Perseverance carries Reds to 125th anniversary

Herald File Photo by Sarah Ann Jump
During a game in 2017, members of the Jasper Reds watched the action from the dugout at Ruxer Field in Jasper. This year, the Reds are celebrating their 125th year of playing semipro baseball — a tenure that’s included several future MLB players and different tournament experiences, name changes and uniform changes as well as jaunts into different semiprofessional leagues. But one aspect that’s stayed the same is the memories and nostalgia that playing with the Reds has brought to the city of Jasper.

By HENDRIX MAGLEY
hmagley@dcherald.com

The sport of baseball is often referred to as America’s favorite pastime, but you could also say it’s Jasper’s favorite pastime.

While it’s no secret that basketball seems to often reign supreme throughout most of Indiana, the sport of baseball has left its mark on the city of Jasper. From the Jasper Wildcats making their presence known across the state with their record 16 state finals appearances and alums such as Scott Rolen leaving their mark in Major League Baseball to being the site of Indiana’s baseball hall of fame, baseball and Jasper have been linked together in many ways.

But perhaps the most impressive link between the sport and the town is the presence of the Jasper Reds semi-professional baseball team. The Reds are celebrating their 125th anniversary this season and have been a longtime staple in the city of Jasper. 

While semipro teams may not be as common as they once were, the Reds have left a lasting impression and continue to be a place for current high schoolers and college athletes to hone their skills. But without people to help put on the show, the Reds may have disappeared like several of their fellow teams did as the years went on.

“You don’t have a team for 125 years unless people are willing to do the work and to see the thing come to fruition,” said Bob Alles, the Jasper Reds business manager. “It takes quite a bit of time and someone has to be willing to do the work. But thank goodness it seems that in Jasper there’s always been someone who cares enough about hardball to get it done, a lot of people have helped to keep it running and they don’t want to see it die.”

The Reds, who started out as the Jasper Acmes, technically began playing baseball games in the 1880’s but at that time there were also several other semipro teams in Jasper such as the “Young Americans”, the “Deadbeats” and the “Patokas”. However, around 1893 the Acmes became Jasper’s superior semi-professional baseball and they started to almost exclusively just play teams from out of town.

The team never explicitly changed their name to the Reds but they did change to the Red Jackets in 1894 after getting brand new red uniforms. People in the community and fans began shortening their name to just the Reds and the rest was history.

While throughout their history, the Reds often played teams from nearby communities such as Ferdinand, Huntingburg and Boonville but if you take a look at the teams that Jasper had on their schedule this year the closest teams were Owensboro and Terre Haute. So why have so many teams, especially teams in smaller towns, seemed to fade away?

“The biggest reason is that teams didn’t have someone to manage it — things like hiring the umpires, scheduling opponents — that stuff has to be done,” Bob said. “Years ago, there were at least 13 teams in Dubois County, every little town had a team and they were all very good. I can remember playing teams like Gentryville on Sundays and every team would have a Sunday pitcher and they’d be good. Now, with teams that are fairly far away and also with teams being in leagues putting the schedule together becomes one of the toughest things.”

Photo Provided by Tom Alles
The 1893 Jasper Acmes are often recognized as Jasper’s first version of what we now know today as the Reds. From left to right in the front row: Charles Lampert, William Melchoir, Vic Cassidy, Otto Schuble and William Gasser. In the back row from left to right, Andrew Friedman, Mart Schuhmacher, A.F. Gutgsell and George “Kaiser” Kunkel.

While the Reds have had several notable players during their long tenure such as guys like Van Lingle Mungo and Urban Pfeffer who played professionally for the Los Angeles Dodgers and New York Yankees to guys who went the professional route in other sports such as Del Harris who ended up becoming a head coach in the NBA for the Milwaukee Bucks and the Los Angeles Lakers.

The Reds have also had plenty of family ties throughout their history but perhaps one of the most prominent families is the Alles family. Bill Alles is the team’s manager, Bob Alles is the team’s business manager and Tom Alles is the team’s historian. Several other members of the Alles family along with Bill, Bob and Tom have played with the Reds in the past and Austin Alles, Jerry Alles’ son, is a current member of the Jasper club.

“For us and our family, you’re just kind of born into it,” Tom said with a laugh. “We were born into a family where our dad loved baseball and played for the Reds and we all looked up to the Reds players as kids so that’s how we really got started in it.”

Bob added, “I went to games as a kid and we chased foul balls and I can recall how we all looked forward to running the bases before they turned the lights off right after the game. Those guys to us were like Major Leaguers and it’s been a neat thing ever since.”

Both Bob and Tom have some very special memories from their time with the ball club — whether that involves their playing days, watching their father play with the Reds when they were young or even certain games that they were a part of.

For Bob, one key memory for him was how his playing days with the Jasper squad began.

“I started back in 1973 and I was actually playing for the Ireland Merchants at the time. As it turned out, the last game of the year we played against Jasper at Jasper and actually hit a home run in that game even though (the Reds) ended up clobbering us,” Bob said with a laugh. “But after the game, Jerry Birge (the Reds business manager) told me he was probably getting ready to retire because he had kids and just didn’t have enough time to do it so in the spring I told Jerry to give me a call and I became a player-manager for the Reds at just the age of 19.”

Tom can recall some great games that he played in such as a 16-inning, 5-and-a-half hour marathon battle against Huntingburg to playing with several star athletes including former Indiana University football quarterback Tim Clifford. However, his best memories are of watching his father Jerome “Chick” Alles play with the Reds when he was growing up.

“What little memory I have of my dad playing I look back on a lot differently now than I did as a youngster,” Tom said. “I’m getting a little emotional just thinking about it but I’m just really glad to see that the team is still going because I think it’s a great tradition — Jasper has always had a little something for baseball.”

The Reds will continue to add to their historic tradition tonight as they begin play in the Bluegrass World Series in Louisville. Jasper will start the tournament against a team called the Louisville Stars — an All-Star squad filled with former MLB players including Chipper Jones, David Ross, Josh Beckett, Jonathan Papelbon and a plethora of other MLB alumni.

No matter what the result of the game, Bob and the rest of the Reds feel that they’re already winners just for this opportunity.

“I honestly think this is the biggest honor to ever happen to this team,” Bob said. “No matter what happens on the scoreboard we see this as a win-win situation. We’ve talked about this tournament for months and now it’s finally here and we just want to reach out and grab it, it’ll be a wonderful experience no question.”




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