At the Iowa State Penitentiary, located in Fort Madison, the inmates had a unique opportunity to use baseball as way to rehabilitate themselves. The inmates there saw that hard work and commitment would be needed in order to prove that they could still be a functional member of society. The people that played baseball with the prisoners and the baseball games themselves helped to prove that baseball could be a successful tool in rehabilitating inmates.
Outside the Walls
In the picture above the Chiefs are warming up for the game while being watched by armed guards, as seen in the upper left hand corner. These games brought an unusual appeal to the community of Keokuk, making the game into a huge event. The event was such a success that the prison and the town split the earnings straight down the middle. The game was reported to have 18 guards stationed at various points in and around the park armed with rifles and shotguns. The guards stationed at the game volunteered their own time to show support for both the Keokuk team as well as the prisoners they guarded. The athletic detector, Roby Hilpert, argued that by allowing the inmates to play baseball outside the walls they could show the community that they were not monsters, but simply men who enjoyed baseball.
As a result of the success of the game at Joyce Park, the next season the warden allowed for the Keokuk Kernels to come into the prison and play for both prisoners and outsiders alike. This accepting attitude continued to grow as the team of inmates played more, and more games outside of the prison. Baseball was bringing people that ordinarily would not want anything to do with one another together.
Most town minor league teams did not have a lot of money to spend on their teams. Fortunately, the Keokuk Kernels were affiliated with the Cleveland Indians and they would send their old uniforms to the Kernels and allow them to change them as they saw fit. After the town team was done using them the inmates at Fort Madison would receive them to use. Because of this if a Jersey ripped or was damaged they would have to patched them to make them last as long as possible.
By the time prisoners got their uniforms, they had been used by at least a couple teams. They were rough, irritating, and hot to wear. The prisoners would wear these under shirts (pictured above) to build up a sweat, which would help keep them comfortable while they played.
Because the prison did not want to spend a lot of money on the baseball team, the inmates had to find creative solutions to their problems. When a baseball bat broke they would try to tack it together with nails and use them as practice bats. In some cases they were allowed to fill the ends of the bats with lead so they could be used as warm up bats.