BILLINGS — Did you know during breaks in the action of the State AA legion tournament this week in Billings, you can visit an entire section of the Yellowstone County Museum devoted to local baseball greats?
MTN Sports was given a first-hand tour of the exhibit by Sam Studiner, a founding member of the Billings Baseball Preservation Society.
“Tom McIntosh donated this little guy’s uniform from when he was the bat boy for an old town team that Ed Bayne played on, and it’s over 75 years old,” said Studiner.
And it’s just one of the hundreds of items you can find in the downstairs exhibit. Jerseys, gloves, commemorative posters, but the main attraction is a unique piece of history.
“We had only four players from the American Legion program that went on to play Major League Baseball, and all four were pitchers,” Studiner said. “Dave McNally, Jeff Ballard, Joe McIntosh, and Les Rohr. And this is a baseball signed by each one of them – the only one of its kind – and this thing that it’s set is from wood from the old Cobb Field.”
The displays were born from a question Studiner had back in 2008 when Dehler Park was completed.
“I wondered what we had done with all the memorabilia that was under Cobb Field, and if there was a place at Dehler Park where we could put some things,” Studiner said. “So I decided to get a board put together of prominent baseball people in Billings, from all the different entities. So at that point that we were going to try to raise money, because we had the drawings – we had everything set to go – the Yellowstone County Museum, and in particular Charlie Yegen, said, ‘Why don’t you join us at the Yellowstone County Museum?’ Which worked out great.”
Terry Steiner, the museum’s executive director, has loved having the exhibit for the past two years.
“It has to do a lot with Yellowstone County and preserving Yellowstone County history,” Steiner said. “So baseball is included in Montana’s preservation of Yellowstone County.”
It goes from the Billings Mustangs all the way down to Little League, of course, with a special section for you-know-who.
“Our world renowned Big Sky Little Leaguers from 2011, when they played for the championship of the World Series,” Studiner said. “We’ve got a whole uniform and a hat all autographed by the players.”
But as good as the Big Sky boys were, Studiner has another favorite Little League story.
“When Billings won the State Little League championship in 1979, there was a girl on the team. We went to San Bernardino, and that was the first time a girl had played in the Little League Regional. Her name was Michelle Studer, and she had a lot of wonderful quotes. ‘ERA is not Equal Rights Amendment. It’s Earned Run Average in my book,’ she’d say.”
It’s stories like that that have the society eyeing its own building one day, which would make it the farthest west baseball-centric museum in the country. Admission to the current exhibit is completely free.
The museum and the Billings Baseball Preservation Society are looking to expand the exhibit into the front room on the top level. If you have memorabilia you might want to donate, please contact the museum at 406-256-6811 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Shawn Heringer, President of the BBPS, explains the organization’s mission statement below:
“Our goal is to preserve the rich history of baseball in Billings and the greater Yellowstone County area. By partnering with the Yellowstone County Museum, the Billings Baseball Preservation Society has insured a permanent and sustainable home for baseball artifacts and memorabilia for future generations to enjoy.”