Saturday, May 12, 2012


Part one of our History of Syracuse Baseball story is now complete, the years 1830's through 1933. Now our baseball history continues with Chapter 19,  The Birth of the Syracuse Chiefs and the building of Municipal Stadium (MacArthur Stadium) in 1934.

In our article- "MacArthur Stadium, The First 50 Years" it recalls - In 1934, President Franklin D. Roosevelt was leading the nation out of the great depression and in Syracuse Mayor Rolly Marvin began his new term by seating a new business relation's bureau under the director of Frank Revior. Its purpose was to attract new business to Syracuse and to retain present local business. One of the first activities to be started under the bureau was to bring International League baseball back to Syracuse (departed after the 1927 season).

Although Syracuse was without a suitable park, there was strong belief that the situation would be remedied in time to start the 1934 International League season. Jack Corbett, president of the Jersey City Skeeters has outwardly stated his plans to move the club elsewhere if a new park in Jersey City wasn't made available, and nothing was being done in that direction.  Nine days after the first step was taken, Corbett announced on February 15, 1934 his pleasure to visit Syracuse and inspect sites proposed by the Business Relations Council. Mr Corbett had already informed other interested parties that he would be willing to shift here if a new stadium could be built.

One proposed site was made by Monsignor H.C. McDowell suggesting Most Holy Rosary field on Glenwood Avenue near Bellevue Country Club. The LeMoyne Park site was again suggested as it had been the choice for a new semi-pro stadium the year before. Kirk Park and downtown Syracuse areas were eliminated as they both had no interest in housing baseball. All sites depended entirely upon the pleasure of Mr. Corbett or any others International League team president interested in moving to Syracuse and upon the wishes of league directors.

February 17, 1934- Corbett came to Syracuse spending the afternoon studying proposals to transfer his Jersey City franchise. In company with Frank Revior and William T. Lane, directors of the Business Bureau, Corbett studied several sites. After looking at all angles and a visit with Mayor Marvin, LeMoyne Park appeared to be the favored site as the North side land was investigated very thoroughly. This location would be accessible to the West and North sides of the city where the majority of baseball fans resided, and would be easily reached from other city areas. A bond to cover the initial cost of such a stadium was needed. However, the guarantees, concessions, rentals and other income would make the stadium self-supporting. In addition it gave the city organized professional baseball with all its benefits and provide a suitable park to be used by scholastic sports.

LeMoyne Park located on Hiawatha Boulevard at Second North Street was made official site the next morning.The stadium completion was another issue as the home opener was only two months away, April 18, 1934. Acting upon suggestions made by Corbett, City officials held several conferences at Mayor Marvin's office that weekend to arrange a new set of plans. One important angle discussed was the question of whether the new stadium should be built by the Engineering and Parks Departments, or partly by contract and the remainder by city forces. The sentiment appeared to be that City Parks Commissioner William A. Berry's workers were content to grade and lay out the diamond. The work on the grandstand and fences might be let out to private contract. Data to figure out the stadium cost was provided by acting city engineer William W. Cronin. Public Work Administrator Harold Ickes had no funds available under his Federal Public Works (PWA), but relief workers would be available for every phase of labor needed. Mayor Marvin, as the main mover behind the scenes wanted the new facility to be self-supporting and not a burden on city tax payers.

February 19, further details on the new stadium were announced. The grandstand would house 7,400 fans and bleachers along first and third bases would accommodate 4,000 more bringing a total capacity to 11,400. Final construction cost would run about $225.000. Rental guarantees would retire that investment in 10 to 12 years.

Meanwhile back in New Jersey, Skeeter stockholders voted to shift the franchise to Syracuse on February 24. The next day the shift became official. International League baseball had returned to Syracuse as the vote by I.L. Governors was unanimous. Only Rochester president Warren Giles (who six years earlier shifted the Syracuse Stars to Rochester) wanted Newark to stay put quoting the Newark Evening News- "That Syracuse did not warrant a International League team" Newark's George Weiss was the first to move that the proposal be adopted unanimously. Corbett would now prepare to move his team and headquarters to Syracuse.

The Syracuse Newspapers stated " I believe this will be a real help to the city in a business way, in addition to forming a major contribution to Syracuse sports. It looks as if the project can easily be made a self-liquidating proposition and at the same time provide a long-needed municipal stadium for other sports events. However, Syracuse's return to league baseball will provide advertising for the city which money could not buy."

Weather conditions halted work on the playing field which had been under way for weeks, but the  300 or so laborers returned once the ground cleared of snow. If necessary the men would work a 24 hours a day, in three shifts, to guarantee a first class major league filed for the yet unnamed team. Concrete for the piers and footings were poured, then set for three weeks. March 6, LeMoyne Park assumed the proportions of a baseball diamond as fences and everything in preparation for the start of actual construction of the field. LeMoyne Park was already more than a foot above water, but the entire plot was raised another 12 inches to insure safety from high waters and provide a natural drainage in addition to the artificial drains which were laid in both the infield and outfield.

The Syracuse Common Council voted unanimously the day before for a temporary $100,000 loan in anticipation of the insurance of Syracuse Municipal Improvement Bonds. The axis pf the field would be northeast. The distance from home plate to the outfield fence would be 315 feet and 350 feet from the batters box to the left field wall. The centerfield "Blue Monster" would be 454 feet away. Land was available for at least another 200 feet in each field, but league officials requested the shorter field to make  more home runs.

March 18 the Syracuse Post Standard Newspaper sports headlines read " Chiefs Displace Stars" as nickname for Syracuse Ball Players. The name "Chiefs" was the choice of the largest number of entries in a contest conducted by the club and local newspaper. The home uniforms would be white with red, white and blue piping, with red stockings with two narrow white stripes and with "Chiefs" written across the jersey front. Road uniforms of gray would have "Syracuse" on the front with the emblem with am Indian head on the left arm. This emblem would be on the teams wind breakers as well.

Jack Corbett then signed a player working agreement with the Boston Red Sox. Gastonia, North Carolina was selected as the 1934 spring training site. For St. Louis Cardinal outfielder Andy High was chosen as the team manager. March 29 the Chiefs began their exhibition season with a 3-2 win over the Charlotte Hornets. Now it was on to Syracuse

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