Lightning Strikes at base ball game, killing 5

2006.11.649: Early baseball in Manitowoc County at unknown location

2006.11.649: Early baseball in Manitowoc County at unknown location

On Sunday, July 22, 1906 people ventured to Manitowoc’s West Side ball park, located at the corner of 16th and Wollmer Streets, for a baseball game between a Plymouth team and Manitowoc’s Schreihardt Brewery.  According to the Manitowoc Citizen newspaper on July 26 1906, about 100 spectators were on site for the game when it started to rain. Soon the rain turned into a thunderstorm. 

What happened next was certainly unexpected.  The Daily Herald wrote, “It was at 1:30 when the fatal stroke occurred and but for the fact that there were comparatively few on the grounds and less than a dozen in the grand stand or in close proximity to it, the death list would have been much larger.” A bolt of lightning struck the stand, killing five people and seriously injuring four others.

“Such excitement as followed the shock has never been seen in Manitowoc.  A half dozen doctors, summoned from as many telephones, hurried to the grounds in autos and carriages, through the pouring rain, and the scene as the bodies of the unfortunates were laid out on the grass near the grand stand and efforts made to resuscitate them was heart rending in the extreme. Parents, brothers and sisters of the unfortunates crowded around the loved ones, almost hysterical and it was with difficulty that the doctors were able to work over those in which there was some hope of reviving.”

Those killed from the lightning strike were Albert Skuhra (age 32), Walter Handl (age 17), Irving Woellert (age 20), Willie Knuzen (age 13) , and Tony Klauck (age 13). According to the obituary records, Albert Skura was married and had a young child. He was prominent in union circles of the city, being a member of the Manitowoc Central Labor Council, deputy organizer of the State Federation, and a member of the Longshoremen’s union. He had been hired to sell tickets at the grand stand for the game.

Walter Handl resided on S. 13th street and had been working at a north side meat market. Irving Woellert was the son of Charles Woellert,a popular tailor in the city.  Knutzen lived with his grandparents on North 15th Street and delivered the Daily Herald newspaper. Klauck lived at Seventh and York Streets with his family.

As eyewitnesses described to the newspaper, there was much chaos and confusion that followed.  One account said, “Suddenly, without warning, there was a bolt of lightning; that struck the roof of the stand, tore its way for three feet down the slanting side, and then went down the corner post, into the ground. It was all done so quickly that no one can explain just what occurred for the next few moments.”

News traveled fast in Manitowoc and to local communities.  Soon after the incident the West Side Ball Park soon attracted a crowd of more than 1,000 on lookers. Those who were injured were taken home by carriages and other carriages and the undertaking wagon of Urbanck & Wattawa removed the remains of those killed.