Tuesday, January 24, 2012


After George Kuntzsch purchased the Albany Eastern League franchise and shift it to Syracuse start the 1894 season.  His first priority was to secure players.  Mr. Kuntzsch went out and signed infielders- Whistler, Eagan, Minaihan, and Hanrahan, Outfielders- Hoover, Visner and Knox. Pitchers Bauswein, Callahan and Payne also with catchers- Wilson and Tommy Hess. Wilson and Hoover were fired early for boozing. Simon, Welch and Tobias "Sandy" Griffin patrolled the outfield by mid-season. Conley then Tom Powers at first, Monte Cross replaced Hanahan at short and Narnett was secured from Binghamton eliminated Payne on the pitching corps. The league started with Troy and Binghamton, but these towns were later replaced by Scranton and Allentown and at seasons end Allentown's entry had relocated in Yonkers.

They finished: Providence, Syracuse, Erie, Springfield, Buffalo, Wilkes Barre, Scranton and Yonkers. The work of the Stars in late summer has been all that could be deserved and the response of the fans had exceeded all expectations. In fact Syracuse was one of the best in attendance in the league and the interest in baseball, which seemed to be dead a year before was renewed again. Following the seasons close Monte Cross was drafted by Pittsburgh for $500. Curtis Welsh was fined against his contract that lost him a great deal.

1895 began with the loss of Monte Cross, but ended with a fourth place finish in the eight team league behind Springfield, Providence and Wilkes Barre. For the first time the league circuit remained unbroken throughout the entire season.

Charlie Reilly was appointed manager by owner George Kuntzsch in 1896. The season was nothing spectacular finishing fifth, but was highlighted by the addition of moundsman Vic Willis. In 1897, the favorites to win the Eastern League race was the previous year champion Providence. The Grays were weakened by the loss of Caravan and this proved more serious than had been anticipated. Sandy Griffin was now manager at Scranton and assembled a team of great hitters and good defensive fielders. But did not contain many team players but played for themselves

The season of 1897 was one of the most successful Syracuse had seen to date. First the Stars won the Eastern League pennant by showing great team work. The patronage had been generous. This success brought owner Kuntzsch about $5,000 in profit on the season and made every player worth more in the base ball market, Ryan and "Will Bill" Eagan were sold to Brooklyn, Vic Willis went to Boston for $2,000 and four players.(and later into the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum). But Mr. Kuntzsch had been generous in purchasing quality players. He paid $750 for Smith and Abe Lezotte. He has not spared expense to give Syracuse a winning team and yet no single man of the squad received salary over the league limit. A good ball club costs $100 a day in salaries alone and to have team loaf at $100 a day and board in expenses. Manger Al  Buckenberger deserved full credit for what he has taught the Star Ball Club. "Wild Bill" Eagan has been the exponent of Buck's ideas on the field. He set example as team captain as a result the records in hitting and fielding as compared with records of player in other cities do not afford a just measure of the work of the men.

The 1897 Champions consisted of infielders- Jack Earl, Bill Eagan, Jud Smith and Frank Shelbeck. Outfielders- Jim Garry, John O'Brien and Abe Lezotte. Catchers included Al Shaw and Jack Ryan and pitchers- Walt Kisinger, John Malarley, Henry Lampe, "Herky Jerky" Horton and the ace of the staff- Vic Willis. After two years as a Syracuse Star, Willis as we mentioned he sign with Boston. Note- He was also inducted into the Syracuse Baseball Wall of Fame in 1995.

When the 1899 season opened interest in the game was at an all time low. The 1898 (52-63) had been a disaster and it left the game way below par and owner George N. Kuntzsch a heavy loser. One factor being the banning of Sunday games by Syracuse Mayor McGuire. Philip S. Ryder, John J. Murray and Henry S. Nealey plus others enlisted support by hiring Lou Whistler of the Springfield, Ohio team as new manager for 1899. Whistler brought a team from the west and only two or three former Star players. Their salaries was not large and the team turned out to be a club unorganized as a whole. The Stars lost regularly and Mr. Kuntzsch made serious efforts to strengthen the squad. In May, Lou Whistler was released and Tobias "Sandy" Griffin succeeded him. By July, new additions began showing signs of strength. July 4, owner George Kuntzsch announced his retirement from baseball.

The better players were disposed of and looked like the team and the Eastern League would part company. League president Pat Powers approached the community to form a stock company so the team could again gain public support. Sandy Griffin worked hard with the leagues last place club (49-68) to keep it afloat and its revival was due in a large part to his effort's.

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