Wednesday, January 25, 2012


November 18, 1919, Syracuse newspaper's report that Ernest C. Landraf owner of the Newark franchise in the International League would be willing to relocate in Syracuse if a new stadium could be built in time for it to open the 1920 season". Mr. Landraf is quoted as saying "I do not want one cent of Syracuse money"." I have ownership of the Newark franchise and have offers from Montreal, Providence and Scranton to take my club". But permission to move the team to Syracuse from Newark where it barely made expenses last season will be offered at the annual meeting of International League leaders on December 9.

Montreal  offered $30,000 for the club. Mr. Landraf states " He will finance the team himself". "But if people of Syracuse want to buy an interest in the club they May". I understand that Joe Dunfee intends to build a new park in Syracuse and I want to size up the situation". The property that Mr. Dunfee acquired is located on West Genesee Street between Hiawwatha Blvd and the New York Central Railroad tracks. The land contains five acres and has frontage on West Genesee for an entrance and sufficient area for several store fronts. The land extends to harbor brook and Lakeside Avenue (now State Fair Blvd). The total cost will be $71,000.

November 30, Joe Dunfee accepts the offer, and the franchise is ready to be shifted. Ernest Landraf learns a substantial sum of money as evidence of his good faith. He also agrees to a three year lease on the new park. With International League president David L. Fultz present Mr. Dunfee promises that he will start the stadium in the next three weeks. Mr. Landraf replies " All I ask is that the field and stands be ready by the opening day of the season".

 December 9, the International League ok's the franchise shift to Syracuse. Tony Cummings is named team manager for 1920. The Syracuse newspaper conducts a sport pole to vote on a team name. The majority of Syracuse fans wants "Stars" name to return again."

The spring training sight selected was Tarboro, North Carolina. March 25, 1920, Landraf signs his first Star players, the former N.L. 'Home Run King" Frank "Wildfire" Schulte, Schulte played with the Stars back in 1904. Meanwhile Joe Dunfee launches a company called the "Syracuse Athletic Park Inc." for team boosters that will be needed for success. A bond issues is placed and 750 loyal fans are needed to purchase a 6% gold coupon bond for $100 for a total of $75,000. These bonds are backed by the City of Syracuse.

The International League went through some changes itself. Syracuse and Akron, Ohio had taken the place of Binghamton and Newark. This was the first time the I.L. had extended as far west as Ohio.

As opening day drew closer it was evident that the "New International League Park"  would not be completed in time. Landraf was now faced  with a trolley strike and a possible shift to Archbold Stadium where he would have to play there first fifteen games.This was to far from the center of the city for fans to walk or get to easily. A switch to Archbold Stadium was made and 6,000 fans responded in a 3-2 opening day victory over Rochester. Syracuse Mayor Farmer tossed out the first pitch in a game that was marked with pomp and ceremony.

Fund raising was disappointing to all and store fronts on West Genesee Street were scratched to save dollars. A minimum of $25,000 was still needed to complete the park. A committee was set up to revive Mr. Dunfee's plan's. A call for bond buyers brought new blood as John Gary bought 10 bonds himself and several blocks of 5,3,2 and 1 were sold at a rally. What was left was a shell of the parks' original design.

 The land was first owned by the Syracuse Salt Company. Then it was used as a dump by Onondaga Pottery. The grandstand was built of lumber from the old salt sheds which dotted the area. Their was hard salt on all the lumber, you walked and sat on salt. There were no seats with a small wing of grandstand extending out from the third base side.

When Dunfee and builder E.C. Stearns layed out the diamond they found that the third base foul line ran right through a corner of the bleachers, some six to eight feet. It was suggested that they move the left field foul line in to avoid the bleachers, that they did and nobody noticed it. There was a high embankment that led to the New York Central Railroad down the left field where the bleachers were built and behind the left field wall was a small creek. About 10 feet outside of the right field foul line there was a 10-foot embankment where they cut into the Pottery dump. They called this area "Schulte's Cliff" after Frank "Wildfire" Schulte who so often dug his spikes coring up with an old tea cup which he'd toss over the fence. The one classic sign that dotted the outfield wall for years was that of Nick Peters Clothes. The sign had a flag on each end, if a player hit a home run between the flags Nick Peter's gave the player a suit of clothes. Jewel Ens the former Stars third baseman and later Syracuse Chiefs manager claimed 13 suits during the 1921 season.

After a dismal 1-3 start manager Tony Cummings was fired. Mr. Landraf persuaded the great Napoleon "Nap" Lajoie who had become a free agent to take the position. "Lajoie had retired after hitting .340 and managing Toonto to a pennant in 1918. Mr. Lander has known Lajoie many years. He felt that if "Nap' played agains it would be with the Stars. To his dissappointment "Nap" had other plans. Amby McConnell the former Star and N.Y.S. League batting champion signed on to lead the Syracuse club on April 29. He would  be replaced by John Enzman after losinng 14 straight games.

New International League Park (Star Park) finally opened on May 20, 1920. John Enzman was replaced as manager on July 5, by Tom Madden. Madden was the fourth manager of the year. He saw the Star win only 33 of 149 games finishing in last place behind league winner Baltimore. At seasons end Landraf had lost an estimated $15,000. He also refused to pay the sum of $4,000 rent, as he reported the park was not ready for the first fifteen games.

 In other new Star Park- No. Salina Street would be destroyed by fire on May 30, 1920. The wooden grandstand was gutted from the ticket office past the bleachers as estimated loss of $5,000 Several boathouses along the Oswego Canal, south of the park were also set a fire. Star Park No. Salina Street and the building adjoining were owned by Mrs. Elleen Hanley of 1511 No. Salina Street.

January 1921, Landraf signed former Orange Athletic Club star infielder George Toporcer. Toporcer would be become the first player to ware glasses in the major leagues as a member of the St. Louis Cardinals. Frank "Wildfire" Schulte was traded to Atlanta but refused the trade and returned once again in a Stars uniform to hit .309. The Stars would hold a "Frank Schulte Day" in his honor August 20. Frank was presented a gold watch and a check at home plate by Johnny Haddock. Haddock, a Central New York resident and veteran catcher served as a major league scout for the St. Louis Cardinals and New York Yankees.

Note- Chapter in progress

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