Story by Olivia Albers
Photo by Luke Nankivell
Baseball is often called America’s favorite pastime, but the sport is not offered through Drake University’s athletic department. However, Drake previously had a team. One of the first teams on record was assembled in 1885, just four years after the university was founded.
The baseball program was cut in 1921 and revived in 1929. In the early 1940s, the sport was again dropped. Then, 1947 saw its rebirth. Drake had a team from 1947 until 1974, when the program was cut for good.
A change in the university’s academic calendar during the 1970-71 school year was a main factor in cutting the program. The end of the school year moved from June to May, cutting a large portion of the team’s playing time. Iowa weather also played a part in this decision. The winters are long, and snow can stay on the ground until late March or early April.
During the 1970s, the baseball team did not have its own field and traveled to various locations around the city to play and practice. Never winning a conference championship may have also led to the program’s demise. Eventually, the program stopped giving scholarships, leaving men with less incentive to join the team.
“(The university) had logical reasons for dropping (the baseball program) from time to time,” Drake athletics historian Paul Morrison said after looking over the baseball records he had accumulated over the years.
Former baseball player Gary Macek joined Drake’s team in 1961 as a freshman and continued to play until he graduated in 1965. Although scholarships were not awarded to baseball players at that time, the Cedar Rapids, Iowa, native still wanted to be a part of the program. Macek remembered how other schools had better facilities than Drake, but the team always managed to get by using fields around the Des Moines area.
“It was a very enjoyable time. We were sort of a rag-tag band, didn’t have the fanciest uniform(s),” Macek said. “We had people who enjoyed playing the game, and we had good camaraderie among the guys on the team.”
He said playing baseball helped him become a team player.
“You want to compete. You want to win. You want to work together as a unit to achieve a positive outcome,” Macek said. “Having the opportunity to have those kinds of experiences was rewarding.”
While Macek understands why Drake no longer has a baseball team, he would like to see the university develop a team in the future, if the budget allows.
Athletic Director Sandy Hatfield Clubb said she doubts there will be a baseball team developed any time soon because Drake would have to comply with Title IX regulations.
Title IX does not regulate the number of sports offered to men and women on campus, but regulates the percentage of the student population of men and women. The percentage of women involved in sports at Drake is significantly lower than the percentage of men. Creating a baseball team would, therefore, violate Title IX rules. While Hatfield Clubb does not feel Drake is at a disadvantage for not offering baseball, she said having a baseball program might draw students interested in the sport to Drake.
The other aspect of starting a baseball team is finances. Coaches must be hired and paid, uniforms and equipment purchased, transportation to games funded and the use of baseball facilities paid for.
Out of the 10 teams that participate in the Missouri Valley Conference, only Drake and Northern Iowa do not have baseball programs.
Morrison feels there may be interest in the future to start a baseball program at Drake.
“Iowa high school baseball is pretty widespread across the state,” Morrison said.
He said there may be many men interested in playing for Drake.
Whether Drake plays America’s sport or not, Hatfield Clubb feels Drake has a tremendous athletic program and that athletes will continue to represent the university in a positive light.