First night baseball game in Berthoud took place in 1947

Photo courtesy of the Berthoud Bulletin Collection, Berthoud Historical Society –
A photograph of a day-time tug-of-war at the Berthoud ball park shows the wooden bleachers and wooden poles supporting the back-stop in the background.

By Mark French

The Surveyor

The big baseball park a short distance south of the intersection of Welch Avenue and Fifth Street in Berthoud was built in 1941. When electric floodlights were installed at the field in 1947 the local newspaper predicted, “Berthoud will rank among the best, so far as an up-to-date ball park is concerned, allowing night playing with the use of flood lights.” That proved to be the case, because night baseball was played there almost every evening during the last month of the 1947 season.

The first day game played at “Berthoud Park” took place on Saturday, June 7, 1941, when a team composed of local men “crossed bats” with the Hygiene nine. The score was not reported in the Berthoud Bulletin. The first official night game was played on Tuesday, Aug. 12, 1947, when Berthoud’s women’s softball team lost to the Loveland Shoe team by a score of 10-9.

Preparations to improve the baseball field began in April 1947. That month the local tabloid announced, “The equipment for the Berthoud ball park has started to come in and it looks favorable that the park will be ready for the ball season. The poles have come in and soon the lights will also be here…the cost of each major item for the field: Poles—$408.00; Hauling—$51.83; Lights and all Equipment—$657.32; Total—$1,117.32.

“Miscellanies such as a back stop, fence and bleachers will cost approximately $350.00 which brings the cost of the field up to $1,467.15. To date we have $1,026.00 collected which leaves $441.14 needed to complete the park. In the beginning there was much doubt as to whether this thing was going thru, and if you are still in doubt take a walk over to the Berthoud park and look over those huge poles lying off to the side. We still need money, so if you would be so kind as to help out a little more and get Berthoud on the map as other towns are. Your donations will be greatly appreciated. Get in touch with R.H. Wilhelm if you have a little to give.

“We wish to thank Frank Fairbairn for his time and efforts in surveying the land in the park. Also many thanks to the people who have given to support the Berthoud Ball park.”

On April 17, 1947, the Berthoud newspaper lauded Ray Wilhelm, the volunteer leader of the project. The Bulletin noted, “Work on Berthoud’s ball park is progressing nicely according to Ray Wilhelm who has pushed the project from the beginning. Holes have been dug by volunteer labor and the light poles will soon be set into place.

“Berthoud will rank among the best, so far as an up-to-date ball park is concerned, allowing night playing with the use of flood lights.

“Ray Wilhelm, who has kept the project alive by soliciting funds, making arrangements for necessary materials, and keeping on the job endeavoring to complete the park for games this summer, is to be highly commended for his initiative, welfare and interest in Berthoud as an enterprising town.

“Most of us can tell folks how to do a job—but few of us really roll up our sleeves and get the job done as Ray Wilhelm, our ex-service man.”

Much of the baseball season had already passed when the lights were given a test run on the evening of Aug. 5, 1947. One week later on Aug. 12, 1947, the first game “under the lights” was played.

Following the first night game the Berthoud Bulletin boasted, “The ball park with its flood lights now in operation, also does its share towards adding to the attractiveness and the up-and-coming spirit of the community.”

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