By NANCY HANAMAN
RIPPEY, Iowa, Oct. 10, 2016 – Former players, coaches, fans and many others gathered for the Greene County Historical Society program about Rippey’s baseball heritage on Friday, Oct. 7, at the United Methodist Church here.
Following a “ball park meal” of hot dogs, brats and hamburgers served by church members, community leader & historian Mary Weaver opened the program by leading those present in the Pledge of Allegiance and a rousing rendition of “Take Me Out to the Ball Game,” accompanied by Dick Bardole.
Weaver shared some of the early baseball history, including a story about Rippey’s first team, founded in 1888, which played under the name “Hardscrabble.” Later town teams were known as the Rippey Merchants and the Rippey Demons, the latter coached by Pat Daugherty, who went on to become a top college and professional coach.
Those teams helped build the town’s love of baseball, and that led to Rippey having one of the first lighted ball parks – and one of the finest diamonds – in the state. In fact, the Iowa High School Athletic Association hosted at least five high school state championship games in Rippey.
A panel of former Rippey High School and town team players Dan Peters, of West Branch, Iowa, and Lester Zanotti, of Omaha, and Ron McNeil who grew up in Jamaica and later was principal and coach at East Greene High School, responded to Weaver’s questions about their experiences with baseball here. Peters and Zanotti played together while in high school in the mid 1950s. Zanotti went on to play for the University of Iowa and also in the U.S. Army, and Peters signed a professional contract and played in the minor leagues.
Many memories were shared by former players and others, including Cindy Anderson Cole, daughter of Walt and Nadine Anderson. She talked about her memories of being at the ball park with her dad and racing to retrieve foul balls. John Munson brought a catcher’s mitt stuffed with horse hair that had belonged to his father Willis Munson. Baseball uniforms and other items were also on display for viewing.