Tag Archives: Baseball

Strikeout Artist

Cumberland University baseball team; Laban Lacy Rice

Cumberland University baseball team; Laban Lacy Rice

As this year’s World Series wraps up, we look back at Dixon, Kentucky native Laban Lacy Rice, whose long life as an educator, classicist, hoax artist, astronomer and cosmologist began to take shape when he entered Cumberland University in Lebanon, Tennessee and organized its first baseball team.

From 1890 to 1893, Rice and his younger brother Cale Young Rice were, as pitcher and catcher respectively, the team’s feared battery.  In the early days of his career, when the pitcher’s mound was nine feet closer to home plate, Rice, who possessed control, velocity and mastery of one of the first curve balls inflicted on local batters, regularly recorded 15 to 18 strikeouts; he recorded 21 against an unfortunate team from Hopkinsville.

However, it was Cumberland’s rivalry with Vanderbilt University that attracted the most enthusiasm.  Behind Rice’s pitching, Cumberland regularly defeated Vandy and whenever the players returned from a road game, throngs of cheering citizens would meet them at the train station and escort them back to town.  But there was no line drawn between amateurs and professionals, and when Vanderbilt engineering student Ben Sanders—also a pitcher for the Philadelphia Phillies—took the mound, Cumberland finally fell to its arch rival.

Besides Rice, Cumberland fielded other players who later excelled in their chosen careers, such as Tennessee Chief Justice Grafton Green and Missouri Supreme Court Justice James T. “Tom” Blair.  Lacy Rice himself became chancellor, then president of his alma mater.  Although he tried his hand briefly at professional baseball, his interests soon expanded “from curved balls to curved space” as he counted among his many academic achievements an expertise in Einstein’s theory of relativity.

Laban Lacy Rice’s career in baseball and education is documented in his collection of papers held in the Manuscripts & Folklife Archives of WKU’s Department of Library Special Collections.  Click here to download a finding aid.  For more collections, search TopSCHOLAR and KenCat.

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Filed under Manuscripts & Folklife Archives

Don’t Hate 1908

Chicago Cubs player, 1908The last year the Chicago Cubs won the World Series is a distant age for most, but for those browsing the Manuscripts & Folklife Archives collections of WKU’s Department of Library Special Collections, it’s a time easily recalled.  During that year, for example:

Architect Brinton B. Davis was overseeing completion of Bowling Green’s new City Hall at 10th and College Streets.  The cost:  a little over $25,000.

John Marion Robertson, manager of the Bowling Green Opera House, issued a complimentary ticket to Confederate veteran John W. Stark for a performance of “On Parole,” a play about the Civil War that included “scenes in which you,” he wrote Stark, “no doubt, took part.”

A friend wrote Hopkinsville’s Charles Hisgen about the state of the train station. “If we can get that railroad lot cleaned off . . . also coal yard & a new modern passenger depot, when a stranger arrives in Hopkinsville he will think the town amounts to something.”

Phineas Hampton “Hamp” Coombs (evidently not thinking about baseball at all) sent a Valentine by telegram to his wife Lattie.  “I send my love to you by wire,” he crooned.  “Sweetheart, for you my heart’s on fire.”

Butler County physician Dr. William Westerfield recorded in his diary that late October winds were aggravating “forest fires in Muhlenberg Co. causing considerable damage burning over corn fields, fencing etc.”

John Blakey Helm wrote his father from Princeton University about returning to Bowling Green at the school year’s end.  “I expect you had better send me about thirty dollars, which I think will bring me home.  I haven’t anything else here to pay for but have only a dollar and a half.”

And here’s an anecdote about President Lyndon B. Johnson (born in 1908) who, many agree, understood and wielded political power better than any modern chief executive.  At the conclusion of an event at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, a military officer informed the President that “your helicopter is ready.”  LBJ, stone-faced, replied “Son, they’re all my helicopters.”

Click on the links to access finding aids for these collections harking back to 1908, and search TopSCHOLAR and KenCat for more.  Then sit back and wonder if the “last time the Cubs won” clock will be reset to 2016. . .

Hamp Coombs's 1908 telegram

Hamp Coombs’s 1908 telegram

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Going Up? The Elevator



The Elevator was the first student publication at Western Kentucky State Normal School. It was published “monthly” during the school year from 1909 through 1916. Volume II has been posted on TopScholar using optical character recognition software to make the issues full-text searchable. In this first volume are accounts of the first baseball team: “we have hopes of securing a professional coach;” faculty activities: “Prof. Webb went fishing and swimming in a creek in east Tenn,” lists of graduates; news from alumni: “Miss Lillian Moore is teaching English and History in the Natchez Miss. High School;” student compositions; advertisements for local merchants and general news of the school. Check it out on TopScholar.

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Hilltoppers in University Archives

Varsity Lettermen 1959

Varsity Lettermen 1959

WKU athletic records and photographs are a hot item in University Archives.  We answer many questions related to coaching staff, student athletes and teams throughout the year.  In order to facilitate research several series of records have been processed and detailed finding aids made available online.  These include two sets of photographs: 


Digitized images are available through KenCat (http://wku.pastperfect-online.com/35749cgi/mweb.exe?request=ks). 

Several athletic department office records have been processed. 


These last records are especially useful to anyone interested in the Hilltoppers as they consist of Media Guides for every major sport(http://digitalcommons.wku.edu/dlsc_ua_fin_aid/55/), Student Biographical File 1979-2004 (http://digitalcommons.wku.edu/dlsc_ua_fin_aid/54/) and Clipping File 1962-present (http://digitalcommons.wku.edu/dlsc_ua_fin_aid/53/).

We are currently processing the Basketball Office records which consist of correspondence regarding schedules, tournaments and athletes and hope to have a finding aid posted in the near future. 

The University Archives also houses an extensive film, video and audio collection, the bulk of which is made up of athletic film.  The master list is available online at: http://digitalcommons.wku.edu/dlsc_ua_fin_aid/198/

If you have Hilltopper documents, photographs or memorabilia that don’t appear in the finding aids, please contact the University Archives at 270-745-4793 or via email at archives@wku.edu

Check out KenCat to get information on other University Archives collections:  http://wku.pastperfect-online.com/35749cgi/mweb.exe?request=ks


Filed under Events, New Stuff, University Archives