Route 66 News

Professional baseball will return to Joplin

As expected, the City of Joplin, Mo., approved a lease this week with an independent professional baseball team from El Paso, Texas, to move into and renovate century-old Joe Becker Stadium, reported the Joplin Globe.

The newspaper reported details of the arrangement:

The lease requires the city to spend $4 million enlarging and updating the stadium. The baseball partners are to spend $5.3 million in building an entry plaza that eventually is to have a ticket booth, management office, restaurants and some loft apartments in addition to parking lots in the surrounding area. […]

“There’s opportunity here, and we’re really excited to be here come 2015,” when the as yet unnamed baseball team would start play if the city proceeds with the remaining legal work.

The owners already have posted artist’s renderings of the renovated ballpark and plaza on the team’s Facebook page:

The owners have asked Joplin residents to offer a new name for the team. Chances are locals will favor Joplin Miners — the former name of the city’s Yankees affiliate during the 1940s and ’50s. Future Baseball Hall of Fame members Mickey Mantle and Whitey Herzog played for the Miners.

The artist’s rendering of the plaza suggests a statue of Mantle will be placed there. The statue wears No. 7 on its uniform, the same as Mantle’s with the Yankees. In 1950. Mantle hit .383 with 26 homers and a .638 slugging average in 137 games with the Miners. Mantle grew up in the nearby Route 66 town of Commerce, Okla., and played baseball as a 15-year-old with a semipro team in nearby Baxter Springs, Kan. — also on Route 66 — before going to the majors.

The owners had better not forget Herzog, who remains beloved in Missouri because of his stints as manager of the Kansas City Royals and St. Louis Cardinals, including winning a World Series title in 1982 with the latter.

Residents may make nickname suggestions on the team’s Facebook page or by emailing joplinprofessionalbaseball(at)gmail(dot)com. At least two Route 66-related names — the 66ers and Cruisers — are suggested, although an NBA development team in Tulsa and a minor-league baseball team in San Bernardino, Calif., use the 66ers name.

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