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.

Friday, January 27, 2012


With the transfer of the St. Louis Cardinals to Rochester professional baseball appeared doomed leaving Syracuse without International League Baseball. Warren Giles & Branch Rickey name's were the most disliked at this juncture of Syracuse baseball history. Given the opportunity to leave with the Cardinals and relocate in Rochester, Michael J. Kelly the longtime team secretary decided to remain in Syracuse. He invested his own personal funds, solicited Harry Ryan and John Putnam for the balance and purchased the Shamokin franchise in an attempt to bring professional baseball back to Syracuse. A franchise was secured in the New York Pennsylvania League. Stock was sold at $100 per share, and a total of 250 shares were issued. Mr. Kelly needed all his 27 years of experience in baseball to promote this lower class of pro ball. Mike served as president, secretary and treasurer of the 1928 Stars team and managed to bring the club through a trying season, although taking a personal financial loss..

 Mr. Kelly secured the services of Michael Joyce O'Neil to manager the the club to another sixth place finish (64-74), with Harrisburg taking the league title. But the 1928 Stars did posses some good hitters and finished third in team batting. Players like Syracuse University products. Harlon "Gotch" Carr (.291) and Vic Hanson (.244). Along with Harry Davis, Booby Reece, Bob Richards, Lew Wilski  and John Roseberry.  Roseberry would lead in New York State League in doubles with 40. The pitchers having the greatest success were John  Doyle (14-10), Paul "Sheriff" Sherman (13-14) and John Milligan (12-7). Milligan was sold to the Philadelphia Nationals on August 5 to bring in some badly needed income. Local semi-pro pitching sensation Ray Mertens also made his pro debut at Star Park (West Genesee St.) that colorless season.

Looking back on the many memorable moments in Syracuse Baseball History, the one event that many old-timers still talk about today is the Babe Ruth - Lou Gehrig exhibition played at Star Park on October 21, 1928.

During the 1920 & 30's. ballplayers would  'barnstorm" after the playing season, playing from city to city earning extra money. Lou Gehrig & Babe Ruth two of baseball's greatest name, would pick up local semi-pro and professional players in each city and put on a show. The game in Syracuse was arranged by Ruth's agent Christy Walsh. But despite a rainstorm that had washed out the affair a week earlier, the parties agreed to play the following weekend to the cities delight.

The "Bambino" would team up with the Post Standard League Champions the Sacred Heart Athletic Club. The Sacred Hearts included  Al & Reggie Grabowski, Emmitt Slake, Oscar Dear, Frank Mack, Joe Orsell, John Crouse, Joe Stanski, Bill Skay, Tony Weaver and a youngster John Rutkowski. Rutkowski, who six years later would become the box office manager of the Syracuse Chiefs. A position he held for the next 45 years.

Gehrig's All-Stars consisted of International League home run champion Bill Kelly ( I.L Hall of Famer), Jimmy Walsh (who played with the Athletics, Yankees and Red Sox), Dutch Dotterer Sr. (Cardinals). and semi-pro players- Parker Knapp, Ed Ryan, Bob Tubbert. Lukes Diamonds, Jim Kerwin, Billy Eisemann (S.U.), Tom Costello, Ray Mertens (Stars) and George Dear.

Over 3,500 fans packed tiny Star Park as the "Larrupin Lou's" defeated the "Bustin Babes" 9-2. Gehrig thrilled the on-lookers by blasting a home run in four at bats. While Bill Kelly took a Babe Ruth pitch deep and pounded out three hits. Ruth was considered by many as one of greatest pitchers of his era before moving to the outfield full time. Ruth was quoted as saying "I pitched pretty good that inning until I threw to Bill Kelly and he hit the ball so far out of the park they may never find it".

The Babe played first base, and singled in four trips to the plate before replacing Al Grabowski on the mound. Centerfielder Jimmy Walsh had two hits, while Henry "Dutch" Dotterer singled in five trips.

The game was a success, and afterwards both Ruth and Gehrig took time to sign everyone's baseballs and scorecards. Lunch was served at what known in the 1960-80's as Del's Fish Fry on State Fair Blvd. Former owner Stella Stevens recalls Babe downing 18 hot dogs before he took the field that afternoon.. A post game party was held at Haberles Brewery on Butternut Street on the city's north side. Ruth watched a customer lie on his back with a glass of beer on his forehead and stand up without spilling a drop. This was to much for the Babe, so on a bet he claimed he could do the same. A hour or so later, covered with beer the "Mighty Bambino" had met his match at the amusement of all.

In the early spring of 1929, Michael J. Kelly could not keep the team afloat. The Stars went through bankruptcy. After only a $250 offer at the bankruptcy hearing was not accepted, H.P Jergensen and Joseph Lechick purchased the team from the bank. The price did not include uniforms and equipment as they had already been sold. Mike Kelly served as secretary of Shamokin and Scranton clubs in the N.Y.P. League for the next two years. Then made his home in Buffalo for a year, but in ill health and missing his Syracuse friends, returned to this city. Michael J. Kelly remained a baseball figure as he served as first president of the Post Standard Baseball League. His happiest days were realized in 1942, when the Syracuse Chiefs battled in the Little World Series. Upon pro baseball's return a few years later, Mike Kelly became one of the Syracuse Chiefs greatest rooter, Sadly Mike Kelly left us on November 3, 1942,

The New York Penn League opened on April 30, 1929 with a 5-2 victory over Binghamton. New manager was Irving "Kasier" Wilhelm could only achieve fifth place by June. The club was still losing money and could not make payroll. On June 2, the Stars were taken over by the league. This was a result of backer from Rochester bid for the club was denied. Their bid was withdrawn after a disagreement with N.Y.P. League president John H. Farrell. Manager Wilhelm tried to scrap money to pay the players, but on June 15, 1929, the franchise was shifted to Hazelton, Pa as their record read 19-23. Wilhelm not only lost his financial help, but his managerial position upon the teams transfer. The Syracuse Star had made its last hit and scored its last run. It's name now though of only as a baseball legend.

Note- This was not the only time Syracuse fans didn't except the lower class of pro ball, it would happen again following the 1955 season when the Chiefs I.L. franchise was sold to Miami, Florida interests. For a second time the NYP League was tied (by Joe Reardon) but to no avail. The 1957 Chiefs were shifted  to Allentown, Pa in July 1957. Maybe we can learn something as it happening twice. Maybe the Syracuse baseball fans did not, and will not except or support a lower class of professional baseball. ?


In 1925, new faces appeared, "Henie" Meine won 17 games. Binghamton, NY' native  "Wild Bill" Hallahan was sold to St Louis after just eight appearances. Tommy Thevenow a sparkling young defensive shortstop arrived, Franklyn Wetzel hit .319, and the first professional appearances of local Syracuse pitching phenom Al Grabowski.  Grabowski the former semi-pro pitcher with the Sacred Hearts won 6 and lost but 2 games. At seasons end, Tommy Thevenow would be selected as  the International League's All-Star shortstop. Second team selections included- George Krahn and "Henie" Meine. Note Thevenow would later be inducted into the Syracuse Baseball Hall of Fame.

A quick note- my father Frank W. Gersbacher as a youth witnessed Thevenows play at Star Park that season and considered him the top defensive shortstop he had ever seen. Now that's a big statement for dad to make as he also witnessed the great skills of shortstops  Ray Oyler (Detroit years) and Tony Fernandez (Blue Jay years) in later life

Another new International League record was set by Star's second sacker Garde "Whitey" Gialasen in the first half of a double header against Rochester on September 3. The day Gialasen made 11 putouts in a regulation nine inning contest, behind winning pitcher Fred Frankhouse. The old mark was set by John "Cub" Stricker of Providence in a extra inning contest vs (10) vs Binghamton May 18, 1894..

After a years absence, two more exhibition contests dotted the Stars schedule. June 19, the Stars took revenge by hammering the St. Louis Cardinals 12-2. Rogers Hornsby and company could gather only five hits off Star hurler Bill Ward. The second, a date to remember, the appearance of one George Herman "Babe" Ruth with the New York Yankees. On that day August 19, 1924, the "Mighty Bambino" singled twice in four tries and the Stars downed the New Yorkers 12-8. That game was held in Archbold Stadium before 10,000 screaming fans. The highlight may have happened before the contest even started. As the :Mighty Babe" hit a batting practice pitch out of Archbold Stadium over the top of the press box. roof in right field. Some fans there that day called it "The longest ball ever hit out of Archbold".

Henry "Hi" Myers took charge of the Stars on Decoration Day 1925, replacing Frank Shaughnessy under who's leadership the Stars had won just 10 of 39 games. When the season ended the Stars were in sixth place (74-87). Under "Hi" Myers they played .525 ball and that was better than all other teams except Baltimore and Toronto.

Roy Fairman article on "Famous Syracuse Games" states "One of the features of the "Hi" Myers reign was the transformation (temporary) of Fred Frankhouse from pitcher to outfielder". :Frankhouse became a permanent outfielder around July 20 and in 64 games had 17 assists and started five double plays". "In Baltimore one afternoon he threw men out at second, third and at the plate". " Frankhouse was signed by Charley Kelchner for the Cardinals". "He then came to the Stars while Ernest Landraf was team president, in a deal that let St. Louis obtain Jewel Ens". Frankhouse's five year stint with the Stars led to the major leagues with St' Louis and the Boston Braves.

Tommy Thevenow was again rock steady at short, Chick Hafey (later to be a Hall of Famer) patrolled center field for 21 games batting .285, Dan Clark broke the Star record for :hitting percentage at .364, followed by Bert Griffith at .337, Fred Frankhouse .332, ":Wattie" Holm .326, "Hi" Myers .316 and George Krahe .301.

 The major event of the 1925 season was Al Grabowski's 1-0 no-hitter vs Providence on August 22. The no-hitter was in the first of a scheduled doubleheader that saw the winning run score with two outs in the top of the ninth inning. Grabowski would pitch our home opened April 30 and win 15 games, his most successful as a Star hurler.

One player not mentioned in any record book as played in Syracuse  is Rick Farrell. Farrell another "Hall of Famer" played in a pre-season contest under the name of Rick Richards

After being rained out on July 21, the St. Louis Cardinals returned to the enjoyment of the Syracuse baseball loyalist for an exhibition September 1. This time the Cardinal's lineup was loaded with young talent. Jim Bottomley, Chuck Hafey, "Henie" Mueller, Lester Bell, Tommy Thevenow, Specs Toporcer and the veteran Rogers Hornsby who led the Cardinals to a victory that day 5-4.

Warren Giles replaced Phial Bartleme as club president in 1926. Mr. Giles had bet Branch Rickey back in 1920, went he had been working with Minneapolis optioning players from St. Louis and officiating football games to supplement his income. In later years, Mr. Giles would become President of the Cincinnati Reds, then President of the National League. Bert Shotten was signed as Stars manager and had more changes than wins. A seventh place finish didn't tell the whole story of the 1926 season.

John "Pepper" Martin dubbed in St. Louis the "Wild Horse of the Osage" graced a Stars uniform for a mere $325 a month. He alternated between third base and shortstop under Bert Shotton. Rumors were that "Pepper" arrived for Stars spring training camp at Greenwood, So. Carolina by jumping off a railroad freight car. Martin saved some of his monthly salary and was able to buy a second hand Model T Ford automobile for his return home to Oklahoma. Before his departure he was presented with a new shotgun, by grateful Syracuse fans.

In one of the strangest happenings, Bert Shotton let "Pepper" Martin pitch part of the eighth inning against Newark on September 1, When "Pepper" entered the clubhouse following the game he took with him this record: Batters pitched to 6, runs 4, hits 1, walks 2, hit batsmen 1, men retired 1 with a earned run average of 36.00. Joe Brown the Newark player hit by Martin was carted off to a local hospital and remained there for five days being unconscious for two.

"Pepper" Martin single-handled stole the 1931 World Series from the heavily favored Philadeplhia Athletics. In the first five games, he went 12 for 13, with five RBI's, five stolen bases and scored five runs. Martin was part of what was known as the "Gas House Gang" teaming with Dizzy & Paul Dean, Leo Durocher. "Ducky" Medwick, "Wild Bill" Hallahan and Central New Yorker (Mexico) "Rip" Collins. "Pepper" Martin is also a member of the Syracuse Baseball Wall of Fame.

The International League All-Star team of 1926, showed Star- Walter Roettger, Dan Clark and Ed Dyer all first team selections. This squad also included two native Syracuan's Bill Kelly (1b) and Jimmy Walsh (of) both played for the Buffalo Bisons. Both Kelly & Walsh would also be inducted into the Syracuse Baseball Wall of Fame.

Dan Clark (age 32) hit an amazing .364, while setting another International League record on July 17, 1926. Clarks' record is for most RBI's (9) in a nine inning contest. Clark a left-handed batter, hit a grand slam home run and then hit another with two men on. He then doubled in one more, so did an infield out in a 15-12 victory over Jersey City. Note- Dan Clark's 31 home runs that season was another Star record that would not be broken until Hank Sauer hit 50 in 1947 at MacArthur Stadium.

Key Star team members of note: Frank Hurst (.331). John Jones (.329), Fred Frankhouse (.314) Walter Roettger (.304), Bart Morrow (.303). "Pepper" Martin (.300), Al Kapl (.296) with pitchers Ed Dyer (12-6), Fred Frankhouse (9-11), Al Grabowski (6-11) and Russ Miller 12-15).

Managed again by Bert Shotton, the Stars won 102 games in 1927, but still finished second to Bill Clymer's Buffalo Bisons. At Buffalo's Offerman Stadium on July 31, Star pitcher Sylvester "Sly" Johnson no-hit the Bisons 2-0. Johnson at age 26, won 18 and lost 13 that year and Stars home attendance totalled 174,059

William Anthony "Wild Bill' Hallahan held the International League record for striking out six successive batters and fanned a total of 15 men in a seven inning game. The game was played on September 4, 1927, as the Star defeated the Reading Keys 14-0. Hallahan was bought in 1924 by the Cardinals for $2,500. Called "Wild Bill' for his wildness, he led the I.L. with 190 strikeouts in 1927.

Other baseball firsts. May 26, 1927, WSYR Radio broadcasts the first baseball game to Syracuse listeners The announcer was Lawrence Skiddy sports editor of the Herald Newspaper. The score of that first broadcast, Star 5, Buffalo Bison 3, with the victory going to Sly Johnson. The second broadcast happened  June 4, with  Francis Woolever another Syracuse newspaper sports columnist called the action between  Rochester and Syracuse that ended in a 8-8 tie.

The Stars held one more special day (August 28, 1927) honoring long time club secretary, Michael J. Kelly. Mr. Kelly became secretary of the Stars back in 1901. In 1920, he became secretary of the Syracuse International League club and remained in their employ, some 22 years. He is referred to as the stepfather of modern baseball in Syracuse.

 Finally the World Champion St Louis Cardinals paid a final visit to this city on July 6. It was a rain shortened four inning game won by St. Louis 8-5. In this contest Central New Yorkers got an opportunity to see the great "Hall of Famer" Frankie Frisch.  Frisch came to the Cardinals in a trade with the New York Giants for Rogers Hornsby. Another Cardinal worth mentioning is right fielder Billy Southworth. Southworth is the uncle of longtime Corcoran High School baseball coach Bob Southworth.

The team best hitters were Gus Mancuso (.372). Del Gainor (.329), Zipper Peel (.328), Al Kapl (.326) Howard Williamson (.326) Frank Hurst (.323) Harry Layne (.323, Red Urbam (.316) and Decon Selph (.309) On the mound "Wild Bill' Hallahan (19-11)., Hal Haid (15-11), and Russ Miller (15-11), Harry Lane led the International League in stolen bases with 48. Finally Joe Brown was named the Stars "Most valuable Player". Brown played brilliantly all season and was a great man when it came to team-play.

During the 1927 season President Warren Giles had ask the City of Syracuse to build a much larger home stadium. Giles is quoted saying " I again putting temporary bleachers to handle the hordes of bugs that don't seem to know Syracuse still has a ball club".

Marty Nave in his article "MacArthur Stadium, The First 50 Years" described what happened next. The fans had high hopes for a 1928 league pennant until January 16th when Stars President Warren Giles completed a deal selling the Syracuse franchise to Jersey City for $50,000. The existing club in Jersey City had been moved to Montreal by the Donnelly  Brothers for $250,000. The Stars working agreement with the parent St. Louis Cardinals was then shifted to Rochester, thus forming the Rochester Red Wings (Red Wings of the Cardinals).

This left Syracuse with a very large problem...No professional baseball.

Thursday, January 26, 2012


February 15, 1921, Ernest Landraf sells half ownership in the Stars ball club to the St. Louis Cardinals for $20,000. This brought Landraf much needed capital after a dismal 1920. The agreement signed between Cardinal owner Sam Breadon and Stars management brought instant chances. Stars players Tom Madden, Charlie Niebergall, Lester Sell and George Toporcer will go to St. Louis Cardinal spring training sight at Orange, Texas. Then manager Branch Rickey would select his major league roster, then send seven player to the Stars to balance there team. Rickey offers to buy  George "Specs" Toporcer, Landreaf and Rickey agree on $5,000 cash, plus three players.

The International League was making changes also. First Akron voted to exit the league, with Montreal looking to buy that franchise for $41,000. But the deal fell through and the club is bought by Roy Mack son of Connie Mack and relocated to Newark, New Jersey.

Stars lose opening day to Newark 6-3, but have a successful year moving to fifth place at 71-96. New blood was evident Charlie Niebergal hit .287 before his promotion to St. Louis. Art Smith (.330), Lou Witterslatter (.328), Jewel Ens (.335), Jim Esmond (.293) and the legendary Frank Schulte (.309). The St. Louis Cardinal's came to the city for an exhibition on July 24, defeating the Stars 13-9, Rogers Hornsby the hitting star going four for five. One historic event happened that year. For the first time in baseball history, three successive batters hit home runs on three successive pitches in the same inning. The  Reading pitcher was Dean Banhardt the batters- Frank Schulte, Art Smith and Jewel Ens. Another managerial change as Tom Madden was replaced by Frank Shaughnessy on July 31.

Branch Rickey was dissatisfied with the agreement between the Cardinals and Stars. His position was that moral agreements were often ignored by minor league clubs and that half ownership was ineffective in getting their best players onto his major league roster. Mr. Rickey was proven correct when he wanted Jim Bottomley sent from Syracuse to St. Louis in 1922.

Ernest, still president phoned Rickey and after some hesitation told him that many other teams wanted his young first baseman. Their were so many that Landraf was thinking of holding an auction. Bottomley's services going to the highest bidder. Branch Rickey was upset with this turn of events. If Syracuse could back out on such a deal he would have to face Cardinal owner Sam Breadon about the economic validity to such a farm system. Rickey thinking was that St. Louis's half interest in the Stars would avoid such a problem from ever happening.

He boarded a airplane for Syracuse. Upon his arrival, he locked himself in with Landraf for several hours. Finally they emerged smiling for photographers. Jim Bottomley the press informed, was a St. Louis Cardinal. The reporters asked how Rickey accomplished that. "By persuasion, he answered to one, "by logic: to another and by "appealing to his sense of integrity", to a third. Years later Mr. Rickey told the real reason" by more money": Breadon was so pleased that he bought the remaining 50% of the Stars team. That was probably the payoff to Ernest Landraf for the Bottomley deal.

The Jim Bottomley story is an interesting one. Bottomley wrote the Cardinals management from his home in Nokomis, Illinois, stating he would play major league baseball if given the opportunity. Mr. Rickey signed Jim after seeing hit hit two home runs and three triples in a semi-pro game in 1919. By the time Jim arrived in Syracuse in 1922, it was evident he would soon be a great star player. Bottomley hit a blazing .348 in 119 games, only to see the Stars finish in seventh place (64-102). Jim Bottomley would later return to Syracuse and manage the 1938 Syracuse Chiefs. He would later be inducted into the Syracuse Baseball Wall of Fame.

This would be only the beginning of Jim's story. In his first full season (1923) with the Redbirds he batted .371. Thought 1931, he hit over .300 every year except 1926 when it dropped to .299. He played in four World Series with St. Louis, won the National League's M.V.P. award in 1928 and became the fifteen year major league veteran, with Cards, Cincinnati Reds and St. Louis Browns.

Bottomley rewrote the record books on September 16, 1924, he set the major league record knocking in 12 RBI in one game vs the Philadelphia Phillies. His hits were, two home runs, a double and three singles.

The four memorable evens happened during the 1922 season. Three featured Star's hurler Jean Dubec. First, his May 3 home opening 14-1 victory over Jersey City before 6,500 Syracuse cheering fans. The next may 14, as "Hall of Famer" Chief Bender (then pitching for Reading)  dueled 14 innings against Dubec. The game was a no-hitter by Dubec until the top of the ninth. It was won by Jean Dubec himself with a dynamic home run in the bottom of the 14th frame. Years later almost very Syracusan from six to sixty claimed to have been there.

The third, was the appearance of the New York Yankees on August 10 at Star Park. This time the Yankees were led by Bob Meusel who went 3-5 with a solo home run. Babe Ruth singled in five trips to the plate and ":Jumpin " Joe Dugan went 2-4 in a 3-2 New York victory.

The "Babe" and the Yankees arrived in Syracuse by train at 7 A.M. At 9 A.M. Ruth placed himself at the disposal of the Herald Newspaper, for which he has been a special writer for the past two years. He spent more than an hour visiting employees discussing the major league pennant races and funning with Buddy O'Hara the eight year old son of Herald business manager E.A. O'Hara. At 10:30 A.M. Ruth departed for Burnet Park were a juvenile game was being played between the Columbia Athletic Club and the House of Providence.

The game was halted for a moment when Ruth arrived. The 5,000 spectators rushed the auto Ruth was seated. Mounted police finally came to the big fellows rescue. At last Ruth himself paved the way to restore order by walking to the center of the diamond declaring himself umpire. He ordered all players back to their positions. For four innings during which the Columbia A.C. ran up a 6-1 lead. When Columbia came to bat the "Mighty Bambino"  stepped up to bat to the cheer of the crowd. He used the small players game bat that did not suit him, but used it anyways. Branan the crafty House of Providence pitcher struck out the Babe on three swings. Babe asked for another turn and this time hit it squarely over the right fielders head. He repeatedly his singles and doubles in a few more swings. No sooner had he put down the bat, the crowd of 5,000 surrounded him. A photo was taken by reporters, then he zigged and zagged finally to his auto. But fans armed with fountain pens, bats, gloves and note books made it impossible to start the vehicle. The Babe's auto moved slowly through the crowd and exited the park. He returned moments later when he remembered he had promised Father James Magee (pastor of St. Patricks Church), a photo together. As the car arrived back in the park this caused another demonstration. A photo was taken of Ruth with Father Magee along with Buddy O'Hara and Faddy Cady. The Babe then returned to his base of operation the Hotel Onondaga.

Lastly a down note, the Boston Red Sox stopped by on September 25, the exhibition was viewed by only 375 fans, grossing a mear $248.25. On that occasion Jean Dubec besting Benn Karr 3-1

Branch Rickey had started his new farm system venture. He established  a tryout camp first at Dansville, Illinois, then through the South and Midwestern states. Other clubs were purchased and Sam Breadon's fortunes were turning. He quickly paid off the former Cardinal owners and a few years later was making a large profit. The result was that in 1926, St. Louis won the pennant. Then went on to defeat the New York Yankee's behind former Syracuse Star pitching great Grover Cleveland Alexander. You might remember Games 6, as Alex was called in form the bullpen and struck out Tony Lazzari with the bases full to end the Yankees rally.

The St. Louis Cardinals with Philip Bartelme as president started their first full year of Stars ownership in 1923. New upgraded talent was tried as Syracuse fans saw the likes of Lester Bell, "Whitey" Gialasen, "Wattie" Holm, George Makin, John McCarthy, "Red" McKee, Charlie Niebergall and Jim Taggert. The mound staff consisted of Fred Frankhouse (6-11), Art Reinhart (19-9) "Luigi" Pierotti (17-12), Slicker Parks (9-10) and Jean Dubec (5-2). But the best they could do is a sixth place finish (73-92) under manager Frank Shaughnessy.

One memorable moment worth mentioning with the season's second contest at Baltimore. That day future Hall of Famer Robert Moses "Lefty" Groves struck out 17 Syracuse Stars in a 8-1 win. Manager Frank Shaughnessy's game plan was "We'll wait Lefty out today, he was know to a a little wild". What happened was Groves (there was an s at the end in those days)struck out the first three batters he faced, then took fourteen more down as the game continued to set a new International League record.

August 18, 1923, Babe Ruth and his manager Christy Walsh departed their train at 6:20 AM in Syracuse, before continuing to Rochester. They arrived at the Herald Newspaper meeting with reporters and stopping for breakfast. Christy Walsh arranged to have 20 cases of Babe Ruth candy bars sent to the newspaper as samples. Babe did a bit of typing and helped with the daily newspaper and became "Editor of the Day". Ruth writes baseball articles daily promoting his All-American team nominations. The Herald was one of the most active papers using the Babe's news stories, and promoting his contests. His contests have sent as many as eight winners to the World Series.

At 9 AM he stepped out on the little balcony of the Herald Building. The Babe started tossing Babe Ruth candy bars to the crowd below as the passed by. Soon all traffic was blocked in downtown Syracuse. He then made an appearance at the Municipal Day Celebration at Clinton Square as a guest of the Herald Newspaper and the Kiwanis Club. Ruth and his syndicated manager Christy Walsh were tops in their cooperation to all. There was no half-way about either gentleman. The total visit lasted six and a half hours, a short but memorable moment in Syracuse Baseball History.

Once again International League baseball returned to Archbold Stadium for the home opener in 1924. After a dismal 2-8 road start, the Star's sent Art Reinhart to stop the slide against Newark opening day. May 4. Reinhart's victory. rejuvenated the throng of loyal Salt City baseball fans. The year in review, 79 victories against 83 defeats led to another sixth place finish. The Stars of 1924 were a good defensive club, but finished next to last in team batting at .274.

Note- Chapter in process

Wednesday, January 25, 2012


November 18, 1919, Syracuse newspaper's report that Ernest C. Landraf owner of the Newark franchise in the International League would be willing to relocate in Syracuse if a new stadium could be built in time for it to open the 1920 season". Mr. Landraf is quoted as saying "I do not want one cent of Syracuse money"." I have ownership of the Newark franchise and have offers from Montreal, Providence and Scranton to take my club". But permission to move the team to Syracuse from Newark where it barely made expenses last season will be offered at the annual meeting of International League leaders on December 9.

Montreal  offered $30,000 for the club. Mr. Landraf states " He will finance the team himself". "But if people of Syracuse want to buy an interest in the club they May". I understand that Joe Dunfee intends to build a new park in Syracuse and I want to size up the situation". The property that Mr. Dunfee acquired is located on West Genesee Street between Hiawwatha Blvd and the New York Central Railroad tracks. The land contains five acres and has frontage on West Genesee for an entrance and sufficient area for several store fronts. The land extends to harbor brook and Lakeside Avenue (now State Fair Blvd). The total cost will be $71,000.

November 30, Joe Dunfee accepts the offer, and the franchise is ready to be shifted. Ernest Landraf learns a substantial sum of money as evidence of his good faith. He also agrees to a three year lease on the new park. With International League president David L. Fultz present Mr. Dunfee promises that he will start the stadium in the next three weeks. Mr. Landraf replies " All I ask is that the field and stands be ready by the opening day of the season".

 December 9, the International League ok's the franchise shift to Syracuse. Tony Cummings is named team manager for 1920. The Syracuse newspaper conducts a sport pole to vote on a team name. The majority of Syracuse fans wants "Stars" name to return again."

The spring training sight selected was Tarboro, North Carolina. March 25, 1920, Landraf signs his first Star players, the former N.L. 'Home Run King" Frank "Wildfire" Schulte, Schulte played with the Stars back in 1904. Meanwhile Joe Dunfee launches a company called the "Syracuse Athletic Park Inc." for team boosters that will be needed for success. A bond issues is placed and 750 loyal fans are needed to purchase a 6% gold coupon bond for $100 for a total of $75,000. These bonds are backed by the City of Syracuse.

The International League went through some changes itself. Syracuse and Akron, Ohio had taken the place of Binghamton and Newark. This was the first time the I.L. had extended as far west as Ohio.

As opening day drew closer it was evident that the "New International League Park"  would not be completed in time. Landraf was now faced  with a trolley strike and a possible shift to Archbold Stadium where he would have to play there first fifteen games.This was to far from the center of the city for fans to walk or get to easily. A switch to Archbold Stadium was made and 6,000 fans responded in a 3-2 opening day victory over Rochester. Syracuse Mayor Farmer tossed out the first pitch in a game that was marked with pomp and ceremony.

Fund raising was disappointing to all and store fronts on West Genesee Street were scratched to save dollars. A minimum of $25,000 was still needed to complete the park. A committee was set up to revive Mr. Dunfee's plan's. A call for bond buyers brought new blood as John Gary bought 10 bonds himself and several blocks of 5,3,2 and 1 were sold at a rally. What was left was a shell of the parks' original design.

 The land was first owned by the Syracuse Salt Company. Then it was used as a dump by Onondaga Pottery. The grandstand was built of lumber from the old salt sheds which dotted the area. Their was hard salt on all the lumber, you walked and sat on salt. There were no seats with a small wing of grandstand extending out from the third base side.

When Dunfee and builder E.C. Stearns layed out the diamond they found that the third base foul line ran right through a corner of the bleachers, some six to eight feet. It was suggested that they move the left field foul line in to avoid the bleachers, that they did and nobody noticed it. There was a high embankment that led to the New York Central Railroad down the left field where the bleachers were built and behind the left field wall was a small creek. About 10 feet outside of the right field foul line there was a 10-foot embankment where they cut into the Pottery dump. They called this area "Schulte's Cliff" after Frank "Wildfire" Schulte who so often dug his spikes coring up with an old tea cup which he'd toss over the fence. The one classic sign that dotted the outfield wall for years was that of Nick Peters Clothes. The sign had a flag on each end, if a player hit a home run between the flags Nick Peter's gave the player a suit of clothes. Jewel Ens the former Stars third baseman and later Syracuse Chiefs manager claimed 13 suits during the 1921 season.

After a dismal 1-3 start manager Tony Cummings was fired. Mr. Landraf persuaded the great Napoleon "Nap" Lajoie who had become a free agent to take the position. "Lajoie had retired after hitting .340 and managing Toonto to a pennant in 1918. Mr. Lander has known Lajoie many years. He felt that if "Nap' played agains it would be with the Stars. To his dissappointment "Nap" had other plans. Amby McConnell the former Star and N.Y.S. League batting champion signed on to lead the Syracuse club on April 29. He would  be replaced by John Enzman after losinng 14 straight games.

New International League Park (Star Park) finally opened on May 20, 1920. John Enzman was replaced as manager on July 5, by Tom Madden. Madden was the fourth manager of the year. He saw the Star win only 33 of 149 games finishing in last place behind league winner Baltimore. At seasons end Landraf had lost an estimated $15,000. He also refused to pay the sum of $4,000 rent, as he reported the park was not ready for the first fifteen games.

 In other new Star Park- No. Salina Street would be destroyed by fire on May 30, 1920. The wooden grandstand was gutted from the ticket office past the bleachers as estimated loss of $5,000 Several boathouses along the Oswego Canal, south of the park were also set a fire. Star Park No. Salina Street and the building adjoining were owned by Mrs. Elleen Hanley of 1511 No. Salina Street.

January 1921, Landraf signed former Orange Athletic Club star infielder George Toporcer. Toporcer would be become the first player to ware glasses in the major leagues as a member of the St. Louis Cardinals. Frank "Wildfire" Schulte was traded to Atlanta but refused the trade and returned once again in a Stars uniform to hit .309. The Stars would hold a "Frank Schulte Day" in his honor August 20. Frank was presented a gold watch and a check at home plate by Johnny Haddock. Haddock, a Central New York resident and veteran catcher served as a major league scout for the St. Louis Cardinals and New York Yankees.

Note- Chapter in progress


The Star franchise passed in 1912` to former big league hurler Fred Burchell and his partner Edward J. McCafferty. Burchell assumed the role as manager but had little results and could finish no higher than seventh (54-82). One of the few high points sadly enough was opening day at Syracuse Universities Archbold Stadium. 11,000 excited fans viewed the April 26 opening day victory over Utica being Jim Bailey.

Phil Sitton and "Schoolboy" Teal teamed for 27 victories that year, but were also credited with 37 losses between them. The major event that summer was the exhibition at Star Park between the Star and the Ty Cobb lead Detroit Tigers on August 12. Cobb and Sam Crawford each singled twice in a 3-1 Tigers victory before 7,000 Syracuse fans.

Binghamton (84-63) captured the New York State League title in 1913, with the Star finishing a distant sixth (61-78). Fred Burchell assumed the management again but passed the baton to former Camden, NY resident and former major league catcher ( Chicago & Detroit) Fred Payne on July 10. Burchell led the club by winning 15 of 23 games. Phil Sitton  (17) and Rankin Johnson ( 16) balanced the moundsmen while John Slattery (.295), Joe Riley and "Lefty" Goode were among the better hitters.

Once again exhibitions dotted the big new that summer. Visits by the Philadelphia Athletics (July 8), New York Giants (August 11) and the Boston Red Six (August 27) brought new life to a dismal season. Connie Mack's Athletics brought with them Syracuse hometown hero Jimmy Walsh, along with Frank "Home Run" Baker, Eddie Collins and the remainder of their $100,00 infield. The Giants had- Fred Merkle, Jim Thorpe, Larry Doyle and George "Hooks" Wiltse. Red Sox brought "Hall of Famer"  Tris Speaker to man center field at Star Park although going down to defeat 8-1.

Charles T. Conners purchased McCafferty's half ownership a year earlier joined Burchell with a optimistic outlook for 1914. This didn't last long as the Star lost eight of their first nine games. At mid season Conners (losing $3,000) tied to sell his half  ownership to no avail. Season losses topped $6,000, and the Stars went into bankruptcy. Burchell tried more exhibitions the Tigers, Phillies, Athletics and Giants could not revive the sinking club. These exhibitions once again brought some of the games greatest players to the salt city. Ty Cobb, Sam Crawford, Harry Heilman, Jim Thorpe, John McGraw, Eddie Collins, Frank Baker and the first return of Grover Cleveland Alexander who pitched three innings defeating the Stars 7-5 on July 7

Attorneys Frank T. Miller and William Rubin came out of the bankruptcy as owners of the ball club. April 21, 1915, the Star ball club was incorporated for $25,000. Stock issued for $50 per share with no limit. The six that comprised the corporation were Frank Miller, William B. Tousey, Dr. H.A. McGruer, William Quinn, C.F. Cummings and William Rubin.

Binghamton won the State League (79-44), the Stars finished in fifth (60-60). Manager Michael Joyce O'Neil started building a new club slowly losing their first five games. Turnaround can be credited to N.Y.S. League batting champion - Amby McConnell (.350) and John  Prieste who won fourteen of fifteen starts.

Ty Cobb and the Tigers returned for the third year in an exhibition sponsored by the Syracuse Elks Club annual field days June 3 at Archbold Stadium. This time Cobb was pitted against Honus Wagner's Pittsburgh Pirates. The admission charge that day $1.00 for adults, 50 cents children. Cobb's Tigers easily defeated Wagner's Pirates 8-1. Cobb singled in four trips, Wagner went 2-4 scoring one run.

Michael Joyce O'Neil managed the Star the next two seasons (1916-17) But 1916, would be one of Syracuse's greatest diamond years. The pitching staff was bolstered by the addition of Howard Ehmke Ehmke would win 31 games losing but 7, in this championship season. He would later be sold to Buffalo of the Federal League following his last game September 4. Ehmke did not make the final road trip as the Star had clinched the N.Y.S. League Championship.

Howard Ehmke would go on to play fifteen years in the mayor leagues with Detroit, Boston and Philadelphia A's all in the American League. He was a 2- game winner while with the Red Sox and appeared in the 1929 Wold Series with Connie Mack's Athletics. In that 1929 series Ehmke was the surprise starter in game one. at Chicago. Howard proceeded to set a World Series record by striking out 13 Cubs. That record stood until 1953 when Brooklyn's Carl Erskine k'd sixteen New York Yankees.

This club had it all, along with Ehmke, "Buck" Friel and Bill Taylor each won 16 games. The .307 hitting of Jim Riley, along with with steady play of Mike Konnick, Ray Evans. Harry Fritz, "Whitey" Hildebrand, Gene Martin and Owen Quinn allowed the Stars to win their second State League title.

The league leaders again attracted many exhibition's against some of the America and National League's best clubs. The first appearance in Syracuse of the New York Yankees with star player Wally Pipp was played May 21. Visits by the Giants and Red Sox led to one of the classic Syracuse baseball confrontations of all time. The August 14, 1916 contest between the Stars and Chicago White Sox.. This would be the only time Central New Yorkers would get to see the amazing "Shoeless" Joe Jackson, Buck Weaver, "Happy" Felsch and Fred McMullen. These four plus Ed Cicotte, "Lefty" Williams, Chick Gandil and Swede Risberg would later be called the "Black Sox": after throwing the 1919 World Series. They were later all banned from professional baseball for life by commissioner Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis.

Joe Jackson came into Syracuse third in the American League in hitting at .326 in 109 games. That day he had two singles and a triple in three trips to the plate, then left the game laughing. Buck Weaver hit the games only home run driving in three RBI. "Happy" Felsch doubled and singled in three a bats. Fred McMullen collected two singles. Sloppy play by the Stars found a Chicago sports writer saying " How could the Stars possibly be leading the State League?" After the first few innings the Sox usually walked to first base, then sat on the base, even though their hit could have been for extra bases. Chicago manager Clarence Roland inserted recently acquired youngsters, shortstop Bill Cunningham and pitcher Norman. All together Chicago blasted Star pitchers for 22 hits in a 16-0 shutout victory. The only key White Sox player not seeing action that day was Eddie Collins.

Owners Miller and Rubin enjoyed their monetary success and looked to 1917 at a repeat. This was a difficult year as World War I had not ended yet. The New York State League season was split into half's. The first half the Star finished fifth (30-30), the second half in third (33-21-2). With Ehmke's departure Friel, Alex Shields and Buck Taylor carried the pitching load winning 43 games between them. Mike Konnick, Manager O'Neil and Owen Quibb supplied the big hits. The New York State League folded a short time later..

April 4, 1918, the International League was formed with Syracuse as one of it's members. Pat Donovan and Charlie Demong became the new Stars owners. Patsy Donovan also sering as the team manager. But as World War I continued even this new league began to fail. The Syracuse Stars franchise was shifted to Hamilton, Ontario, Canada on August 6 to finish the season. The last game played in Syracuse was on August 2, They finished the season with 38 wins and 76 losses (they were 28-56 when transferred), placing seventh in the eight team league.

The only item worth mentioning was the return of Bill "Doc" Scanlon, Bobby as he was called as a youth, teamed with ex-St. Cecilas (his semi-pro team) battery mate Stars owner Dr. Charlie Demong. In his only game Scanlon was defeated by Jersey City 5-0 on June 30.

Their was no professional baseball in Syracuse during 1919. But loyal baseballist unearth a semi-pro team called the Stars in newly formed New York State Baseball League. Home games were held at Burns Stadium located on Burnet Ave. The team was financed by long time Stars secretary Michael J. Kelly and Edward Dunn. Team manager's were Michael J. Kelly and John "Chick" Meehan of Syracuse University baseball and football fame. Meehan would later become head football coach at New York University. Billy Dunn former player and son of Stars founder John J. Dunn, would serve as team coach. This team was composed of some of Syracuse's greatest semi-pro stars as Tad Gaughan,  "Doc" Morgan, A. Harry Kallett and Chick Meehan. Their record a respectable 9-3.

Although no public announcement was made, in January 1920 Babe Ruth was sold to the New York Yankees by Boston Red Sox owner Harry Frazee. The Yankees paying $100,000 plus guaranteeing a $300,000 loan. Ruth would sign a two year deal reported to be $40,000.

Ball's Joint Rules Committee announced a ban on all foreign substances or other alternations to the ball. This could included, power, resin, saliva, shine, emery ball. The National League allowed each team to name it's spitball pitchers. No others were allowed to use it. The American League allowed each team to name two pitchers that would be allowed for no more than one season.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012


During the winter of 1902, George N. Kuntzsch decided to once again center the baseball wars. This time with a partner Tobias "Sandy" Griffin. Griffin & Kuntzsch entered a partnership that would last for the next ten baseball seasons and bring Syracuse baseball to new heights. They first purchased the Rome, NY franchise and moved the team to Syracuse. They then looked for quality players as Sandy Griffin searched the east coast for new talent. He signed pitchers- Jack Fifield, Bill Mains and George Wheeler. Next outfielder Frank "Wildfire" Schulte (who later became National League home run champion with the Chicago Cubs). Schulte was as famous in his day as the Cobbs and Speakers were in later history. Also sign were outfielders Jake Magie & Art Ross and catcher Fred Payne (Camden, NY native). Griffins efforts led the Stars to a fourth place finish in the newly formed New York State League. The Star also returned to their former home Star Park on So. Salina Street.

A year later more success, Jack Fifield and Bill Mains combined to win 36 games, finishing in third position. The hitters were led by Frank Schulte (.294), Charles Louderslager (.326) and soon to be major league outfielder Mike Mitchell (.297). Mitchell spent nine seasons (1907-14) seeing action in 1,122 games with Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, Chicago and Washington.

It had been twelve years since a championship flag had flown over Syracuse. But 1904, was the crowing jewel in the Kuntzsch & Griffin years. Manager Sandy Griffin's  Stars led the New York State League from start to finish winning 91 of 135 games. No less than five of the 1904 champions were claimed by major league clubs at the close of the season. Frank "Wildfire" Schulte (.307) spent the next twelve years with the Cubs leading then to three N.L. pennants and two World Series. Fred Payne had good years with Detroit, Henry Harley and Willie Lauterborn were claimed by the Boston Nationals and Mike Mitchell (.296) went with Schulte to Chicago and then covered center field for a number of years with Cincinnati. The Stars were led on the field by Pat Chrisham (.309), but pitching was the key as both Fifield and Mains won 20+ games . They were aided by Henry Harley and "Hilly" Haslem notching 19 victories each. The championship roster also included native Syracuseans Bill Dunn, Ed Daley, Bill Stroh and Dick Trainer.

At the end of 1904, Star Park- So. Salina Street was claimed by private interest. The park was demolished, wooden fences sold and land sub-divided with Clinton Street extended to Cortland Ave. The Stars again returned to Athletic Field (Hiawatha Blvd) in 1905 New uniforms graced the defending champions, white flannels trimmed in red, red caps and white stocking. New additions to the pitching staff highlighted a successful second place finish. Conrad "Nick" Carter won 21, while Syracuse hometown hero Bernie Maurer posted 11 wins against just 2 losses. Maurer son of Long Branch resort owner Ben Maurer became one of Syracuse's greatest sports hero's at the turn of the century. Bernie pitched many weekend games  the next few seasons when his services were not needed at Syracuse's greatest resort areas. He was a champion ice and motor boat racer who had brought the sport of bowling to new heights in Central New York. He was inducted into the first class of the Syracuse Bowling Hall of fame. Thirty two more victories were divided between Jack Fifield and Bill Mains. The year ended with a 10-5 exhibition lose to the Brooklyn Superas (later named Dodgers).

Scranton was the league champion in 1906. The Stars finished third 72-65 behind Carter, Fifield, Mains, Maurer and Bill Cristall (12-10). The Boston Americans paid a visit on June 3 only to lose to Bernie Maurer 7-3. Frank "Wildfire" Schulte returned with his Chicago Cubs defeating the Star in another exhibition 9-4.

Athletic Field had seen it's last game as the bleachers had collapsed during the Syracuse- Colgate football game injuring many. Games were shifted to Hallock's Park located at the end of No. Salina Street at Onondaga Lake. This park would also be called Star Park III, First Ward Park, and State League Park during it's use between 1906 and 1918.

The next three seasons the team's spark was gone finishing sixth, fourth and sixth. The greatest moments being three one hitters in each of the three seasons. Roy Miller, Ed Schultz and Nick Carter in 1907. Three more the next year, Ralph Works twice and Lou "Snake" Wiltse on his way to post a 11-5 record. While Cecil Thompson's two and another by Wiltse pinpointed 1909.

During the three year period two prominent longtime baseball figures donned Star uniforms. The first, long time baseball coach at Syracuse University Lou Carr. Carr joined the Star after playing along side Honus Wagner with the Pittsburgh Pirates. The second Jimmy Walsh, uncle of Syracuse Mayor Bill Walsh, great uncle of U.S. Congressman Jim Walsh. Walsh joined the Stars for a single contest in 1907 plus 74 games a year later. Jimmy then signed his first pro contract with Connie Mack of the Philadelphia Athletics. His baseball career spanned over forty tears seeing major league action with the Athletics, Red Sox and Yankees. Jimmy Walsh still holds the record as being the oldest player to win a batting title in the International League at age 40, 

The Mills Commission finally issued it's report on the origins of baseball in 1905. The group chaired by former National League President A.G. Mills declared that baseball was an American game invented by one Abner Doubleday of Cooperstown, NY back in 1830.  Evidence to the contrary was ignored.  Thirty years later major league baseball would erect it's National Baseball Hall of Fame & Museum in that quaint village. Years later historians would prove the committee's finding to be incorrect.

The pennant race in 1910 almost duplicated that of the year before. Wilkes Barre under manager Bill Clymer grabbed the league lead in July and hung on for a first place finish. In April 1910, the Stars signed a 22-year-old farm boy from St. Paul, Nebraska who would change the history of Syracuse and major league baseball forever. Grover Cleveland Alexander arrived in Syracuse just before the start of the New York State League season.   Alexander who had pitched for Galesburg in 1909 posted a respectable 15-8 mark before being struck in the head by a fast ball. He spent time in the hospital complaining of being cross-eyed and double vision as the pitch had injured his optic nerve. The Indianapolis club of the American Association drafted him but soon realized be man never pitch again. So they optioned him to the Syracuse Stars who were looking for new pitching arms. Little did they know that Alexander's sight would return to normal in the late winter-early spring.

Alex was happy in a Stars uniform and his $250 a month salary. His first appearance was on April 17, 1910. He hurled five scoreless innings on a four hitter vs the Royal Giants a team of touring black ball players. In the NYS league opened he lost to Utica, but returned the next day and blanket Utica 1-0. This would be the first of 13 shutouts in a Star uniform. Alex's delivery was described as three-quarter, or side arm as we know it today. Manager Ed Ashenback used Alex on a three day rotation, By mid-July the Stars were deep in sixth place, suddenly Alexander's curse broke a bit sharper, his fastball picked up speed and he totally dominated the second half of the State League season. The Syracuse Post Standard newspaper termed him "Iron Man" after his amazing double-header victories W3ilkes Barre on July 20. The twin kills began to turn the season around. Alexander began his season ending 12 victories in a row.

Newspaper headlines harked his success "Alex blanks Elmira". "The Iron Man Allows Two Hits". "Alex's The Master". Alex's success sent the Stars on a roll. By August 22, they had gained second place gaining on the leader Wilkes Barre. August 27, 1910- Wilkes Barre arrived at Star Park to a standing room only crowd. Not wanting to disappoint the great crowd, umpires allowed loyal fans to stand along the outfield wall behind the players. Alex was unstoppable as he shutout the Barons 4-0 Late in the season manager Ashenback used him in various rolls when not on the mound. In centerfield on one occasion, a pinch hitter in another. As a fielder Alex led the State League making only one error on 132 chances.

Soon the major leagues top scouts viewed Alex's every outing. After a 4-0 victory on September 6, the Syracuse Journal Newspaper crowned him "Alexander the Great" a name that stuck with him his entire major league career. Alex single-handed keep the Stars in the pennant race. But the down side was the Stars were not winning when Alex wasn't on the mound. The season ended on September 18, although the Stars finished with a fine 78-57 record it wasn't good enough and Wilkes Barre won the league championship,

 If this wasn't enough Alexander had finished the year hurling 50 scoreless innings against the leagues finest. Grover Cleveland Alexander the fix foot, one inch tall, farm boy won 29 games for the Star that year but losing 14. His fame would not spread to the National League as he was drafted by the Philadelphia Nationals (Phillies) for the bargain price of $750. In his rookie season in Philadelphia "Alex the Great" won 28 games while striking out 227 a major league record that stood till 1984 when it was broken by Dwight Gooden. His major league highlights are many, the strikeout of Tony Lazzari in the 1926 World Series with the bases loaded, his 373 career wins tied with with Christy Mathewson for third place behind Cy Young and Walter Johnson, 90 career shutouts still tops the National League, 16 shutout in a single season wit Philadelphia in 1916, winning 21 games with the St. Louis Cardinals at age 40, winning 30 games three consecutive years (1915-17), 436 complete games and numerous others.

Alexander returned to Syracuse in alter years with Philadelphia and the House of David to reminisce of his walks down North Salina Street visiting with store owner on his way to Star Park in that memorable year of 1910. Alex's amazing career was highlighted in a 1952 featured film called "The Winning Team" staring former president Ronald Reagan as Alexander.The film is still seen on  DVD's and various cable channels  even today. Sadly their is the omission of his great year in Syracuse in that film. Alexander would later he inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown and the Syracuse  Baseball Wall of Fame. November 4, 1950 Grover Cleveland Alexander the "Syracuse Iron Man" died in his home town of St. Paul, Nebraska.

The Kuntzsch- Griffin reign of ownership ended with a sixth place finish (65-74) in 1911. Wilkes Barre was once again New York State League champion (82-61). The managerial ranks changed from Ed Ashenbach to John "Snake: Deal on July 6. The season opened with a disastrous 1-8 start resulting from light hitting and an ineffective mound staff. Although they led the State League playing 36 straight error less games. Oskar Nagle obtained some success with 14 victories including two 2-hitters and a one-hitter vs Elmira on July 16. "Left" Goode (.285), "Snake" Deal (.283), Buster Armbuster (.283) and Mike Wotell (.294) were little help in this blosay year.


 The 1900 season did produce one big name that of pitcher Nick Altrock. Altrock would win 15 games that season and later go to play with the Chicago White Sox and Washington Americans. But his fame in another venue that of one of the greatest baseball clowns of all time. His heroics first came to life in Washington, D.C. teaming with Germany Schaeffer. Schaeffer and Altrock were so funny on the coaching lines that they always kept the crowd in good humor before the days Washington found winning ways. Upon Schaeffer death Altrock formed a partnership with Al Schadt that brought him world wide fame. They performed at numerous Wold Series with their side-splitting humor..

One of Syracuse's most interesting stories developed during a double-header vs Wilkes Barre. Lou Witlse (brother of George :Hooks" Wiltse) was scheduled to pitch both games that afternoon. After winning the first contest Lou changed clothes with his look alike brother George who was sitting in the stands. George won the second game and no one knew the difference. This story was confirmed by Nick Altrock during a trip to Syracuse years later.

The season ended on September 23 as two of Syracuse's top amateur players made their debuts as Stars player, pitcher Jimmy Dinneeen (younger brother of Bill) and Syracuse High School star athlete Billy Dunn (son of Star founder John J. Dunn).

By 1901, an effort was made to speed up the game, the foul strike rule was added. The change still in effect today made the first two foul balls count as strikes. This rule reduced the number of pitches and helped pitchers dominate the hitters and continued till the new lively ball was introduced years later. Secondly the catcher's rules were also introduced. This rule required the catcher to stand close to the batter at all times. This change also effected umpires, before 1901 balls and strikes were called from behind the pitcher.

Frank J. Leonard took the rains the following year. but could do no better than 30-40 before the team was transferred to Brockton. Mass. on July 24 to finish the balance of the year. The big event was the exhibition contest between the newly formed American League's Boston Bean Eaters led by Syracuse native Bill Dinneen and former Stars pitcher Vic Willis. The April 18 contest was won by Boston 9-3

The very low came as an ill fated trolley car accident injured twelve members of the Stars team. Lee DeMontreville was injured the worst ending his season. Other major injuries were to Horton, Roach, Pfanmiller, White, McManus and Lynch.


After George Kuntzsch purchased the Albany Eastern League franchise and shift it to Syracuse start the 1894 season.  His first priority was to secure players.  Mr. Kuntzsch went out and signed infielders- Whistler, Eagan, Minaihan, and Hanrahan, Outfielders- Hoover, Visner and Knox. Pitchers Bauswein, Callahan and Payne also with catchers- Wilson and Tommy Hess. Wilson and Hoover were fired early for boozing. Simon, Welch and Tobias "Sandy" Griffin patrolled the outfield by mid-season. Conley then Tom Powers at first, Monte Cross replaced Hanahan at short and Narnett was secured from Binghamton eliminated Payne on the pitching corps. The league started with Troy and Binghamton, but these towns were later replaced by Scranton and Allentown and at seasons end Allentown's entry had relocated in Yonkers.

They finished: Providence, Syracuse, Erie, Springfield, Buffalo, Wilkes Barre, Scranton and Yonkers. The work of the Stars in late summer has been all that could be deserved and the response of the fans had exceeded all expectations. In fact Syracuse was one of the best in attendance in the league and the interest in baseball, which seemed to be dead a year before was renewed again. Following the seasons close Monte Cross was drafted by Pittsburgh for $500. Curtis Welsh was fined against his contract that lost him a great deal.

1895 began with the loss of Monte Cross, but ended with a fourth place finish in the eight team league behind Springfield, Providence and Wilkes Barre. For the first time the league circuit remained unbroken throughout the entire season.

Charlie Reilly was appointed manager by owner George Kuntzsch in 1896. The season was nothing spectacular finishing fifth, but was highlighted by the addition of moundsman Vic Willis. In 1897, the favorites to win the Eastern League race was the previous year champion Providence. The Grays were weakened by the loss of Caravan and this proved more serious than had been anticipated. Sandy Griffin was now manager at Scranton and assembled a team of great hitters and good defensive fielders. But did not contain many team players but played for themselves

The season of 1897 was one of the most successful Syracuse had seen to date. First the Stars won the Eastern League pennant by showing great team work. The patronage had been generous. This success brought owner Kuntzsch about $5,000 in profit on the season and made every player worth more in the base ball market, Ryan and "Will Bill" Eagan were sold to Brooklyn, Vic Willis went to Boston for $2,000 and four players.(and later into the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum). But Mr. Kuntzsch had been generous in purchasing quality players. He paid $750 for Smith and Abe Lezotte. He has not spared expense to give Syracuse a winning team and yet no single man of the squad received salary over the league limit. A good ball club costs $100 a day in salaries alone and to have team loaf at $100 a day and board in expenses. Manger Al  Buckenberger deserved full credit for what he has taught the Star Ball Club. "Wild Bill" Eagan has been the exponent of Buck's ideas on the field. He set example as team captain as a result the records in hitting and fielding as compared with records of player in other cities do not afford a just measure of the work of the men.

The 1897 Champions consisted of infielders- Jack Earl, Bill Eagan, Jud Smith and Frank Shelbeck. Outfielders- Jim Garry, John O'Brien and Abe Lezotte. Catchers included Al Shaw and Jack Ryan and pitchers- Walt Kisinger, John Malarley, Henry Lampe, "Herky Jerky" Horton and the ace of the staff- Vic Willis. After two years as a Syracuse Star, Willis as we mentioned he sign with Boston. Note- He was also inducted into the Syracuse Baseball Wall of Fame in 1995.

When the 1899 season opened interest in the game was at an all time low. The 1898 (52-63) had been a disaster and it left the game way below par and owner George N. Kuntzsch a heavy loser. One factor being the banning of Sunday games by Syracuse Mayor McGuire. Philip S. Ryder, John J. Murray and Henry S. Nealey plus others enlisted support by hiring Lou Whistler of the Springfield, Ohio team as new manager for 1899. Whistler brought a team from the west and only two or three former Star players. Their salaries was not large and the team turned out to be a club unorganized as a whole. The Stars lost regularly and Mr. Kuntzsch made serious efforts to strengthen the squad. In May, Lou Whistler was released and Tobias "Sandy" Griffin succeeded him. By July, new additions began showing signs of strength. July 4, owner George Kuntzsch announced his retirement from baseball.

The better players were disposed of and looked like the team and the Eastern League would part company. League president Pat Powers approached the community to form a stock company so the team could again gain public support. Sandy Griffin worked hard with the leagues last place club (49-68) to keep it afloat and its revival was due in a large part to his effort's.

Monday, January 23, 2012


Back in the fall of 118, owners of clubs in Brooklyn, Cincinnati, Louisville, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and St. Louis joined forces in what was to become the American Association. Before their enorgoal season, owners had shifted the Brooklyn franchise to Baltimore. The American Association would rival the popular National League between 1882 and 1891.

By the end of 1899, Brooklyn, Cincinnati, Baltimore and Kansas City had exited. The Association also called the "Beer and Whiskey League" (as it allowed the sale of alcoholic beverages at all games) was left with only four team's Philadelphia Athletics, St Louis Browns, Louisville Cardinals and Columbus Solons.

Syracuse newspapers reported in early January that the Rochester Hop Bitters, Toledo Maumees and Syracuse Stars had become new A-A members. The Stars were the first to bid for a A-A franchise following the news of Brooklyn and Cincinnati's defection, but were the last to produce the $10,000 bond foe entry. The league insisted that these new teams sell $5,000 in advanced ticket sales. Amidst the internal turmoil George Kasson Frazer secured an option on the Star Baseball Club for $1,500. This included the Stars Baseball Association's property, players and uniforms. Mr. Frazer was backed by the Peoples Street Car Company and Frank Haberle of the Haberle Brewery. The final position in the eight team league was gained by the Brooklyn Gladiators. However this franchise would be transferred to Baltimore before seasons end.

After a short search, Mr. Frazer decided to manage his own club. He then signed former Star "Cupid" Childs, John Keefe, Bern McLaughlin and Tom Lyons. He scoured the east coast for baseball talent, that brought Henry Simon, Dan Casey, Joe Battin, "Rasty" Wright, Mox McQuery, "Bones" Ely and Mike Dorgan.

At a March 14 meeting at Syracuse's at Syracuse's Leland Hotel, the A-A adopted the 1890 schedule and elected to play games on Sunday. Teams such as Philadelphia and Syracuse elected to alternate locations to avoid protesters of the games of the sabbath. The Stars moved from Star Park to a resort location as Three Rivers just north of Liverpool. George K. Frazer met with the presidents of Rome, Watertown & Ogdensburg Railroad lines to see it he could get enough rail cars to accommodate fans to Three Rivers Point to hold these Sunday contests.

Star Park- So. Salina was ready, a new open grandstand was added to the south side near left field. A new ticket booth built just north of the railroad tracks. New paint was applied to private boxes, reporters stand and grandstand. Also the left field fences were pushed back 100 feet. Philip S. Ryder was contacted one again to take team photos.

The Stars opened at Brooklyn on April 17 as Mike Dorgan led the Stars to a 3-2 victory. Five days later Philadelphia and Syracuse combined for a major league record 19 stolen bases in a 11-10 loss. The home opener was set for April 28. Some 3,360 fans were on hand at Star Park  and viewed great pitching only to see John Keefe take a 201 loss. In the first Sunday contest the Stars defeated St. Louis 11-9 as 3,500 fans broke the sabbath at Three Rivers Point. During the May 25 Sunday contest vs Louisville the grandstand collapsed in the 10th inning. Sixty people were injured, none seriously. The accident happened as fans stood when Auburn resident Tim Shinnick produced the hit that gave the Colonels the winning score. Many fans then rushed to catch the train that returned to the city. One person injured was George Kuntzsch, who would later be the Stars club owner. Lawsuits followed for damages to clothes. One enthusiast who wore a $15 suit asked for $66, he didn't get it.

As June began, Joe Battin was released and "Voiceless" Tim O'Rourke was signed. Mike Dorgan played his last game in a Stars uniform on June 9. The squad wore new uniforms, black tops and pants with a white "S" on the pocket. Wallace Fressenden replaced George K. Frazer as manager between July 21- Aug 3. Syracuse police hailed a Sunday contest at Star Park (July 27) so the game was switched to the Iron Pier at the south end of Onondaga Lake. Louisville failed to report thinking the contest was canceled with no league umpire (thought he would be arrested). The Stars hired a local umpire and won by forfeit. Mr. Frazer returned as manager August 4 to finish the year. On the mound was Dan Casey and John Keefe combined to win 34 of 79 games. While cater-outfielder Herman "Alabama" Pitz the Sing-Sing convict saw action in 29 games hitting a meek .221.

No team played the entire season schedule, the closest Columbus and St. Louis played 134 of 140 games. The Stars finished sixth (55-72), some 30 1/2 games behind league champion Louisville (88-34), In January 1891, Syracuse, Toledo, and Rochester surrendered their franchise.

Through a dismal season, one bright spot was the sparking play of second baseman Clarence "Cupid" Childs. Childs was one of the best second baseman ever identified with a Syracuse ball club. He was with the Stars when they were in I.L. in 1888 and 1889.  Sunday June 1, 1890, Childs in a nine inning game against Toledo handled 19 chances, accepting 18. "Cupid"  finished fifth in the league in hitting .345, second in slugging average .481, third in on base % .434, fourth in hits (170) & total bases 237, tenth in runs (109) and stolen bases (56). As his years in Syracuse ended, Childs went to Cleveland to team up with Ed McKein to became one of baseball's greatest defensive combinations.

Syracuse joined the Eastern Association in 1891. The league composed of Buffalo, Syracuse, New Haven, Albany, Providence, Troy Rochester and Lebanon. Providence and New Haven dropped out in early August and August 26 both Syracuse and Rochester called the season over. The four other clubs kept playing till August 30. Buffalo was the league champion followed by Albany, Troy and Lebanon. George K. Frazer kept the team until about three weeks from the close of the season, when George Freeman took control and ended a dismal year. Mr. Freeman's brief experience in baseball cost him $2,500. The Stars most successful lineup comprised of Faatz, Mc Laughlin, Doyle and Miller in the infield. Doyle was fired for drunkenness with Quinn filling his spot. Simon, West and Friel manned the outfield. Matt Kilroy, Coughlin and Ferson shared mound duties and Meyers was behind the plate.

The Eastern Association of 1892 organized the cities of Albany, Providence, New Haven, Rochester, Binghamton, Syracuse, Philadelphia (Athletics) Elmira, Troy and Buffalo. New Haven and Philadelphia were the first to exit. Ir was evident that the remaining eight wouldn't stick out the season. This was the first experience in baseball by new Stars owner George N. Kuntzsch. Mr. Kuntzsch a famed Syracuse Billiards impresario was in the rears over $3,500 and on July 11 the Stars were transferred to Utica after playing just 51 games.

The team was gone Syracuse went without professional  baseball in 1893, A year later George Kuntzsch purchased the Albany franchise in the Eastern League

Friday, January 20, 2012


It was rebuilding time for the Stars in 1887. Off the diamond, the directors had reorganized with W.D. Miller elected the new club president. The management had just finished a long court battle with fan, John A. Cole who had fallen from the Star Park grandstand and held the club liable for his injuries. Directors were determined to bring new life to the team. The Stars then signed seven new players from the dissolved Southern League. Though the move looked like a solid one soon the Southerner's formed "cliques" and voiced their opinions on the directors on who to sign as manager. Management wanted Charles "Pep" Hackett but the "clique" insisted they would only play if James H. Gifford was hired. The directors finely under pressure announced Gifford as the new field boss. Without mincing matters, it may be stated that petty jealousy among the players was disastrous.  They lost so many games  that should have been won without much effort. Drunkenness itself lost enough games as to win the pennant, The addition of black players added more discord. Manager Gifford was unable to control the team and was fired, he was replaced by George Simmons. Pitcher Crothers was released for bad attitude. Lunch also for his drunkenness and disrespect towards club officials. While Jacoby's departure caused such a floury that he was reinstated.

Between the lines that Stars posted a 61-40 record finishing third behind Buffalo and the league champion Toronto. Wilkes- Barre and Jersey City were the leagues new additions. One of the most unsatisfying things about 1887 was that the pennant went to a club so little deserving of it. The Toronto club was just a little above average but took advantage of the collapse of both Buffalo and Syracuse.

The pitching staff was made up  of Douglas "Dove" Crothers (7-7), Ed "Silent" Dundon (20-19-8), Cornelius "Conny" Murphy (19-8) and Syracuse's first black professional player Robert Higgins (22-8). Not much is written about the Stars opening the season with a black catcher named Dick Johnson, who played under the name of Dick Male. Male's ability proved unsatisfactory and was released after just two games. He later signed with Zanesville of the Ohio State League.

Discrimination was common in the league in 1887. But there were several teams fielding black players. Buffalo's spectacular infielder Frank Grant and Newark pitcher George Stovey along with Bob Higgins were but a few to grave league teams that year. A year later racial factions would attempt to drive all blacks out of the league. But the southern ball players on the Stars didn't help matters much.

The Newark Daily Journal reports "Members of the Syracuse team made no secret of their boycott against Higgins. They succeeded in running Male off the club and will do the same with Higgins".

Bob Higgins pitched his first game at Star Park on May 31 defeating Oswego 11-4. Following his June 4th victory against Binghamton (who pitched the negro- Renfroe) 10-4 before 1,500 fans. Manager Simmons instructed all players to report the next morning to P.S. Ryder Photo Studio to have a 1887 team photo taken. Henry Simon and Doug Crothers told manager Simmons they would not be photographed with Higgins (because of his color) though  Bob Higgins did experienced several disconcerting accidents in his initial season with the Stars he did resign for 1888. With all the going on the Stars still posted good numbers - Ollie Beard (.356), Tom Lynch (.369). Harry Jacoby (.371), Lefty Marr (.356), Harry Simon (.365), Dick Buckley (.313) great averages as batters could no longer order high or low pitches. However the number of strikes increased from three to four, and walks counted as a base hit. This bad rule was dropped in 1888 and strikes returned to three.

 The majority of clubs suffered financial loses, during the season Utica, Binghamton and Oswego were compelled to disband. Buffalo & Toronto came out money ahead, while Hamilton, Rochester and Jersey City lost heavily. Syracuse sank it's surplus dollars into a luxury exhibition tour performed bad from opening day but did succeed in paying it's expenses.

During winter meetings Toronto, the league dissolved itself and reorganized as the International Association. The League had passed a ban to eliminate black players in July 1887, but could not enforce the action. This year they tried to put an end to the I.L's haven four negro players. Buffalo and Syracuse, quickly tried to retain its key players Frank Grant & Robert Higgins, that led the fight to eliminate the color barrier. The Star directors were very forceful in its leadership in this cause. A press report read: "The Star management received a letter of thanks in behalf of the negro citizens of Syracuse for their efforts in behalf of the colored players".

Star management hired Charles M. Hackett as their new field boss. Mr Hackett and the directors quickly assembled what was to be the championship club of 1888. The mainstay of the 1887 pitching staff Bob Higgins, Silent Dundon and Conny Murphy were joined by Frank Gilmore and Bill Bishop. The infield of "Max" McQuery, Ollie Beard, Joe Battin and Bill Higgins proved a steady bunch. The outfield was patrolled by Charles "Lefty" Marr, William "Rasty" Wright and "Fred " Bones" Ely all experienced men. The catching was spilt between "Tip" Shellhasse and Moses Fleetwood Walker.

Moses Fleetwood Walker a negro catcher would be reunited with Manager Hackett for a third time. Mr, Hackett described Walker as a speedster although his 30 thief's were far behind the team leader "Lefty" Marr. In a 1960's Post Standard article writer Bill Clark describes "Moses was a well educated man having graduated from Oberlin College where he preformed his catching duties just prior to Ban Johnson's time there". After his playing days. Walker wrote a book "Our Home Colony" on negro life in the United States.

The major news publication in Syracuse made no mention of either Walker or Higgins race. Moses Fleetwood Walker played 76 games with 49 hits, that included five doubles, two triples and two home runs. His batting average was just .175. The light hitting Walker batted ninth in the Star order.

This great Stars team rolled up 81 victories in 112 games to a cakewalk of the Association crown 6 1/2 games ahead of Toronto. Conny Murphy led the way with 34 wins, but only  fired 47 wild pitches- both all-time International League records, to go along with a league leading 1.27 earned run average. Along with Murphy, Bob Higgins and "Silent: Dundon managed 17 and 13 wins respectively. Across the country newspapers reports honored this great pitching staff. The New York Sun writes, "Syracuse has a strong trio of pitchers in Dundon, Murphy and Higgins....Dundon (nicknamed Dummy) writes on paper he would not drink during the season as he knows that Manager Hackett would release him at once if he found him drunk".

1888 was a great year, the Stars led the league from opening day to September 1, then regained the lead on September 12 as "Lefty" Marr's two run homer defeated Toronto 8-3. The next day the Stars trailed 2-1 into the seventh innings in what the Post Standard called "The most eventful and exciting inning ever played in Syracuse". 3,00 fans sat in the grandstand at Star Park a Joe Battin walked. Marr's triple sent Battin home. Ollie Beard rushed to the coach's box and bawled out "We've got one run the most, make another to clinch the game. They won't get any more". Each of the next five hitters caught the spirit and hit the  first pitch safety. Fans stood up in their seats, flourished their handkerchiefs, waived umbrellas and kept up the mighty shouts for many minutes. The game was prolonged 25 minutes by the numerous kicks by there Canadian opponents. The Stars used this game as a spring board to their first league championship. They finished in this order-Syracuse, Toronto, Hamilton, Rochester, London, Buffalo, Try and Albany.

The team looked sharp in their new uniforms. Gray color with blueish tint, shorts laced with a cord of maroon. Uniform tops had a handkerchief pocket on the left breast. hats were gray with a maroon "S", Stockings were maroon with white stripes.

 Following the 1888 seasons end Cap Anson again led his White Stockings into Syracuse on September 27. This time there were problems even before the game started. Seems that Anson refused to step on the same field as a negro player. Anson's policy was known and accepted by the Stars team and was not even mentioned in any Syracuse newspaper. Therefore Moses  Fleetwood walker was not allowed to play in the contest

The great season was over, the Star came home from Rochester to a hero's welcome. They were met by the Star Base Ball Association and a brass band. After three cheers, the champions of 1888 were escorted in carriages through the main street to a banquet at the Globe Hotel. People were requested ti illuminate along the line and the streets were lined with people and red lights. That evening President O'Neil announced that the Star directors had decided to continue baseball in 1889 and that all fines imposed by the association would be remitted. A key announcement as was that the team was behing $6,000 and the stockholders had to go down in their pockets for $2,000 to $2,500.

Although not winning the pennant in 1889, the Stars did finish second (64-44) to league leader Detroit. Manager John C. Chapman had a fine club led by Clarence "Cupid" Childs, Rusty Wright, Mox McQueery, Joe Battin and "Doc" Oberlander. Great pitching by Conny Murphy (28-18) and John Keefe (25-15) keep the club competitive in a league consisting of (in order of finish) Detroit, Syracuse, Rochester, Toledo, London, Buffalo and Hamilton. Mike Dorgan was with the Stars for part of the season and so was Tim O'Rourke who had been secured from the Texas League. Manager Chapman stated "Even though Detroit was the pennant winner the Stars has a much better team". "Scheduling had given Detroit 123 straight home games to end the 1889 season, and they probably would have finished third or fourth instead of first". Chapman challenged Detroit to a series of five or seven games, winner take all the game receipts and games to be played on neutral grounds- Buffalo, Rochester or Toronto. Detroit manager did not answer Chapman's challenge.  Note- "Cupid" Childs and "Conny "  Murphy would be inducted into the Syracuse Baseball Wall of Fame.

W.S Miller the team's president surrendered the office to George K. Frazer by years end. While Moses Fleetwood Walker ended his playing carrer that year hitting .216 in 50 games. Walker continued to reside in Syracuse and was listed in 1891 in  the Syracuse City Directory as being employed by the railroad mail service. In April of that year Moses in a drunken state walked through the Seventh Ward when he was accosted by a number of drunken tough guys. The men irritated him, called him bad names and finally one of the drunken toughs Patrick "Curley" Murray struck Walker. Walker drew a knife and stabbed his attacker. Murray a former Auburn prisoner would die of his wounds. Moses ran and was captured by police and place in a Syracuse jail. To his surprise in an adjoining cell was Mike Doragn who had been locked up as a result  of another fight.

Walker's case ended in a verdict of self defense. When the verdict was announced the court house was thronged with spectators, who received it with a tremendous roar of cheers, while Justice Kennedy in vain attempted to suppress  Moses Fleetwood Walker was the hero of the hour.

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.