Last week’s “In the Game” sports section featured five local sports complexes, each of which is named for someone. They were Roddy Field and Baldwin Field in Bellevue, Clarence Petersen Field and E.A. Fricke Field in Papillion, and Orval R. Smith Memorial Field in Ralston.
The purpose of the feature article, well fulfilled, was to explain to our readers who these people were (or are) for whom these facilities were named.
In each case readers were introduced to, or perhaps reminded of, a person of great civic involvement who made his community a better place to live, work and play. That is the great advantage of naming things and places for people of unusual merit: It can serve as motivation and inspiration for future generations, as well as delivering thanks and honor to those to whom it is due.
It is always a missed opportunity when schools or other public institutions are named for a mere direction, as in the soon-to-be-built Elkhorn North High School. There are, of course, innumerable examples of such missed opportunities when naming high schools, as in Papillion-La Vista South, Bellevue East and Bellevue West. Omaha, too, is full of such blandness.
The argument most often furnished in favor of blandness is that it is uncontroversial. Naming places for people, we are told, can be stressful as multiple names are proposed and partisans of each fight their corners.
To which we say, so what?
That a community is so blessed with outstanding people should be cause for rejoicing, not hand-wringing, and if it takes a bit of corner-fighting to decide whose name should prevail, then let it be.
That our communities did this when naming its sports facilities allows future generations to know something about Clarence Petersen, a great softball booster; Joe Baldwin, mayor of Bellevue and a big sports enthusiast; Orval Smith, a regular guy recognized for his years spent keeping a ballpark in good shape; Ed Amil Fricke, a wealthy, bow-tied, straw-hatted baseball benefactor; and Don Roddy, a Bellevue city councilman and professional baseball player.
All a direction will ever tell a curious youngster is which way is up.
Naming places for people shows them the way forward.