FAIRBANKS — The National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown, New York, declared the Midnight Sun Game as a must-see event for baseball fans.
Thousands of eyes at Growden Memorial Park will see the Alaska Goldpanners play the Orange County Surf, of California, in the 113th edition of the game, which starts at 10 p.m. today at Growden Memorial Park.
The Goldpanners and Surf are independent and wood-bat summer college baseball programs. The Midnight Sun Game is the fourth contest in a seven-day, eight-game series between the teams.
The Midnight Sun Game has grown beyond its bar-bet origin into a world famous summer-solstice classic that has been featured in The Sporting News, Sports Illustrated and Grantland, and on ESPN’s SportsCenter.
The inaugural game was played in 1906 as a bet between two Fairbanks bars, the Eagles Club and the California Bar. The California Bar was led by Eddie Stroecker, who is nicknamed the “Father of the Midnight Sun Game.”
The Goldpanners took over the tradition in 1960, which also was their first season. The host team has lost the Midnight Sun Game only 11 times.
One of the traditions of the Midnight Sun Game is the singing of the Alaska Flag Song at the half inning closest to midnight.
This year’s game also culminates 24 Hours of Play Ball events, a joint effort by Major League Baseball, USA Baseball, USA Softball, Pony Baseball, Pony Softball and American Legion Baseball.
The Goldpanners have had more than 200 players play at the major-league level. Among the team’s alumni to make it to bigs were Baseball Hall of Famers Tom Seaver and Dave Winfield. Others major leaguers who’ve had stints with the Goldpanners were Barry Bonds, Dave Kingman, Bill Lee and Terry Francona, who is now the manager of the Cleveland Indians.
Contact News-Miner sports editor Danny Martin at 459-7586. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/newsminersports.