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  • Writer's pictureRochelle Gridley

Junior Baseball

Years ago I saw a photo story by Wilma Tolley in the Pantagraph on the interurban, an obsession of mine. As I worked on the Negative Collection, I watched for the work of this woman, and I was not disappointed when her photographs began appearing in 1945. (I don't look forward and figure out when something will happen, I like to let history unfold to me in the collection.) Wilma did feature stories, or stories of public interest, rather than news stories. But she rarely did action images, so this group of images of junior baseball players at O'Neil Park in August of 1949 is surprising to come from her.

It looks like Ron Stillman threw down his bicycle and just started heaving baseballs without pause!

Donald Arbogast, the only lefty batting in this group and Herb Jordine catching.

This image was not placed in the paper, but Wilma caught a great shot of these boys, fully engaged in their game. (Almost as engaged as they might be in a video game today!)

Bill Krople at bat -- and look, the same boy is sitting on his bicycle, still watching. Once again, Herb Jordine catching.

Sometimes it is sad for me to see how infrequently the African American children were included in the activities of the Caucasian children. As the viewer of each and every image of this collection, it is glaringly apparent to me the lack of opportunity and the lack of regard given to the African American citizens of Bloomington Normal. They were present, but ignored, unworthy of opportunity even in a junior baseball league on the west side of Bloomington. This young man, Chuck Williams, was the only African American boy at the diamond that day. The catcher is Paul Jensen. Chuck looks like he could hit the ball all the way from O'Neil Park to the Alton train station.

Wilma Tolley had her last by line in the Pantagraph January of 1951. She moved on to Pueblo CO in 1951, where she worked as a reporter and married Howard Rogers. She later completed a second degree -- in education -- and a masters in library science. Wilma completed her working life in Oregon as an elementary school teacher and community college librarian.

To see all 21 images from this group, search "Junior Baseball Layout" in the 1946- 1949 collection.

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