WATCH NOW: Sioux City learns about hometown Hall of Famer Dave Bancroft | Baseball

SIOUX CITY – Tom Alesia’s journey to writing the book Beauty at Short began 10 years ago in a cemetery in Superior, Wisconsin.

He was trying to find the headstone of Dave Bancroft, who was born in Sioux City and later had a Hall of Fame career in baseball.

Alesia, a former reporter for the Wisconsin State Journal, wondered why there wasn’t much background on Bancroft, and he couldn’t figure out why he wasn’t celebrated as much since he was an inductee.

“It’s been a great journey from the start,” said Alesia. “It was exciting and it was fascinating.”

So he wrote the book in the last 10 years and visited Sioux City on Friday as part of Dave Bancroft Day.

The celebrations included lunch and a study session at the Sioux City Public Museum, then the Sioux City Explorers received Alesia, former Mayor Jim Wharton and Miracle League of Sioux City board member Kevin Negaard and other dignitaries before the game.

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Ahead of the Explorers game, Alesia unveiled a plaque and the pavilion behind the front office was named after Bancroft.

“I’ve always looked forward to this day,” Wharton said. “We’ve been in Sioux City for 46, 47 years and I’m a huge baseball fan. Baseball is so big in Northwest Iowa and all the great baseball teams and here we have a Hall of Famer. We have one of them here and not many knew much about him.”

Alesia had no connection to Sioux City before writing the book. He lived in Madison and had never been to the area.

He originally thought it would be a newspaper article or a magazine article. His passion drove him to write an entire book about the legend of Sioux City.

“I wish I could write volume two because it could be there,” Alesia said. “The response was amazing. The story of Dave Bancroft has become a bestseller in baseball biographies. I think people got it.”

Now he’s been here twice and will be returning later this month to collect his Bancroft-related artifacts, but Alesia wanted to tell the story of the late Hall of Famer.

“One of the things I want to do before I go is visit the house where he grew up,” Alesia said. “I don’t know if it’s there. What it means is everything to me. One of the things I wanted more than anything else was to tell the story of Sioux City and Superior, basically his two hometowns. I know the hardcore baseball fans will really enjoy the exhibition.

“Dave didn’t have the skills you see in most Hall of Famers,” Alesia said. “It meant tireless work every day, hard work. It sounds trite, but in his case it came true. As a result, all the amazing things happened in his life.”

Of course, Bancroft’s baseball journey began here in Sioux City. In 1903, at the age of 12, he played for the first time at the Hopkins School in Sioux City.

Bancroft also played at Sioux City High School in 1907 and 1908, and his team was not afraid to play college teams.

In the spring of 1909, while he was a senior at Sioux City High, Bancroft signed a minor league contract with the Waterloo Lulu’s. He didn’t stay there long, but did travel to Duluth, Minnesota, and Superior, Wisconsin to play minor league baseball there.

In the winter of 1911, Bancroft joined the Portland Beavers in the Pacific Coast League, one of baseball’s top minor leagues at the time. (It’s now a triple-A level league, a notch below the majors.)

Bancroft didn’t bat well, but Bill “Rawmeat” Rodgers saw something in Bancroft’s swing, but an adjustment needed to be made.

Rodgers made Bancroft a switch hitter, and that was the spark that ignited the rest of Bancroft’s career.

After the 1914 season, he signed with the Philadelphia Phillies.

Bancroft had never watched a major league game until he played in one.

In his major league career, Bancroft hit a lifetime .279 with 32 home runs and 591 RBIs. He was 145-to-230 in stolen base tries.

He also won two World Series titles in 1921 and 1922 with the New York Giants baseball team.

Bancroft’s stats today were 0.714 OPS, 0.358 slugging percentage and 0.355 on-base percentage.

Bancroft’s career WAR (wins over substitutes) was 49.7. He competed Friday night as the 319th all-time in that category. His close friend Babe Ruth has an all-time WAR rating of 183.1, according to the Baseball Reference.

Another friend of Bancroft, Cy Young, is third on this list (163.6).

There are images in Beauty at Short of Bancroft and Ruth together, even off the field.

The book’s title also indicates that Bancroft was a solid shortstop.

Bancroft was nicknamed “Beauty” by the New York media, and as Alesia pointed out, that nickname stuck.

According to the Baseball Reference, Bancroft had a .944 fielding percentage. He committed 660 errors in over 16,000 innings played in the majors.

“His career has always blown me away,” Alesia said. “When someone does that to you, when you have a story that you enjoy and can’t wait to tell, then you know you’re going to move on.”

Bancroft also had a managerial career. He managed the Boston Braves and also managed three teams in a women’s pro baseball league.

In 1971, along with Satchel Paige, he was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Each class will receive 500 bats made with inscriptions from each Hall of Famer from that year. Thanks to a $10,000 donation to the Miracle League of Sioux City, one of these bats is staying in town.

Wharton wrote a column in the May 22 issue of the Journal explaining why Dave Bancroft Day was important to the city.

He saw the fruits of that labor all day Friday.

“I’ve had great feedback,” Wharton said. “To have that plaque and pavilion and to have the author come into town and tell Dave’s story, it’s just an amazing experience.”

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