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Stateville Prison was sight of many ball games in years gone by

Published: Friday, May 4, 2012 5:18 p.m. CST

Recently, I was going through some correspondences, looking for future articles for the Morris Daily Herald. I picked up a letter from my good friend, John Dzuris, of Coal City Coalers' fame.

Not only is John one of the finest gentleman I have ever been around, he also happens to be one of the best basketball and baseball coaches in this area and in the State of Illinois.

He sent to me an article of a Coal City semipro game that was played at Stateville, against the Inmates, in 1954.

The letter brought back some memories to me, since in the late 50's, I also played for the Morris A.C. at Stateville Penitentiary against the inmates.

That was an experience I will never forget. I recall be ushered through a large open space with cells all around, and above the team as we walked through the section. There was a lot of  hooting and hoowling down on us as we Nervously meanderd our way past the inmates in the direction of the baseball diamond, with a very high wall in the outfield.

I also remember the year I played, that the Stateville team had three outfielders that played like Willie Mays. That may have been a bit of a stretch by saying that, but, they sure were fast and very good players.

John said in the letter, that he received the information from team manager, Bob Newberry. The play by play information of the game was prepared by one of the inmates at Stateville.

Coal City starting lineup on this game day went like this: Jack Major (CF), John Dzuris (3B), Bob Newberry (1B),  Soapy Erndst (RF), Anks Emanulson (LF), Bob Higgins (C), Carl Manietta (SS), John Manietta (2B),  and Pete Giadrone (P).

Others seeing action for Coal City were Jim Hines, Skip Osborn and Ed Swartz.

In the first inning, Coal City being the visitors batted first. Major lined a singe to right field to open the game. Dzuris walked and then Newberry walked, loading the bases, with no outs. Erndst forced Major at the plate on a infield grounder, one out. Emanulson then hit a sacrifice fly, scoring Dzuris. For the first inning Coal City had one run on one hit and led 1-0 after a half inning of play.

The lead did not last long as Stateville scored two runs on one hit  and grabbed a 2-1 edge. A triple by Napue scored both runs for the inmates.

Coal City failed to score in the second inning, but Stateville erupted for five runs on five hits off Giadrone. Three runs had scored when Jim Hines entered the game for Coal City. A double steal, walk, a pass ball, wild pitch, and a hit behind second base added two more runs for the Stateville Trojans. The home team had five runs on five hits in the second inning.

Coal City got on the scoreboard in the third Inning. Erndst walked. Emanulson singled over third base. After one out later, Carl Manietta walked, filling the bases. with two outs in the inning, Hines walked, forcing in a run. Coal City one run on one hit.

The score after three innings of play: Stateville 7, Coal City 2.

In the fourth Inning, Dzuris walked to open the frame. Newberry doubled, with Dzuris going to third. Erndst walked to load the bases. It was the tenth walk by inmates pitching.  A rhubard developed when Emanulson swung at the ball and hit a slow roller down to third. The third baseman fired to home, forcing Dzuris at the plate. Emanulson did not run, claiming the ball hit him,  but the umpire ruled a fair ball and Emanulson was out at first for a double play that ended the inning.

Coal City had no runs  on one hit for the fourth frame.

Stateville scored another run in the bottom of the fourth Inning, making the score Stateville 8, Coal City 2.

Neither team could score a run for the rest of this nine inning contest. Hines and Emanulson finished up pitching for Coal City and doing a nice job, not allowing a run since the fourth inning.

For the game, Coal City had one run on three hits and the Stateville Trojans eight runs on nine hits for the game.

Coal City was a very good baseball team, but on this day, they were  no match for the Stateville Trojans.

Softball was really big in the 30s, 40s and picked up again the 60s.

Semipro baseball was played mostly on Sundays and provided much family entertainment, during the 50s.

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