Sunday, January 15, 2012


Where do legends begin ? Well in this case our story starts on June 9, 1866. This date is very significant as it represents the formation of the Star Baseball Club of Syracuse.

John J. Dunn is credited as its founder when he joined forces with friends Edward Thurston and Charles Holden all youths at the time. This trio admired the great Central City Club who had hit their zenith in the 1860's. The three youths practiced ball daily at Armory Square Park located at the corner of Clinton and Jefferson Streets in the center of downtown Syracuse. John Dunn's decision to organize a ball club started with the addition of friend's Albert Lathrop, Charles Whitney and Joseph Young. Later with the addition of Dan Guilfoyle, Thomas Hart, Charles Walrath and Charles Whiting to consummate the original ten members.

The following are quotes taken from the original scrapbook of former Stars president Philip S. Ryder. "Though they were merely boys, John Dunn being but sixteen, they were full of youthful arbor and ambition. Regular meetings were held first at the First National Bank, through the interest of Mr. Horace Greeley and later in the Merchants Bank through the companionship of Charles Bridgeman. John Dunn was chosen captain a position he held until 1875".

Armory Square was the home of Stars practice's in those first few years. By 1869, it shifted to the old Central City grounds, and then to Driving Park located just off Westcott Street. With a team of the ages of these boys it was a foregone conclusion that it would require years of practice before their play would attract special attention. So passed the summers of 1866-68 devoted to practice and games against other junior youth groups. In 1869 the Stars posted a 7-0 record highlighted by a 43-3 thrashing of the Syracuse High School nine, in what is credited as their first game ever.

By 1870 new members Dennis Geagan, Nelson Haskel, David Jacobs, Charles Karr, Dennis Sullivan and Frank Walch had been added to strengthen their already powerful ball club. Sullivan was the first player to receive pay for his play on the Stars club. His circumstances being such that he could not afford to spend his time, with more or less risk of no income. His pay was $45 per month plus expenses which was guaranteed by Philip S. Ryder who had engaged him. Mr. Ryder's connection with the ball club will receive attention further on,

The Stars first tournament action happened August 25, 1870. The result although utterly disastrous for the Stars, is interesting in the fact they played against Goliath sized ball clubs some of New York States best. They lost to Rochester 21-11, to The Alerts 44-28 and to the Excelsiors of Buffalo. Although a junior team there was strong evidence that the Stars could lead any one of the nines who opposed them. For his fine play John Dunn was awarded a silver mounted ball at the close of play as the "Best General Player".

May new rule changes happened between 1871-72, First batters were allowed to call for high or low pitches (this rule was changed in 1887). Also pitchers were allowed a snap delivery, though still were restricted to a below the waste motion.

The season of 1873 opened on June 3rd with a victory over the Syracuse University nine 30-14. But the most notable game was played on August 26 vs the powerful Watsons of Weedsport, NY. The game was significant in that when the Star arrived they were sneered at by the citizens for their diminutive stature. Wagers on the contest ran as high as ten to one on the Watsons. When the game ended the Star came away victorious 52-30 and carried home the game prize on a silver baseball. Other great victories followed, the defeat of the Oswego Nationals to win the Junior Championship of Central New York 21-4. The capture of first prize of $50 winning the Canastota Tournament on September 12 with victory's over the Summits and Central City clubs.

Several changes had taken place during 1874. Denny Sullivan the fine receiver left the club temporarily, Charles Holden, John Whiting and Charles Whitney retired, Charles Karr closed his connection to the team, and Dennie Ganyon did not play on a regular basis after 1873.

Fans on opening day 1874 viewed a totally new Stars lineup. John Dunn had assembled a new nine composed of a few new players from outside the central city area. John Smith of Ithaca (catcher), and Frank Sperry a left fielder from Cleveland joined Will Grace, Henry Ferrer, Joe Young, Orson Lombard, Fred Esmond, Ned Thurston and John Dunn who moved from the mound to center field. Games against Ku Klux Klan of Oneida, Unions, Fayetteville, Nationals of Oswego, the Fly-a-ways of New York and the Uniques of Oneida led the Stars with six wins and three losses. The defeat of the Uniques in the final of the Oneida tournament guaranteed the Stars first place winnings of $150.

The Stars had gained a state wide reputation by 1875. A large number of men who felt an interest in the game, began to turn towards the Stars as the possible future glory of Syracuse.  Since 1870 the Star Ball Club felt an apparent necessity for a more thoroughly guiding hand at the business helm. John Dunn approached the professional help of one Philip S. Ryder a noted Syracuse Photographer, if he would accept the presidency of the immature ball club. Mr. Ryder is now known as "The Father of Professional Baseball in Syracuse". He accepted the challenge of becoming the club president, business, and alumni head for over the next thirty years. Plans were proposed to form a stock company that was destined to fall through. George G. Campbell the well known ex-Central City player was chosen as team manager. Mr. Campbell would later be replaced by Mr Ryder and Charles J. Rae.

Twenty nine games were played in 1875, with a host of new faces. Andrew Blodgett, Horatio White, Bill Cruttenden, John Gray, Pete Hotaling, but the best of all was new pitcher Patrick "Henry" McCormick. McCormick the former pitcher with the Plaid Stockings of Geddes, signed a Stars contract following a contest against the Stars in early 1875. The only member left from the first Star nine of 1866 was John Dunn. He was the persistent the inevitable. For nine years Dunn had been captain and played all nine positions. He was now in his last full season for the team which he had given so much.

In the twenty nine games played that year the Stars won fourteen. Following a June 29th game at Baldwinsville, the Stars were off for the July 1st grand tournament at Watertown, N.Y. This tournament consisted of some of baseball's finest teams. The Live Oaks of Lynn, Mass, the Flyaways of New York, St. Lawrences of Kingston, Canada, and our own Syracuse Stars. Our first game opponents were the tournament favorites the Lynn Live Oaks led by pitching great Will White. The Oaks easily rolled over the Stars 13-7. The Stars were dazzled by Whites great new pitch "The Curved Pitch' or Curve Ball as well know it today. The Stars hitters were baffled by the way White twisted the ball out of straight course to the plate. It was also the first showing of crack shortstop/ catcher Michael C. Dorgan. Dorgan along with Live Oaks teammates George Adams, "Flash" Grosscup, Ed McGlynn and John Madden would all become members of the Star before the start of the next ball season.

Following their second defeat of the tournament to the Flyaways 14-12, the team returned home to rave of the curved pitch they has seen a few days before. They were heartily laughed at. The curved pitch was first introduced by Bobby Mathews of the old Brooklyn nine. Will White had learned the pitch from his brother Deacon White, who was then pitching for Boston.

More great games highlighted the 75th year. The Stars humbled the powerful Watsons of Weedsport 52-30. This was one of John Dunn's greatest pitching victories. The Bostons arrived in Syracuse for there August 9th game at Lakeside Park, now the home field of the Stars. George Wright, Albert Spaulding and company destroyed the home team without the service of John Dunn 17-1. Next a visit from the Lynn Live Oaks, but this time the game was played in Syracuse.  The pitching match up featured Will White against Henry McCormick. In a hard fought contest the Stars were defeated 9-5. The wizardry of Will White's curved pitch again prevailed, this time for all Syracusans could see. They would meet a third time during the Rome, N.Y. Tournament as McCormick and White dueled to a 4-4 tie in a rain shortened contest.

1875 proved many firsts in the History of Syracuse Star Base Ball Club. One of interest came on July 26 as Horatio White became the first to hit a ball over the outfield wall at Lakeside Park. As the season ended new enthusiasm rained towards the opening of a season next spring.

At a meeting on November 17, 1875 at Supt. Harts office in the Onondaga Savings Bank Building the Star Base Ball Club was re-organized. During an open discussion of the project of maintaining a baseball club in Syracuse for the centennial season of 1876. It was the unanimous opinion that the club need only to be a good one to succeed financially. A committee on organization reported the following nominations for officers, which were ratified at that meeting. Philip S. Ryder- president, Hamilton S. White- vice president, E.D. Lewis- 2nd vice president, Charles A. Bridgeman- treasurer, George S. Hier- secretary. The Board of Directors were made up of P.S. Ryder, J.B. Sherlock, Frank A. Marsh, Robert W. Gere and John T. Town.

By this time baseball had become a professional sport nationally. Major cities as New York, Boston, Philadelphia, Chicago and St. Louis all vied to obtain the best ball players available. With the success of the Cincinnati Red Stockings a few years earlier many cities were now represented by these new paid ball players. Local Syracuse business men loyal to the game decided to enter a Syracuse team into the race with their big city brothers. A committee was established to consider such as idea.

The first on there agenda was to set up a stock company to generate capital to start such a venture. Each member of the committee was required to contribute heavily. All members though that Syracuse "The Salt Capital of the United States" should be represented on a national basic. That committee comprised of Charles J. Rae, John Dunn, Frank A, Marsh, George C. Campbell, William J. Hart (superintendent of Geddes Street Car Line),  Philip S. Ryder, George S. Heir, George H. Perry, Warren Ross (8th Ward Commissioner), George C. Cool, John Sherlock and Francis Draime (who contributed greatly to writings on these early years).

A new field leader was sought to take command of this new team of "Stars". The committee selection was one of the best, Charles Brackett. Mr Brackett had led the great Lynn Lice Oaks team of 1875. They had defeated the Star three times just a few months before.

Now we had a manager what was needed next was a playing field. Well, William J. Hart a committee member took to the task and expense of rejuvenating Lakeside Park. This park was located at the southwest corner of Onondaga Lake at Marsh Road. The park was first leveled, graded, then fenced, while his street car line made transportation to the games possible with spurs directly to the park. A new entrance was made with a easy flight of stair with a plank walkway to the grandstand. A reporters and scorers stand was constructed. The rebuilt grandstand brought in an additional 15 cents for its use. This was above the normal 25 cents admission charge.

The next critical step and the most important was the signing of players. This was left to manager Brackett, whose intention was to bring all the stars players of the Live Oaks team here. The first Live Oak player to sign was the most important, catcher-shortstop Mike Dorgan. The fine catcher arrived here in the winter of 1875-76 with the solo purpose of working with hurler Henry McCormick to prefect the new curved pitch he had handled so well with Live Oaks ace Will White. The two players roomed together in a loft on lower James Street where they practiced the new pitch by stringing a fish line, as McCormick thew strikes past imaginary batters. In 1878, this combination of Mike Dorgan & Henry McCormick would win the "New York Clipper Prizes" as best at their positions.

Manger Brackett, John Dunn and George Campbell scoured the East Coast for new talent and capable veterans. Jack "Moose" Farrell a fine player was found on a Princeton, New Jersey amateur team for a bargain cost of $25 a month. Next to sign Alex McKinnon the first baseman and former member of the 1875 Lowells, followed by Billy Geer (former Syracuse native) recently of the New Havens and Charles Purroy out of the New York City baseball wars. Mr. Hackett then signed Live Oaks members George Adams. Flash Crosscup, John Madden and Ed McGlynn.

Rule changes, the pitchers box was reduced to 4 ft x 6 feet. A short time later, substitutes we're allowed to enter the game only after the fourth inning. Then hitters who were walked were not charged with a time at bat. Rules changes in the 1870's were, nine balls constituted a walk. In 8100 a change to eight, 181 to seven, 1884 to six and in 1899 to the present day four.

1 comment:

  1. Great History, although there are a couple of typos in the last paragraph.

    I am working on a project involvingballplayers who homered in the same ballpark as minor leaguers and major leaguers. Syracuse is part of the story in the mid twentieth century as Syracuse Players Hank Sauer and Andy Carey homered at Roosevelt Stadium and Memorial Stadium respectively.