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Bosse Field, America's third-oldest baseball stadium, is celebrating its 100th birthday this year. And it's still going strong. [Image: Austin Coop]

America's Third-Oldest Baseball Stadium Is Less Than 4 Hours Away

America's third-oldest baseball stadium is celebrating 100 years of hosting baseball greats, film sets (here's lookin' at you, A League of Their Own), and family trips. A visit to this historic field will leave you all warm, fuzzy, and full of respect for America's favorite pastime. Let's play ball.

If you look up the oldest baseball stadiums in America, you won't be very surprised by the oldest and second oldest on the list (Fenway Park and Wrigley Field, respectively). People talk about their storied pasts all the time. Lots of enthusiasts plan road trips each year just to say they've seen then Green Monster or posed for a picture below the Wrigley Field sign.

Fewer people, however, plan a trip to #3 on the list: Bosse Field in Evansville, IN. We think that, after hearing about our experience, you're gonna want to start the trend.

LET THE TOUR COMMENCE

From the moment you pull into the parking lot, you can feel the history. The spirit of old-time baseball seems to radiate from the stadium's century-old walls. To put it simply: from the street, Bosse Field looks exactly like the kind of place where baseball magic is made.

Now, you could probably write a story like this from anywhere -- pull some pictures from the net, read up on the history of the field, and start typing. If we had taken that route, though, we never would've had the pleasure of meeting our tour guide, Bix Branson, Vice President of the Evansville Otters.

A good tour guide can take a place that you've read about from afar and turn it into something special (even magical) in person. And, fortunately enough, Bix is just that sort of guide. Teeming with excitement for both the Otters' game that night and his love of the field, he dove right in. No detail of Bosse Field was without a story as Bix led the way through the locker rooms, managers' offices, press box, and even the roof of the 100-year-old field.

Bix, the consummate salesman, even took us to the gift shop (a trip that resulted in a $40 Bosse Field coffee-table book, which I've been thumbing through daily since I left.)

THERE'S ONLY ONE BOSSE

What are the highlights of our tour of Bosse Field? One of my personal faves: The fake advertisements left painted on the stadium from when it was used in the 1990s baseball classic, A League of Their Own.

The movie that made, "There's no crying in baseball," the second-most common baseball phrase ever uttered (right after "Play Ball") was filmed almost entirely at this historic baseball field.

To commemorate the field's 100th anniversary, the Evansville Museum is currently featuring an exhibit on Bosse Field. Stop by for a visit and you'll find plenty of newspaper clippings and photos related to the movie and the filming process. Take, for instance, this little tidbit we saw at the museum:

While Bosse Field is a bona fide Hollywood star, it's also a sports star with multiple baseball and even football greats having played on its historic grass. Ever since Mayor Benjamin Bosse commissioned the stadium over a century ago, the field has been hosting players who would go on to be stars in the MLB and NFL. The most well-known modern player to play here is a name even a non-baseball fan probably knows: Don Mattingly. The baseball great and Evansville native passed through Bosse Field on his way to a state championship in 1978 and a runner-up finish the following year before he was soon signed by the New York Yankees. The address for Bosse Field pays homage to the hometown hero: 23 Don Mattingly Way.

Apart from the fact that the field was the backdrop for a very famous movie (not to mention countless games played by so many sports greats), Bosse Field is most impressive just for being Bosse Field over the past 100 years. Let us explain

LIKE BASEBALL ITSELF

In a century of use, Bosse Field has never been a major league ballpark. While it's hosted big-league exhibition games, the field's bread-and-butter has always been minor leagues, independent leagues, women's leagues, and even war-time factory team leagues. The fact that, as a relatively small field in a tremendously small market, it sits forever etched into the history of baseball (alongside legends like Wrigley and Fenway) just makes you feel good inside.

It's baseball at its simplest and most wonderful. Bosse Field gives little boys and girls the chance to taste the magic of baseball without the distracting glitz (and expense) of most big-league fields.

After we wrapped up our tour with Bix, we enjoyed a 32-ounce beer for $4 (Can we talk about how cheap that is?) and just people-/baseball-watched. Kids ran by with their gloves on and faces painted, hoping to catch a foul ball. Friends enjoyed hot dogs and beers. While most ballparks are throwing money at fancy amenities, Bosse Field made us fall in love with baseball all over again using nothing more than some simple wooden seats and two teams on a diamond.

The Evansville Otters didn't come out with a win that night, but it didn't matter. Bosse Field is a place where even a loss feels like a win.

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Bosse Field, home of the Evansville Otters, is located at 23 Don Mattingly Way, Evansville, Indiana 47711.

About the home team, the Evansville Otters:
The Evansville Otters are an independent professional baseball team playing in the Frontier League. For their upcoming schedule (and more on Bosse Field), visit the Otters' website.

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