Thursday, January 26, 2012


February 15, 1921, Ernest Landraf sells half ownership in the Stars ball club to the St. Louis Cardinals for $20,000. This brought Landraf much needed capital after a dismal 1920. The agreement signed between Cardinal owner Sam Breadon and Stars management brought instant chances. Stars players Tom Madden, Charlie Niebergall, Lester Sell and George Toporcer will go to St. Louis Cardinal spring training sight at Orange, Texas. Then manager Branch Rickey would select his major league roster, then send seven player to the Stars to balance there team. Rickey offers to buy  George "Specs" Toporcer, Landreaf and Rickey agree on $5,000 cash, plus three players.

The International League was making changes also. First Akron voted to exit the league, with Montreal looking to buy that franchise for $41,000. But the deal fell through and the club is bought by Roy Mack son of Connie Mack and relocated to Newark, New Jersey.

Stars lose opening day to Newark 6-3, but have a successful year moving to fifth place at 71-96. New blood was evident Charlie Niebergal hit .287 before his promotion to St. Louis. Art Smith (.330), Lou Witterslatter (.328), Jewel Ens (.335), Jim Esmond (.293) and the legendary Frank Schulte (.309). The St. Louis Cardinal's came to the city for an exhibition on July 24, defeating the Stars 13-9, Rogers Hornsby the hitting star going four for five. One historic event happened that year. For the first time in baseball history, three successive batters hit home runs on three successive pitches in the same inning. The  Reading pitcher was Dean Banhardt the batters- Frank Schulte, Art Smith and Jewel Ens. Another managerial change as Tom Madden was replaced by Frank Shaughnessy on July 31.

Branch Rickey was dissatisfied with the agreement between the Cardinals and Stars. His position was that moral agreements were often ignored by minor league clubs and that half ownership was ineffective in getting their best players onto his major league roster. Mr. Rickey was proven correct when he wanted Jim Bottomley sent from Syracuse to St. Louis in 1922.

Ernest, still president phoned Rickey and after some hesitation told him that many other teams wanted his young first baseman. Their were so many that Landraf was thinking of holding an auction. Bottomley's services going to the highest bidder. Branch Rickey was upset with this turn of events. If Syracuse could back out on such a deal he would have to face Cardinal owner Sam Breadon about the economic validity to such a farm system. Rickey thinking was that St. Louis's half interest in the Stars would avoid such a problem from ever happening.

He boarded a airplane for Syracuse. Upon his arrival, he locked himself in with Landraf for several hours. Finally they emerged smiling for photographers. Jim Bottomley the press informed, was a St. Louis Cardinal. The reporters asked how Rickey accomplished that. "By persuasion, he answered to one, "by logic: to another and by "appealing to his sense of integrity", to a third. Years later Mr. Rickey told the real reason" by more money": Breadon was so pleased that he bought the remaining 50% of the Stars team. That was probably the payoff to Ernest Landraf for the Bottomley deal.

The Jim Bottomley story is an interesting one. Bottomley wrote the Cardinals management from his home in Nokomis, Illinois, stating he would play major league baseball if given the opportunity. Mr. Rickey signed Jim after seeing hit hit two home runs and three triples in a semi-pro game in 1919. By the time Jim arrived in Syracuse in 1922, it was evident he would soon be a great star player. Bottomley hit a blazing .348 in 119 games, only to see the Stars finish in seventh place (64-102). Jim Bottomley would later return to Syracuse and manage the 1938 Syracuse Chiefs. He would later be inducted into the Syracuse Baseball Wall of Fame.

This would be only the beginning of Jim's story. In his first full season (1923) with the Redbirds he batted .371. Thought 1931, he hit over .300 every year except 1926 when it dropped to .299. He played in four World Series with St. Louis, won the National League's M.V.P. award in 1928 and became the fifteen year major league veteran, with Cards, Cincinnati Reds and St. Louis Browns.

Bottomley rewrote the record books on September 16, 1924, he set the major league record knocking in 12 RBI in one game vs the Philadelphia Phillies. His hits were, two home runs, a double and three singles.

The four memorable evens happened during the 1922 season. Three featured Star's hurler Jean Dubec. First, his May 3 home opening 14-1 victory over Jersey City before 6,500 Syracuse cheering fans. The next may 14, as "Hall of Famer" Chief Bender (then pitching for Reading)  dueled 14 innings against Dubec. The game was a no-hitter by Dubec until the top of the ninth. It was won by Jean Dubec himself with a dynamic home run in the bottom of the 14th frame. Years later almost very Syracusan from six to sixty claimed to have been there.

The third, was the appearance of the New York Yankees on August 10 at Star Park. This time the Yankees were led by Bob Meusel who went 3-5 with a solo home run. Babe Ruth singled in five trips to the plate and ":Jumpin " Joe Dugan went 2-4 in a 3-2 New York victory.

The "Babe" and the Yankees arrived in Syracuse by train at 7 A.M. At 9 A.M. Ruth placed himself at the disposal of the Herald Newspaper, for which he has been a special writer for the past two years. He spent more than an hour visiting employees discussing the major league pennant races and funning with Buddy O'Hara the eight year old son of Herald business manager E.A. O'Hara. At 10:30 A.M. Ruth departed for Burnet Park were a juvenile game was being played between the Columbia Athletic Club and the House of Providence.

The game was halted for a moment when Ruth arrived. The 5,000 spectators rushed the auto Ruth was seated. Mounted police finally came to the big fellows rescue. At last Ruth himself paved the way to restore order by walking to the center of the diamond declaring himself umpire. He ordered all players back to their positions. For four innings during which the Columbia A.C. ran up a 6-1 lead. When Columbia came to bat the "Mighty Bambino"  stepped up to bat to the cheer of the crowd. He used the small players game bat that did not suit him, but used it anyways. Branan the crafty House of Providence pitcher struck out the Babe on three swings. Babe asked for another turn and this time hit it squarely over the right fielders head. He repeatedly his singles and doubles in a few more swings. No sooner had he put down the bat, the crowd of 5,000 surrounded him. A photo was taken by reporters, then he zigged and zagged finally to his auto. But fans armed with fountain pens, bats, gloves and note books made it impossible to start the vehicle. The Babe's auto moved slowly through the crowd and exited the park. He returned moments later when he remembered he had promised Father James Magee (pastor of St. Patricks Church), a photo together. As the car arrived back in the park this caused another demonstration. A photo was taken of Ruth with Father Magee along with Buddy O'Hara and Faddy Cady. The Babe then returned to his base of operation the Hotel Onondaga.

Lastly a down note, the Boston Red Sox stopped by on September 25, the exhibition was viewed by only 375 fans, grossing a mear $248.25. On that occasion Jean Dubec besting Benn Karr 3-1

Branch Rickey had started his new farm system venture. He established  a tryout camp first at Dansville, Illinois, then through the South and Midwestern states. Other clubs were purchased and Sam Breadon's fortunes were turning. He quickly paid off the former Cardinal owners and a few years later was making a large profit. The result was that in 1926, St. Louis won the pennant. Then went on to defeat the New York Yankee's behind former Syracuse Star pitching great Grover Cleveland Alexander. You might remember Games 6, as Alex was called in form the bullpen and struck out Tony Lazzari with the bases full to end the Yankees rally.

The St. Louis Cardinals with Philip Bartelme as president started their first full year of Stars ownership in 1923. New upgraded talent was tried as Syracuse fans saw the likes of Lester Bell, "Whitey" Gialasen, "Wattie" Holm, George Makin, John McCarthy, "Red" McKee, Charlie Niebergall and Jim Taggert. The mound staff consisted of Fred Frankhouse (6-11), Art Reinhart (19-9) "Luigi" Pierotti (17-12), Slicker Parks (9-10) and Jean Dubec (5-2). But the best they could do is a sixth place finish (73-92) under manager Frank Shaughnessy.

One memorable moment worth mentioning with the season's second contest at Baltimore. That day future Hall of Famer Robert Moses "Lefty" Groves struck out 17 Syracuse Stars in a 8-1 win. Manager Frank Shaughnessy's game plan was "We'll wait Lefty out today, he was know to a a little wild". What happened was Groves (there was an s at the end in those days)struck out the first three batters he faced, then took fourteen more down as the game continued to set a new International League record.

August 18, 1923, Babe Ruth and his manager Christy Walsh departed their train at 6:20 AM in Syracuse, before continuing to Rochester. They arrived at the Herald Newspaper meeting with reporters and stopping for breakfast. Christy Walsh arranged to have 20 cases of Babe Ruth candy bars sent to the newspaper as samples. Babe did a bit of typing and helped with the daily newspaper and became "Editor of the Day". Ruth writes baseball articles daily promoting his All-American team nominations. The Herald was one of the most active papers using the Babe's news stories, and promoting his contests. His contests have sent as many as eight winners to the World Series.

At 9 AM he stepped out on the little balcony of the Herald Building. The Babe started tossing Babe Ruth candy bars to the crowd below as the passed by. Soon all traffic was blocked in downtown Syracuse. He then made an appearance at the Municipal Day Celebration at Clinton Square as a guest of the Herald Newspaper and the Kiwanis Club. Ruth and his syndicated manager Christy Walsh were tops in their cooperation to all. There was no half-way about either gentleman. The total visit lasted six and a half hours, a short but memorable moment in Syracuse Baseball History.

Once again International League baseball returned to Archbold Stadium for the home opener in 1924. After a dismal 2-8 road start, the Star's sent Art Reinhart to stop the slide against Newark opening day. May 4. Reinhart's victory. rejuvenated the throng of loyal Salt City baseball fans. The year in review, 79 victories against 83 defeats led to another sixth place finish. The Stars of 1924 were a good defensive club, but finished next to last in team batting at .274.

Note- Chapter in process

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