CHAMBERSBURG — “Play ball!”
For over a century those words, along with the crack of the bat and cheers of the crowd, were a weekend staple at Chambersburg’s Henninger Field.
The most famous baseball game played at Henninger took place the afternoon of May 31, 1929, when the New York Yankees played an exhibition game against the club’s farm team ─ Henninger’s home team, the Chambersburg Young Yanks.
Baseball greats Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig played for the Yankees that day and in the fifth inning, Ruth thrilled the crowd when he lofted a three-run homer over the center field fence.
Hennnger was in continuous use for the next nine decades, until the Young Yanks successor, the now defunct Chambersburg Maroons, left the ballpark following their final game in 2010.
Over the years, the ball park fell into disrepair.
That changed when Wilson College made a deal last year to invest in renovating the historic ballpark in return for its use as a home for it’s new baseball team, the Phoenix.
Wilson has a 10-year lease agreement with the borough of Chambersburg for the exclusive use of Henninger Field.
Under the agreement, the College made approximately $250,000 worth of improvements to bring the 124-year-old field into compliance with NCAA specifications for baseball.
The borough also completed some updates to the field’s public restrooms, moved electric lines and removed trees, according to college officials.
The Phoenix, a member of the Northeastern Atlantic Conference, began their inaugural season at Henninger last month and now have what Wilson Director of Sporrts Education Lori Frey says is “a couple of games” under their belts.
The team takes to the field again Saturday in a double header against Clarks Summit University.
The games will follow a dedication ceremony for the newly renovated Henninger Field that will officially make the ball park the home of the Wilson Phoenix.
Kudos to Wilson College, itself a story of (figuratively) rising from the (economic) ashes to continue to be a strong educational presence in Chambersburg, for its decision to invest a quarter of a million dollars to restore Henninger Field and insure that baseball will continue to be a part of Chambersburg’s future.
Kudos to the borough government for partnering with Wilson to insure the preservation of an iconic ball park with historic significance that reaches beyond the local community.
What better way for the community’s many sports fans to spend a spring afternoon than at a historic ball field cheering on their home team.