For more than 50 years, Monday nights in the summer in Lake Tomahawk have looked like a scene out of a Norman Rockwell painting— families crowd the streets, people greet one another like old friends and the festive air is palpable. All of this to watch a friendly competition of baseball where players strap on wooden snowshoes and the dirt field is filled with wood chips.
Fans reserve their seats early in the day by laying blankets on the bleachers (capacity: 800-900), or positioning chairs at the edge of Snowshoe Park.
Baseball isn’t generally considered a contact sport, but in this case, there’s frequent contact with the ground.
“On snowshoes, you have to remember to shuffle,” says Don Hilgendorf, the team’s long-time general manager, now retired. “If you bend your knees too much, you fall,” an outcome that makes the crowd roar with approval.
Fans also love the surprise moment in every game when a honeydew painted fluorescent yellow (to match the balls) is smuggled onto the field, tossed by the pitcher, and hit by the batter, splattering everyone nearby. Yellow balls are a holdover from when the game was played on snow and white balls were hard to see.
There aren’t many home runs in snowshoe baseball, but when the ball hits the roof of American Legion Post #318 in left field, it counts as one. And if a ball goes into the stands, the unwritten rule is that you have to toss it back.
ENJOY A SLICE
What peanuts and cracker jacks are to traditional baseball, pie is to snowshoe baseball. The highlight for many spectators at the weekly snowshoe baseball games is a slice of the 70 to 80 homemade pies sold at every game by area service clubs and community groups.
The pie concession often sells out before the game even begins. If you’re lucky, you can buy a whole pie to take home with you—but only when there are pies left at game time, a rare occurrence.