Thursday, January 19, 2012


Though there was no professional baseball in Syracuse in the early 1880's there were a record number of amateur nines in and about the city. Ex-Star catcher Charles Osterhout teamed up with the old Central City club. The Star name was still used by the Mike Dorgan led amateurs in 1882. Dorgan had seen action with Providence, Worchester and Detroit since the Stars bankruptcy. Played 13 games splitting his duties between first, pitching and behind the plate. He managed a 6-1 pitching mark for the 20-6 Stars managed by A,R. Dickerson and Walter Fleming. Other members were Billy Geer, Charlie Osterhout, Henry Mc Cormick, George Geer, Ben Shove, Ralph Bowen, Jim Devine, John Humphries, Tobias "Sandy" Griffin and Orin Robinson Casey all important names in local baseball history.

All great cities have there legends and myths. One of Syracuse earliest belongs to O. Robinson Casey. Bob Casey as he was known in his youth, ventured from his Canadian birth place of Casey's Point to Syracuse in 1878 and then into baseball immortality.

Following two seasons with the Stars, Casey signed on with Detroit of the National League. His signing was aided by the recommendation of Mike Dorgan. Bob Casey's name might not be a common name on the lips of baseball historians, but on one day in 1885 he claims to have been the "Mighty Casey" of baseball folklore.

 It was during a game Detroit vs Minneapolis when Bob Casey claims he came to the plate with the bases loaded and a hit would have saved the day. But, we all remembered what happened, the "Mighty Casey" struck out. Mr Casey claimed that the author of the ballad Ernest R. Thayer got the inspiration for his poem from that moment in baseball history. Although the clash happened in the fictitious town of Mudville, there were those who said the author had no particular Casey in mind....and that O. Robinson Casey's claim was just a coincidence.

O.R Casey returned to Syracuse following his playing days to become one of the founders of the S.P.C.A.. During his forty five years as superintendent his love and kindness towards animals resulted in the purchase of much needed equipment to treat injured and suffering animals. To his death in 1936, Bob Casey claimed he and only he was the "Mighty Casey" a baseball legend.

Mr. Dorgan joined the Athletic then on his way to five successful years (1883-87) with the New York Gotham's later to called the Giants. His baseball career ended back in Syracuse with the American Association Stars in 1890. Mike Dorgan thought not a native born Syracusan became one of Syracuse's most respected and honorable citizens. His record as a professional player was reliable and credited at the highest level. As his played days ended Mike could be found tending bar at the cafe on Warren Street owned by Syracuse Alderman Frank Matty. After its closing Dorgan was employed by the American Bridge Company of Hartford, Conn. Mike Dorgan death on April 26, 1909 was a direct result of an operation to correct his badly injured knee. His major league totals read : 715 games, 802 hits, and a lifetime batting average of .274 over ten seasons.

Lakeside and Newell Park were used gain by the Stars of "83 &"84. The nine placed second in the annual Syracuse Amateur Tournament of "84 finishing the campaign  14-11. New hero's appeared, names like Jim Devine, Hartman Oberlander, John Rafferty and George Geer graced the headliners of all sports pages.

The Syracuse Baseball Association was now under the following directorate: George C. Campbell- President, Ralph Bowen- Secretary, Homer Ostrander- treasurer, John H. Forey and Frank C. Webb directors. In the early winter of 1885 it was decided that the city  needed a new modern ball park. George C. Campbell who at the time ran the Wieting Cafe was the moving spirit in the selection of a location. The new facility would be called "Star Park" and Mr. Campbell would be vigorously opposed by some in the association.

Star Park's entrance would be on South Salina Street, and extended south to West Taylor, west to Oneida Street, on line to Baker Street (now known as So. Clinton Street), northwest to the Delaware, Lackawanna & Western Railroad Line. The property formerly was occupied by Mann & Hunter Lumber Company. Star directors would lease the property from D.L. & W. till the park was condemned by the city for street purposes in 1905.

The Stars of 1885 were in the inaugural season in the New York State League  that contained six of New York States fines nines. Binghamton, Rochester, Oswego, Utica, Albany (disbanded in July) and Syracuse That first year at Star Park on So. Salina Street produced a pennant winning team (45-32). This would be our first entry into what would later be called the "International League: that had formed the previous year.

Syracuse first New York State League contest was held in Rochester on May 3, 1885 as Flower City pitcher John Shappert held the Stars to just three hits in a 8-3 Rochester victory. The Stars were defeated gain two days later but gained their first win at Utica on May 12.

Over 1,000 fans filled Star Park to view our first NYS  League (I.L.) home opener on May 14. Art Agan hurled his only victory as a Star downing Utica 10-1. The Star Ball Club started out bravely with a local team of players and kept at the top of the league standings for a while. Then they lost 13 straight games.  Albany the leagues strongest team forged ahead in the early going winning 12 of 14 games in May, then dropped in June, played poorly in July and disbanded on July 23 (all won-loss records were dropped). The Star started weakly but gained fourth place en the end of May. The Star management went to work in obtaining fresh new players and by July were playing the league's best ball. "The pennant must be won or baseball will die in Syracuse" stated the Standard Newspaper on August 23 " and this can be done by fining every player $10 for the first offense and suspend him for the second". This advise was taken and further some new players were signed to strengthen the ball club. Jay Faatz and "Dasher" Kearns came from Toledo, and Conrad Darling and Jim Reardon from Erie. The club took the league lead in late August then a short down spin and were again were straightened by new players. Then recaptured the lead with spectacular play on September 10 finally bringing home a league championship.

 The Stars championship lineup - Jay Faatz of Weedsport, NY (1b), Tom "Dasher" Kearns (2b), Frank Spill (ss), Conrad Darling (3b), outfielders- Tobias "Sandy" Griffin (of Fayetteville, NY), Hartman "Doc" Oberlander & Charles Osterhout.  Behind the plate John Humphries who handled a pitching staff of Jim Devine (18-14), Bob Emslie, John Davis, Mal McArthur, Jim Reardon and Bill Smith.

Chicago and "Cap" Anson's return on July 17 marking another classic confortation in the history of salt city baseball. It has been nine years since the great game at Lakeside Park. Chicago was once again  leading the National League and  considered by many the strongest team in the country. Anson was there and better viewed in his baseball craft. John Clarkson and Mike "King" Kelly, whom Anson had paid the unheard of sum of $10,000, were on the staff. Tommy Burns, Billy Sunday,  while Dalrymple and Gove were in there heyday.

It was Anson's open boast that some day he would return to Syracuse with a team strong enough to wipe out there former defeat. When he arrived in town Friday afternoon July 17, 1885 he remarked that he had come to keep his promise. The coming of the Chicagoans was well advertised and Star Park held the greatest crowd (about 8,200) in its history. The grandstand and bleachers were packed and overflowing, while hundreds of people swarmed into the outfield and along the side lines.

As for thew game itself Stars Jim Devine shutout the Sox 5-0. It was a great game to watch. The Chicago's with Cap Anson at shortstop had only one hit. The future Reverend  Billy Sunday never touched the ball, although making two putouts, one ending the Stars onslaught in the first inning.

In those days few batters of either the National or New York State League had made the acquaintance of such a drop curve as Jim Devine possessed. For the first few innings the Chicago's took Devine's curves as a joke. Anson then  gave an order to his men to quit fooling and go to work. It was doubtful it a Chicago team ever worked harder to try and hit the ball the last five innings. The sluggers Dalrymple and Gove droves balls to the fences and Anson swung a bat like a telephone pole. The bottom line the mighty men of Chicago couldn't touch Devine's drop curve.

As Jim Devine sparkled, Charles Osterhout helped put runs on the board. His hit in the first skipped passed Billy Sunday badly. Sandy Griffin singled, Jay Faatz flied out and then Osterhout stole home for the first and winning run. His catcher, John Humphries would say in later years " Jim had the greatest drop I have ever seen. When Anson stepped up to the plate. The old man remembered the defeat of 1876 and saw the chance to score a run and save the humiliation of a shutout and went to bat angry, but confident. Jim sent two beautiful drops to the plate and Anson tried for both without bringing his bat anywhere near the ball. When Devine sent the third one across he didn't know what to do and stood still. The umpire called the third strike and Anson stood on the plate for close to five minutes afterwards with a look of not knowing what had happened".

Later that night a banquet was given at the Burns Hotel. Anson was so mad that he hardly spoke to any of the players present. One can easily understand what winning that game meant to Syracuse that year. Again the press called it "The Greatest Game ever played in Syracuse".

 The New York State League of 1885 had organized so hurriedly that the season finished before promoters could realize their success. Although not more than two clubs will claim to have met the financial success, all were satisfied with help bringing the organization together and all clubs but one (Albany) still existed after it's first season.

 The Stars hitters were led by Jay Faatz (.381), Sandy Griffin (.373), Conrad Darling (.347) and John Humphries (.341). Griffin and Humphries went to the New York club at the close of the season. Conrad Darling signed on with Chicago.

With the addition pf Buffalo, Toronto and Hamilton the league had grown to eight members in 1886. Playing rules again were modified. First and third bases were placed within the foul line and batters hit by a pitch were not charged with a time at bat.

Utica (62-34) won the league championship, the Star finishing a distant sixth (46-47). Syracuse Stars President- George G. Campbell used three managers to get through that dismal year, they were Henry J. Ormsby, Franklin W. Olin and James H. Gifford. Pitcher Doug Crothers did win 25 games against 16 losses but the light hitting Stars were but a shell of the 1885 nine.

The Post Standard reports, "The pennant race was very close every club except Oswego had a team that struck a winning streak at one time or another" "The Stars in spite of their known weakness at the bat got upon the royal road fast and took the league lead winning four of the first five contests". "The Stars fell  on their first Western trip and were never contenders for the pennant after that". Toronto then took the lead but relinquished it to Rocheter, but soon was forced from the top spot by eventual league champion Utica". By seasons end the Stars had used twenty nine player, only six remained from their opening day roster. The idea of change was not exclusive to the Stars. some 200+ players had drawn salaries from New York State League clubs in 1886. League players moving on to faster company were Mike Griffin of Utica, Dan Brouthers- Buffalo and Maul of Binghamton.

No comments:

Post a Comment