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Sioux City recognizes its only Baseball Hall of Famer with new holiday

Sioux City's only Baseball Hall of Famer will be celebrated in a new exhibit at the Sioux City Public Museum.
Courtesy of Sioux City Public Museum
Sioux City's only Baseball Hall of Famer will be celebrated in a new exhibit at the Sioux City Public Museum.

The first time that Dave Bancroft’s name appeared in the Sioux City Journal in 1903, it was to praise the 12-year-old for his perfect attendance in Sunday school.

But, one of the last sentences of that story would reflect what Bancroft would become known for in the years to come: “[He] has solved more mysteries of the great national game of baseball than almost anyone his age.”

Bancroft went on to be one of 340 players inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. And, as the only Sioux City resident to do so, the western Iowa town has dedicated this July 1st as the inaugural ‘Dave Bancroft Day.' It’s a way to celebrate the hometown hero’s legacy in baseball.

“It’s time – particularly historians and baseball fans – know something about him,” former Mayor Jim Wharton said at a city council meeting on Monday.

Bancroft in 1922 with New York Giants (002).jpg
Courtesy of Tom Alesia, author of "Beauty at Short"
Bancroft in 1922 with the New York Giants.

Bancroft spent 16 years in the major leagues beginning in 1915, and was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1971. The shortstop was nicknamed ‘Beauty’ by the media for his awe-inspiring fielding abilities on the diamond.

Yet, Tom Alesia, who authored Bancroft’s biography “Beauty at Short”, said the baseball player’s story is still relatively unknown. That’s why he helped to build an exhibit to remember him at the Sioux City Public Museum.

“One of the things that makes me proudest is getting to show Sioux City and baseball fans everywhere exactly who this person was and how significant his contribution was,” Alesia said.

Bancroft played alongside household names in baseball – like Lou Gehrig and Ty Cobb. In an old timers game in 1959, he shared the field with Jackie Robinson.

Alesia will be at the museum on Friday to share the stories behind Bancroft’s wide-ranging achievements. Those accomplishments range from winning a World Series against one of his good friends, Babe Ruth, to coaching in the professional women’s league after he left the field.

Team photograph of the South Bend Blue Sox, 1949.
Courtesy of Tom Alesia, author of "Beauty at Short"
Team photograph of one of the professional women's baseball teams that Bancroft coached, the South Bend Blue Sox, 1949.
 Dave Bancroft's plaque in the Baseball Hall of Fame
Courtesy of Tom Alesia, author of "Beauty at Short"
Dave Bancroft's plaque in the Baseball Hall of Fame

This exhibit will give the public a chance to get to know Bancroft and to learn about Sioux City’s history with baseball that dates back to the late 1800s, said museum director Steve Hansen.

“It's been a staple with minor league teams, professional teams for centuries now,” Hansen said. “So it's really pretty astounding that we don't have more than one Hall of Famer.”

Sioux City’s newest holiday will also be celebrated on the baseball diamond. The Minor League Sioux City Explorers will dedicate a plaque honoring Bancroft at their game on Friday night.

Alesia said Bancroft’s legacy is one of hard work. Not a natural-born hitter, Bancroft trained hard to develop the skills to make it to the major leagues and then worked even harder to earn his spot in the Hall of Fame.

“With that kind of determination, and that kind of class that he showed throughout his career, he was definitely an ambassador for baseball,” Alesia said.

Kendall is Iowa Public Radio’s western Iowa reporter based in Sioux City, IA.