Josh Maxwell writes book about Kitty League baseball
By Jim Turner

Posted on January 1, 0001 12:00 AM

Does the potential of a classic Fall Classic made you long for the good ol’ days of baseball when it was indeed the National Pastime? Then a book written by a native Logan Countian may just be the perfect reading material for you this time of year.

The Kitty League is a 128-page book filled with pictures and stories about the Class D Kentucky-Illinois-Tennessee baseball league which began in 1903 and ran—with a few years off—until 1955. It was written by Joshua R. Maxwell and Kevin D. McCann.

Josh Maxwell grew up in Logan County, the son of Michael and Sue Maxwell and the grandson of Nadine and the late J.W. Maxwell of Chandlers.  He attended Logan County High School until moving to Murray with his parents and sisters during his junior year, according to his cousin, Logan County High School teacher Amy Maxwell Taylor. A graduate of Murray State University and a producer at WSMV-TV in Nashville, he is also an independent documentary producer, researcher and admitted baseball enthusiast. He calls his wife Sarah the “best teammate I have ever had.” They have two children, Mason and McKenna, and a third one on the way, according to his uncle, Michael Maxwell.

After years of research he is currently working on a film documentary about the Kitty League. He is “very passionate about local and regional history.”

Kevin McCann is a member of the Society for American Baseball Research and has researched the Kitty League for over 15 years. He is also the author of Jackson Diamonds: Professional Baseball in Jackson, Tennessee.

Among those who were most helpful in providing information and photos was noted Christian County historian William Turner.

The Kitty League was founded in 1903 by Dr. Frank Bassett, a multi-faceted man who was also in medicine and a partner in a hardware store in Hopkinsville. After the league went into dormancy from 1906 to 1910, he served as president from 1912-14, 1916, 1922-24 and 1935-37. The league was headquartered in Hopkinsville throughout its existence with Shelby Peace serving as league president most of the remaining years.

During its history, the Kitty League fielded teams in 29 communities, including 10 in Kentucky, 9 in Tennessee, 7 in Illinois, and 3 in Indiana. Among the Kentucky teams were the Hopkinsville Hoppers, Bowling Green Barons, Mayfield Clothiers, Henderson Hens, Madisonville Miners, Owensboro Oilers, Fulton Railroaders and Paducah Indians. Two of the more creative team names were the Cairo Egyptians of Illinois and the Paris Parisians of Tennessee.

Some great names in baseball history were Kitty Leaguers such as: Albert ‘Red’ Schoendienst, who was the Hall of Fame manager of some great St. Louis Cardinals teams ; Tony Kubek, the shortstop for the famed 1961 New York Yankees who later became Dizzy Dean’s partner on baseball telecasts; Pittsburgh Pirates manager Chuck Tanner; Charlie Metro, who managed both the Chicago Cubs and Kansas City Royals; Hall of Famer Edd Rousch of the Cincinnati Reds; James ‘Dusty’ Rhodes, whose hitting in the 1954 World Series for the Giants was legendary; Bob Buhl, who pitched for the Milwaukee and Atlanta Braves for 15 seasons, including two World Series; Jack Kralick, who pitched for three teams in eight major league seasons and hurled a no-hitter for the Minnesota Twins against Kansas City in 1962; Ellis “Old Folks” Kinder, who pitched in the majors 12 season and won 23 games for the 1949 Boston Red Sox; Don McMahon, who pitched 18 seasons in the majors with the Milwaukee Braves and San Francisco Giants; Dave Koslo, who also pitched in the majors for a dozen year with the Milwaukee Braves, New York Giants and Baltimore Orioles;  Wally Schang, a major league catcher for 19 seasons with the Washington Senators, Red Sox and Yankees; and former major league standouts Earl Browne, Hod Lisenbee and Vito Tamulis, who were closing out their pro careers as Kitty Leaguers.

Al Chapman, who still lives in Olmstead, is pictured in the book with the 1948 Hopkinsville team which finished 81-45, the third best record in Kitty League history. A starting infielder, Chapman played baseball for many years. One of his daughters, Brenda Chapman Strickler, is one of the greatest athletes in Western Kentucky University history, starring in both basketball and tennis. She went on to be MVP and Rookie of the Year in a women’s professional basketball league, following in her dad’s footsteps.

Among Chapman’s teammates was John Mueller, another WKU legend who became a respected educational leader. He batted .353, scored 115 runs, drove in 124 and stole 36 bases.

Major league teams would stop by Kitty League ballparks to play exhibition games. Maxwell’s book includes a picture of the 1916 Pittsburgh Pirates visiting Dawson Springs. One of the Pirates was the legendary Honus Wagner.

A photo of players Roger Wright and James Bryan was supplied by the late Logan Countian Lewis ‘Shine’ Richardson, who was a standout catcher in military baseball and in the high minor leagues. His brother Joe played in the Kitty League. They were the brothers of Russellvillians Jack Richardson and Sue Geisler.

Arnold Heft, who played for Owensboro, later became one of the first referees in the Basketball Association of America—now the NBA, and he later was an owner of the Washington Bullets, now known as the Washington Wizards, the book reveals.

While serving as baseball commissioner, Kentuckian A.B. ‘Happy’ Chandler attended a game between Mayfield and Fulton. A picture in the book shows the former governor and U.S.senator with managers Hugh Holliday and Eddie O’Connell.

The Kitty League was published in 2012 by Arcadia Publishing. The ISBN number is 978-0-7385-9372-2. It can be ordered for $21.99 at Search for the title “Kitty League” without putting The in front of it.

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