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Game Faces - Part 2

Game Faces exhibitOur Town

Many people cheer for the team in their own backyard because it connects them with their neighbors.  High school football games give everyone a reason to come together and cheer.

In Waverly, football games begin well before kickoff.  Tailgating is often associated with professional sports, but for these parents and friends, 8-man football is the perfect excuse to get together.

Tailgate party before a Waverly Bulldogs 8-man football game, 2006.

Eight is Enough

Waverly is one of about 100 Kansas high schools that rally around their 8-man football teams.  Eight-man teams are popular and necessary in parts of Kansas where population has decreased.  Despite their smaller size, these teams often are the center of intense town loyalty.

Eight-man teams allow schools to carry on the fall tradition of football when they may have less than 100 students.  The game is played on a smaller field, and with 8 instead of the usual 11 players.  Generally, the missing positions in 8-man are:

  • two tackles and a wide receiver on offense, and
  • two backs and a lineman on defense.

Waverly 8-man football  uniform

The equipment is the same, whether the game is played with 8 or 11 men.  Waverly High School used this football uniform (right) in the early 21st century.  The game also is played on a smaller field.

Some communities have so few students they must cooperate with another school to field even an 8-man team.  There are five such cooperative football teams in Kansas.  Not every sport in the school is necessarily included in these agreements.

One Kansas cooperative team includes the towns of Ransom and Healy.  Ransom consolidated with other nearby towns to create Western Plains High School in 2003.  Later it began cooperating with Healy to play 8-man football under the name Healy-Western Plains Bobcats.  The sides negotiate a mascot with each new agreement.  Each school has its own Homecoming game and celebration.  This is Healy’s Homecoming game in October 2006 (left).

The Healy-Western Plains Bobcats (red) play a Trego County school in western Kansas, 2006.

Cooperative agreements between schools create multiple loyalties.  A family might have teams in three different towns to support, each with its own mascot and colors. 

Furthermore, players on cooperative teams can live some distance from their practice field and home stadium.  Healy-Western Plains football players can travel as much as 130 miles one way for a game.



Marysville baseball team, 1884.Take Me Out to the Ball Game

Towns try to create an image setting them apart from other nearby places.  Often, a sports team is the foundation for that image.

Baseball was one of the first sports to become a source of town pride.  Teams from rival communities engaged in fierce competition.  The team's success on the field became the basis for the entire town's identity. 

1867 baseball trophyThis sport became a part of town life in the late 1800s, having gained popularity during the Civil War when soldiers played the game to relieve the boredom of camp life.  Ex-soldiers brought baseball to Kansas when thousands moved to the state. 

Just two years after the Civil War, a baseball tournament was played at the State Fair in Lawrence.  Vying for the championship were two local teams, the Kaw Valleys and the Universitys.  The Kaw Valleys won the game, 75 to 35.  The high scores are the result of different rules than are used today.  The Kaw Valleys received this baseball-shaped silver trophy (left) for their win.

A Marysville town team calling itself the "Leans and Fats" (right) played in the mid-1880s.

Narka town baseball uniform, 1940s

The north-central Kansas town of Narka fielded a team for many years.  This wool uniform (right) was worn by Evan Kvasnicka in the 1940s.

Town pride wasn’t confined just to amateur teams.  Even small towns could afford to support a professional team, although usually for only a few years.   

Kansas had a boom in minor league teams from 1905 to 1915.  Forty-eight towns had teams during this decade.  By a century later that number had sunk to only two.  Test your knowledge of small town baseball in our interactive guessing game, Play Ball!

Since 1931, semi-professional baseball has prospered each summer in Wichita.  Teams from around the country meet for the annual World Series of the National Baseball Congress (NBC), played at Lawrence-Dumont Stadium.

The tournament was the idea of Wichita businessman Raymond "Hap" Dumont.  Despite the failure of other tournaments on the east and west coasts, Dumont felt that a centrally located tournament might succeed.

Walter JohnsonMany famous baseball players came to Wichita to play in NBC tournaments.  Among the most famous were:

  • Satchel Paige
  • Buck O’Neil
  • Joe Garagiola
  • Barry Bonds
  • Roger Clemens
  • Joe Carter
  • Mark McGwire
  • Chuck Knoblauch

One of baseball’s greatest pitchers came from a small Kansas town. 

Walter Johnson started playing baseball in Humboldt in the early 1900s.  Even after becoming a successful pitcher for the Washington Senators, Johnson often returned to Kansas.  He purchased a farm near Coffeyville and played in charity games with local teams in the off-season.


Game Faces: Kansans in Sports is an online exhibit developed by the Kansas Museum of History.

  1. Introduction - There's no "I" in "Team"
  2. Our Town - Cheering on the home team
  3. Our Team - Fan is short for fanatic
  4. Our World - Sports make the world a little smaller
  5. Our Traditions - Some games reinforce our roots
  6. Our Friends - Socializing can be as important as competition

Audio Tour

Listen to the curators' Game Faces audio tour online or download it to your mp3 player!