The Union Base Ball Club of Dexter was formed in the fall of 2011 after co-founder Donovan ‘Mad Dog’ Hill read in the Dexter Leader about a newly formed team in Chelsea, Michigan. The Monitor Base Ball Club of Chelsea had just completed playing at Dexter Civil War Days and were in the middle of their inaugural season. In the Dexter Leader article it mentioned that Monitor captain ‘Honest’ Jon Van Hoek was looking for players as well as had interest in starting a club in Dexter. Donovan contact Jon and expressed his interest in being part of the club and was invited out to practice with Chelsea. After a couple weeks of learning more about the game of vintage base ball, Donovan made it out to a practice and got the opportunity to see first hand the joy of playing vintage base ball. In the next couple of weeks, Donovan made it to a couple matches and stayed in touch with Jon, expressing his interest in playing.
After the 2011 season ended for the Monitor Base Ball Club of Chelsea, Jon contact Donovan about his interest in forming a club with his help. Donovan accepted the offer and started putting effort towards getting the club ready for 2012. It was decided that Donovan would be the captain and run the club day to day, while Jon would provide his knowledge and connections from his many years of playing vintage base ball. The two sat down and started working on what it would take to get the club functioning as well as starting to piece together a schedule.
Together Donovan and Jon approached the Dexter Area Historical Society and Museum for their support in what both thought was a great fit. After sitting down with members of the DAHSAM, the Union club had the support of the Historical Society as well as financial help to purchase the equipment to get the club going. The DAHSAM made a commitment at the meeting to allow the club to play at Gordon Hall, although a specific field was not identified. A field at Gordon Hall is the best outcome Donovan and Jon could have hoped for. The Gordon Hall property owned by the DAHSAM is property that was owned by the founded of Dexter and has a large house overlooking the village built during the 1830’s.
With great progress being made towards the basics of getting the club formed, it was time to find players to put on the field. Donovan spent his time promoting the club on various websites as well as placing posters around Dexter. A meeting was held in February of 2012 at the Dexter District Library to talk to interested members about vintage base ball and about joining the Dexter club. With a pleasing turn out of 20-30 people in attendance, Donovan spoke to the group about his vision for the club and Jon spoke about his experience in playing the game. After the meeting two men approached Donovan and verbally agreed to join the club. After that, more members slowly trickled in until we had a set roster of 11 paying members for the first year of the Union Base Ball Club of Dexter.
Shortly before the first season started Donovan and the DAHSAM were able to get together and identify where the club would be allowed to set up their field. A spot was decided on close to Gordon Hall and the driveway allowing quick access to the field. The field would be situated so that it would be sloping up towards the outfield, giving the field character and many interesting plays. Although not a flat or groomed field, it provided a look at how field may have been when they were more of a pickup game, throwing down a couple bases and calling that your field. After issues with injuries and complaints during the first year, going into year two Donovan tried to secure a safer field within the Gordon Hall property. No different field was able to be decided on and it was planned to continue playing on the same field for 2013. Less than a week before the first home match, St. Joseph Catholic Church stepped up and allowed the club to use their property for the Union home matches. The field at the church was a huge improvement with a flat, well maintained area, pavillion and ample parking. This is where we continue to play and we thank the church for their support!
Why The 'Union'?
When it came time to name the newly formed club, we looked to history to find something meaningful and appropriate to represent Dexter. There was a club that played base ball in Dexter in 1865 that went by the name of ‘Wahoo Base Ball Club of Dexter.’ Obviously this seems like it would be an easy choice, but the Wahoo name was already in use by a club that plays in Royal Oak, MI. We considered what was going on in Dexter around the 1860’s and found that there were multiple mills and that the railroad was a big part of life in Dexter. We considered names related to the mills, as well as the railroad which was coming through Dexter. Ultimately we decided on the “Union Base Ball Club of Dexter’ because the time we are representing is during the American Civil War. In addition to Michigan being part of the northern ‘Union’, Company K fought out of Dexter under the name ‘Dexter Union Guards.’