Ozarks Life: The time the KC Monarchs played in Stockton
In the late 1920s, the Kansas City Monarchs would play exhibitions against town teams.
STOCKTON, Mo. (KY3) - We receive a lot of story ideas thanks to our viewers.
A few weeks ago, our executive producer at Ozarks Today, Brett Onstott, gave Chad Plein a story idea to track down.
On a recent trip to Kansas City, he dropped by the Negro League Baseball Museum and inside a glass case, he saw a poster that said: “Kansas City Monarchs at Stockton MO.”
It’s the same poster Stockton native Liz Manring saw 15 years ago.
“That’s my town,” Liz said. “Nothing happens in my town. Why would they have been in my town?”
Long before the lake, the Monarchs filled Stockton with excitement. Liz, then a Mizzou journalism student in 2007, started digging into this unique find and found...
“There wasn’t a year on that poster,” Liz said. “August 5 would have been a Thursday. So I figured out that it was 1920, 1926, or 1937. And then I went from there.”
After going through a few old Cedar County Republican papers, there it was in the August 5, 1926 edition.
“It’s just this little one-inch story,” Liz said.
The blurb read, “Doc Steward will be on the mound for Stockton and baseball fans know what that means. A real game with plenty of thrills.”
Bolivar native, Gus “Doc” Steward had just finished playing pro ball for the Salt Lake City team. Legend says he was the horse you wanted if you needed to win a game.
But still, why was this recent Negro League World Champion playing in Stockton to begin with?
“On the way to St. Louis,” Negro Leagues Baseball Museum curator, Raymond Doswell said, “or maybe up to Chicago, which had another league team, or down to Memphis where there was another league team, they would travel and play in many of these communities. They could be white, could be black teams, it didn’t matter. But these were extra games, or they could play making more money.”
Money from tickets sold.
And while a majority of today’s residents didn’t know the Monarchs stopped by in the 1920s, Liz found the crowd at the game was almost double the town’s size that day.
“A crowd of 1,600 fans coming here from a radius of 125 miles saw the Kansas City Monarchs champion Negro League baseball team of the world defeat Stockton to a score of seven to three here last Thursday,” Liz read from the Cedar County Republican. “However, our boys should be proud of holding them to as small a score is that since the Monarchs during the last seven years have lost but two games out of more than 100 games played.”
“They had a lot of great players and great talent on that team,” Doswell added. “And just a few years after that, they continue traveling throughout the Midwest. They’re traveling with a portable lighting system that they could take to small communities and large cities to play night baseball as well.”
So we confirmed there was a game.
Why it was played and what happened.
But we still needed a where.
The youth ballfield near the school was too new. Liz and I ran into dead ends at the Stockton City Hall and the Cedar County Courthouse; their plat maps didn’t show any ballparks.
But you know what, it’s amazing what a guy can learn at a quilt club luncheon...
“Oak and Vine,” said long-time resident Guss Rutledge, who was named after that famed pitcher, Gus “Doc” Steward who was the town doctor when Guss was born.
This past week, 96-years after the game was played, Guss showed Chad a clearing behind some homes. That’s where the game was played. The final piece of the puzzle.
“I can’t imagine having like really, really good athletes in Stockton,” Liz said. “You know, playing at that level, just as a ‘town team’ I think that’s so cool.”
Liz ended up finding many former Stockton and Monarch players’ families for her research. She was asked to make a presentation in Chicago at a Negro Leagues event in 2008.
The Monarchs would play again in Stockton in August of 1929, and then years later in 1960.
While a complete record of their exhibition games is not known, many historians say the Monarchs won 400 of 403 exhibition games played against town teams.
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