HISTORIC FLINK FIELD
A quote about reaching old age goes, "If things get better with age, then you are approaching magnificent". That certainly could be said about Flink Field. It is often recognized as one of the best, if not the best high school baseball field to watch a game. Flink Field is regarded by many who live in the LTHS community and have had the privilege to play there certainly feel that it is a magnificent place. During its almost 100 year history, it has been the site of many baseball events. In fact, some are quite unique in local baseball history. By and large though, Flink is best and most fondly remembered as the hub of local baseball.
One question that is frequently asked is "who is Ed Flink and why did they name the field after him?" Ed Flink was a teacher (Social Studies), Dean of Students, multi-sport coach, chairman of the Athletic Control Board, Athletic Director, and Assistant Principal at Lockport High School from the 30's through the 60's. Coach Flink was head baseball coach for 17 yrs. from 1936 to 1953. He was also a football coach for 4 years from 1943-1946. He retired as Asst. Principal at LTHS in 1961. The baseball field was officially named Edward "Ed" Flink Field in ceremonies at the field on May 16, 1981.
Some of our younger fans might not know that Flink Field was also once referred to as simply "the Athletic Field" by those in the community. It's almost 17 acres was purchased in 1921 for almost $8,000. Also unbeknownst to many is that Flink was also home to the varsity football and track teams as well. Grandstands put up seasonally held about 700 fans. According to one entry in the 1927 yearbook The Lock, "During the summer the people of Lockport have the privilege of using the grounds" and that the "students of LTHS, especially the boys, regard the field as an indispensable accessory". After construction of the East Campus in 1973 and the subsequent increase in enrollment those sports were eventually moved to the East Campus sports complex west of the school. After that the "Athletic/Flink Field" was solely used for baseball.
When Flink was the Athletic Field, many a "Friday Night Lights" football game were played there by the Porters as they battled South Suburban and later, Illini-8 Conference opponents such as Joliet Catholic and Joliet Township. The baseball concession stand served as the ticket booth and main gate. Home and away stands were assembled each fall and placed on opposite sides of the football field which ran diagonally from right to left field mostly in the outfield. After completion of the season the stands were disassembled and stored in the shed which still stands along the left field bullpen area.
During the spring, Flink pulled double duty as home for both the baseball and track teams. A cinder four lane track ran just inside the present day field fence. Shot, discus and jump events were conducted in the far right corner of the field. A pad of asphalt that was used for those events is still there. Track meets were usually held on days that baseball didn't play at home and baseball did not practice on track meet days but it was common to see both teams practice at the same time. You can imagine how that might of gone....crazy!!!
Over the years, the physical features have changed dramatically. What was once a quaint small town baseball field has been transformed into one of the most highly regarded high school baseball fields in the state of Illinois. Picture in your mind the Flink Field of today. Picture the fences around the entire field and around the playing field. Also picture the wooden six foot outfield wall. Now picture that same field with no fences other than the outer fence around the park. Also picture the houses around the park mostly gone. Look at this 1939 team picture and look in the background. No playing field fence, no wooden fence and a few homes here and there until the 50's. Needless to say it had to be one of the largest playing areas in high school baseball. The dimensions probably rivaled some professional parks. This picture from an early 1960's yearbook shows the band practicing on the baseball field. The OF fence is gone and only the vast outer fence existed. You can see the old double pole light standards as well as the track with hurdles that surrounded the baseball field. How things have changed!
The ground rules for the field at that time stated that any ball hit in the playing area between the foul lines and the outer fence was "in play". Distance from home plate to the deepest part of centerfield exceeded over 400 feet while the gaps were almost as much. The Porter baseball program record for most 3B's in a season (8) was set back in 1974 by Mike Zimmer. Mike Zimmer is the son of former and then head football coach Bill Zimmer and an All-State quarterback for the Porters. He is now head coach of the Minnesota Vikings. Another interesting ground rule dealt with the infamous wire cable that stretched diagonally about 20 feet above the home plate area. The rule was that any batted or thrown ball making contact with that cable was considered a "dead ball" and play was stopped. Of course the fact that track practices were going on at the same time as some games resulted in some "unique" ground rules as well. Imagine a game in progress with dozens of track athletes circling the field at the same time.
Lockport, as a community, has always been proud of it's strong baseball tradition. Many games have been played over those almost 100 years by many generations of local baseball players. Two events might bring up some fond memories from those around in the 40's and 50's because they involved two future baseball Hall of Famers. One was the appearance by legendary Hall of Famer Satchel Paige. He came to town with a travelling black all-star baseball team to take on a team of local players for a weekend DH. Our sources tell us he pitched one inning, threw 9 pitches and struck out the side. Also, in 1950/51 the Kansas City Monarchs, another professional black traveling team, brought a dynamic double-play combination by the name of Gene Baker and future Cub and Hall of Famer Ernie Banks to play the Lockport Moose, a local favorite.
You'll have to check with some old-timers for details but isn't it amazing the baseball memories that have taken place there? What great baseball was played and continues to be played on that "quaint small-town field" that still stands by the corner of Garfield and Division streets in what many believe is the "Baseball Capital of Will County" ......Lockport, Illinois. Today Flink is the oldest high school baseball field in Illinois. What a treasure we have!