Niese: Century-old Chippewa River league has been central to summer for generations of ballplayers and fans

From SABR member Joe Niese at Volume One on May 18, 2016:

It is hard to fathom that something that has been around for over a century and has had more than 12,000 participants can remain unknown to so many people in the Chippewa Valley. Thus is the story of the Chippewa River Baseball League, a wood bat amateur baseball league in western Wisconsin. The 2016 season will mark the 71st consecutive (and 87th overall) year of play for the league known as “The CRBL.” That longevity makes it not only one of the longest running leagues in Wisconsin, but in the entire country.

Baseball is deep-rooted here in the Chippewa Valley. In the post-Civil War years soldiers brought the game home with them, and it replaced “town ball” as the pastoral game of choice. One of the first organized “base ball” games in the area took place in September 1867 on the riverfront between Bridge Street and Bay Street in Chippewa Falls. Eau Claire’s Clear Water Boys and the Chippewa Nationals played, with both teams claiming victory.

Eau Claire had a minor league team by 1886: the Lumberman, of the Northwestern League. Local ball ruled, though, as seemingly every part of town fielded amateur ball clubs. Some represented a block, others a ward. Even teams made up of married men and bachelors took to the diamond to settle their hash.

Read the full article here:

Originally published: May 31, 2016. Last Updated: May 31, 2016.