Limeport Stadium, Our Field of Dreams...
“If you build it he will come”. Remember the Kevin Costner movie Field of Dreams? For a baseball fanatic having a field with such a historic value would be unprecedented. Limeport Stadium is that dream come true. Howard “Lefty” Fegely was not only the founder of the Stadium, but a well-known baseball legend in the Lehigh Valley in the 1900’s. The fascinating history and long lasting tradition has kept this stadium alive.
Mr. Fegely had three interests in life- his family, his dairy business, and baseball. Lefty, as he was known by, was a dairy farmer who was greatly admired by the people of Limeport, not only for his services, but also for his vast knowledge of baseball.
In 1932, Howard helped found the East Penn Baseball League. This was a league made up of teams from all around the Tri-county, Blue-mountain area. The league lasted until 1950, but Howard’s team, the Limeport Milkmen, are still remembered today. In addition to the East Penn League, he also founded the Limeport AA (athletic association). This was a social club consisting of community families.
Howard had two baseball playing sons, Homer Fegely, and Russell Fegely. It was said that Howard built the stadium for his two sons. They inspired Lefty to do what no one thought could be done at the time. In the spring of 1932, Mr. Fegely made the decision to build the stadium. Seventy-five to one hundred people earned jobs working as contractors on the stadium. Because the Great Depression was at its height, bricklayers and steel workers constructed the stadium paid with the most minimal wages.
The Stadium was constructed at a cost of approximately $75,000. Tons of steel beams and wooden planks were brought in by truck to be used for the construction. The flooring was made out of iron so that it was assured a long life. The flooring had not been touched until a couple years ago when it was ripped out and replaced. Three sections of stands were constructed in an arc shape around home plate. It could seat crowds a little over 1000 people. The fold down seats were handmade in Reading, Pennsylvania. The lower level has a tunnel that leads to the bathrooms, locker room, utility room, and a social hall. A concession stand was strategically placed at the top of the stairs leading into the stands. Built-in dugouts were made of brick and concrete, which have not been modified to this day. The original locust post fence surrounding the stadium remained in its original state until 1993. It was replaced with pressure treated wood.
There are also some interesting stories about the stadium. Legend has it that Howard’s favorite beagle is buried under third base. Also a frequently asked question at Limeport is, “has anyone ever hit a homerun over the centerfield fence”. The fence is 485 feet from home plate. Story has it that Alex Sabo is the only person to hit a homerun over the fence.
Limeport Stadium is notorious for its sloped centerfield. This is the result of a gigantic boulder that is under the ground in center field. Back when the stadium was being built it would have been too expensive to blast and level the field so it was kept as it was.
Lights were added in 1984 bringing night baseball to Limeport. To raise money for the lights, an eight-by-four foot donor board was ordered and names of donors were engraved on small brass tags. The drive began and each meeting brought more names and more money. The lights were bought, however there was a lack of utility poles. P P & L donated poles and a truck owned by Fleet Sales brought the eighty-foot poles down what is now known as Interstate 78. The project was only half complete because four more poles were still needed. For a $1,400 sum less anticipated, a company in Alabama offered to sell and deliver the poles.
It was May of 1984 when the Electrical Contractors Association began the task of insuring each light standard contained fifteen lamps of 1,500 watts. The Western Salisbury Volunteer Fire Company was contacted to see if they would be interested in using their 100' Mack aerial truck to position the lights. The Fire Company accepted the challenge. It took three trips to get all the lights positioned correctly. The first trip was especially challenging, when the truck became stuck in the soft ground along right field, twice. A gracious patron of the club pulled the truck out with a bulldozer. Subsequent visits were done after the ground became more solid in the fall. The procedure to aim the lights was very interesting. Someone had to put small flags in the field where a particular light was to be aimed. One tower was lit, and one light was done at a time. A light was matched to a flag, a firefighter on the ladder would loosen the bolts, and when the focus of the light hit the flag, the bolts were tightened. The towers by the stands became the greatest challenge due to their height. Upon completion of aiming the lights, all the towers were lit. It was an awesome sight! To celebrate the occasion, the firefighters, along with all those members who helped, retreated to the club to enjoy the moment. Actually, the moment was enjoyed after all the trips, but the last night was very special. Al Crist had the honor of throwing the switch to illuminate the field for the first night game on July 20, 1984. One hundred and twenty 1,500 watt bulbs provided the lighting for the game. Over one hundred games are played at the stadium each summer.
The bar which used to be in the tunnel of the stadium was a place where players would relax and socialize. However after a while it turned into a motorcycle bar. These new tenants caused a lot of trouble which scared away some of the crowd. After gathering all the necessary evidence of wrongful activities that violated their lease agreement, the members of the stadium took legal action. After many years in the court system the unwanted tenants were finally evicted from the bar. Now more people come to watch games with their kids because of the reassured feeling of safety that was established from the eviction.
The stadium is owned and maintained by the members of Limeport Stadium Incorporated (LSI). It is a non-profit organization made up of over fifty volunteer men and women. The IRS threatened to put the stadium up for public auction. LSI took over ownership of the stadium in 1989. Since its Incorporation, LSI has made over $100,000 of improvements and renovations. Money used for renovations and maintenance is derived from fundraisers and donations. An annual baseball banquet is held every year to give out awards, raise money for the stadium, and listen to a guest speaker. A big meal is prepared and a famous guest speaker gets on stage and tells you about his career. Some of the past speakers have been: Richie Ashburn, Tommy Lasorda, Larry Bowa, Jim Honnicheck, Bobby Shantz, Mickey Vernon, Curt Simmons, Bill White, Elmer Valo, Craig Anderson, Dallas Green and Tug McGraw. The first guest speaker was Coopersburg’s very own Jim Schaffer on February 1, 1986. Jim Schaffer played in the major leagues for 14 years and coached in the minors and majors. His professional baseball career spanned over 35 years. There were 250 people in attendance that night. Other famous people have visited, or played at the Stadium including Connie Mack, Max Patkin (the Clown Prince of Baseball), the Philly Fanatic, Dick Spaulding and Johnnie Welaj.
Another fundraiser is the annual hoagie sales. The members form an assembly line and hand-make hundreds of hoagie orders. This fundraiser is always a big success. This money usually is used for renovations. A scoreboard was put in for $2,000 in memory of Howard Fegely. It still stands in its original spot today. Also a granite memorial was recently put in front of the stadium to honor all the LSI members who have contributed so greatly to the stadium, and unfortunately passed away. The old Fegeley garage in the middle of the parking lot was restored and transferred into a meeting room. All of the LSI meetings are held here and all the historic scorebooks and documents kept by Mr. Fegeley himself are on display. All the pictures and historic pieces on display resemble that of a hall of fame of Limeport Stadium.
Throughout the years many teams have played at Limeport. For a while it has been the home field for the Limeport Bulls, Dodgers, Southern Lehigh High School, Connie Mack, American Legion, and Allentown College. Limeport Stadium has a great historic value in our community that many people did not know about. The contributions of the volunteer members of this stadium are why the stadium still stands today. From the Great Depression to today, the stadium represents the national pastime of the American people and how the love of the game was so important to Mr. Fegely. The stadium, which has stood the test of time, is still in good condition and is evidence of quality worksmanship. Like a true field of dreams, Mr. Fegely built his “love of baseball” for the crowds to come and take-part in America’s pastime.
Written by: Matt Fulton