Community collaboration celebrates the past and promises a welcoming future
June 20, 2023
Earlier this spring more than 180 people from around South Bend gathered for the groundbreaking of Foundry Field, a public-access baseball field designed to celebrate the Foundry Giants and other underrepresented baseball teams from South Bend’s past.
In the 1920s, the Foundry Giants often stood atop the standings of the Studebaker industrial baseball league, a prominent feature of South Bend sports at the time. The predominantly Black team hailed from the Studebaker foundry and included several players who went on to play professionally in the Negro Leagues. But much of the history of the Foundry Giants has been lost until now.
The project inevitably invites comparisons to the iconic 1989 baseball movie Field of Dreams, starring Kevin Costner as an Iowa farmer determined to build a baseball field after he hears a mysterious voice tell him “If you build it, he will come.” Once the field is complete, ghosts of forgotten baseball greats return to play on it.
But Foundry Field has been the work of much more than one person. It is a collaborative community project led by the Sappy Moffitt Field Foundation, the University of Notre Dame’s Center for Social Concerns, the Indiana University South Bend Civil Rights Heritage Center, and the City of South Bend Venues Parks and Arts.
The project’s four primary objectives are to increase interest in baseball through programming, history, art and public access; increase access to baseball through partnerships with the Boys and Girls Clubs of St. Joseph County and the South Bend Community School Corp.; revitalize the Southeast Neighborhood, a largely working-class neighborhood south of downtown; and preserve and promote underrepresented teams and individuals from South Bend’s baseball and softball history.
As proposed, the field will feature a full-size diamond bordered by the elevated railroad tracks at the southeast corner of Southeast Park. It will include a grass infield, dirt base paths, a net-and-steel-pole backstop, an irrigation system and a living hedge outfield fence. Future additions may include a covered vintage grandstand, covered dugouts, a scorebooth with a PA system and a public pavilion. The field will be home to the South Bend-based Sappy Moffitt Baseball League, an adult recreational league, and will also be used for youth baseball through the school corporation and the Boys & Girls Clubs.
In addition to the field, the project calls for a series of murals and historical markers along the left and center field walls (technically, the retaining wall on the south side of the elevated tracks) that tell the story of the Foundry Giants and other teams and individuals important to South Bend baseball and softball history.
Additional information is available on the Foundry Field website.