Before the York Revs came the Hanover Raiders
This Hanover Raiders team in 1921 is one of 300 photographs in the recently released book “Hanover Raiders: Minor League Baseball in Hanover, Pennsylvania.” Background posts: Adding to baseball timeline: Revs ready for ‘second helping’, Little school house in Hanover: A Story of Circus and Coal Room, and A journey from Delone Catholic to the Super Bowl.
John Coulson’s new book on professional baseball in Hanover in the first part of the 20th century caused some Web commenters to call for the organization of such a minor league team.
“It would be cool to start up this team again in the same league as York (Revolution) and Lancaster (Barnstormers),” one person commented.
The Hanover area wouldn’t appear to have the population base to support such a team, and it would take years and years to build a stadium.
But the comment shows that some in town yearn for those days when the Hanover Raiders ruled.
Coulson points the community’s memory to those days, as the following Hanover Evening Sun story (7/07/2008) indicates:
When cleaning up, things that have been lost can be found again. That’s something John Coulson found out two years ago.
Coulson was helping move into Hanover’s new library when he discovered a series of newspaper articles from 1978 on the Hanover Raiders.
Coulson knew a little bit about the Raiders, a professional baseball team that once called this town home. He is a fourth-generation Hanoverian and had heard stories from family members growing up.
But being a baseball fan and a person who enjoys history, Coulson thought that this story was something special.
He began a two-year journey that turned into a book called “Hanover Raiders: Minor League Baseball in Hanover, Pennsylvania.”
“I wanted to do it for Hanover,” Coulson said. “Hanover can be proud of some of its history.”
Once he helped move the library from its temporary quarters from the basement of the Residences at Hanover Shoe on North Franklin Street back into the newly renovated building at 2 Library Place, it became like a second home for Coulson.
He studied about 4,000 pages of microfilm in the Pennsylvania Room, he scoured papers from the late 1800s on, but mainly concerned himself with the time of 1915-1929, the height of the Blue Ridge League in which the Raiders played.
The league itself lasted until 1930, but Hanover did not field a team after the 1929 season.
One thing that Coulson found out was as time went on, the more he was happy with his idea of the book.
“The story kept getting more interesting,” Coulson said. “I wanted to share it with everybody.”
When he began writing and researching in 2006, Coulson gave himself a self-imposed two-year deadline.
The year 2008 has special meaning to the book and the history of the team. In September, it will be the 80th anniversary of the Raiders’ one and only championship in the Blue Ridge League.
That championship also gave Coulson an excuse to make a special trip.
One week last year, Coulson packed up and went to Cooperstown, N.Y., to visit the National Baseball Hall of Fame. There he got to see, up close, the 18-by-10-foot-tall banner commemorating the championship of the Raiders.
He also spent countless hours in the library there, trying to track down names and figuring out which players may have spent time in the major leagues.
Coulson also came across a box of journals kept by Jack Kane. In it, he found newspaper clippings that had the box scores from each game in it.
Kane began playing with the Raiders in 1926 as a pitcher. He was another local baseball player, growing up in Arendtsville.
Because print space is such a commodity, Coulson had a hard time getting names. Often box scores would have no first names with them and names would be spelled differently over the course of the years or even a season.
Names weren’t the only problem Coulson ran into.
“In an ideal world, I would have written this 20 years ago,” Coulson said. “I had to rely on newspaper accounts.”
Given that 80 or more years have passed since the Raiders were in existence, the players who were on the team are no longer alive, leaving Coulson to rely on newspapers and some family members.
Coulson got in touch with family from three players, Willie Sherdel, Pat Kunkle and Jack Kane.
All of them had different memories to offer, but all helped Coulson, especially in the picture department. Coulson went from almost no pictures to featuring more than 300 photographs and depictions in the final work.
One chapter of the book, in which there are 20, took Coulson about a month to do and about 3/4 of that month was research.
The book is broken into three different parts and the research alone was 265 pages of paper.
“I used Excel sheets to track rosters and games,” Coulson said, referring to the computer program. “Those were the foundation for the chapter. I would write the rough draft before going on to the next chapter.”
Coulson, a math major in college, took his drafts to a retired English teacher to edit the pages.
Through his research, Coulson found out that 36 players who played for the Raiders moved on to play in the major leagues. Back in the early 1900s, the Raiders were the equivalent to a low Class-A team, similar to those in the New York-Penn League of this era.
Among those who went on to play in the major leagues was Hanover’s own Sherdel. Sherdel played for Hanover High School and started playing for the Raiders the year after and went on to pitch in the World Series with the St. Louis Cardinals.
Hanover was the smallest market team in the Blue Ridge League, but several recognizable names can be tied to players of the Raiders.
Names like George Hallis, Knute Rockne, Connie Mack, Jackie Robinson and even Babe Ruth have stories tied to Hanover through the Raiders and its players.
When Sherdel pitched in the World Series, he faced the Yankees team featuring Ruth and Lou Gehrig in 1926.
While the field that once stood on High Street is no longer, a new tradition of Raiders has taken hold. The South Penn League’s Hanover team chose the nickname Raiders in 1990 when they began playing again.
“It’s nice they chose the name. It has an association with Hanover history,” Coulson said.
The book was meant to shed some light on a forgotten past in Hanover.
This being the 80th anniversary, Coulson hopes for more.
“It is important to recognize how important (the Raiders) were to the welfare of the community,” Coulson said. “I would love to see recognition for the team on the 80th anniversary. Hanover had the championship; it would be nice for them to be remembered.”
Coulson will forever be remembered in his own right because the price of admission to the library at the Hall of Fame was two copies of the book.
Later this month, Coulson will have a book signing at Guthrie Memorial Library, Hanover’s Public Library, where a portion of the sales from his book will go back to the library – where it all began.
For further details on the book, try Guthrie.
For additional sports entries, see this blog’s Sports category.