In the depths of winter, Gary Lee is busy scheduling and planning for baseball season.
As the event coordinator for Cowtown’s Vintage Base Ball Club, Lee’s mission is to portray history. For years, he and his family have volunteered for various activities at Old Cowtown Museum. But vintage baseball has become a passion.
“I suspected there was more to Wichita than just cattle drives, brothels and cowboys,” Lee said. “My wife and I began to do research and found articles on baseball teams in Wichita in the 1870s.”
It was an era when small towns everywhere had baseball teams and residents socialized by attending games, Lee said.
In August 1879, The Beacon reported the results of a game between the Westerns of Topeka and the Bull Dozers of Wichita. The Topeka team was received by a “proper committee” at the train and taken to the Occidental for lunch. The teams later played a game at the fairgrounds that was called after seven innings because of the late hour. The Westerns won 4-1 with 300 people in attendance.
In the 21st century, Cowtown’s Vintage Base Ball Club has two teams — the Wichita “Red Stockings” and the Wichita “Bull Dozers.”
“I do this for the love of history and for the love of baseball,” Lee said. “It is something my family and I can do together.
“We have several father-son combinations that participate. It is a lot of fun.”