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Baseball: Home of Rockford Peaches signage unveiled; new hardball league forming

May 18, 2011

Staff Report

At a news conference May 10, Winnebago County Board Chairman Scott Christiansen and the Rockford Park District unveiled their first new “Home of the Rockford Peaches” sign recently installed in front of the Road Ranger, 7500 E. Riverside Blvd., Loves Park. Twelve of these signs will be placed at various entry points located throughout the county.

“We are very proud of the Rockford Peaches’ historic significance, and these signs will remind residents and visitors alike that the Peaches’ hometown is right here in our own community,” said Winnebago County Board Chairman Scott Christiansen.

Friends of Beyer Stadium member Greg Schwanke also announced a new women’s 18+ baseball league that he is hoping to organize with games to be played at historic Beyer Field. “It has been a long-time dream of mine to bring baseball back to beautiful Beyer Stadium, home to where the Rockford Peaches first made history,” he said. “Last year, improvements to the field were completed, and the next logical step is for us to now utilize the field as it once was, to enjoy the game of baseball,” he continued.

A “Friends of Beyer Stadium” New League informational meeting will be held at 6 p.m., Monday, May 23, at Sportscore One, Soccer Concession Building, 4751 Hiawatha Drive, Rockford.

The Women’s (18+) Baseball League will be organized to: play the game the way the Rockford Peaches played in the early 1940s; use 9-inch baseballs, 90-foot bases and overhand pitching; games will be played at Beyer Field, 333 15th Ave., Rockford.

Beyer Stadium history

Built in 1925, the stadium was used for high school football games and other events. Between 1943 and 1954, Beyer Stadium was home to the Rockford Peaches and was depicted in the 1992 movie A League of Their Own. In 1992, the stadium was demolished to create more athletic fields for Beyer School.

  • 1925—Beyer Stadium was a fund-raising effort undertaken by the Kiwanis organization. The stadium and site on 15th Avenue was accepted by the Rockford School District and included concrete stands with wooden bleacher seating and a football field surrounded by an all-weather track. Because this was the first lighted football field in the area, the stadium became Rockford’s premier sports venue.
  • 1948—The stadium was named after Charles A. Beyer, Rockford High School’s football, track and basketball coach.
  • 1943-1954—Home stadium for the “Rockford Peaches” AAGPBL team.
  • 1960s—Field was home to four high school teams and numerous junior high teams; more than 40 football games were played each fall.
  • 1992—The stadium was demolished to create more athletic fields for Beyer School.

About the ‘Friends of Beyer Stadium’ group

  • 1997—The Rockford-area Jaycees created a $79,264 endowment through the Rockford Community Foundation. As per the endowment, funds earned from interest on the principal would help maintain and enhance Beyer Field.
  • 1998—The “Friends of Beyer Stadium” group was formed with a goal of restoring the baseball field at Beyer Park.
  • 2000-2009—Interest from the endowment funded various maintenance projects at the park, including fence repairs, re-grading seeding, ticket booth restoration, and the completion of a site plan based on input given by the Friends group.
  • June 5, 2010—Friends of Beyer and Rockford Park District hosted a re-dedication event attended by more than 250 guests, including former Rockford Peaches players and other members of the American Girls Baseball League.

The purpose is to provide resources to support the long-term and continuing use of Beyer Park as a park for the neighborhood and Beyer School, where children and adults can use the area for sports activities. Likewise, people interested in the history of baseball and those looking for inspiration for their children to participate in sports will seek out Beyer Park from around the country.

In addition to the new ball diamond, backstop and scoreboard that were installed last year, the Friends of Beyer Stadium are spearheading a fund-raising campaign to raise funds for additional park enhancements. A private donation helped fund the purchase of the flags and plaque. Income from the Charles A. Beyer/Rockford Jaycees endowment fund of the Community Foundation of Northern Illinois was established in 1997, and provides an average of $5,000 a year for the Park District to maintain and enhance Beyer Park. Since its first distribution in 2000, the fund has given approximately $5,000 in distributions.

Mission of the Friends of Beyer Stadium is to restore Beyer Park to Rockford’s own field of dreams. Donations are tax-deductible to the full extent of the law; make checks payable to: CFNIL (Community Foundation of Northern Illinois). In memo field: “Beyer Field Restoration Fund.” Mail checks to: Community Foundation of Northern Illinois, 946 N. Second St., Rockford, IL 61107.

For more information about the Friends of Beyer League or donating to the Friends of Beyer, contact Greg Schwanke at (815) 979-2899 or blasterpainter3@hotmail.com.

From the May 18-24, 2011 issue

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