'Last pitch ceremony' held for Carl Lewton Stadium

May 13—CARTHAGE, Mo. — The Carthage Tigers said farewell to historic Carl Lewton Stadium with a "last pitch ceremony" on Saturday after the final regular-season home game.

Lois Lewton, 90, widow of the coach, teacher and umpire for whom the stadium is named, threw out the ceremonial final pitch.

Roger Kirby, a longtime friend of Carl Lewton's, caught the underhanded throw, with Carthage players watching from the third base line and Branson Pirates lining the first base line.

The Tigers will be moving to the new McCune-Brooks Regional Hospital Trust Baseball Complex at Carthage High School in 2025.

Lewton said her husband would be excited to see the new baseball field.

"I think he'd be proud of the new field," Lois Lewton said. "He would be kind of sad for some things like the old wall and stands, but otherwise he was always for all improvements that they could make. He worked so hard picking up those nasty tin cans and newspapers to build the locker room and dugouts. He just loved that."

Tigers baseball coach Kevin Burgi said the ceremony was needed to make the transition from the old to the new.

"I think when I took this job, the word 'closure' came up with people in this community," Burgi said. "The way the field closed before, I think some people wanted to send it off. Being able to have the Lewton family out here is a big deal. You ask anyone who knew Carl, it's just how hard he worked on this field. It's right the field is named after him, and there was no one more fitting to throw out that last pitch."

The Carl Lewton Stadium the Tigers played in this year was a different place from the stadium Lewton put so much time and energy into maintaining.

The stadium's stone bleachers, originally built in the 1930s, and outfield wall were declared unsafe for use after two engineering inspections in early 2023. The stands and wall were torn down in May 2023 and the city installed new fences in the outfield and bleachers on concrete pads where the stands used to be, and a new scoreboard. The rock backstop behind home plate was preserved.

Carl Lewton Stadium, also called Rock Stadium, was built as a Great Depression-era Works Progress Administration project in the late 1930s and was home field for two minor league baseball teams in the KOM (Kansas, Oklahoma, Missouri) League in the 1940s and 1950s. It was originally built as an amphitheater and converted to a baseball stadium soon afterward.

Among those who played there were Mickey Mantle and Stan Musial.

The stadium, which is owned by the city, will continue to be used as a baseball field for senior Little League and other teams.

Carl Lewton

Carl Lewton who died in 2009 at 81, was inducted into the Hall of Carthage Heroes in the Fair Acres Family Y in 2015.

The description in his induction said Lewton moved to Carthage in 1955 after teaching one year in Independence, Kansas, and taught history and physical education at Hawthorn and Eugene Field elementary schools as well as the eighth and ninth grades at the junior high. He retired from teaching in 1986.

"He was presented a Special Service Award by the Carthage School System and was the founder of cross country running in the Carthage schools and directed numerous cross country runs and road races in the Carthage area," according to the Hall of Carthage Heroes entry for Lewton. "Outside the classroom, Carl impacted countless lives as a baseball umpire and coach. He spent over 50 years as an umpire in Little League through minor league professional baseball. He started umpiring in the Kansas-Oklahoma-Missouri League in 1950 and worked with the National Baseball Congress for 24 years, serving as supervisor of umpires beginning in 1971."

According to the Hall of Heroes citation, "Carl played a major role in the restoration of the old Rock Stadium at Municipal Park ... spending countless hours in groundskeeping and other tasks."

Greg Kyte, another Hall of Carthage Heroes inductee, said he played under Lewton and later umpired baseball games with him.

"He was awesome, very picky. He wanted everything done just right," Kyte said. "The Lewton name will be around forever just because of how picky he was at the ballpark and the fields. You couldn't help but like him, even if he would get on your hind end — 'Don't do that' — you knew why."

Kyte said Saturday's ceremony was a fitting tribute to Carl Lewton.

"It was very very important to have this ceremony," Kyte said. "I hadn't seen Mrs. Lewton for a long time. It was just kind of closure, if you will. It's a first step on to the new stadium."