‘How Iowa met baseball’ topic of Sunday program at the museum

John Lipea

Baseball has been part of hometowns in America for longer than a century. The Greene County Historical Society and Jefferson Matters: Main Street will celebrate the bond between baseball and hometown teams Sunday, March 25, at the historical museum in Jefferson.

“How Iowa Met Baseball: The myths, the history, the players” is a special presentation about the myths regarding the “invention” of baseball and the origins and evolution of the early game in the United States.

John Liepa, emeritus of history and political science at Des Moines Area Community College, will present the program at 2 pm.

He’ll touch on how the Civil War played a role in accelerating the spread of the game, the very first mention of baseball in Iowa in 1858, and how the game caught on.

Liepa brings to life some of the first players from Iowa who played a critical role in the development of the game. He focuses on players from the part of the state where he is presenting the program, and he brings his extensive collection of memorabilia and cards for guests to peruse.

Liepa taught courses in political science and American and Iowa history from 1972 to 2010. He received an “Excellence in Education” award in 2001 and was honored as DMACC’s “Educator of the Year” in 2004. He served on the State Historical Society of Iowa’s board of trustees from 1998 to 2113, having served both as chair and vice-chair; and, on the Iowa Historical Foundation, the fundraising arm of the State Historical Society of Iowa.

Since retiring, he has taught courses for the Senior College of Greater Des Moines on “Iowa’s Role in the Civil War,” “Iowa’s Ethnic Heritage and Origins,” and the “Early History of Baseball in Iowa.” Liepa has been a 20-year member and program chair of the Des Moines Civil War Roundtable and has done presentations on “Lincoln’s Assassination,” “The Civil War’s Impact on Baseball’s Evolution,” and “The Impact of Journalists During the Civil War.”

A life-long baseball card collector, Liepa owns an extensive collection of cards and memorabilia representing Iowa’s 221 Major Leaguers and Iowa’s seven Hall-of-Famers. A charter member of Iowa’s “Field of Dreams” chapter of the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR), he has had numerous articles on Iowa baseball history published. Over the past seven years, he has done more than 110 presentations on baseball history throughout Iowa and the Midwest, often appearing as Montrose, Iowa’s Calvin McVey, Iowa’s first professional baseball player, who played for America’s first all-professional baseball team – the 1869 Cincinnati Red Stockings.

Liepa’s program on baseball is part of the Jefferson and Greene County HomeTown Teams – Museums on Main project, presented by Main Street Iowa, the Smithsonian Institution, Jefferson Matters: Main Street and the Greene County Historical Society. There is no admission charge.

The Smithsonian exhibit will be on display at the historical museum Aug. 11-Sept. 23.

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