Pete Mondino was a baseball man. In nine seasons he played for 13 teams from Texas to Louisiana and then managed for 2 years. After the1938 season, at age 33, he ended his playing career and returned home to West Frankfort. After settling back into normal life, he opened a pool hall. But his ever love to talk sports somehow turned toward owning a minor league baseball team.
Pete was aware that the idea would never get off the ground without additional capital, so he contacted Charlie Jacobs, a local jeweler, and Tony Finazzo, a local car dealer. A partnership was formed to create the West Frankfort Baseball and Amusement Corporation that aligned the West Frankfort Cardinals with the Illinois State Class D baseball league, an affiliate of the St. Louis Cardinals.
On February 8th, 1947, the WFBAC purchased the 8.8 acre lot, now a National Guard Armory, adjacent to Edwards Elementary School, now Long John Silver’s, to build their new stadium.
After many delays and setbacks, the West Frankfort Cardinals played their first game in Memorial Stadium on Saturday, May 24, 1947. In the pregame ceremony, defeated mayoral candidate John Heston caught the first pitch from newly elected Mayor Luther Burpo. The Cardinals had 2.896 fans for their home opener. Average attendance for the 60 home games was just over 700 per game.
Unfortunately, inadequate advanced ticket sales and an uninterested fan base led to the demise of the West Frankfort Cardinal baseball team. Sadly on December 1, 1950, the Daily American announced the news.
PRO BASEBALL DROPPED HERE BY CARDINALS
Within five years, the property at the corner of Main Street and Taft where Memorial stood was eventually sold to the United States government and the stadium was razed to make way for a new Army National Guard facility which was completed in 1956. Today there is not a trace of the stadium but only a few old photographs.
If you are interested in learning more about the West Frankfort Cardinals, read “Season of Change: Baseball, Coal Mining, and a Small Town’s Struggle to Beat the Odds” by Toby Brooks. Visit his website to order a book: www.westfrankfortcardinals.com