January 13, 1953: Death of Frank Wade, Duluth’s “Mr. Baseball”

On this day in Duluth in 1953, Frank Wade, longtime owner of the Duluth Dukes professional baseball team, died of a heart attack at his home at 5704 Cody Street. He was just a few weeks shy of his 81st birthday. Wade was born in Griggsville, Illinois, and came to Duluth in 1895 when he was 22 years old, working as a tin smith before entering the hardware game; he would later work as a salesman for wholesalers Kelly-How-Thomson. Wade was involved in Twin Ports baseball almost from the moment he arrived in town, managing a semi-pro team in 1898. In 1933 he became a silent partner of the Superior Blues, which his son Dick managed from 1933–1935 in the newly revived Northern League. Frank Wade purchased the Duluth Franchise in 1934. The highlight of his years as Duke’s owners was when the team won the 1937 Northern League pennant. The low point was when five members of his team died in a tragic bus accident in 1948. Friends said he never recovered from the accident, and his health began failing thereafter. He sold his franchise in 1951. The Duluth Municipal Stadium, built in 1941 by the Works Project Administration, was renamed Wade Stadium in his honor. Read more about Wade, and the stadium named for him, here. Besides baseball, Wade was known for his skills as a skip on the curling rink, hanging up his broom at the age of 78. He also played trombone and clarinet, performing with the Duluth City Band shortly after moving to the Zenith City at the 1897 dedication of the Interstate Bridge.

This photo, made in 1940 by L. Perry Gallagher, Jr., shows Athletic Park still standing left of the newly constructed All Sports Stadium, later renamed Wade Stadium in honor of Frank Wade. (Image: University of Minnesota Duluth Kathryn A. Martin Library Archives and Special Collections)

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