America’s Past Time: Vintage Baseball in French Lick West Baden
Posted on 8/16/2019 by Visit French Lick West Baden
The French Lick Resort, which includes the historic French Lick Springs and West Baden Springs Hotels, was in full swing from the mid 1800’s, people from all over the world considered it to be an upscale health spa, that sold healing waters. The very wealthy as well as the very famous frequented the area, as did major league baseball teams, for portions of spring training.
Baseball, America’s past time started to gain popularity around the turn of the 20th Century. With the popularity of healing waters at the French Lick and West Baden Springs Hotels, major league baseball teams came to town for conditioning and part of spring training. About 75% of major league baseball teams at the time made stops in French Lick West Baden for part of their annual spring training. Player’s ran the hills to drop weight and scrimmaged with the two hotel teams (West Baden Sprudel’s and the French Lick Pluto’s or Red Devil’s) in the evenings.
West Baden Sprudel’s
The West Baden Sprudel’s were named for the “name brand” of the healing water in West Baden. Sprudel, the legendary gnome said to be the protector of the spring in Wiesbaden, Germany, was the hotel team mascot. The African American team, made-up of hotel employees (mostly waiters and bellhops), was an independent club owned by Burnett-Pollard-Rogers Baseball Club Company. The semi-professional team was said to have played against a few MLB teams at the time, and it was reported by the Chicago Tribune that the Sprudel’s held their own against the Chicago Cubs (annually trained in West Baden 1906 -1911), won back to back World Series Championships (1907 & 1908) during that time…and had played in 3 consecutive World Series (1906 being the first). The Sprudel’s also played the Cincinnati Reds twice, falling short both times, but respectable play for player’s who weren’t considered to be professional.
French Lick Pluto’s (Red Devil’s)
French Lick Pluto’s
The rivals of the Sprudel’s were the nearby French Lick Pluto’s (or Red Devil’s). Pluto “the ruler of the underworld”, was the mascot for the French Lick Springs Hotel’s independent African American baseball club. Owner Tom Taggart, of the French Lick Hotel decided to form his own team, to compete with the rival hotel. The Pluto’s existed for a very short time (3 years) during which countless games against their rivals were played. In their short existence of a team 62 games were played of which the majority were losses. The closest the team came to placing in Western Independent Clubs was 6th in 1913. When the team dissolved, teams’ members spread throughout the Midwest taking positions on Independent African American Teams.
French Lick Pluto’s
Annually, in September, at the West Baden Springs Hotel grounds, Vintage Baseball (a free event) makes a comeback. Experience a time when base ball was two words, the rules were basic, and the pitching was under-handed, fielders didn’t use gloves and the plays and lingo were completely different. Enjoy 2 days as players dress in complete vintage reproduced uniforms and re-enact the plays from the mid-1800’s. Enjoy modern concessions as food trucks will be on hand.