This small town located near the Kansas-Oklahoma border on U.S. 69 highway has been enriched in a steep history of baseball.

Of the Little League variety that is.

This small town located near the Kansas-Oklahoma border on U.S. 69 highway has been enriched in a steep history of baseball.

Of the Little League variety that is.

So much so that, in 1980, former President of Kansas Little League, Wayne Metcalf, elected to start a small tribute to baseball that stemmed all the way back into the mid-40s.

That spawned the creation of the Baxter Springs Little League Museum, which still stands adjacent to the Little League baseball field that hosted the 2009 Little League State baseball tournament last week.

Metcalf said that the museum started considerably smaller than its present capacity.

“It wasn’t about half the size that it is now,” Metcalf said. “We expanded it a few years after we opened it.”

Back in the 1960s and 70s, Baxter Springs was the site of Little League Divisional tournaments that featured the best teams from across eight states.

So, the memorabilia from all the years of players and games was stacking up.

“We just had a lot of stuff that was laid up in storage, and we thought it would be nice to display it,” Metcalf said.

From there, through private donations, the museum was built. Metcalf said that it is currently maintained through donations aside from what is collected during Little League games.

“There is not much cost to it anymore,” Metcalf said. “There is just a few dollars for electric, but we don’t have any heat or air in it.”

Baxter Springs was the site where several ball players were first noticed for their baseball abilities.

Players such as Hale Erwin, who is now a professional golfer on the PGA Champions tour, as well as Mickey Mantle, the New York Yankee great, who played in Baxter Springs with a team called the Whiz Kids from 1947-49.

“We’ve had some kids play some minor league ball or college ball,” Metcalf said. “Baseball has always been pretty strong here even at the high school.

“Little League has been a big part of the growth of the sport here.”

While Metcalf was not involved in the Little League program, or baseball, in Baxter Springs during the time Mantle played, the stories still resonates today.

One of those stories include when Mantle hit a home run, his teammates passed the hat to collect money for him. However, Mantle was still in high school and had to give all of the money back.

“That was like a semi-pro team,” Metcalf said. “Some of those kids were brought in and they worked in the mines and got room and board and played baseball.”

One thing that hurts the Little League State Museum is the fact that Little League restructured their tournament format in 1990 and moved all the state champions from the Midwest to a central location in Indianapolis.

That means fewer opportunities for visitors to see just what the museum has to offer.

“We see more people go through it when there are tournaments,” Metcalf said. “Any other time, we have had people just go through that are family or things like that.”

Metcalf said the museum can be opened at any time for those who want to view the items that have been collected over the years.

“I will open it up for anyone that wants to come look at it,” Metcalf said. “We’ve had kids that have played here before and their family will be here and want to come in and look at it.”

While the museum struggles for attendance, Metcalf said there is still plenty to offer. The museum has items like autographed baseballs and pictures from players like Mantle, state championship flags, bats, uniforms and plaques.

It is an atmosphere that may be lacking in places like Indianapolis, where the Midwest Regional Tournament is now held.

“They go to bigger cities, and they don’t have the crowds we used to have here,” Metcalf said. “In places like Indianapolis, there is a lot of things going on, and most people don’t even know they have the Little League complex there.”

While there is really no budget to advertise the fact that the museum is in Baxter Springs, Metcalf said there are other, reliable ways of getting people to the location.

“It is in a magazine, and we just have it open for ball games and people will just show up,” Metcalf said. “Word of mouth is about the best advertising that you can get and we try to take care of it the best we can.”
As for any museum expansion ...

“We just want to maintain what we have,” Metcalf said. “Someone may hit big sometime and we may have to add something else there but, we just want to maintain.”

Matthew Clark can be reached at or at 620-231-2600, Ext. 140. Follow Morning Sun sports at