The Royals Radio Network is comprised of 86 affiliates and stretches across eight states. In this recurring series (previous features listed below) Royals Review attempts to give each affiliate its proper airing, celebrating the regional heritage of Royals baseball. In a sporting era corrupted by the endless quest for the big money, baseball on the radio is a decidedly low-stakes, low-tech venture. Let it always lay hidden like a strength in the backyards of the mind.
Miles from Kansas City: 215
Affiliate: 1550 KKLE-AM
The county seat of Cowley County and the fictional home of fictional Mary Ann Summers, Winfield, Kansas is one of the more unique cities in the Royals Radio Network. Winfield weighs in with a healthy population of 11,861, just larger than its Cowley County rival, Arkansas City's 11,581. (We'll all watch this population battle in coming years with great interest. Overall, Cowley County is home to roughly 36,291 Kansans, barely more than the number that called the place home in 1890, when over 34,000 were already there. Kansas, give us a century and change and we'll incrementally grow!
It was the westward migration to California, and later the railroads that spurred the dramatic growth of Winfield in the second-half of the nineteenth century, leading to a period "national acclaim", according to the town's official site. Just as the older trails and telegrams era was fading in the early twentieth century, Winfield was revived again. First by the discovery of oil in southeastern Kansas, then by the sweet sweet manna of government monies - although I'm sure Winfieldians remained staunch conservatives - in the form of Strother Field and a strong military presence in Winfield until the end of WWII. To this day, Stroher Field fuels the Cowley County economy.
Since then, there's been a certain leveling off, which is nevertheless preferable to an all-out decline and fall. Every year, Winfield proudly celebrates its history with the KANZA Days festival. Strangely enough, this festival named after a mistranslation of the indigenous group which was pushed off the land in the nineteenth century, only glancingly refers to the Kansas/Kanza/Kaw people, instead focusing more on the Car Show side of things. The whole thing is rather like the a group of Englishmen celebrating St. Patrick's Day by eating pizza, but when you see the morning sun rising over a vintage ash gold El Camino, you get it.
Winfield also hosts the Walnut Valley Festival (link here) a folk/bluegrass/etc gathering of some history, as the 2008 edition will be the 37th. The WV Fest features performances by a whole array of professional artists, as well as a number of contests in categories like "Mountain Dulcimer", "Old Time Fiddle", "Flatpick Guitar" and the like. As you might expect, you can also camp out at/during the event, and prizes are also given to the best decorated campsite. According to the official website, the campground features wireless internet, at leaving open the theoretical possibility of yours truly live-blogging from on site next September, while preparing to perform my rendition of "Greensleeves" on the mandolin. Somewhat amazingly, the Dixie Chicks played the fest in 1990, 1991, 1992. I say amazingly not because the fest is beneath them, but because this raises horrifying implications regarding the Chicks' ages. Band member Martie Ewin - I have no idea which one this is, and I'm not looking it up - also participated in the Fiddle competition in 1987 and 1989. For more on the Chicks at Winfield, click here.
The Dixie Chicks twangled and picked their way into the hearts of Winfield back in the early 90s.
Winfield really does seem to be something of an arty town, as the music festival is complemented by an annual "Arts in the Park" festival, as well as a thriving Community Theatre scene, which takes full advantage of a renovated Meyer Hall and the generous support of the citizens of Cowley County. Still, it was hard moving out of The Barn for many two years ago, but alas, as Queen Elizabeth has so gracefully put it, "grief is the price we pay for love". Winfield also boasts the Cowley County Museum, which offers the visitor a wonderful chance to view numerous rooms done up in nineteenth century fashion. In one room you can find pictures of the Dixie Chicks welcoming the troops home from the Spanish-American War.
No trip to Winfield would be complete without taking advantage of its gastronomical delights, and those delights might begin with breakfast at Braum's (or better yet, the local Daylight Donuts), continue onto lunch at College Hill Café (the perfect place to read RR while pretending to work on your novel), before wrapping up with a relaxed dinner at The Ridge. At the College Hill Café you'll also find the work of local artists featured on the walls, and frequent performances by local musicians. Seriously, on second thought, never leave College Hill Café, not with this menu.
The Black Cats listen to the Royals constantly on KKLE-AM.
Winfield is also home to Southwestern College, a holdover from the town's fin de siecle glory. Established in 1885, Southwestern College is affiliated with the United Methodist Church, and offers 37 majors mostly in education and the natural sciences. The school operates a 10-watt Fm radio station (KSWC), and features an active campus ministry. The school's English Department page also helpfully lists the careers available to English majors, but I can't find Blogger listed. Southwestern athletes also participate inter-collegiate sports (Go Moundbuilders!), and are spirited to victory by both cheer (squad reflections here) and dance squads. The dance team is known as the Black Cats and are reportedly rabid Royals fans.
Maybe the school's most distinctive feature is the large rockpile/Rock Mound on campus, a tradition started in the mid-1920s, and now home to numerous commemorative rocks. Each year campus groups are encouraged to add their rock to the pile. It is for this reason that the school's teams are known as the Mound Builders, not because the school founders were massive fans of the bizarre 1839 Cornelius Mathews novel Behemoth- A Legend of the Mound Builders. As you'll recall, there was a brief period in our history in which people were convinced the elaborate and mysterious mound formations across the Midwest had to have been the work of some long-lost civilization, (i.e. white people). In Behemoth, the vaguely Atlantean mound-builders were tormented by a gigantic mammoth-like thing that eventually destroyed their society. Anyway, none of this has anything to do with the S.C. mascot.
Of course, by pop culture law, all prolonged discussions of Winfield are required to include the tale of Mary Ann Summers, an ingénue who left on a three-hour tour and ended up stranded on Gilligan's Island. At press time, I have emailed the Mary Ann on GiligansIsle.com asking about her ties to Winfield, and will let you know if the correspondence comes to anything.
If hands could free you heart...
Of the 202 Kansas-born Big Leaguers, none found a way to have their mothers give birth in Winfield, although the city has found its way, on a darker note, into the annals of the game. On August 14, 1960, Hall of Famer Fred Clarke, died in Winfield, at the age of 87. Clarke was a 1945 Veteran's Committee enshrinee, and is also a member of the Iowa Sports Hall of Fame. Clarke's career line of .312/.386/.429 is augmented by the fact that he was a prolific base-stealer and a key member - and manager -- of four pennant winning teams in Pittsburgh (1901-1903, 1909). A look at Clarke's page on baseball-reference, reveals that he truly was one of the most dominant players of the turn-of-the-century, especially from 1897-1903. As manager, in 1901, Clarke famously moved Honus Wagner from the outfield to shortstop. In a 2000 article at Baseball Prospectus which argued that Tim Raines should be in the HOF, our own Rany Jazayerli pointed out that Raines' profile was somewhat similar to Clarke's.
Fred Clarke is buried at St. Mary's Cemetery in Winfield.
Previous Affiliate Profiles:
Storm Lake, Iowa
Garden City, Kansas
Belle Fourche, South Dakota
Nebraska City, Nebraska