Limeport Stadium

By J.F. Pirro

Jim Schaffer had some of the best seats in baseball over his 35-year professional baseball career as a catcher, coach and manager. These days, he’s often a fixture in a white plastic lawn chair down the right-field foul line at Limeport Stadium—and still in one of baseball’s best seats, at least in the Lehigh Valley.

While Shaffer traveled the country during his long career, he never strayed far from Limeport Stadium, built in 1933 at the height of the Great Depression for about $75,000 by Howard “Lefty” Fegely, a dairy farmer. Unmistakably Fegley’s, a surviving concrete placard at the entrance still proclaims: “Fegley’s Baseball Park 1933.”

But Shaffer was born in a house across from the park. When he graduated from Coopersburg High School in 1954, his 36-member class accepted their diplomas on the field between the mound and home plate.

His father, Charles Schaffer, was involved with the stadium early on. Jim, now 76, spent his early playing days here, then re-involved himself in 1986 as his professional career began winding down.

A brick, mortar and wooden-fence stadium, Limeport has always been run an old-school way, namely with volunteer community involvement, donations and hoagie sales. A half dozen supporters left estate money for the stadium when they died, including Schaffer’s father.

“My dad would say Howard called and asked what he was doing,” Jim says. “When the answer was ‘nothing,’ then he’d round up the guys. The field needed mowing—and they used real push mowers. One week they would line up and cut this way; the next week they would push the other way.”

The treasured stadium’s history is as unique as it is long. One of Fegley’s favorite beagles is buried under third base. Centerfield is 485 feet from home plate beyond an upward-sloped outfield; a gigantic boulder beneath it was too expensive to blast out and level when the field was built.

A 5 ½-acre site, it seems the bulk of the acreage is between home and the dead-center field fence. Dead-center at Citizens Bank Park is just 401 feet. Long-stated, but never substantiated, it’s rumored that only Alex Sabo may have ever hit a home run to dead-center at Limeport. That was in the 1940s when the East Penn League, which Fegley helped found, kept Limeport busy. The league lasted until 1950, but Fegley’s team, the Limeport Milkmen, is still remembered.

After those years, the stadium sat idle, though Fegley kept it cut, until the mid-70s. It was rejuvenated by Jim’s dad, Ray Bortz, another ex-Major League player who still lives in Allentown, Earl Todd, Harold Sandercock, Ishky Fatzinger, Art Mack and Al Klan.

Today, the park benefits from the dedication of Charles Schaffer, Jr., Jim’s older brother who still mows the outside grounds, and Jerry Mack, often Jim’s right-field-foul-line buddies, and others among 40 dues-paying members of Limeport Stadium, Inc. Work-party crews, which sometimes include current players, have torn off old roof shingles and replaced them with new. They’ve painted. A fundraising effort made lights possible in 1984. Willard Gerhart, a local general contractor, and his son John have been instrumental in repairs. Electrician Larry Linde and his family has been a friend of the park as has Scott Dickinson.

“Once we tried to give him a gift certificate,” Jim Schaffer says. “He threw it back at me. He said, ‘You guys all volunteer, well, I’m volunteering, too.’”

Andy Robison, the president of Limeport Stadium, Inc. who succeeded Tom Fulton six years ago, owns a lawn maintenance business, but doesn’t mow at the stadium. “They won’t let me on the crew,” he says.

“He isn’t old enough,” chirps Schaffer.

All totaled, there are 100 games at Limeport Stadium between March and August. The Blue Mountain League’s Limeport Dodgers, the Tri-County League’s Limeport Bulls and Southern Lehigh’s American Legion teams follow special-night high school games. Last August, the Connie Mack State Championships were held at Limeport for the first year in a four-year contract. There are also the American Cancer Society Howard E. Deppe All-Star Baseball Classic benefit games and several fall tournament events. “Major Leaguers play 81 games on their home field, so we actually host more,” Schaffer says.

The most difficult task is coordinating, scheduling and rescheduling games to keep all the host teams happy. “We’re committed as long as we continue to have the manpower to handle it,” Robison says.

Schaffer says Robison is the “best thing that’s ever happened to us.” Among the recent upgrades he’s helped promote, the steep, narrow 17-stair climb into the park was closed off in favor of opening up the cinderblock storage wall behind home plate in time for the 2011 season. This year, the upstairs concession stand was expanded and relocated at that new opening on the ground floor. “We’re doing things to make this more fan friendly,” Robison says.

But the charm is ingrained even in each remaining original wooden seat made in Reading, Pennsylvania. Though there were 1,070 seats when Fegley opened the park, 900 remain. Those removed on the outer sides created aisle space.

Like Shaffer before him, Robison put in his playing days at Limeport, too, and still plays in some games. Schaffer’s son Jimmie managed the Dodgers when Robison first played for the team he now manages. As a 17-year-old, he doubled to left-center in his first at-bat.

“That’s just stuck with me,” Robison says. “After that, I always wanted to come back and play here. Now it’s been 25 years, and I’ve just fallen in love with this place. I’ve come to know it as home.”

Shaffer calls his first home run at Limeport his fondest memory here: “I hit home runs at most American Legion fields, but most fields were open, so you had to keep running,” he says. “The fact that this one here went over the fence made it different. When I went away, I played on quite a few fields that weren’t as good as this one.”

Limeport Stadium is located on Limeport Pike, just north of Coopersburg. For a schedule of games and events visit

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