Nothing $acred At IU
Allow me to vent on the subject of naming rights by Indiana University, specifically the varsity baseball field, with which I had a memorable association in the mid-1950s.
In those years, it was known as Sembower Field, located north of the campus on Fee Lane, and named for Professor C.J. Sembower who played baseball for IU in 1891-1894.
Sembower was among the organizers of the I-Men’s Association in 1913 and served as the organization’s first vice-president. Since that time, every athlete who ever received an athletic ”I” became a member of the association. The gender reference was changed with the advent of Title 9 and is now known as the ”I” Association.
Over the years, the land where the baseball field was situated became more and more tantalizing to IU’s dreams of expansion. Thus, the call was made to relocate the field, and in so-doing came the lip-smacking opportunity for the university to solicit deep-pocket donors and naming rights.
So now, the name Sembower is no longer linked to IU baseball. Instead, the new field and stadium is located along the Ind. 45/46 bypass, and named Kaufman Field for Bart Kaufman who played baseball in the early 1960s. Kaufman is an Indianapolis attorney.
The Indianapolis Star published a BizBuzz in its business section April 28 that Kaufman made a $2.5 million donation to help build the new field. It also identified Kaufman as chairman and CEO of Kaufman Financial Corp. of Carmel.
Adjacent to Kaufman Field is a new softball facility named for a squeaky Plainfield car dealer.
So, what sent me on this rant?
Ernie Andres was the IU baseball coach, as well as having stellar years as a member of the varsity basketball team, as well as playing varsity baseball.
A letter from the IU Varsity Club asking for donations to recognize ”the contributions and legacy of Coach Andres” to name the IU dugout ”in his honor.” The missive was from Jim Muehling, development officer with the IU Varsity Club, who stated ”there have been some significant gifts towards the $100K goal,” which leaves the impression Coach Andres’ dugout will cost $100,000!
I doubt there are many major league teams with dugouts costing that much. Tell me more Mr. Muehling: gold plated facets?
And, of course the gifts in Coach Andres name are made payable to the IU Foundation, which will administer the funds. But, finding out how the foundation ”administers” those gifts is a state secret, despite efforts of many years to look at the foundation’s books.
So, what sent me on this rant?
My association with Coach Andres and Sembower Field dates to the mid-1950s when I was a student manager for the IU varsity baseball team. In those days, there was always a full-drawer of managers starting with six freshmen, four sophomores, two juniors, and one senior manager. Who would ascend to the next level from one year to the next was the coach’s call.
Despite one personal setback for me in my junior year, Coach Andres stayed with me and named me senior manager for the 1958 season, which gave me the opportunity to travel with the team for games with Illinois, Michigan State, Ohio State and Notre Dame.
And, the piece de resistance was the Spring training trip, usually south to Texas, Florida, or Louisiana, which included the senior manager, me.
Guess what? Harris’ luck held true to form — we didn’t go south, but stayed in Bloomington.
But, that’s another story, in which President Herman B Wells and our catcher Edward E. ”Eddie” Whitehead, of Madison, played starring roles.
When I got to reminiscing about Coach Andres, it brought to mind an incident involving the IU dugout during a game when I was a manager. Who we were playing is a mystery to me now, but not what happened during the game.
As he was wont to do when an IU baseballer made a bone-headed mistake Coach Andres would invariably kick the bat rack sending maple spindles spiraling all over the dugout as players ducked for cover. But, this time an IU error sent him into a small toilet at the south end of the dugout. When coach slammed the door it locked, and stayed locked. He was captive.
All he could see of Sembower Field was through a small air vent, and his range of vision was limited to the pitcher’s mound and second base beyond.
And, of course his team verbally and loudly described all sorts of phenomenal Hall of Fame plays IU made that afternoon, all of which were products of our imagination, while Coach Andres pleaded to know what was going on.
Despite our promises to send for a maintenance man to release him, as I recall it wasn’t until the game, which IU lost, was over that the locksmith guy showed up to free a humbled Coach Andres.
So, after excising my grumps, and in afterthoughts, maybe naming a dugout after Coach Andres is fitting.