Stepping back in time at La Farge’s Calhoon Park

A hidden gem of the Kickapoo Valley still going strong after 76 years of play

The 1935 flood of the Kickapoo River meant trouble for La Farge resident Ray Calhoon.

Hailed as the best baseball player in town history, Calhoon now found himself the manager of a team with a flooded, destroyed ball field. With few monetary options, Calhoon turned to WPA funds handed to the town as part of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal.

Handing out the WPA funds to a ballpark instead of other improvements proved to be a tough sell.

“Letters appeared in the La Farge Enterprise newspaper condemning a ‘work welfare’ project and the use of local tax dollars on the ‘Big Mud Hole’ next to the school,” said local historian Brad Steinmetz. “One letter writer referred to the project as ‘Calhoon’s Folly’ and the editor of the newspaper called for a new village president.”

Despite heavy opposition from prominent local officials the park was built, and on April 28, 1939, Calhoon Park played host to its first ballgame.

“Calhoon helped manage the local nine that day at the new ballpark; his dream had become a reality,” said Steinmetz.

Through the ballpark’s youth, no bigger change came than in 1951.

“The original park did not have lights,” said Steinmetz. “After World War 2, a Veterans of Foreign War post started here in La Farge, and they wanted to play at night after work during the week. Within a few months, all eight light towers were up.”

The most notable visit to Calhoon Park: legendary pitcher Satchel Paige and the Kansas City Monarchs.

This spring, Calhoon Park’s 76th season, third and fourth-generation ballplayers are stepping into the batter’s box for the first time.

“It is pretty cool to know that it has been four generations, and I am playing now on the same field my great-grandpa used to play on,” said sixth-grader Maverick Nelson.

An idea that was once called “Calhoon’s Foley” three quarters of a century later has proved to be anything but.