Our photo this month features the Koppers Coke Oven Plant baseball team of Joliet, IL, in 1943. Valerie's maternal grandfather, Charles, is standing in the upper left corner. When asked about the photo, Val's mother, Evelyn, offered this information:
My Dad must have been about 38 years old when it was taken and was probably the pitcher at that time. In his younger days, he was a pitcher in Danville, Illinois, on a minor team training for the big teams, but he threw his shoulder out and couldn't continue to the big time. When he got older, he was a first baseman. Just before he retired, his team members jokingly brought out a pair of crutches to him when he was playing.
I used to go to most of the games Dad played at. The picture was taken at Heggie Athletic Field, which is located near Collins Street in Joliet, close to the old penitentiary which eventually was the women's prison. I recognize the grade school building in the background, but can't remember the name of it.
The park was also a playground and later had a wading pool and possibly a swimming pool. The property to the East of the park was strewn with little deep depressions that were like miniature quarries. The water was rather deep in some of the ponds, but they were not very large in area and surrounded by large slabs of stone which were probably used to build the prison and other buildings. I used to climb all over the rocks. The larger ponds were closer to the foot of the big hill where we used to live. All ponds were spring fed with very clear water.
The Coke Plant was a division of the United States Steel mill in Joliet. This separate plant made coke which was used in the blast furnaces to reduce iron ore to pig-iron. The entrance to the Plant was across a lengthy narrow bridge constructed of steel. I sometimes rode my bicycle there to bring Dad his lunch. I also had a lot of fun finding snakes hiding under scraps of metal in the lowlands around the bridge. The old I&M Canal was under the bridge. After a family picnic last June, I drove by the site and the bridge is still there, but the plant has been closed many years. It looks like it might be a historical landmark.
(Note: The Koppers Coke Oven Plant Site of Joliet Steel Works was designated a Will County Historic Landmark on September 21, 1995.)
Many thanks to Evelyn for the background on this photo.