By Virginia Gaynor, Maplewood Natural Resources Coordinator
Tucked away in the files of Maplewood’s Parks and Recreation Department is a transcript from a 1992 interview with Mr. Fred Flicek, the namesake for Flicek Park. It tells the story of the early days of baseball in Maplewood. The interviewer’s name is not known but he or she has a charming style and is quoted liberally below.
The county gave land to the Gladstone Community Club in 1956 for a ball park. With sandy soil, the turf was poor and only four teams formed during the first few years. In 1957, Mr. Flicek, who had played semipro ball, accepted the challenge of developing the baseball program “under the condition he had the run of the whole show.” He formed the Gladstone Baseball Organization. From 1957 to 1968, the program grew under Flicek’s leadership to 500 players, with 21 teams and 35 volunteer managers and assistants.
The Gladstone Baseball Organization drew kids from Highway 36 to Larpenteur Avenue and from White Bear Avenue to Arcade Street. Teams were formed by age and neighborhood. They were divided into American and National Leagues and played each other weekly. Once the fields at Flicek were improved they were just used for games; practices were held at Wakefield Park and at Gladstone School on Frost Avenue.
Two of the key costs for the baseball program were uniforms and equipment. Families paid $5 for the first child, $2.50 for the second, and no fee for additional siblings. Managers knew who could afford the fee and if a family was unable to pay, nothing was expected. At the end of the season, kids got to keep their hats but turned in their uniforms. Donations and candy sales helped defray some costs and advertising on the outfield fence also brought in revenue. Advertising on a 4’x8’ section of fence cost $25/per year and included the painting of the advertisement.
“One fundamental philosophy of the program was that no one was cut from the team. Likewise, every member of the team, regardless of ability, played half of the games. At the biannual meetings of coaches it was always voted unanimously that these two important rules be maintained.”
Tom Hagan suggested honoring Mr. Flicek by naming the park after him. Hagan said of his friend, Fred “worked the field every day.” He was “hard working, energetic, a community man who also volunteered for the fire department, and a family man with seven children.”
Photos: Courtesy of Maplewood Area Historical Society