An inaugural season is, by its very definition, a season of firsts. There were many for the Belleville Stags – more than they probably accounted for as they launched their club in the fall of 2011.

The season ended with a 15-26 record, which may be perceived by the uninitiated as a disappointment. But members of the club have been told time and again that they were members of the finest expansion club witnessed by others on the local vintage base ball circuit.

Indeed, the Stags showed vast improvement from the first match on April 28 played under the Gateway Arch, to a double header loss to the St. Louis Unions on Nov. 3.  In between, the Belleville club managed to defeat every team that appeared on their schedule at least once. But, far more importantly, they learned the nuances of the 19th century game, improved their skill both at the dish and in the field, and forged repect and friendships among the members of other clubs.

In that regard, it was a successful season.

Below is a list of club firsts and selected highlights from the Stags’ inaugural season, 2012:

 

FIRST GAME: vs. St. Louis Unions, an 11-4 loss, on April 28, 2012 at Gateway Arch (D. Koopmann, losing hurler).

FIRST HOME GAME: May 5, 2012, a 12-3 loss to the Murphysboro Clarkes.

FIRST VICTORY: vs. Springfield Long Nine, 9-4, on May 12, 2012 at Moose Field (K. Lewis, winning hurler).

FIRST TWO-GAME SWEEP: May 19, 2012 during a round robin with St. Louis Perfectos, a 9-8 win, and Rock Springs Ground Squirrels, a 26-9 win, at Moose Field (G. Eschman, K. Lewis, winning hurlers).

FIRST BASE HIT: “Deadline” Danny Kelley, a single on April 28 vs. St. Louis Unions at Gateway Arch Grounds, during an 11-4 loss.

FIRST EXTRA BASE HIT: “Deadline” Danny Kelley, a double, on April 28, 2012 vs. St. Louis Unions at Gateway Arch Grounds, during an 11-4 loss.

FIRST ACE TALLIED: “Deadline” Danny Kelley, April 28, 2012 in an 11-4 loss to the St. Louis Unions at Gateway Arch grounds.

FIRST ACE BATTED IN: Dean “Higgins” Koopmann , April 28, 2012 in an 11-4 loss to the St. Louis Unions at Gateway Arch grounds.

FIRST TRIPLE: Dean “Higgins” Koopmann April 28, 2012 vs. Springfield Long Nine at Gateway Arch Grounds, during an 11-7 loss.

FIRST HOME RUN: Brent “Stir Fry” Kohlenberger July 7, 2012 vs. Murphysboro Clarkes atLongfellowPark during a 19-9 victory.

FIRST GRAND SLAM HOME RUN: Kyle “Slats” Kniepkamp, September 29, 2012 vs.St. Louis Brown Stockings at Moose Field. In the seventh inning of the first match, Slats struck the apple over the centerfield scout’s head driving in ahead of himself, Kyle “Monk” Lewis, Mike “Mule” Garrett and Jeff “Crash” Hill.

FIRST STOLEN BASE: Todd “Dutch” Eschman swiped third base on a muffed pitch in the fourth round of a Missouri Cup match against the St. Louis Brown Stockings on Sept. 13, 2012. It was the only stolen base of the Stags’ inaugural season.

FIRST DOUBLE PLAY: Scored 6-4-3 – “der Kaiser” Fink, to “Dutch” Eschman to “Buzz Saw” Eschman — in an 11-4 loss to the St. Louis Unions, April 28, 2012 at Gateway Arch Grounds.

TRIPLE PLAY: vs.St. Louis Unions on July 21, 2012 at Moose Field. With no hands dead and the bases full ofSt. Louis runners, the Unions’ John “Knapsack” Mena stepped to the dish and promptly delivered a line shot into the outfield. Stags left-field scout “Deadline” Danny Kelley charged the ball aggressively, catching it on the first bound. One hand dead. Brian “Flash” Flashpohler broke from the third base immediately upon the apple’s contact with Knapsack’s bat. But Kelley released the ball quickly and delivered a one-bound strike toBelleville behind Michael “Mule” Garrett who applied the tag on Flashpohler. Two hands dead. Regarded by teammates as the finest behind on the local base ball circuit, Garrett without hesitation mounted a sprint toward Bryce “Speedy” LeBarge, who had wandered too far off the second base. Garrett’s aggressive charge froze the young base runner, leaving him prone between the Stags’ sure-handed third base tender Brent “Stir Fry” Kohlenberger and second base tender Michael “Hawkeye” Mills. With one toss each, the pair ran down LeBarge to leave an easy tag for Kohlenberger. Three hands dead. The play was scored 7-2-5-4-5.

FIRST BROKEN FINGER: During a May 12, 2012 match against the Springfield Long Nine, first base tender, Greg “Buzz Saw” Eschman broke the tip of the ring finger on his right hand in an attempt to scoop a low throw. To his credit, the injury did not cause him to miss a single round of play.

HOTTEST GAME: July 7, 2012. The temperature was 111 degrees at the conclusion of two matches with the Murphysboro Clarkes atLongfellowPark. The clubs split, with the Clarkes winning the first match, a defensive gem, 7-3, and the Stags taking the second match, 19-9. Both clubs claimed victory over the elements, however, since none of the players got sick, injured or worse.

FIRST REBOUND: Mike “Scrap Iron” Marcinkowski  in a 12-10 loss to Murphysboro Clarkes on Aug. 26, 2012 atBrown-StephensonCityPark inSpartaIL. A well-struck ball found the gap between the left- and center-field scouts. Obstructed by an electrical circuit box mounted in the gap, Marcinkowski, playing the center scout, was, in effect, “picked” by the obstruction and was unable to make an otherwise easy play on the base hit. Swift legged and strong-armed, however, Marcinkowski recovered in time to corral the apple on a nearby basketball court and, with an accurate throw, may have nipped the runner at the third base. But the throw struck the metal backboard on the basketball court, sounding it off like a primitive gong and eliciting from the Stags’ bench curses to “that damned Professor Naismith and his infernal peach baskets!” The striker circled the bases, despite Scrap Iron’s best effort to field the “rebound”!

“DOC” BUSHONG DAY: On September 29, 2012, the Stags and St. Louis Brown Stockings honored 19th century ballist Albert John “Doc” Bushong with pre-game ceremonies at Moose Field. The matches were attended by three generations of Doc’s family, including his grandson, Richard Bushong, great grandson Steve Bushong and two great-great grandchildren. Cranks received a special handout with a photo and short history of Doc’s 13- year professional career.

STAGS CHATTER: On Oct. 7, 2012, the Stags, one man short for a double header of matches against the St. Louis Unions, solicited the help of the Perfectos’ Brad “Chatterbox” Waller. Leading off the second round of the day’s first match, and on the first pitch of his first plate appearance for the Stags, Chatterbox lifted a well-struck ball toward the outfield of the Unions’JeffersonBarracksPark home.  The apple easily cleared the lofty crest of the right center-field hill. Nimble and mobile, but not necessarily fleet of foot, Chatterbox circled the bases with little effort and crossed the home plate without a play. To that point, the Stags had played 30 matches and, as a team, logged more than 1,150 at bats with just five home runs by five different ballists. With one pitch, Chatterbox claimed a share of an opposing team’s home run lead!

MISSOURI CUP GAUNTLET: The Stags were graciously invited to participate in the 2012 Missouri Cup, a competitive tournament held annually through the cooperation of theSt. Louis clubs. Held Oct. 13, 2012 atSt. Louis’ Francis Park, theBelleville nine were dispatched to the losers’ bracket by a disappointing 4-1 loss to the St. Louis Perfectos. The Stags worked their way back to the final round with wins over the Lafayette Cyclones (9-8), the Brown Stockings (12-6), and the St. Louis Unions (4-1). The Perfectos put a stop to theBelleville surge, however, with an 11-1 win to clinch the Cup. In all, the Stags played five matches on the day, including 35 of their best-played rounds of the season!

STILL IN SEASON: The Stags wrapped up their inaugural season in an inauspicious fashion, losing a pair of matches on the home field of the St. Louis Unions. The matches were played as a makeup of an early rained out date. The scores were 8-6 and 14-6. The matches were played on Nov. 3, some two full weeks after the last out of the Major League World Series was played, thus exhibiting, again, that the only real ball players are vintage players!

 

CLUB STATISTICAL LEADERS 2012

At-bats – Jeff “Crash” Hill (155)

Hits – Todd “Dutch” Eschman (92)

Avg. – Brent “Stir Fry” Kohlenberger (.667)

Doubles – Todd “Dutch” Eschman (32)

Triples – Todd “Dutch” Eschman (5)

Home Runs –  “Deadline” Danny Kelley (2)

Aces Tallied – Brent “Stir Fry” Kohlenberger (42)

Aces Batted In – Brent “Stir Fry” Kohlenberger (56)

Sacrifice Flies –  Kyle “Monk” Lewis, “der Kaiser” Mike Fink (4)

Stolen Bases – Todd “Dutch” Eschman (1)

Rebounds – Mike “Scrap Iron” Marcinkowski (1)

 

CLUB AWARDS 2012

Most Valuable Player – Todd “Dutch” Eschman

Bid McPhee Good Hands Award – Brent “Stir Fry” Kohlenberger

Albert Spalding Hurler Award – Kyle “Monk” Lewis

Tina Louise Best Ginger Award – Mike “Mule” Garrett