resurrect the glory of Paducah’s baseball heydays. One of those volunteers was baseball fan Greg McKeel.
“It’s amazing what Doc Hideg did to turn that around,” says Greg. “It’s easy to say that we need to do something, but to actually do it in the way he did is amazing. And with the renovated stadium, we went to work coming up with competition to play.”
Brooks Stadium hosted games for the American Legion, the OVC, Paducah Tilghman, the Southern Illinois Miners, Murray State, the University of Kentucky, the NCBA World Series, and others.
“Every chance we get to have players on that field is a great thing,” adds Greg. “It’s one of the best playing surfaces in Kentucky. We hear that all the time from many of the players who get a chance to be here.”
Paducah was once again at the top of the game. The loss of the Paducah Chiefs remained a constant thought, however, for those who brought back baseball. This year, that history will come full circle.
“The Chiefs are returning!” says Greg. “Starting this year, we will have a college summer league, and our local team will be the Paducah Chiefs. It is a wooden bat team, and we’ve even gone back to the original uniforms for the design on the new ones.
It’s been a leap of faith. We finally decided last July that we needed to do something like this, and the response has been overwhelming acceptance and excitement.”
Greg approached community leaders about supporting the team and spoke with Paducah Bank CEO Joe Framptom. “Paducah Bank felt like we did about it,” adds Greg. “It is definitely a positive for our city. The team is owned by the community, and any income generated goes right back into the team. Paducah Bank understood the civic side and that this is purely Paducah. We are proud to have them as a sponsor!”
The once familiar Chief uniforms will be seen again on the field beginning June 4. The crack of the wooden bat will shoot its way across the eager crowd just as it did on Brooks Stadium’s
opening day in 1949.
Greg is happy to see the Chiefs return and hopes it will get more people to come experience the game and the stadium. “I’m amazed at how many people come up to me and tell me that even though they aren’t baseball people, they are excited about this. Even if you aren’t a baseball fan, you’ll want to go see this team and soak up the atmosphere. It’s unlike any other!”