Loeb Stories - Jeff Baseball

The Aviators worked with BoilerComm, Purdue's student run public relations firm, to gather stories from those that have been involved with Loeb Stadium over the years. Here is what they gathered with Paul "Spider" Fields, Bill Olds, and Mark Strader of Jeff High School Baseball. For more stories, see:

Feature Story on Interview with Paul "Spider" Fields, Bill Olds, and Mark Strader

When someone mentions baseball in Lafayette, people instantly think of Loeb Stadium. It’s been around for almost 80 years and has seen interesting personalities, a wide array of events, and some incredible baseball. One of the most legendary coaches that has come through the stadium is Paul Eugene ‘Spider’ Fields. Spider has been around since Loeb’s conception and his first job was ground maintenance around the stadium at age 14. He also had a stint as bat boy for the local semi-professional team, the Lafayette Red Sox. Most notably, he coached baseball at Jefferson High School where he was head coach for 16 years. His players sing his praises and attribute their success to their time with him, two of those players being Mark Strader and Bill Olds. 

Strader was Spider’s assistant coach and later Jeff’s Head Coach for 11 years. While he was a senior playing baseball at Jefferson High School under Spider, the Indiana High School Athletic Association hosted Indiana’s first state baseball contest. For years the regional and sectional rounds were held in Loeb and on three occasions the final game itself found its way to Lafayette. After Strader’s graduation in 1967, he was drafted by the Minnesota Twins and eventually retired from his professional career to fulfill his purpose, stating that he was put on this earth to teach and coach. When discussing his experience and the players that have passed through the stadium, he emphasized how important Loeb was saying “everybody was there. There was a reason we were there.” Strader also found himself working alongside Bill Olds both as a player and a coach.

Olds recalled playing under Spider to win Jeff’s first ever state championship in 1973. His final game was a nail-biter, with Jeff being down 6 to 1 and coming back to win it 8 to 6. With all of his fond memories of Jeff baseball, he recognized the incredible efforts put forth by players both before and after his time. Olds teamed up with Scott McTagertt to start the Jeff Baseball Hall of Fame to honor these players for their accomplishments. 

These three individuals have helped to shape the Loeb experience and baseball in Lafayette. When asked about some of their favorite memories they brought up one of the crazier events that took place at the stadium. In a spectacle to celebrate the opening day event for the semi-pro team, the Lafayette Columbians, the Army’s parachute team was asked to dive into the stadium. They were supposed to land on a large black X right behind second base. There was so much anticipation from the crowd as the announcer excitedly told them of the trained parachuters’ arrival, but right when the first parachuter jumped, a strong gust of wind blew him towards the Columbian Park Zoo (located right next to the stadium). He tried to make his way back to the stadium, but instead landed in the bear pit. He landed there right as the announcer was emphasizing his skill and precision as a parachuter which makes the story even funnier today. Even today the zoo’s proximity to the ballpark is part of the Loeb experience. Aviators general manager Zach Chartrand says it took him awhile to get used to the monkeys going crazy every time someone hit a foul ball. Hopefully no one lands their parachute in an animal’s cage again any time soon. 

This story is only one out of hundreds about the stadium and with the new renovation coming soon, there’s potential for so many more. When asked about the new Loeb Stadium Spider agreed with that sentiment saying “There could be so many more stories to be had in the future and you know I think that’s what the three of us would hope for is that 50 years from now people will be telling these stories about the new Loeb Stadium.”

For the full audio and transcript of the BoilerComm's interview with Paul "Spider" Fields, Bill Olds, and Mark Strader, visit: http://www.lafayettebaseball.com/promo/jeff-transcript