BEND, Ore. - More than 100 years of baseball history in 2 glass cases stuffed with uniforms, old score books, and signed pictures neatly arranged with ball gloves and bats.
The "Diamonds in the Desert" exhibit at the Deschutes Historical Museum is a step back in time. Historian Vanessa Ivey spent months talking to former players, reading old local sports pages and putting it all together.
"Bend is very rich in baseball culture, going all the way back to 1903," she said. "One of the fun facts that I discovered was back in 1903, there was a women's hardball baseball team playing here in Bend called the Bend Beauties. Whether they continued into the following season was all going to depend on who got married, because it wasn't thought proper to have married ladies playing ball out in their bloomers and red sweaters."
And that's just in the beginning. You may be familiar with the Bend Elks, but they only adopted that official team in 2000. Each year before that, Bend's mascot or name changed, depending on their sponsor.
"In 1911, we were the Bend Reds, because Bend and Redmond formed a team together. We were the Loggers in the 1950s, we were the Eagles in 1928," Ivey said.
Bend was home to major-league baseball farm teams in 1970 with the Bend Rainbows, in '79 it was the Central Oregon Phillies, followed by the Bend Bucks, then the Bend Rockies.
Then came the Bend Bandits semi-pro team, and and now, the Elks, the college summer team.
And a lot of it was pioneered by a name you probably recognize: Vince Genna.
"He came out to Bend, and that first year, our American Legion team went on to division title-winners. And in '58, we actually won the Oregon State Championships," Ivey said.
Since then, some big names have come and gone, representing Central Oregon in the major leagues.
But Ivey says it's Bend itself that really hits the home runs.
"The community would shut down their businesses. When the mills were here and the team was playing a big game, the mills would shut down so the community could go to the ball field and watch the game," she said.
Year after year, Ivey says, nothing has said summer like the start of baseball season in Bend.
"The community, Bend itself and the Elks have all changed throughout the years," she said. "But the game is still the same, and the support is still the same."
The "Diamonds in the Desert" exhibit runs through December at the museum, at 129 NW Idaho Avenue. Learn more about the museum and our history at their Website.
Game time starts at 6:35 Wednesday night against the Cowlitz Black Bears from Longview, WA. Kids under 12 get in free. Learn more at the Elks' Website.