Before the days of television and mass media, baseball had distinctly local roots. Passionate fans in small towns across the nation turned not to Yankees, Dodgers, or Red Sox for their baseball fix, but to their local semi-pro or minor league teams and the new exhibit presented by the Wilton Historical Society called Farm Team: 50 Years of Wilton Baseball explores these roots. The history of Wilton Baseball traces the story of the Farmers, Wilton’s quintessential small town baseball team, through approximately 20 photographs and objects related to the team.
Founded in 1921, the Farmers quickly became one of the most popular attractions in town. Crowds could reach up to 1,000 people, or roughly half the population of Wilton at the time. The Farmers played teams from as far away as Poughkeepsie, New York, and their games were front page news in The Wilton Bulletin. “I have to say, one of my favorite things about the Farmers is how much fun they had. There are some great stories about their wacky promotions, including donkey baseball,” said Nick Foster, exhibition curator.
There would have been no Farmers team without Charlie Orem (1882 – 1973), owner of Orem’s Dairy and later Orem’s Diner. Orem, along with Johnny Knapp and Charlie Myers, founded the team as a way to bring in customers for Orem’s businesses. Orem built a baseball diamond on a piece of his farm land, soon named Orem’s Field, where the team would play its home games. Fans in attendance were encouraged to buy concessions from the dairy and diner located next to the field. The team, sensibly named the Farmers after their founder and home field, remained in Wilton, in one form or another, until 1970, with only a small break during World War II.
The Wilton Historical Society is located on 224 Danbury Road in Wilton. For more information visit their website.