Wednesday, February 8, 2012

THE HISTORY OF SYRACUSE BASEBALL - CHAPTER 17 - JOSEPH E. KREN BAT COMPANY & ALL-TIME MODERN ALL-STAR NATIVE SYRACUSE BASEBALL TEAM .

One very special story that has to be told is that of the Joseph G. Kren Bat Company Joe Kren was born in Vienna, Austria in 1868. He served as a wood-turner's apprentice in Germany before arriving in America in the 1880's. He first settled in Jordon, N.Y. moving to Syracuse a short time later. Joe Kren was employed by the wood shop of Kent-Bupee. While in their employ he became interested in the game of baseball.

Most neighborhood boys were now playing this popular game using sticks to hit with as none could afford manufactured bats. Joe Kren spent many lunch hours making wooden stick bats for his young neighbors. His love for the game soon found him managing a team of Syracuse youths. He made bats for each player and soon the word spread of their excellence.

A gifted artist. Mr. Kren took great pride in each and every bat he made. Soon many semi-pro and professional teams requested the Kren model bats, With each order he tried to build a better bat, his reputation spread across the entire nation. The Kren Bat Company manufactured over five million baseball bats right here in Syracuse. Mr. Kren and his son's Frank, Henry, Walter and Joseph Jr. supplied bats for many major league clubs that included, Connie Mack's Philadelphia Athletics and the New York Giants. Kren bats were also popular with Internationals League clubs as Montreal, Toronto, Buffalo and Syracuse. His "Kren's Specials" were used by such players as Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Rogers Hornsby, Mel Ott, Frankie Frisch, Jimmy Foxx, Eddie Collins, Honus Wagner, Jimmy Walsh and Bill Kelly.

The original factory at 114 Beecher Street turned out about 12,00 bats a year. By 1940 that number had jumped to 110,000. The factory was destroyed by fire in 1939, them relocated to the Easy Washer building at 717 Clinton Street and then to their final location at 212 Bear Street. Kren Bats were sold in every state along with Mexico, Canada and Europe.

Holy Trinity Church honored Joe Kren in 1952 as there "Man of the Year". Many greats from the world of sports were present. Connie Mack, Jack Dempsey, Warren Giles. Honus Wagner, Gene Tunney, Al Cervi, Frank Shaughnessy, George Stroh, Roy Simmons Sr and New York Giants president Horace Stoneham.

In addition to being a pioneer in his field, Joseph Kren was believed to be the oldest living bat manufacturer in the United States. He once told Syracuse resident & International League Hall of Famer Bill Kelly "Bill if you use these bats you'll hit a home run every time". Well Bill almost did as he blasted 44 homer to lead the International League.

Joesph Kren left us on September 18, 1953. Tributes coming from every corner of the country saluting this great man. The Kren Bat Company was eventually sold to the Wood Shovel and Tool Company of Whilte Mills, Pa. Mr. Kren's tools were donated to the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown. Joseph G. Kren was inducted into the Syracuse Baseball Wall of Fame in 2011.

May 16, 1937, Syracuse sports columnist Jimmy Daley picked his "All-Time Modern All-Star Native Syracuse Baseball Team". This team, listed below list players from 1900 through 1937. They are-

Pitchers-
Bill Dinneen. Doc Scanlon, George "Hooks' Wiltse, Reggie Grabowski, Bob Becker & Al Grabowski

Catchers
Bill Stroh, Joe McCarthy & George Stroh

Infielders-
Bill Kelly, Billy Dunn, Jimmy Doyle & Billy O'Brien

Outfielders-
Jimmy Walsh, Dick Trainor & Walter Tobin

Best Utility - George Stroh

In an interview I had with Bill Kelly (then 90) the three time International League Hall of Fame and the Syracuse Baseball Wall of Famer claimed one player was missing from that list. That name was Parker Knapp. Kelly stated 'Kanpp was one of the great players and the best  pure hitter I've ever seen, to bad he spent his entire career playing semi-pro". That exception is three games Knapp played for the Syracuse Stars  in 1920.

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