On Hallowed Ground; Fort Worths Baseball Connection to the Dodgers

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On Hallowed Ground; Fort Worths Baseball Connection to the Dodgers

Kincaid’s is supposed to have one of the best hamburgers in America. 

Each morning they grind a fresh batch of prime beef, g rilled to perfection, served on a bulky roll, and garnished with your choice of any or all kinds cheese, crisp lettuce, sliced tomatoes, grilled onions, and jalapenos.  Yummy. 

There's nothing like a big old grease bomb washed down with some cold barley soup to make a man feel good about life.  The place started as a grocery store in West Fort Worth and annually got on several of the best in the U.S. lists. A few years ago they decided to expand a bit. 

This is why I can munch them here, at LaGrave Field, watching the minor league Fort Worth Cats. It's the same fresh beef and same tasty burgers.  Burp. They makes those Shake Shack things they serve up in the Big Apple look like Monica Lewinsky compared to Marilyn Monroe, or Dominos compared to Ray’s pizza. A pale imitation of the real deal.

Now, it has been a good baseball here in the Metroplex. The Rangers are bankrupt, have a candy snortin’ manager, a recovered addict outfielder, and are playing their tails off in first place. TCU is in the College World Series and just won again. 

But watching the Cats in LeGrave can be kind of special.

The first LeGrave existed from 1926 to 1967 when it was torn down. Thirty five years later, the only thing left was an empty field. In 2002, it was decided to build another ballpark where the old one had stood, excavation began, and the old dugouts were found. 

So now the park is the only one in America with four dugouts. The old ones are rented out for group events.

The Fort Worth Cats, an Independent Association team, play here.  They’re the lowest rung of the baseball hierarchy. At best a player or two each year goes on to “the show”. 

As such, the Cats exhibit the quirkiness that baseball in the lower rungs displays with such aplomb.  Guy hits a homer and people pass the hat for him.  The same thing happens for a pitcher who strikes out the side. These kids are making less than two grand a month after all. 

Regular fans know the players by first name and vice versa.  Kate Hudson has been conspicuously absent from the proceedings.

Cornball promotions…we got em. 

There are fireworks at nights, Thirsty Thursdays with cheap beers, salsa nights, and other hi-jinks. The Girl's Scout and Boy's Scout sleep over and kids get to run the base paths at the endy of every game. Sometimes, grown ups do it as well. 

The national anthem is sung by a local, often off key, and parking is two bucks. It's pure baseball and there is not a bad seat in the house. 

And of course, there's first base coach Wayne Terwilliger. 

Twig, as he is know, has been in baseball a long time. His professional baseball career began, after all, in 1948.  He managed the Cats for three years and in 2005 became only the second 80 year old to manage a professional baseball team.  The first was Connie Mack. 

Older than dirt and wiser than a shaman, he’s on a first name basis with noted baseball gnome, Dom Zimmer, amongst others. 

Which leads me to why LaGrave is hallowed ground and of particular interest to fans from the New York area.  From 1926 to 1965, LaGrave, in its first incarnation, was the home to the Fort Worth Panthers and then Cats minor league ball teams. And from post World War II through 1960, the Cats served as the Texas League franchise for the Brooklyn Dodgers.

This means greats such as Duke Snyder, Don Drydale and Maury Wills called it home.  It hosted luminaries such as Hank Aaron, Yogi Berra, Willie Mays and Brooks Robinson.  Lou Gehrig played here early in his career, as did Babe Ruth.  In all, 47 Hall of Famers played at LaGrave, taking their first steps to baseball immortality.

So if you squint just right, as the June Bugs swirl around the lights in the warm Texas sky and the Fort Worth skyline rises over the right field bleacher seats, you might be able to see a young Joe DiMaggio striding toward a fly ball, or a green Bob Lemon working on a change up to add to his heater. 

And who knows, maybe the kid currently playing shortstop and turning that double play will be getting his own Topps card in the near future.

Ah, baseball.  It's America’s game.

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