Corbett Field: A remarkable history

File Photo Note the price of attending a baseball game in this undated photograph. Also, the Keg restaurant in the background, which was located in the northwest corner of the Corbett Field parking lot, was removed many years ago.

At times the exterior has shown the wear of an aging facility counting down the days to the inevitable wrecking ball. But inside the aging walls the luscious green grass and beautifully groomed diamond, complete with gleaming white bases, projects a completely different perspective. It is a place where dreams become reality.

Ah, the glory and history of Minot’s Corbett Field!

Corbett Field was built in the 1930s. Construction was completed sometime in 1937. The field served as a centerpiece for baseball in Minot and the surrounding area. Ten years after completion, under the direction of the Minot Park Board, Corbett Field received improvements that have lasted through the decades.

The familiar grandstand roof was added and tall light standards were constructed. Night baseball had come to Minot!

In 1950, the ballpark with the famous zig-zag outfield wall and perimeter proved to be an attraction for a franchise in the integrated Manitoba-Dakota League. The Minot Mallards were born. Several greats of the game were soon stepping onto the perfectly groomed field underneath their freshly shined spikes while the full moon rose high above the outfield wall and the towering light standards cast a multitude of shadows. It was a magical place for young men to showcase their skills!

The Man-Dak League was billed as a competitive loop for both aspiring ballplayers and those hoping for one more chance at glory. Rosters of teams in the league were filled with many players from the old Negro Leagues and those of Latino descent. Legendary Leroy “Satchel” Paige pitched off the Corbett Field mound on one of his barnstorming tours, making three appearances for the Minot Mallards in the 1950s.

Although the dates of his mound appearances at Corbett Field might be in dispute, there’s no question Paige put on quite a show with his unique pitching style and vaunted reputation despite his age. Paige was 46-years-old in 1950. When asked by a reporter about his age, which was often in dispute, Paige once replied, “How old would you be if you didn’t know how old you are?”

Other legends of the game found themselves on the playing field at Corbett Field as well. The list includes “Hammerin” Hank Aaron, Joe Torre and Roger Maris. Several Minot Mallards advanced to the major leagues. Among them was the very popular outfielder Larry Stahl who played for the Mallards in 1962. Stahl appeared in the major leagues with the Kansas City Athletics, of which the Mallards were affiliated; the New York Mets, Cincinnati Reds and the San Diego Padres.

The “glory” years of Corbett Field didn’t end with the demise of the Northern League in the mid-60s. A new version of the Mallards returned in 1995 as part of the fledgling Prairie League. The league folded in 1997. In 2000 Corbett Field became home to the “Greenheads” of the Northwoods League. The wooden bat league for college players brought in athletes from universities throughout the United States. It also led to more improvements at Corbett Field.

The orange seats that are in the grandstand today were installed in 2000. The seats were purchased from a company that bought them from Atlanta’s historic Fulton County Stadium. The Corbett Field grandstand had been constructed for seating to be installed but the grandstand has gone without conventional ballpark seating for more than 60 years.

Thoughout the years Corbett Field has been the home of countless teams, from Legion baseball to high school teams and more. It also hosted fastpitch softball games on a modified diamond during major tournaments conducted by the Minot Recreation Commission.

An interior fence along the old outfield wall is one of the changes to Corbett Field that has taken place throughout the years. The original scoreboard, manually operated, has been replaced by an electronic version. The light standards are no longer in play. Modern lighting has long since replaced the old bulbs such as those depicted as hit by a long ball off the bat of Roy Hobbs in the movie “The Natural.”

Although no longer in use, the outside ticket window at Corbett Field led to fans walking up two ramps inside the grandstand to the seating area. Once a fan reached the top of the second section of ramp the green grass of the outfield came into view. It never failed to make a lasting impression on baseball enthusiasts.

Underneath the grandstand at one time was an umpire’s room, showers for both the home team and the visitors, a cafe and a souvenir stand. It was baseball at its finest. Such is the history of Corbett Field.

A new era of baseball

While the North Dakota High School Activities Association has been awarding a state champion in baseball since 1950, a turning point came in 2000 when the state began awarding a Class A champion and a Class B champion.

Minot High etched its name in history with its first state championship coming in 2005. The Magi have also claimed six West Region titles since 2000. The last coming in 2009.

However, Minot has a chance to end the region title drought as it will host the Western Dakota Association tournament at Corbett Field later this spring.

Since the turn of the century, however, the Magi aren’t the only community team to find success on the diamond.

At the Class B level, Bishop Ryan has been a force on the diamond winning five state titles since 2000.

The Lions won championships in 2000-01 and 2007-09. Ryan won its first state championship in 1997.

The Minot Vistas, the American Legion baseball team for 18- to 19-year-olds, have also had their share of success. The Vistas have won five state championship since 2001, with the last one coming in 2010.

The Vistas have also won titles in 2001, 2003, 2006 and 2007.

Prior to 2001, the Vistas hadn’t won a championship since 1987. The 1987 title ended a run of three championships in seven seasons (also having won 1981 and 1984).

The Vistas won state championships back in 1977-78.

As any coach will tell you, success is built from the ground up.

Minot’s baseball success stems from a youth baseball program that has 9- to 12-year-olds playing in Cal Ripken Leagues.

From there, 13- to 15-year-old players move on to play in the Babe Ruth League before the joining the Minot Metros, American Leagion A team for 16- to 17-year-olds.