Search for ‘ghosts’ proves elusive

Over the years, I’ve done numerous stories about sporting events and sports figures in the Copper Country.

The majority of them have been relatively easy to track down, with information – and usually pictures -available.

But trying to track down the long-ago appearance of a softball team named the Iowa Colored Ghosts has not been an easy task.

Over the years, I had heard references to the team, which was based in Sioux City, Iowa. Its roots went all the way back to the early 1930s when people were doing what they could to earn a few cents during the Great Depression.

The Colored Ghosts made their first appearance here in the fall of 1946. Contrary to belief, I didn’t get to see them play that game because I was approximately six months old at the time.

But my late father remembered hearing about the game, which was played at Agassiz Field in Calumet against the Liberty Loan fast-pitch team.

He told me many years later he recalled that the local team had given the barnstormers all they wanted because of the pitching of Bobby Giroux.

Giroux, who had an unusual delivery because of an arm birth defect, was one of the finest pitchers ever to hurl in our area.

Fast-pitch historian Gordy Schaaf of Hancock was present at the 1946 game.

“They (the Ghosts) could really play the game,” Schaaf noted. “They were very fast on the bases and they could hit and field. But Giroux gave them fits with his drop pitch.”

Armed with just enough information, I headed for the dusty files located in the basement of the Mining Gazette.

I suppose I could have gone to the archives at Michigan Tech and found the same information in the microfilm there.

But I still enjoy looking at an authentic copy of an old Gazette. You can almost reach out and grab the history.

One thing I learned very early on about past newspaper reports is that they were sometimes spotty. And pictures didn’t begin to exist until the 1950s, albeit on a limited basis.

It’s not like today where modern technology gives reporters the equipment to cover any event and come back with workable pictures.

I expected to find at least a notice or advertisement about the coming of the Colored Ghosts in the files.

But there was nary a thing about the game between them and Liberty Loan, which was one of the legendary powers of fast-pitch of the era.

The Ghosts lineup included names like “Bear” Dunn, Satchel Sullinger, “Suitcase” Simmons and Lee “Speed” Wilkinson.

Liberty had a roster of players that included future U.P. Sports Hall of Famers Johnny Whittaker and Jack Mugford, not to mention stellar players like Enkku Kemp, Johnny Caserio and Ed Jenich among others.

I finally did locate an account of the game in the dusty archives and the results were somewhat surprising.

But I’ll fill you on that outcome and some more info on the Ghosts and Liberty Loan team in a story that will be appearing in the next few days.