— Matt Nelson
At the age of ten in 1990 my dad took me to my first Midwest League baseball game. It was the Kenosha Twins against the Waterloo Diamonds at Municipal Stadium in Waterloo, Iowa (I grew up in Grundy Center, Iowa). After my first exposure to the minors I went back, and back, and back again in ’91, ’92 and ’93 to Municipal Stadium. After that, it was many years before I again saw a Midwest League game.
In 1994 the Waterloo Diamonds moved to Springfield, Illinois. After two years there, they moved to Lansing and have been the Lugnuts since 1996. Waterloo has never again had professional baseball, although the Waterloo Bucks of the Northwoods League (Summer Collegiate) have a good following and play to this day at Municipal Stadium.
“Waterloo Diamonds” by Richard Panek profiles the 1992 Waterloo Diamonds season and finishes with a few pages on the 1993 season. The book came out in 1995, but I just read it for the first time. It’s currently out of print, but you can find it in used condition all over the internet.
I assume that the initial plan for Panek was just to follow a minor league team for a season, profiling what life was like in a small town, and that sort of usual stuff. What this book really encompases is, the death of the Waterloo Diamonds. The book paints the picture of a struggling community, struggling franchise, and struggling ballpark. The perfect storm for losing a team. The fact is, the city of Waterloo never made any real attempt to keep the team in town.
In the city’s defense, they had all sorts of problems at the city level, and the 1990 Professional Baseball Agreement significantly raised the ballpark standards for the start of the 1994 season (this was later pushed back a year to 1995). This agreement is why there was so much franchise movement and so many new ballparks built from the mid-1990’s through today. It basically became an “arms race.”
Panek sums it up best when he notes that the most “succinct summary of what cost Waterloo pro ball: ‘Playing facilities and market. Pro ball in Waterloo was a ruin, and the stadium a relic.”
Those who remember the old Waterloo Diamonds will certainly enjoy remembering those days through this book. “Waterloo Diamonds” is a very interesting look at minor league baseball in the early 1990’s and how one city lost professional baseball. Look around and it usually makes lists of “best minor league baseball books.”