Warmer weather means the return of baseball to the Chippewa Valley’s playgrounds, parks, and stadiums, most notably 82-year-old Carson Park, which is now home to the Eau Claire Express. Back in the 1940s and ’50s, the main team in town was the Eau Claire Bears – later known as the Eau Claire Braves – a minor-league affiliate of the big-league Milwaukee Braves. At the time, the Eau Claire Jaycees sponsored a club for kids called the Knothole Gang. Members of the “gang” got to watch a certain number of games free each season from a special part of the bleachers. As you can see in this picture from the Chippewa Valley Museum’s collection, they also enjoyed treats like popcorn and (at least when this picture was taken around 1948) got custom caps! Knothole Gangs like this one were popular around the country at the time. They took their name from the fact that kids who didn’t have money for tickets used to gather outside ballparks and watch games through knotholes in the wooden fences. Today, kids are entertained at Eau Claire Express games not only by the baseball but also by a bouncy house and other attractions along the third base line – not to mention between-inning antics (such as costumed races and dance contests) that bring young volunteers onto the field. The Express begin their home season on Friday, June 1, against the La Crosse Loggers at Carson Park.