Thursday, December 1, 2011

Rolla Mapel: Great Names in Small Missouri Towns

Today, Great Names in Baseball explores new ground, both literally and figuratively. Inspired by coffee-cupper Rolla Mapel, we shall examine the names of a series of small towns in the middle-American state of Missouri.

Rolla Mapel was born in Lee's Summit, Missouri, in 1890. His parents, ever homesick for their city of origin1, named the boy after their hometown of Rolla, Missouri. Rolla Mapel would eventually pitch in several leagues of the Great Plains before starting four games for the stinky St. Louis Browns in 1919. His only claim to fame in baseball is that the Browns turned a triple play in his debut, something that would only happen again in 2002 to Dewon Brazelton. He died in 1966 in a far-flung land called "San Diego."

But none of that baseball crap matters. Instead, we'll trace a possible route2 of Rolla's young parents on their journey through the villages of central Missouri en route to a new life in the shadow of Kansas City.

Rolla - (Pop. 19,000 or so) Mapels' journey began here. This city was allegedly named after a bloodthirsty hunting dog. Or it was named by people who had immigrated there from the capital city of North Carolina. Either story is disappointing when one considers that the town was nearly named Hardscrabble. Rolla is home to Missouri S&T and Tom Shipley of Brewer & Shipley. It is also the birthing place of gold-medal gymnasticist Shannon Miller, about whom nobody cared after seeing the gutsy and in-every-Olympic-highlight-film-of-all-time performance of Kerri Strug in 1996. Permission to weep nostalgic and patriotic tears of joy: Granted.

Town name rating: I am disappoint. I repeat: It could have been called Hardscrabble!

Meta - (Pop. 249) This town is so its-name that it's actually another city called Babbtown. The account of the Mapels' journey that I am fabricating as I write tells of how every conversation in Meta is so self-referential that nobody in the town actually knows anything about anything.

Town name rating: This is not a town name rating.

Climax Springs - (Pop. 80) This village is named after a factory in its confines that makes components for erotic mattresses. Because this hack writer is using a computer at his day job and is terrified of what search engines may retrieve, no more information will be provided. According to some outside sources, however, this is the second-most Not-Safe-For-Work (NSFW) municipality in Camden County.

Town name rating: 3-1/2 Magic Fingers

Warsaw - (Pop. 2000) Warsaw has recorded both the highest temperature (118 degrees in 1954) in the state and the lowest (-40 degrees in 1905). At least one Wikipedia editor claims the city is often referred to as "The Gateway to the South." Warsaw's annual Christmas celebration falls on December 3 (that's tomorrow) this year. The festivities will include a performance from country musicians/convicted train robbers The Osage Outlaws at the community center [**Disclaimer: This is not indended to be a factual statement**]3. Citizens have heard repeatedly that LOT Airlines will fly there once a day, but so far they haven't seen a damn jet anywhere near Warsaw Municipal Airport.

Town name rating: Poland? Now you're just making places up.

Tightwad - (Pop. 64) While the claim is unconfirmed, Tightwad may be the only community named after a bartering bait-and-switch that involved a watermelon, a chicken and a postman. It is also home to a niche-market novelty bank.

Town name rating: Clearly worth a watermelon. Remember: When you control(led the mail in the mid-19th century), you control(led)...the names of backwater towns!

La Tour - (Pop. 60) La Tour is a community that, in 2000, voted to disincorporate the village. The village had been incorporated in 1968 in an inspired bid to "take the whole town on tour" as a traveling musical act: The La Tour of del Mundo World. The group/village canceled their first show 35 minutes after leaving town when they received word from their neighbor Rose Hill that La Tour had been ransacked by The Osage Outlaws, who had lain in wait for weeks after hearing promotional radio ads for the tour. Their idea would later be actualized when the Polyphonic Spree took the city of Dallas on tour in 2001.

Town name rating: The story of La Tour is a bit of a stretch, if I'm honest.

Gunn City - (Pop. ??) No Wikipedia entry exists for Gunn City, but sources say that gunfights break out regularly there. Gunn City resident Conrad Durham is said to have been shot in the Gunn City Lutheran Church's belltower and fallen to an indeterminate place in town at least 374 times. Visitors be warned: A salty attitude will get a feller punched, but Gunn City ain't got no room for nice guys, neither.

Town name rating: In a state with lax policies on firearms, anyplace called "Gunn City" is essentially the state's cerebral cortex.

Lone Jack - (Pop. 528) This small city is famous for a Civil War battle that raged in the town's streets for five hours. The municipality was founded by Jack Sparrow (any resemblance to film characters is purely coincidental), who first settled the area as a bachelor in 1813. Legend has it that Sparrow defended his cabin from a badger infestation using only meager rations, a box of bullets and his wits. Sparrow died while fording a river.

Town name rating: 2 spare wagon tongues or 357 pounds of food

Lee's Summit - (Pop. 91,000) Notable for having the mockumentary "Jesus Camp" filmed there, in part. It's also home to rapper and linguistic curiosity Tech N9ne. Tech N9ne's 1999 debut included a track called "Mizzizy Gets Bizzy," a tribute to the products made in Climax Springs.

Town name rating: Tutonka

1 I actually have no way of knowing that Rolla Mapels' parents were from Rolla, Missouri. Consider it an intellectual leap taken with creative license. Like a biopic.

2 There is no way of knowing if the roads on the above-pictured route even existed, as Missouri records do not pre-date 1951. Many of the roads, however, show clear evidence of having been built by the Romans. Rome conquered Missouri, right?

3 To reiterate: Everything on this blog is meant as hyperbole. Anything that resembles a fact is patently false. If you enjoy historically inaccurate writing commonly taken as fact, please consider reading this book.

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