On a sunny Sunday afternoon, August 21, 2011, on the grounds of the Lee County Courthouse in Dixon, Illinois, a monument dedication was held for former resident and baseball player Ward Miller.
Mark Stach, a SABR member and Dixon resident, addressed the crowd wearing a Chicago Cubs replica jersey — similar to the one Ward Miller worn in 1912. Stach began by thanking all those who made the monument and event possible. He let the good-sized crowd know that the monument was part of The Deadball Era Memorial Series, and Miller was the 11th player honored thus far.
Stach continued telling the story of Ward Miller’s ties with Dixon, starting with the Dixon Browns youth baseball team, his minor and major league career, and his civilian life after baseball. Returning to Dixon after hanging up his spikes, Miller served as Sheriff of Lee County, along with Deputy Sheriff, Treasurer and Chief of Police for Dixon State School.
Dixon has always had a large Chicago Cubs fanbase, which was evident from the colors sprinkled throughout the crowd. A beautiful bouquet of flowers set on a stand next to the monument, with the Cubs’ red, white and blue. Placed inside the flowers was a Chicago Cubs pennant. The city would have been incredibly excited rooting for their Cubbies while their hometown hero was playing for them, Stach said.
As the monument read, Miller played with the great Hall of Fame infield of (Joe) Tinker, (Johnny) Evers and (Frank) Chance. Stach told the crowd that Miller brought the Cubs to play a local team in Dixon after the end of the 1912 season. This is most likely the last time the infield trio ever teamed together. Frank Chance joined the New York Highlanders — later renamed the Yankees — in 1913.
Stach talked about his growing interest in Miller’s life, which led to his close friendship with Ward’s daughter, to whom he referred as Mrs. Roundy. She died in 2010, just months shy of turning 100 years old.
The collection that Mrs. Roundy received from her father was on display in the courthouse for public viewing before and after the dedication. Not having any children, she passed these artifacts to Stach, and it’s very evident that she made the right choice. There are no plans for it to ever leave Dixon.
The collection includes many photos of teams that Miller played for during his career. Also displayed were portraits of Miller, baseball cards, postcards, replica jerseys and Miller’s sheriff’s memorabilia, which included his badge worn during duty in Dixon.
One of the photos was used for the portrait on the front of the memorial, and the image of the rare T207 baseball card was used on the backside. The monument is the first in The Deadball Era Monument Series that utilized both sides for the same player.
We can only imagine the joy Miller would feel if he could walk up the courthouse yard and lay his eyes on this beautiful memorial honoring his life. He will always be remembered in the heart of his hometown, Dixon, Illinois.
My thanks go out to Mark Stach, Lee County Courthouse and the folks of Dixon who made this a very special day for me. Also to artist Linda Boettcher, who amazes us with her talents, and Archie Monuments of Watertown, Wisconsin, as they donate their time to help make this Deadball Era Memorial Series continue to grow.
David Stalker is a member of SABR’s Deadball Era Research Committee. He lives in Watertown, Wisconsin.
Originally published: August 30, 2011. Last Updated: August 30, 2011.