Tagged: Columbia

New Columbia and Waterloo Sports photos

New Columbia and Waterloo High School sports photos have been added to my website.

Check them out at smugmug.com

Search Mark Hodapp

There are football, tennis, soccer and volleyball games shots from the last few days.

Let me know what you think and if you have any questions on how to order the photos.

Mark

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Labor of Love: Charlie’s minor league journey

 

By Mark Hodapp

It was a hard pill for Charlie Hopkins to swallow.

After spending nine seasons
in the St. Louis Browns organization,
Hopkins retired from
baseball in 1955 when he was
only 29.
“I wouldn’t take a million
dollars for the good time that I
had,” he says.
Hopkins, now 84, lives in
Columbia, Ill.
Charlie couldn’t help but
reminisce about his own playing
career after watching his
grandson, Gabe Hopkins, play
with the Waterloo High School
baseball team this spring.
A 2011 graduate, Gabe is
now playing with the Waterloo
Millers.
“The only advice I ever gave
to Gabe was just to swing the
bat,” Charlie says. “Don’t ever
get called out. That aggravates a
manager.”
For Charlie, baseball was a
labor of love.
He still loves the
game, and is sometimes its
“biggest critic.”
After graduating from Central
Catholic High School in
East Louis, Ill., in 1945, Charlie was
drafted and served in the U.S.
Navy.
Charlie was in basic training
when World War II ended, and
served 14 months.
After being discharged in
1946, he returned home and
worked as an apprentice with
the iron workers, following in
his dad’s footsteps.
He recalls his dad being un-
Browns for a $125 monthly salary
and $200 signing bonus in
1947.
Charlie was making $160 a
month as an iron worker.
“My dad didn’t think it was a
great deal,” he says.
Charlie was a catcher the
majority of his career.
However, he played in the
outfield with the Newark
Moundsmen of the Ohio State
League during his first professional
season.
Charlie, who was then 21,
had a career year. He hit .277
with 23 doubles, 17 triples, seven
home runs and 93 RBIs. He
also stole 15 bases.
He was promoted to Ada,
Okla. the following season. The
Herefords played in a rodeo
stadium, Charlie recalls.
“There wasn’t a blade of
grass,” he says. “And when the
rodeo would come to town, we
went on a road trip. When we
came home, the field was a
complete dust bowl. The guys
used to say a rabbit would have
to get its lunch across the
street.”
Charlie played with the
Springfield Barons in 1950. He
thought he had a chance to
make the big leagues that
spring.
Browns starting catcher Les
Moss underwent hemorrhoid
surgery in 1949.
But the Browns had other
ideas in mind, acquiring Sherman
Lollar from the Yankees in
a trade.
Instead of making it to the
big leagues, Charles Dewitt assigned
Hopkins to Wichita, the
Browns’ top minor league affiliate.
He played Class A ball for
two seasons.
Lollar was eventually traded
to the White Sox following the
1951 season.
In 1951, Bill Veeck purchased
the Browns.
To draw fans, Veeck gave
them “fun ‘n games.”
Veeck once asked Hopkins
to ride a white horse into a
game as part of a “Hopalong
Cassidy” promotion. Hopalong
Cassidy was a popular television
show that aired from 1952-
54.
But Charlie refused.
“I told Bill I have never rode
on a horse my life,” he says. “I
said kids would be throwing
rocks the rest of the season if
they saw me come in riding a
horse.”
Charlie never regretted his
decision.
Veeck moved the Browns to
Baltimore after the 1953 season.
Hopkins played three seasons
with the San Antonio Missions
finally before being released
after the 1954 season.
In 1955, Charlie was hired
to manage the Seminole Oilers.
“It was worse than high
school,” he says of his managing
experience.
“They didn’t have a clubhouse
or a shower. You had to
walk to a shower a block down
the street. The owner handed
out baseballs like they were
gold nuggets.”
Charlie also had many arguments
with the Seminoles owner,
who once asked Hopkins to
drive the team’s bus.
A defensive-minded catcher,
Charlie compares himself to
former St. Louis Cardinals
catcher Mike Matheny.
“I can’t say I had anybody’s
number (hitting),” he says. “But
I believe the best player I ever
played against was (former St.
Louis Cardinal third baseman)
Ken Boyer.”
Charlie once got in a fight
with Boyer during the 1954
season after a collision at home
plate.
“It seemed like we fought an
hour,” Charlie says. “But it lasted
only five minutes.”
He has no regrets about
hanging up the spikes.
Charlie says his family was
waiting for him.
“And I had to come home,
where I had a job waiting for
me,” he says.

Former big league pitcher in exclusive club

The Koenigsmark family, from left front row, are, Minnie, Jacob, Dorothea, Alyda and Amanda.
Back row: Alois, Conrad, Morris, Robert and Willis. Willis later pitched with the St. Louis Cardinals
in 1919.

By Mark Hodapp

Perhaps one of the rarest

feats has been accomplished by

only a handful of pitchers in

Major League Baseball. Former

Waterloo, Ill. native, the late Willis

Koenigsmark, was one of them.

Their ERAs are INF, also

known as “infinity.”

Koenigsmark is one of 13

big league pitchers who each

appeared in only one Major

League game in his career, gave

up at least one run but never

recorded an out, according to

David Smith at Project Retrosheet.

Surely it must have been

frustrating for Koenigsmark to

have earned a big league cup of

coffee, but never to have

achieved what every pitcher desires

most — an out.

Koenigsmark’s debut

On Sept. 10, 1919, St. Louis

Cardinals manager Branch

Rickey brought in right-hander

Koenigsmark to pitch against

the Brooklyn Dodgers.

Koenigsmark faced only

three Dodgers batters without

recording an out in his first and

only big league game.

Two of the batters scored,

giving Koenigsmark the dreaded

INF ERA.

Koenigsmark never pitched

in another big league game after

that.

He later made his living selling

seed corn in Waterloo, Ill., recalled

his niece Jean Stogner,

who still lives in Waterloo.

A World War I veteran, Koenigsmark

died July 1, 1972.

He was buried at Waterloo

City Cemetery.

Local baseball historian Rich

Fisher recalled meeting Koenigsmark

a couple weeks after

Fisher was discharged from the

service in 1967. He remembers

Koenigsmark asking him if

he’d be interested in starting

another baseball team in Waterloo

to compete in the Mon-Clair

League.

“He didn’t care how good or

bad of a team it was,” Fisher

said. “He just wanted to have

another team to compete against

another guy in town.”

That other guy was Waterloo

Millers manager Vern Moehrs.

Fisher told Koenigsmark

he’d need a couple of days to

think about it.

But he said he never heard

from Koenigsmark again.

Koenigsmark’s legacy

The Koenigsmark family has

a deep heritage and legacy in

Waterloo.

Willis was the grandson of

Thomas Koenigsmark, who

died Jan. 14, 1911, in Waterloo.

Thomas Koenigsmark for more

than a quarter of a century devoted

his energies to advancing

the interests of Waterloo.

A self-made man, Thomas

Koenigsmark came to the United

States as a poor immigrant

boy, without money or friends.

In time, he became a power

in the commercial world and

the organizer and promoter of

vast industries which made Waterloo

an important milling center.

Thomas Koenigsmark was

born at Merklin, Bohemia, and

as a youth heard of the wonderful

fortunes to be made in the

U.S.

When he was 13 years old,

he succeeded in accumulating

enough money to pay his passage

to New Orleans.

Thomas Koenigsmark made

the journey alone and arrived in

that city when it was in the grip

of a yellow fever epidemic.

“My mother (Alyda Koenigsmark)

said he came to the

United States with 50 cents in

his pocket and a violin,” Stogner

said.

In 1855, Thomas Koenigsmark

moved to St. Louis, but

subsequently settled at Columbia,Ill.,

where he was first employed

as a clerk in Beaird’s

store.

Later, Thomas Koenigsmark

followed the trade of tailor for a

short time, and worked in the

brick business for another short

period, owning a yard where the

Columbia, Ill. depot once stood prior

to the building of the Mobile

and Ohio Railroad.

In 1863, Thomas Koenigsmark

entered the mercantile

field as the proprietor of a store,

and successfully conducted it

until he purchased Gardner Mill

in Columbia. When the Chouteau

and Edwards Mill, in Waterloo,

was completely destroyed

by fire in 1884, the citizens

of this city asked him to

build a new mill, and this he did

in 1886, erecting the Koenigsmark

Mill.

Thomas Koenigsmark was

progressive in all things, and

was a firm believer in using the

most modern machinery and

methods.

During the 36 years that he

was engaged in milling, he saw

many changes in milling methods,

and was ever abreast of the

times.

While Thomas Koenigsmark’s

business career kept his

time well occupied, he found

leisure to enjoy those pleasures

that made his home life beautiful.

He was a great lover of music, the violin being his favorite

instrument, and in his younger

days showed considerable talent

as a performer.

Successful himself, Thomas

Koenigsmark enjoyed the success

of others, and was ever

ready to lend a helping hand to

those in need of assistance.

Thomas Koenigsmark retired

in 1899 and moved to St.

Louis, where he later died.

When Thomas Koenigsmark

retired, he signed over the mills

to his sons, John and Jacob

Koenigsmark.

Willis was the youngest of

Jacob and Dorothea Koenigsmark’s

eight children. The other

children were Minnie, Alyda,

Amanda, Alois Conrad, Morris

and Robert.

John Koenigsmark was the

grandfather of Virginia Sweet,

who still lives in Waterloo.

It’s not known how Willis

got his start in baseball.

“But I have been told he was

the athlete in his family,” Stogner

said.

It’s also not known what

happened to Thomas Koenigsmark’s

violin after it was sold in

a family auction in 1989.

But Stogner was able to find

and acquire the violin’s case

several years ago.