In The News

Monroe County puts its sports history on display

This article appeared in the Belleville News-Democrat

By Patrick Kuhl

Sports are a big deal Monroe County.

That’s why they landed “Hometown Teams,” a traveling exhibit from the Smithsonian Institution celebrating local sports that opens Saturday.

And a committee has put together a local exhibit, “From Fields to Dreams,” spotlighting Monroe County standout athletes and teams in all sports, uniforms, sports memorabilia and events.

“It’s amazing how many great athletes and championship teams have come from Monroe County,” said Rich Binder, chairman of the organizing committee. “These exhibits will blow you away.”

The exhibits will open with a ceremony at 10 a.m. Saturday at the Monroe County History Museum, 724 Elaine Drive, Waterloo, and will remain open until Sept. 7. Admission is free to the exhibits and all related events.

“The Smithsonian exhibit consists of 27 cases that contain a two-dimensional display” of photographs and artifacts, Binder said. It was still being assembled on Thursday, so he had not had a chance to see it yet. “But the Smithsonian exhibits are first class.”

The local exhibit is what Binder and 11 other committee members are most proud of.

“It’s really hands on with uniforms, bats, balls, photos, cheerleader uniforms and much more in all sports, even fishing, swimming and horseshoes,” Binder said. “There’s a big high school emphasis. Each of the high schools — Waterloo, Columbia, Gibault and Valmeyer– has a set of four lockers on display. They filled them with letter jackets, cheerleader uniforms, school records, photos, newspaper clippings, whatever was important to their school.” Each set of lockers has a 32-inch TV that will show videos of school sports put together by students.

Here are a just a few of the things Binder, who was a star pitcher on the 1965 Waterloo High School state champion baseball team and played for the University of Illinois, doesn’t want you to miss:

Uniforms from hometown boy Bud Rippelmeyer’s major league baseball career as a player and coach with the San Diego Padres, Philadelphis Phillies and New York Mets.

A photo of an 1895 cycling team.

A 40-odd-year-old ring a Monroe County bowler got from the American Bowling Congress. “In the old days, if you bowl a 300 game, you got a ring. This one has a diamond it it. Later, they were cubic zirconia.”

And, don’t forget the toilet bowl.

“In the mid-60s and 70s,” Binder explained, “college guys from Waterloo and Valmeyer high schools played a tackle football every Thanksgiving morning — with no equipment. It grew into a rivalry. The winners got to keep the toilet bowl. All the players signed the lid. The original toilet bowl was lost, so we had to make a new one.”

The big event on opening day is the vintage baseball doubleheader between the Belleville Stags and the St. Louis Perfectos at 11:30 a.m. Saturday in a grassy field at 121 Plaza Drive in Waterloo.

“They play 1800s style,” Binder said, “with no gloves or backstops. When there’s a close play, the runner and the baseman decide if he was safe or out. If they can’t agree, there’s a guy called an arbiter. They really play to the fans, sometimes the arbiter will ask the fans if they thought the runner was safe or out.”

It’s free to watch the game.

A Rawlings bat trailer will be on hand to show how bats are made. Spectators can purchase 17-inch-long commemorative bats, along with a vintage baseball program that includes baseball cards of the players, for $10.

Event schedule

Opening ceremony, 10 a.m. Saturday at the Monroe County History Museum in Waterloo

Vintage Baseball Exhibition Games and Rawlings Trailer, 11:30 a.m. and approximately 1:15 p.m. Saturday, 121 Plaza Drive, Waterloo

Exploring Sports History Through Music, 8 p.m. Tuesday, courthouse square, Waterloo. The Waterloo Municipal Band will perform baseball-themed tunes. Members of the Monroe Actors Stage Company will present the Abbott and Costello spoof “Who’s on First?” and “Casey at the Bat.”

“I’ve seen them,” Binder said. “They are fantastic.”

Kloepper Tournament, 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Turner Hall, Columbia. Kloepper is a German game that uses 24 cards. “We like to think us folks in Monroe County are the only ones who play it,” Binder said with a laugh. There’s a $5 entry fee.

“Women and Sports Before and After Title IX,” 7 p.m. Aug. 7, Metzger-Crook VFW Hall, Waterloo. Athletes and coaches who attended all four county high schools will participate on panel to discuss the major impact Title IX had on women’s sports in Monroe County.

“Back to the Future,” 7 p.m. Aug. 14, Metzger-Crook VFW Hall, Waterloo. Retired sports writer Art Voellinger will moderate a panel of high school coaches, athletic directors, a referee and former athletes to talk about changes in team sports.

“Chalk Lines, Blood Lines: Talkin’ Baseball,” 7 p.m. Aug. 21 at Turner Hall in Columbia. Voellinger will lead a panel of former high school athletes who played professional baseball, and fans, contrasting the major leagues from 60 years ago till today. Panel members influde former major league players Trent Blank, Nellie Mathws and T.J. Mathews (Columbia High); and Bud and Brad Rippelmeyer (Valmeyer).