BASEBALL IN HINCKLEY
No one is quite certain when the first baseball game was played in Hinckley, but the town had teams both before and after the Great Hinckley Fire of 1894. By the late 1800s, the game had become a national craze, with teams across America in towns of all sizes.
THE EARLY TEAMS
Newspaper accounts describe crowds coming out to see a team known as the Hinckley Crescents, which formed on June 15, 1893. After the fire, a new team was established on May 27, 1895 called the Hinckley Monarchs. Two years later, a women’s baseball team was organized. Another team, known as the Red Caps, was formed on April 7, 1900, and in 1904 the team in town was called the White Sox. As with many organized games of the early days, bases were laid out in an available open field and the crowd sat picnic-style nearby to watch the action. As the town grew, Hinckley enjoyed more formal settings, with teams playing on baseball fields in different locations in the 1920s and 30s, including on the city’s west side near the railroad switchyard where a pair of softball fields are located today, and at a field south of the city which was used until the late 1940s.
A NEW LEAGUE
The Eastern Minnesota League, or Eastern Minny League as it is called today, began in the early 1920s and was the first such regional league in the State of Minnesota. Hinckley’s team won the league championship in 1923. Its eventual parent organization, the Minnesota Baseball Association, held its first statewide tournament in 1924.
BUILDING A NEW HOME
During the Second World War, many amateur teams disbanded but started reorganizing after the war, including in Hinckley, where games resumed in 1946. By that time, amateur baseball was reaching a peak of popularity across the country, and Hinckley decided it needed a new field to serve as a home for its successful town team and a magnet for baseball players and fans across the region. Built on what had been the “school farm” for Hinckley High School students to learn about crop cultivation, the new field was opened in 1948, paid for by $100 shares sold to businesses and members of the community. The gleaming new field was immediately considered one of the best in the state, with bleachers, permanent fences and lights. The first game at the new field was played on September 3, 1948.
NAMING THE FIELD
Brennan Field was formally dedicated in 1956, and got its name from Hinckley resident and amateur baseball pioneer J.M. Brennan, one of the founders of the Minnesota Baseball Association, which he served as president for 16 years. A member of the state’s baseball hall of fame, his name adorns the Association’s annual sportsmanship trophy to this day. His son J.D. Brennan also served on the MBA board of directors, as have his grandsons James (currently secretary of the Eastern Minny League) and Dennis Brennan (currently business manager of the Hinckley Knights and member of the MBA board). All four are members of the Minnesota Amateur Baseball Hall of Fame.
Major improvements to the ballpark since it was first built with the light towers in 1948 include the covered grandstand in 1956, a water well and the concession stand in 1959, a press box in 1961, the box office in 1970, a complete outfield fence in 1981 when the high school football team moved its games across the street to its new field, a major upgrade to the lighting system in 1987, a remodeling of the grandstand in 1996, a new scoreboard in 1998, a completely new outfield fence in 2003, new dugouts in 2010, bullpens in 2012 a party deck in 2015 and and expanded concession stand and pro shop in 2017. A steady program of improvements with the help of the town team, the school district and dozens of area sponsors and supporters allows Hinckley to maintain an enviable facility for players and fans alike.
A WINNING TRADITION
Hinckley has long been known as a “baseball town,” fielding competitive teams at the high school, American Legion and amateur town team levels.
The current town team, the Hinckley Knights, boasts league championships in 1977, 1979, 1980, 1982, 1983, 1984, 1985, 1986, 1987, 1988, 1990, 1992, 1993, 1994, 1999, 2004, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2012 and 2016; playoff championships in 1970, 1972, 1974, 1977, 1978, 1981, 1986, 1987, 1988, 1990, 1992, 1993, 1994, 1995, 1999, 2000, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2008; and regional championships in 1974, 1978, 1987, 1990, 1992, 1993, 1994, 1997 and 2010.
The Knights have appeared in the state tournament in their division 23 times, including: 1951, 1956, 1958, 1959, 1970, 1972, 1974, 1978, 1981, 1986, 1987, 1988, 1989, 1990, 1992, 1993, 1994, 1995, 1997, 2000, 2010, 2014 and 2015. Their best finishes were in 3rd place in three different years: 1956, 1959 and 1989.
The Hinckley-Finlayson Jaguars high school baseball team was formed with consolidation of the two school districts in the 1980s. The local team, then known as the Hinckley Vulcans, appeared in the state tournament in 1961, winning the consolation championship.