Athletic Ragdale Baseball Club, normally known as Athletic Ragdale, is a professional baseball club located in Ragdale, Sharnbrook, Ianoia. They were founding members of the Nationwide Baseball Alliance (NBA) in 1900, winning both the inaugural season, and final season in 1914.
Athletic Ragdale was established on March 16, 1898, by a group of individuals hailing from the western, working-class district of the city. The club’s primary objectives encompassed fostering social interactions, promoting physical fitness, and encouraging friendly competition through the sport of baseball. Initially utilizing improvised tree branches as bats, the club engaged in regular informal matches exclusively within its own membership until early 1899. Subsequently, with the reception of donated baseball bats and gloves later that same year, Athletic Ragdale joined the Ianoian Baseball Association (IBA). On April 9, 1899, they participated in their inaugural official friendly match against Ragdale St Barnabas, emerging triumphant with a score of 7-4.
Following their failure to submit an application for entry into the I-League, slated to commence in 1900, Athletic Ragdale opted to join the Nationwide Baseball Alliance, a league established as a direct competitor to the I-League. The club’s maiden match took place on April 6, resulting in a 3-1 victory over Brinkburn Coastal at their home ground Ragdale North Ballpark, courtesy of a walk-off, two-run home run. In the inaugural season of the league, Ragdale emerged as champions, concluding the campaign with a three-game lead over the second-place Souldrop. However, this achievement proved to be somewhat fortuitous, as the club experienced a period of middling performance over the ensuing years, finishing 5th, 7th, and 6th, accumulating a combined record of 81 wins and 81 losses during that span.
In 1904, Ragdale regained their winning momentum, securing a 4th place finish in the league with a commendable 32-22 record. Despite leading the league from the beginning, a brief period of underperformance, winning only once in eight games in late May, caused them to slide down the rankings, slipping from 3rd on the final weekend of play. The following year, Ragdale improved their position, claiming 3rd place despite winning two fewer games. They repeated this achievement in 1906, even as the league expanded with the inclusion of two additional teams. During May of that year, they flirted briefly with the possibility of securing 2nd place.
In 1907, the Nationwide Baseball Alliance underwent further expansion by incorporating the former I-League club, Donyatt-Burstwick. Additionally, the league adopted the Durand Rules, which allowed for tied games. Athletic Ragdale experienced their first draw of the season on June 21, becoming the last team to have a tied game that year. The draw came after relinquishing a 4-0 lead to Ince Ironworks. This outcome reflected Ragdale’s overall season, as they slipped from their mid-May position at the top of the standings to finish 8th by the end of the season. This result matched their lowest winning percentage of 0.481, which was previously set in 1902. The 1908 campaign showed little improvement, with the team once again concluding the season in 8th place. Despite initially occupying 1st place after the first weekend of play, they eventually held the sole position of last place throughout June.
Athletic Ragdale entered the Social Cup for the first time in 1910, stunning Byfleet Hawks in the First Round on their way to a respectable Third Round exit. In the league, Ragdale suffered from mid-table obscurity until 1912, when they held 4th for the majority of the season to eventually chase down a fading Red Flag to finish third, aided by strong home form. In 1913, the club regressed back to the form they held for much of the previous decade, slumping to an 8th place finish, but still finishing above 0.500, despite another season where they started out strongly before declining as the season progressed.
1914 was the final year of the Nationwide Baseball Alliance before it became the second tier of professional baseball under the I-League on the pyramid. Athletic Ragdale, led by rookies William Wilson and Charles Johnson, playing Shortstop and First Base respectively, stunned the baseball fraternity when they won their second league title. Leading the league from mid-May until the end of June thanks to a 9-game winning streak, the club encountered a dip in form which saw them trade places with Strelda half a dozen times before regaining top spot with 16 games remaining.
Athletic Ragdale’s home games are hosted at Ragdale North Ballpark, a venue they have utilized since 1900 and officially owned since 1905. Situated in the city center, the stadium features seating along both foul lines, accompanied by a grassy incline encircling the outfield.
Initially, the left field foul pole was adjusted to accommodate large trees that locals favored for picnics. However, in 1906, a home run ball struck a lady enjoying a picnic with her family, prompting the club to erect a 25-foot high wall in left field (increased from the existing 10-foot wall in right field) towards straightaway center. This measure aimed to prevent similar incidents from occurring in the future. In 1958, the club further enhanced the park by constructing an artificial hill using substantial amounts of soil, completely encircling the field and providing unobstructed views. The park’s pitcher-friendly nature leads to a decrease in home runs due to the expansive outfield, while the high wall also contributes to a reduction in triples.
Ragdale North Ballpark is renowned for its signature Nacho Burger, a succulent burger adorned with melted cheese, salsa, guacamole, and crushed tortilla chips, accompanied by seasoned fries. This delectable menu item has been a cherished fixture at the stadium since 1989.