Your Views: Sports shop owner recalls origins of youth baseball
Janesville’s Little League baseball program had its beginning in Saxer’s Sporting Goods, 9 S. Main St., in the summer of 1958.
Bob Giese, Ed Schwartz, Roy Coyle, Bill Smith, Bob Collins and I had a meeting to discuss the benefits that a Little League program would bring to Janesville.
We put an article in The Janesville Gazette stating that parents who were interested in having their sons play baseball should come to Saxer’s for signup. The response to the article was excellent, and an eight-team league was established. The games were played at the Monterey Field in front of large crowds, and the M&I team won the first championship in 1958.
A Pony League of six teams was added to the program in 1959, followed by a Babe Ruth League.
Saxer’s Sporting Goods sponsored Janesville’s first American Legion team in 1961 and with Bob Bower as coach, it won an amazing three state championships in the 1960s.
The southeast side of Janesville is now the site of an impressive facility that features 10 diamonds, some equipped with lights for night games. Little League, Pony League, Babe Ruth, American Legion, high school and girls softball are played there.
Many people have been involved in the program during the past 55 years. They have done an outstanding job, benefited countless kids, added fun and revenue to Janesville and have created one of the jewels of Wisconsin.
Congratulations to all involved, and keep up the good work!
EDITOR’ S NOTE: Janesville was honored this summer for 50 years of participation in Babe Ruth League baseball. Johnny Saxer thought it was an appropriate time to recall the beginning of youth baseball in the city.