Friday, August 19, 2022

Local origins: Teeters Field

Staff Reporter | July 20, 2022 9:17 PM

“Good evening ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Teeters Field, for this Intermountain League contest between the Bonners Ferry Badgers and YOUR Kellogg Wildcats,” boomed longtime voice of the Wildcats Steve Shepperd at last night’s homecoming football game.

Monuments and edifices have been used for memorialization for years and normally the history of such a place has been passed down through word of mouth, or it can be found somewhere on the monument itself.

But not always.

Sometimes landmarks become so commonplace that they lose their identity and become ‘just another place.’

Teeters Field in the City of Kellogg is one such place.

The century-old space of ground between McKinley Avenue and the railroad tracks (now a bike trail) has a story that deserves to be told, one full of history, a little bit of humor, and quite a bit of scandal.

Teeters Field has played host to many events over the years, such as boxing matches, the rugby games, the circus, and other community festivals; but where did the name come from?

Teeters Field is named after one of Kellogg’s greatest football icons.

Josiah Cottrell (J.C.) ‘Pop’ Teeters was born in 1863 in the Midwest.

Teeters had an affinity for football and was a star player at Purdue University where he was integral in them getting the name “The Boilermakers.”

The story goes that during the late 1800’s, Purdue was the place to go if you were a hulking football player who liked to play as physically as possible.

Wabash College was one school in particular that was more terrified of Purdue than most and unfortunately for them, there was a good reason for it.

During a Purdue/Wabash game in 1889, Teeters was caught with illegal metal plates on the bottoms of his shoes after one of Wabash’s defensive linemen ended up with a nasty gash on his head that he received during a play.

Purdue went on to win the game 44-0 and the next day, the Wabash newspaper printed the story and titled it ‘Slaughter of Innocents’.

The article discussed how the brutish Purdue team manhandled the Wabash team.

This article was the first to call Purdue the "Boilermakers,” but it was meant as an insult.

Since its publication in 1889, the name has remained to this day.

After winning the championship at Purdue, Teeters moved onto Oberlin College where he was coached, and teammates with, the most famous football player of their time, John Heisman (yes, THE Heisman).

During the 1892 season, Teeters and Heisman were part of an Oberlin Yeomen team that went 7-0 with two wins over Ohio State and one over powerhouse Michigan.

Teeters left Oberlin after graduation and moved to Weiser, Idaho, where he taught for four years at the Idaho Industrial Institute.

Following that, he was elected president of the Jason Lee Academy (also in Weiser) before making his way to Kellogg in 1917 with his wife Florence Hollopeter-Teeters.

Teeters was an astute mathematician and taught mathematics in the Kellogg School District for at least ten years (records only show him teaching from 1917-27).

But Teeters also coached Kellogg’s budding football team.

In 1925, Coach Teeters and All-State and All-American Silvio Orlandini led Kellogg to their only state championship in school history (Orlandini’s picture hangs in Kellogg High School today).

There are no records on how long he coached at Kellogg, but Teeters would remain in the Kellogg area until his passing on December 26, 1936 at age 73 in Spokane.

There is no exact knowledge of when the field was dedicated in Teeters name, but in a 1939 Spokesman-Review article it is said that the annual Armistice Day game between Kellogg and Wallace was played on Teeters Field, so it is safe to assume that the field was dedicated in his honor shortly after his passing.

Football has always been played on the area now called Teeters FIeld, but what hasn’t always been apart of the field was just that, the field.

The ‘field’ used to be nothing more than a mixture dirt, rocks, sawdust, and some weeds; a mixtures that did not change for quite some time.

“I can remember playing on that muddy field,” Kellogg mayor Mac Pooler said. “Before the season, four to five loads of sawdust would be dumped onto it and then the City would bring their grader down and level it all out. I like to call it astro-dirt now. Before every game we would line up across the width of the field and walk the length of it and pick up the bigger rocks. And even after doing it all those times we still didn’t get every rock out there.”

Teams would dread playing on Kellogg’s mud bath of field, especially in the latter parts of the season when the sun would only hit half of the field despite the freezing temperatures.

“The half of the field that the got the sun would be a muddy mess and the other half would be frozen solid,” Pooler laughed. “Back then we played in the Inland Empire League (comprised of Coeur d’Alene, Moscow, Lewiston, Sandpoint, Bonners Ferry, Kellogg, and Wallace) and Coeur d’Alene would come to town with their sharp uniforms, we looked like we had just come up from underground, and by the end of the game their sharp uniforms would be absolutely covered in mud.”

In 1941 Teeters Field hosted the Panhandle Conference Championship game between Wallace and Coeur d’Alene.

Teeters Field played host to many community events from football games to May Day celebrations, mostly due to the large wooden grandstands that wrapped around the southwest corner of the field.

In July of 1952 however, the grandstands at Teeters Field took some heat.

On the morning of July 8, 1952, the Kellogg Fire Department responded to a blaze at the field at 5:40 a.m.

16 year-old Paul Matovich, son of Tony Matovich who owned the Jamaica Inn (known now as Dirty Ernies) was believed (and still is to this day) to be the one who started the fire.

The News-Press could not locate any records that support this assumption, but if you ask any Kellogg historian who burned the stands at Teeters Field down, the answer is always, ‘the Matovich kid.’

Matovich would go on to graduate from KHS in 1954, but in 1957 he was convicted of murder after he drunkenly set fire to Gault Hall at the University of Idaho, resulting in the deaths of three people and spent the rest of his life in an institution.

After the fire, a coalition of citizens and mine representatives (the field was owned by the Bunker Hill Mining Company at the time) immediately began planning the construction of new covered stands for Teeters Field.

In the meantime, the Wildcats played their home games at Sather Field in Silverton.

Estimated damages totaled to $100,000 ($818,425 in 2016), the new cement and steel beam structure cost an estimated $125,000 ($1,115, 683 in 2016).

The last major change to Teeters Field happened in 2006-2007 after a presumed drunk driver drove their car off of McKinley Avenue, crashed through the fence, and got their car stuck in the rafters of the grandstand.

The wooden fence that surrounded the field was sentimental due to the fact that each individual fence board had the name of a Shoshone County citizen on it, but after the accident, the fence was replaced by the chain link that surrounds it today.

For some people, Teeters Field is hallowed ground, a place where they spent the best times of their lives. For others, it is the iconic field that has ‘the bar’ hanging off of it, but it will always be named after J.C. Teeters, a football legend in his own right who brought his winning culture to Kellogg, whose namesake will forever be the home of the Wildcats.

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