Eisenhower baseball controversy is thrown out

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Baseball historian and author Bill Swank shows the team photo of the Junction City Soldiers and points to a player identified as Wilson, clearly not Dwight Eisenhower. (Photo by Ron Preston)


Abilene Reflector-Chronicle

News : Thursday, August 08, 2013 7:00:00 AM

There is no doubt that Dwight Eisenhower liked baseball. There is no doubt that Ike was a good athlete. These are known facts that have been documented by known researchers and expert historians.

What isn’t known or proven is the so-called Eisenhower baseball controversy at least according to Bill Swank, a baseball historian and author from San Diego.

Swank spoke about the controversy, his extensive research and his theories on the subject last night to a group of Eisenhower and baseball enthusiasts at the Eisenhower

Presidential Library Visitors Center Auditorium.

“If you are going to write something as history, it’s got to be correct,” Swank said about some material that has been written about Eisenhower’s baseball days.

Swank discussed the information that is mentioned in Wikipedia, as one example, where supposedly Eisenhower played pro ball or maybe semi-pro ball under an assumed name of Wilson for a team in Junction City.

Swank has thoroughly researched archives of newspapers sent to him on microfilm from the Kansas State Historical Society and could not find any mention of a Wilson in any box score or story written in the newspapers of the time period.

The so-called controversy would claim that Eisenhower got paid to play baseball before he enrolled in West Point and that he may have even lied about it, therefore breaking the Cadet Honor Code.

Swank showed the members of the audience results of his research and why he concluded there is no controversy. A team picture of the Topeka City Soldiers was shown to the crowd and by conclusion of Tim Rives, Deputy Director of the Eisenhower Library and Museum, as well as other professional historians determined the person identified in the picture as Wilson was not Dwight Eisenhower.

Swank, in his research, as a baseball historian admits that a lot of known athletes and personalities played summer league or semi-pro baseball as it was called back then under assumed names.

One of the important things to remember according to Swank is to remember that times were different in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s and that historians of today dwell on the rules and regulations of the National Collegiate Athletic Association of today. The NCAA was not even formerly finalized until 1910 and then it did not have full membership of all colleges and universities under its umbrella.

Eisenhower was a good athlete as stated before and according to Swank not only did Ike love baseball, he was a pretty good football player too. He might not have made the West point baseball team, but he did play football for them in 1912. Historical records indicate that Eisenhower was a tailback for the Cadets and during a game against Carlyle University he played against future Olympian Jim Thorpe.

Yes, Eisenhower loved sports, especially baseball. Did he play baseball for money before becoming a Cadet? That has yet to be proven and therefore there should not be a controversy at all, according to Bill Swank.

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