The city of Hays has a long-standing baseball history. Records show that the game was played as early as 1869 as a team of soldiers from Fort Hays challenged the Hays Town Team to a game. Photographs have been found as early as 1901 of the Hays Team. From 1869 to 1945, the team went by the name of The Hays Town Team and was sponsored by various orginazations and businesses in Hays. Box scores have been found from as early as 1877.
During the 1946 season the team started as the Hays Town Team, but before the end of the season became known as the Hays Larks. The Larks name was penned by Mrs. Bill Downs in 1946 during a “name the team” contest.
Newspaper research and an interview with Gene “Dusty” Glassman bring into view a storied background of semi-pro baseball through the ages in Hays. Dusty became involved with Hays baseball in 1926 as a batboy, and later played many years and managed for a few years before turning his attention to the little league program. The 20’s produced starts like infielders John Reidel, Frank Harmon, pitcher Roady Unrein and outfielder Dutch Lorbeer. The 30s started the golden age for Hays baseball when Dusty Glassman, Ed Walters, Rich Staab, Cocky Sexton, Tom Thompson, Clem Weisner, Ed Schmidt and Mox Koerner took the field.
In the middle of those years the 1936 team has long been considered one of the best of Hays teams. The roster read Tony Roth, manager, Tom Thompson, cf, Mox Koerner, rf, Ed Schmidt, lf, Ed Walters, 1b, Bud Piatt, 2b, Dusty Glassman, ss, George “Bloody” Weaver, 3b, Celly Staab, c, and pitchers Anselm “Lefty” Braun, Clem Werth, Jerry Staab, and Paul Enright. Pete Hance who also was involved in Hays baseball for many years was a sub on this team that won 26 games and lost 4.
Several members of this team stayed involved for many years – “Dusty”, Ed Walters and “Lefty” Braun had outstanding years well into the 40’s. Dusty and Ed were hitting leaders for years trading off leading the team in batting average and home runs. In 1939, Walters had a dream season-hitting .370, with 14 home runs, four triples and five doubles, 22 walks in only 119 times at bat. Braun was the pitcher of choice when a game “had to be won” and he did that until 1950.
During the 40’s, the current baseball stadium came into being and fans flocked to the games, lining the foul lines with their cars and picnic blankets and chairs. Kids hustled after foul balls for a nickel and ran up and down the cars looking for empty pop bottles for a rebate of 2¢. The players responded with outstanding games including games with the Kansas City Monarchs and Satchel Paige and the House of David teams. Every means was used to make sure the games were played including burning a flooded infield to insure a game with the House of David would go on as scheduled.
Players shining druing those years included Glassman, Walters, Les Pelzel, Tony Ruder, Marvin “Lefty” Dreiling, “Lefty” Braun, Hilary Schumacher, Tony “Red” Pfeifer, Hess Ruder, Bill Walters, Ed Wasinger and Earl Hobbs, who years later lured New Yorker Frank Leo to Hays and insured the success of the Larks teams into the future. During the 1941 season pitcher Ed Leiker won an astonishing 18 games and fanned 226 batters, both still team records. In 1948, the team lost one of their best when Ed Walters, then only 31, was electrocuted while working.
The 30’s and 40’s were arguably the heyday of semi-professional baseball in the Hays area as every town had teams and their fans follwed them faithfully. Victoria, Catherine, Severin, Loretto, Pfeifer, Good Hope, and Antonio all had teams and outstanding ballplayers and the competition was fierce at most games. Also during most of the 40’s, there was the Hays Junior Larks which added to the rivalries.
With the advent of television and major league games coming into homes in the early 50’s baseball seemed to be dying in many towns and even Dusty hung it up in 1953 and in one of his last games as manager led his team to win a pinch hit home run. In 1954, Albert “Jay” Schyler as manager and Duane Goodwin as president of the Hays Baseball Association stepped in to revive the Hays Larks. Goodwin not only served as president but everything from there on down including selling tickets at the gate. A band of new outstanding players emerged including several from the late 40’s, “Red” Pfeifer and John Roth and newcomers, Norman “Raschi” Pfeifer, John Jacobs, Clair Dome, Arlen Walters, Jim Maska, Les Herman, Jim Casper, John Floyd, Merle Hergert, John Karlin, Vic Higgins and pitcher Don “Andy” Reigel.
Reigel made history in 1956 by pitching an afternoon game right handed and a night game left handed winning both. During those years, Higgins and Karlin had banner seasons of .458 and .439 batting averages, respectively. The 1957 team capped the decade by placing 4th at the Wichita State Tournament, the higest a Hays team had achieved to that point in time.
Fewer teams dotted the local area during the 60’s, but the Larks produced another round of outstanding ball players. Several of the 50’s players, Raschi Pfeifer, Walters, Jacobs, Dome, Herman, were joined by Ken Haas, Bob Boyd, Warren Schmidt, Dennis Leiker, Maurice Leiker, Laverne Schumacher, Dave Heil, Ron Shueler, Bob Power and Bill Schafer. Late in that decade Marvin Miller and Ken Dinkel came aboard and led the Larks into the 70’s. Haas, Miller, Dinkel and of course, Schueler, who later went on to major league fame both as a player and general manager, were among the best of Larks during those years.
In 1976, the Jayhawk League was formed. This is an NCAA sanctioned summer collegiate league. With the collegiate aspect coming into play, the Larks took on a new look. Hays always had a good talent base and their talent combined with other college players have been a good mix for the new Larks. Travel had become extensive. Trips to Munjor, Victoria, and the like would be a welcome sight compared to the travel now. At one point, the league stretched from Amarillo, Texas to Clarinda, Iowa. Three to five-day road trips are common. Hays and Liberal are the only two teams from the inaugural year in 1976. The Hutchinson Broncos became the Wichita Broncos and currently are the El Dorado Broncos. Other members were Red Oak, Iowa, St. Joseph, Mo., Clarinda, Iowa, Amarillo, Texas, Elkhart and Topeka. Today the league consists of Hays, Liberal, El Dorado, Dodge City, Wellington, Haysville, Bethany Oklahoma and the Derby Twins.
The League has been hot bed for talent over the years. Players like Roger Clemens, Ozzie Smith, Rafael Palmero, Barry Bonds, Mike McFarlen and Trevor Hoffman all honed their skills in the Jayhawk League. There are many others who went into a major league career. The Hutchinson Broncos had a starting outfield of Bonds, Palmero and Pet Incaviglia in 1983. The Larks have had their share of marquee names: Jim Leyritz (1985), Lance Berkman (1995), and Albert Pujols (1999) and Jack Wilson (1996). There have been many other Larks players in the major league.
Hays natives have been an integral part of the Larks program since joining the Jayhawk League. In the 70’s, Bill Hall, Rod Ruder, Greg Korbe, Curt Stramel and Mike Schippers played a big part. Scott Schumacher, Allen Flax, Russ Ruder, Rusty Schueler, Larry & Gary Lang, Mike Moore, Lyle Befort, Todd Unrein, Kevin Karlin, Rob Blecha, and Cam Clark were major factors in the 80’s. In the 90’s, Sean Murphy, the Dreher brothers, Doug and Dusty and the Shelton twins, Justin and Josh, played big roles.
The Larks personnel has changed over the years but one thing has not, the Hays community and Hays Larks has been a hot bed for talent over the years. Hays natives along with playesr who have come from afar should be proud of the tradition they have been part of -The Hays Larks.
–By Arlen Walters and Lynn Womack