Chicago was one of the first cities to fall in love with baseball and its citizens were some of its greatest patrons. Our two professional teams played at the pinnacle of the sport, while dozens of semi-pro and hundreds of amateur teams in and around the city filled the base.
While the city’s history carries a certain notoriety with the Black Sox scandal and other nefarious actors, the spirit of the sport lifted up many of its citizens. Baseball was prevalent in Chicago as early as before the Civil War, with evidence of amateur games being played in the years leading up to the war. The return of soldiers to the city brought back profound enthusiasm for the sport which allowed for the support of many semi-pro and amateur teams throughout the city.
These semi-pro teams would play exhibitions with not only major league teams but also with local Negro League teams, a standard that was not yet accepted by the rest of the sporting world. The story of how Logan Square came to feature prominently into semi-pro lore begins with an ambitious man named Nixey.
James “Nixey” Callahan started his baseball career off with the Philadelphia Phillies seeing only mild success. He then bounced around the minor leagues until the Chicago Colts (soon to be Cubs) bought his rights in 1986 (Baseball Historian). Callahan found more success in the Windy City with the Colts but soon left for the newly created cross-town White Sox in 1901. With the White Sox he won an American League pennant in 1901, then regressed statistically the next season a bit, but still found enough to throw the first no hitter in the AL. (Baseball Reference)
At the turn of the century, semi-pro baseball was in its “golden age.” Callahan left the White Sox to try and cash in on the baseball craze after seeing how well it had worked out with his colleague-turned-boss Charles Comiskey, the former player who founded the White Sox.
Callahan bought an existing baseball diamond at the corner of what is now Diversey and Milwaukee, erected a fence and built a stand for seating– and thus the Logan Squares had a new home. The area had been rising in popularity as the neighborhood was newly annexed into the city of Chicago in 1889 and connected via transit. New houses sprang up in the traditionally English, Scandinavian and Jewish neighborhood and baseball’s popularity grew with the population.
Callahan’s new team would compete in a newly created semi-pro league in Chicago. He raised the ire of Ban Johnson, the President of the American Baseball League, and the rest of organized baseball by poaching major league talent by signing players who were suspended, not presently affiliated with the league, or even under aliases.
Ban Johnson declared the Logan Square’s an ‘outlaw’ team and threatened to levy significant fines on any player playing either for or against them. The team even drew the interest of pro stars like Ty Cobb and Tommy Leach, albeit as bait in their own negotiations with their clubs, but nonetheless the Logan Squares were on the national map.
These threats did not affect the performance of the team, who fielded one of the best semi-pro teams of the era. After the 1906 season, in which the Cubs and White Sox faced off in the World Series, the Logan Squares played games against the professionals in back to back days, beating them both. The White Sox game drew over 5,000 spectators while the game against the Cubs drew over 8,000, which was believed to be the largest attendance ever for a semi-pro game.
The team ran fairly successfully until 1910 when Callahan decided to return to playing with the White Sox. Callahan tore down the fence and allowed amateurs to use the field. There were later iterations of the Logan Squares down the years, but none as important or with the profile of Callahan’s team.
Check out more historical photos of the Logan Squares from Baseball Historian.
Cover Photo: Chicago Daily News / Library of Congress