Tuesday, January 31, 2012


With the departure of the Syracuse Stars there wouldn't be professional baseball until the formation of the Syracuse Chiefs some five years later. But Syracuse baseball was not dead. The Post Standard, Journal (Journal-American League) and the Herald Newspaper;'s all sponsored great semi-pro baseball leagues between 1930 and 1934. Also various organizations sponsored pro exhibition contests at Star Park. A few of the more memorable games were- August 7, 1939, the Philadelphia Phillie's with Chuck Klein and Tommy Thevenow downed Liverpool 10-1. September 9, 1930- the Pittsburgh Pirates stopped Skaneatles and pitcher Reggie Grabowski 9-1. The Pirates brought Pie Traynor, Paul & Lloyd Waner and Max Carey. August 6, 1931- the House of David with Grover Cleveland Alexander defeated the Byrne Sieberlings 5-3 in a game played in Fulton, NY. This classic contest was played before only 2,000 people.

The Byrne Sieberlings (1920-30's) sponsored by the J. P. Byrne Tire Company featured some of Syracuse's greatest semi-pro ball players. George & Oscar Dear, Tommy Allen, Andy Burns, Henry "Dutch" Dotterer Sr, Don Miller (1927 NY Yankee), Vic Hanson (SU All-American, "Gotch" Carr,  Louis "Doc" Morgan. and Parker Knapp the greatest hiiting in CNY semi-pro history

In a sad moment July 3, 1931, the Star Park grandstand and bleachers were destroyed by fire. The fire started during the third innings of the LeMoyne Athletic Club- Sacred Heart game. Six houses and seven auto's were slightly damaged and estimates were listed at several thousand dollars.

Long time sports writer, Jimmy Daley articles called "Sixty Years of Baseball in Syracuse" recalls. "Central New York has always had some of New York States greatest semi-pro nines". "Back in 1894, the strongest rivalries were between the Shamrocks, Ironsides and the Pastime Athletic Club". "The Shamrocks had a big Irish following from the cities West End". "The Pastimes had a strong German following from the cities north side, while The Ironsides were prime favorites with east side fans".

Patty and John Dorsey's west side nine known as the Shamrocks were the first to showcase the talents of the great pitcher Bill Dinneen. Dinneen's talent was not noticed by the hometown Stars, but signed on with Toronto. He would become the first American League pitcher to win three games in the first World Series  of 1903 as a member of the Boston Pilgrims. Bill was also inducted in Syracuse Baseball Wall of Fame.

The Shamrocks lineup at various time featured Dinneen along with George & Bill Stroh (Red Sox), Mike & Pete Moriarity, Gene Ryan, Jim O'Neil, Dan Crowe, Mike Phillips, Steve Marooney, Ted Ryan, Ned Barry, Harry Hogan and Syracuse Chief of Police Tom Carroll at name a few.

The Pastime Athletic Club was led by pitchers Eddie Goettel (long time grounds keeper at MacArthur Stadium) and George Villeman.

At the turn of the century St. Cecilia's nine became City League Champion under president James Doyle and manager Bob Keefe. Led by Bill "Bobby" Scanlon (later called "Doc" soon signed with Brooklyn), Billy O'Brien (signed by Athletics), Lou Salmon (Notre Dame), Charlie DeMong (later Syracuse Stars owner in 1918) and Billy & John Dunn (sons of Stars founder John J. Dunn), Chuck Freeman (Princeton) and Nick Peters (Manhattan College), George Ford, Lew Long and Joe Dempsey.

St. Cecilas managed by Art Keefe would meet the powerful Shamrocks in a best of three contests. Athletic Field was the site as 3,500 fans paid a 25-cent admission. Bobby Scanlon defeated Gene Ryan to win game one. In game two, it was scoreless for seven innings. Shamrocks scored two in the eighth, St Cecilas tied it in the ninth on Billy O'Briens's double. Then Billy Dunn the Syracuse High School phenom (baseball & football) hit a home run with two on and two outs to win the game for St. Cecilas 5-2.

Billy Dunn went on to play for the Stars and enjoyed 20+ years in the sport. He ended his baseball career as freshman baseball coach at Syracuse University. Both Billy O'Brien and "Doc" Scanlon attended Fordham College. Scanlon transferred to Syracuse University's Medical School and hurled for the S.U. varsity for one season on his way to the major leagues.

Tom Malone's Foresters featured a number of the cities formidable players. Former Cincinnati pitcher - Henry Fournier led a who's who of great baseball talent. Joe McCarthy, Walter Tobin, Frank Stroh (Boston), Peck Malone, Jimmy Daley, Jack Gallaghrer and Billy Dunn.

Other team's worth mentioning were the Nettleton Shoe Company (Whitey Bach, George & Oscar Dear), Emeralds (Paul Steinberg), Ermines (George There, Eddie Goettel), Jackson's (Dick Trainor, Tom Rafferty), H.H. Franklin's (Bill Kelly), Iona's (Walt Harnish, Bill Savage), Liverpool (George Orth), Electras (Tad Gaughan), Long Branch Stars ( Bernie Maurer), Burns Athletic Club (Andy Burns), Brown Lipe-Chapin Co (Parker Knapp) and the Seymours (Jimmy Walsh, Jimmy Doyle).

Both Jimmy Walsh and Jimmy Doyle would become major leagues. Walsh played professionally with Connie Mack's Athletics, Yankees and Red Sox. Jimmy Doyle's story is not to happy. He played a number of seasons in the old Western League then signed with the Cincinnati Reds. It was then on to the Chicago Cubs. Doyle played along side the trio known as Tinkers to Evers to Chance (all Hall of Famers) double play combination. I'm sad to report that Jimmy Doyle died on February 1 as a result of complications from a appendicitis operation. Jimmy Doyle's death was probably the saddest story in Syracuse's long baseball history. Doyle left a wife and young child. The Chicago Cubs would play a benefit game in Syracuse with all proceeds going to the Doyle family.

With the newly created interest in the Herald-American and Post Standard League's in the 1930's. Syracuse Mayor Rolly Marvin resided to build a new 3,000 seat ball park. Two locations were put under advisory. First Kirk Park, it could handle all over flow weekend crowds. But indignation voiced by several committees of south side residence visited city hall to oppose building a stadium at the Kirk Park location. Then residence from a wide area on each side of the Kirk Park location joined in protest.

Meanwhile George Easterly an Alderman of the 1st Ward put in an application for the ball field to be located on the LeMoyne Park tract (near Hiawatha Blvd) on the cities north side. Mr. Easterly declared that the 1st Ward will become the new park with open arms. The LeMoyne tract's 28 acres has ample area to accommodate it.

The Herald Newspaper of April 25, 1933 reported. "Mayor Marvin was satisfied to accept judgement of the south side residents not to locate the new ball park at Kirk Park and placed it in a district that really wants it, the north side".

Herald newspaper sports editor Bob Kenefick was instrumental in having parks built in Oswego, Fulton, Liverpool, Rome, Cortland, Long Branch Park and Watertown for the Journal-American semi-pro league in 1933. The teams represented were, Auburn, Oswego, Camden, Liverpool, Fulton along with Syracuse's Marksons, Byrne Sieberlings and Chappie Johnson's All-Stars (an all black team). That first season Don Miller's Oswego team defeated the Marksons for the league championship.

In the next few years new teams as the Brooklyn Royal Giants, Ithaca, Cortland. Leaburys Clothing Store, the Syracuse Black Chiefs, Utica-Camden and the Mohawk Black Giants all enjoyed success. Auburn won the league title in 1934, Ithaca in 1935, and Mohawk in 1936.

 What was called one of the greatest semi-pro encounter ever in Central New York, pitted the Marksons against Oswego before 5,486 fans at Long Branch park in 1933. Al Grabowski the former St. Louis Cardinal and ex-Syracuse Star, took the mound for the Marksons. Don Miller formerly of Central High, University of Michigan, N.Y. Yankee of 1927, and great semi-pro hurled for the Oswego Zetts. Both clubs were fighting for the league championship. The game was scoreless going into the eleventh frame. Routcliff of Oswego hit a double off Grabowski, then sacrificed to third, and scored on a long fly ball as Oswego won this great contest 1-0.

1933, was also the year the House of David returned, this time with 'Hall of Fame" pitcher Chiefs Bender on the mound. Bender's team played two games against local teams on August 8 & 9. In the first game they defeated Byrne Sieberlings 13-8, but the next day was defeated by Chappie Johnson's (Negro) All-Stars 5-4. This was the first defeat handed the House of David against a Syracuse team in five years.

A few weeks later Connie Mack's Philadelphia Athletics paid a visit. 2,500 attended the August 30. 1933 game at Long Branch Park. There opponents were the Marksons managed by ex-Athletic Jimmy Walsh. Philadelphia brought with them Jimmy Foxx, Max Bishop, Doc Framer, Bing Miller and "Lefty" Groves. Dick Garrett and :Lefty" Groves pitched against John Conner and "Foxey" Sagehorn. The Marksons were led by  Ken Beagle (SU  Basketball's Reindeer Five), Jimmy Walsh and John Zilbertiu. The 10-4 Athletic victory wasn't the real story that day.

"Lefty" Groves pitched the ninth inning. As Groves entered the game the Athletic outfielders left their positions and entered the infield. With no outfielders he proceeded striking out the first three Markson batters. First, Bob Williams on three pitches, then Paul Glover on three pitches, and finally Steve Nuthatch on three pitches (one a foul ball). The three batters had struck out on 9 pitched balls.

Herald Journal columnist Joe Ganley reminisced about the game. "Ed Markson the Syracuse native and team mascot still has vivid memories of that game". Markson remembers, "When Groves went to the mound at the insistence of Jimmy Walsh the Markson players cried out against it, frightened at the speed of Groves pitches". "If that ball hits you in the head it will kill you". Markson remembers that the umpire calling balls and strikes was so frightened at the though of a Groves fastball that he umpired from behind the pitcher's mound the last inning.

Grove's 31-4 pitching record had led the Athletics to the American League championship back in 1931. He also won the league's "MVP" Award that season just nosing out the "Iron Horse" Lou Gehrig.

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