To a great extent, Minnesota’s town ball legacy is concentrated in the southern agricultural belt, sweeping west from the confluence of the Minnesota and Mississippi rivers toward the Dakota border. So many of its fields lie amid the rolling hills decorated by rows of corn whose annual growth marks the passage of the season from the chilly spring openers to the State Tournament in August. These landscapes are virtually indiscernible from those I was surrounded by as a young child in Northern Iowa, though my own Minnesota roots lie in the coniferous forests and red dump piles of the Mesabi Range, in the northernmost latitudes of state (my parents themselves being the children of ore miners). For my money, the lines of jagged spruce and luminous blue skies that envelop Hinckley’s Brennan Field tell the tale of Minnesota baseball just as vividly as the drifting cornrows and blinding orange sunsets of Miesville.
Brennan Field lies along Highway 61, just north of Hinckley’s diminutive old downtown area, slightly to the west of the interstate pitstops and massive casino most travelers associate the town with. Initially constructed in 1948, with the addition of its signature wooden grandstand and formal name dedication in 1956, Brennan possesses all the old-fashioned personality of the cozy ballparks seen in sepia period photos. Further adding to the antiquated feel of the stadium, the vertical plank exterior walls, tall flag post, and extruding press box give the appearance of a 1800s frontier fort. Reenactors adorned in blue Union army uniforms seem just as likely to be waiting inside the walls of the park as baseballists in caps and stirrups.
From its grass-covered parking lot to the exterior walls, dugouts, wooden grandstand, forested backdrop, and lush playing surface, Brennan is almost painfully green. Even the home Knights dress in bright Kelly and canary uniforms that call to mind the Charlie O. Finley Oakland A’s of the early 1970s. (On this most recent trip, the Knights were playing a tournament matchup with the Hibbing Miners, in their own rather Oaklandesque attire.)
The covered grandstand of Brennan Field is rich with charm—old and wooden and dim (though maybe a bit claustrophobic for some). Watch your head if you find yourself sitting across the upper rows, as the rafters hang quite low for taller folks. Access to the press box (which I was graciously provided on this trip) comes via a small set of stairs dropping down to the center aisle from a hatch leading to the roof. From there, a narrow plank leads to the door of the booth.
Modern upgrades to the park include a nice party deck on the 1B side and an expansive concession area, featuring tap beer, an impressive food menu, and a pro shop stocked with Knights gear. As the standout facility in a region of typically serviceable but minimal ballparks, Brennan hosts two annual tournaments, as well as league and regional playoff games and high school baseball. In a typical year, the field plays host to around 80 games, giving park hunters many opportunities to pay a visit to this woodsy landmark, just a short drive north of the Twin Cities.
Full photo gallery available here.