Sunday, May 13, 2012


On the evening of April 16, 1934, manager Andy High and his Chiefs ball players arrived at the New York Central Railroad Station. Syracuse Mayor Rolly Marvin, Jack Corbell, Frank Revior, William Lane and many fans came out to welcome the team. A light rain shortened the late afternoon ceremony and players were hustled to the Hotel Syracuse. Their they received new uniforms as they prepared for an exhibition game against Colgate University at Hamilton, NY the next day. Following a 5-3 victory, the first team photo was taken.

On Wednesday, April 18, 1934 the long dream of the return of International League baseball to Syracuse became a reality. Baseball fans galore would travel to the newly named "Municipal Stadium" built at LeMoyne Park. WSYR Radio would broadcast this inaugural event. Seating capacity was adequate although the grandstand was not completed. In addition to the regular steel bleachers and one section of the grandstand there were 700 circus seats in the outfield and in front of the stands to accommodate more than the completed stadium would hold. The infield was perfect and outfield dry, but the remainder of the stadium would not be completed until after the Chiefs first road trip began. The game itself was viewed by 10,000+ although only 4,324 were paid. Fans swarmed up the tree trunks supporting the fences and went in free before others filtered in behind the temporary backstop, coming in under the framework of the grandstand. To tell the real story, game security was a nightmare.

Our opposition for the April 18th, 3 PM contest was the Montreal Royals the farm team of the Brooklyn Dodgers. Pre-game ceremonies began with a parade and Mayor Marvin twirling the ceremonial first pitch. Manager Andy High, also the team's third baseman, picked Fred Fussell as the starting pitcher to go against Montreal's Chad Eismey.

The Chiefs opening day lineup looked as follows, John Watwood (cf), Andy High (3b), Bill Sweeney (1b), John Sherlock (lf), Max Rosenfield (rf), Clarence "Foots" Blair (2b), "Cy" Cihocki (ss), Ed "Zach" Taylor- catcher and Fred Fussell on the mound.

The Chiefs scored the stadiums first run in the bottom of the first when left fielder John Sherlock doubled home Bill Sweeney 1-0.  Play was called during the thirds innings when a smoke screen drifted over the field from the chimney of the nearby Greyhound Bus garage. Heavy clouds of black smoke rolled over the field into the faces of players, but the wind shifted after five minutes and play continued. A two out bases loaded walk to Bill Rhiel in the sixth tied the score 1-1. The Chiefs scored the games winning run in the seventh as Andy High singled, and was then sacrificed to second by Sweeney and scored on a Sherlock single 2-1. The game ended with a flourish as Rhiel led off with a ninth inning triple, but Freddy Fussell was able to retire the next three batters. The Chiefs won their first game 2-1. That evening a crowd of 150 would attend a "Welcome Back" dinner sponsored by the Elks Club.

Municipal Stadium was officially dedicated on May 19, 1934 following by a 3-1 victory over the Newark Bears. The stadium was now finished with the exception of lights. A few days after Jack Corbett received a nasty letter from Rochester Red Wings President Warren Giles. The letter requested that the series between Rochester and the Chiefs between May 26-28 be shifted to Rochester. Mr. Giles stated that the "Syracuse field was no more than a cow pasture and the seating no more than most semipro team have".

June 28, Chiefs player-manager Andy High refused to be traded to Baltimore and was given his outright release. Jack Corbett offered the managerial position to Ed Holly. Holly refused and the Chiefs were turned over to Bill Sweeney. Over 5,000 fans attended the first night game ever in Syracuse on July 21. That evening Chiefs pitcher John Merena (7-10) bested the Baltimore Orioles 4-2. A week later the Municipal Stadium held it's first major league exhibition as the Boston Red Sox downed the Chiefs 7-2. One night we would like to forget was September 1, 1934 when Cy Blanton of Albany tied a International League record by striking out 20 Chiefs in a 5-3 win.

That first year the Chiefs listed 41 roster players. The mainstays Joe Benes, Foots Blair, Cy Cihocki, Bill Cronin, Andy High, John Maruska, Henie Mueller, Max Rosenfield, Bill Sweeney, Zack Taylor and John Watwood.. Joe Benes being the only player left from the Syracuse Stars years. The pitchers seeing the most action- Ray "Bobby" Coombs, Clarence Fisher, Freddy Fussell, Adolph Liska, Jim McCloskey, "Timpy" McKeithan, John Merena and Clarence Pickel. Another player of note- pitcher "Spud" Chandler the ex- New York Yankees posted a 4-2 mark.

Bob Shawkey's Newark Bears won the 1934 International League championship for the third consecutive year, be four games over Rochester. The Chiefs would finish their first season in seventh place winning 60 of 154 games. Chiefs owner Jack Corbett asks the city for a lower rent on Municipal Stadium. Corbett seeks reduction or adjustment on the $15,000 rental fee. Before the year ended Corbett and Boston Red Sox general manager Eddie Collins (Hall of Famer), name Harry "Neno" Leibold to manage the club in 1935


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