In 1919 the International League started a baseball team in Reading, PA. Their home field was Lauer’s Park at 3rd & Elm Streets. They were first named the Reading Coal Barons in their first season in 1919 and then the Reading Marines in 1920. In 1921 they became the Reading Aces, a name that lasted twice as long as the previous names; an entire two years.
Lauer’s Park was constructed in 1907 near where Lauer’s Brewery once stood. It first offered limited recreational and outing facilities, but grew to become the mecca for sports fans before it was demolished in 1941. It became a municipal parking lot for many years until an elementary school for the Reading School district was built in its place in the late 1950s.
In 1923 the Reading Aces were renamed the Reading Keystones. The club finished third behind manager Spencer Abbott with an 85-79 record. Abbott’s club slipped to 7th and 63-98 the next year. The Keystones recovered somewhat in 1925 with a 78-90 record, 5th in the International League.
The Keystones took last-place 31-129 in 1926. They finished 75 games behind the Toronto Maple Leafs, the all-time record in organized baseball. The team scored 529 runs, 126 fewer than any other team.
In 1927 Reading improved slightly to 43-123 under new manager Harry Hinchman. William Wrigley, most notably known for owning the Chicago Cubs organization, bought controlling interest in the team on May 18, 1927.
In Wrigley’s first full season as owner of the franchise, the Keystones improved drastically in 1928, finishing fourth at 84-83 under Hinchman. Hinchman’s club was 80-86 in 1929 but only finished 7th of the 8 teams. Reading repeated finishing seventh place in 1930 but with an even worse record of 68-98.
The Keystones moved up one slot in 1931 to sixth as new owner/manager Pants Rowland’s team went 79-88. Rowland’s club struggled some more in 1932 and on August 6 moved to Albany, NY where they became the Albany Senators. Overall the team finished 7th at 71-97.
In 1952 the Indian’s franchise came to Reading from Wilkes-Barre and played at Municipal Stadium. They were an affiliate of the Cleveland Indians. They enjoyed success in Reading over the course of the next decade, and even capturing the league title in 1957. The Indians moved to Charleston, West Virginia in 1962, leaving Reading without a minor league baseball team for the the season. This marked the first year Reading went without a baseball team since the 1800s.
A York franchise in the Eastern League moved to Reading in 1963, becoming the Reading Red Sox. The Red Sox left two years later in 1965, at which point the Indians came back from Virginia. That only lasted a year, however, and Reading was without a baseball team again for the 1966 season.
In 1967 the Reading Phillies debuted at Municipal Stadium on April 22nd, 1967 against the York White Roses. The organization has been a facet piece of Reading sports culture since. The Philadelphia Phillies actually purchased the Reading Phils in 2008. They changed their name to the Reading Fightin’ Phils on November 4th, 2012, but their affiliation with the Philadelphia Phillies has been unwavering since their beginnings in 1967. It is the longest current standing affiliation in major/minor league baseball.
For more info on Berks’ Baseball history check out the following books:
Source: Baseball-Reference.com, Reading Eagle, Information contributions by Brian Engelhardt
In the late 1950’s, I lived in South Temple. I had a paper route and delivered the Reading Times morning paper. One of my favorite customers was Rocky Colavito who had played baseball for the Reading Indians. By the late 50’s, he was already a big star for the Cleveland Indians, but he and his wife still lived in South Temple. Rocky was one of the best and most popular outfielders for Cleveland. He was a six time All Star and hit over 300 home runs in his career. After baseball he got into the mushroom business with his father in law, and I believe he is still alive living in Bernville.
Excellent history research and very interesting story. Thanks, Alexa!