By LORAINE ANDERSON email@example.com
Traverse City Record-Eagle
---- — TRAVERSE CITY — The Traverse City Hustlers have an interesting history as the city’s first semi-pro organization.
But they were not the region’s first “base ball” team. One of the new sports earliest mentions appeared in the Aug. 10, 1876 Grand Traverse Herald.
“There is a match game of base ball to-morrow (Friday) afternoon between the Sherman and Traverse City clubs,” the then-19-year-old pioneer weekly reported. “The game will be played on the grounds of the Traverse City boys on the south side of the river. There will be lots of fun. Let’s all go and see it.”
It’s hard to know today where that lumber-era field was, but other Herald reports indicate Traverse City’s “base ball grounds” in 1896 could be found at “Twelfth Street Park” on land owned by lumber baron Perry Hannah. He gave the newly formed Traverse City Hustlers Base Ball Association free use of the property, on condition it pay property taxes on the land.
The association improved the grounds, added a grandstand, fences, bleachers and ticket offices, which were “freely used for athletics of all kinds for a nominal charge and almost always for nothing.”
Then, in 1904, Hannah, the 79-year-old city father, decided he wanted to develop the land.
“Base ball players must look for a new place for games the coming season as no more games will be played on the Twelfth Street Park,” the newspaper reported that spring. “There is a considerable quantity of good lumber on the grounds, which will be of value to someone.”
Hannah’s decision did not spell the end of the Hustlers or baseball in Traverse City. Nor did it erase the not erase Twelfth Street Park. Hannah died a few months later in August 1904 and newspaper reports indicated that games were played there for at least a few years more.
The game had many fans in Traverse City.
Old photographs in the History Center of Traverse City’s collection show early 1900s portraits of several regions teams: the Peninsula Hustlers, also known as the “Pumpkinheads,” Traverse City’s Invincibles, Oval Wood Dish, and Northern Michigan Asylum, as well as Almira, Copemish, Elk Rapids, Empire, Kingsley and North Manitou Island.
In May 1910, city leaders formed the Traverse City Base Ball Association and its team, the Traverse City Resorters, became one of four teams in the new Michigan State Baseball League. The Traverse City Driving Park Association, site of the current Grand Traverse County Civic Center, offered its ball diamond and bleachers for free use. Other league teams included Cadillac, Muskegon and Holland.
“Traverse City is baseball hungry and it is expected that the team that will be formed will satisfy the most ravenous appetite,” the newspaper reported on May 13, 1910.
Among the players who tried out for the semi-professional team that year was Bundy Brief, 17, who led the league in 1911 with 169 hits, 10 home runs, 12 triples and 97 runs scored. He again topped the league in 1912 with 152 hits, 13 homers and 74 runs. A local candy company named a candy bar for him and a Traverse City creamery began selling the “Home Run Bundy” ice cream bar.
Brief broke into the major leagues as a professional rookie with the St. Louis Browns in 1912 and played his last major league game for the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1917, when he returned to the minors for 11 seasons and eventually became a minor league star in Kansas City.