July 16,  1941: First professional baseball game at Wade Stadium

On this day in Duluth in 1941, the minor league Duluth Dukes played their first home game at Duluth All-Sports Municipal Stadium, known as Wade Stadium since 1952. According to Duluth baseball historian Anthony Bush, “While fans and players enjoyed the facility, the Dukes took it on the chin in their match with their cross-port rivals, losing to the Superior Blues 6–3.” From 1934 to 1940 the Dukes—affiliated with the St. Louis Cardinals—played at Athletic Park, located adjacent to Duluth’s ore docks and next to the site of the new stadium. Hastily built in 1903, by 1938 the stadium was dilapidated. The new stadium was financed with state and federal funding, much of it from the Works Project Administration. Today it is one of the last remaining Depression-era brick ball parks still standing in the United States—and the stadium’s 381,000 paving bricks were salvaged from the reconstruction of nearby Grand Avenue, which was repaved in concrete earlier that summer. Baseball legend Joe DiMaggio visited the nearly-completed stadium in January 1941 while staying with his in-laws (DiMaggio had married actress Dorothy Arnold, a Duluth native, in 1939). Joltin’ Joe waded through the snow to take a swing at an imaginary pitch and remarked, “Baby, batting out a homer in this park will be a good job for the best of ’em.” In 1952 the stadium was renamed Wade Municipal Stadium after the passing of team owner Frank Wade. Known as Duluth’s “Mr. Baseball,” Wade spent a half-century promoting the sport in the Zenith City. Read a much more complete history of Wade Stadium here.

A photograph of the Dukes’ first home game in their new digs on July 16, 1941; Duluth lost 6–3 to the Superior Blues. (Image: Tom Kasper)de