10.19.2006

Briefly, Professional Baseball in York State

Since it's October, and the New York Mets may or may not be going to the World Series; it seems a good time to look back upon professional baseball in Upstate New York. Although there hasn't been a top-tier professional baseball team in Upstate since the last gasp against a growing monopoly- the Federal League(1914-1915) with its Buffalo Blues, Upstate still has the monopoly on the mythology of baseball's origins.

We know the story of Abner Doubleday, and the game 'rounders', and Cooperstown... well, baseball was probably around for 50 years before that, but anyway, the first professional leagues all had teams in Upstate. The National Association is regarded as the origin of the modern pro-baseball league, running from 1871-1875, and during its inaugural season had the Troy Haymakers of Troy, NY- 'though they were a dismal team and folded either at the beginning of their second season or before even completing their first.

The National Association lead to the National League(NL) in 1877, which is the same league that the New York Mets are currently playing in for the championship. The NL was the first appearance of a pro team from Buffalo, the Bisons, playing in the league from 1879-1885. Buffalo would reappear multiple times in multiple leagues, and even today there is a team called the Bisons there, playing in the International League(which is considered outside of Major League Baseball's professional major and minor leagues.)

The NL in 1879 also had the Syracuse Stars, who folded after one season, and saw the return of a team to Troy, the Trojans(1879-1882). During this time there was a veritable surge in baseball's popularity throughout America and Upstate; and as becomes the case with every team in Upstate- big cities win the spots in the league and the Upstate teams will be moved or just replaced.

The NL wasn't the only pro baseball league vying for America's attention at this time, the American Association emerged- challenging the NL's dominance. "The "AA" offered cheaper ticket prices and more liberal libations to its patrons, and became known as "The Beer and Whiskey League." [1]

The Rochester Hop Bitters/Broncos and Syracuse Stars join the AA near the end of its run in 1890, but didn't fair so well and folded. The AA ran from 1882-1891. 1890 also saw the return of the Buffalo Bisons- but in a different pro league, the Players' Association. The Players' Association(PA) was a league formed from the first players' union and was a very talented league because of how well the players were paid compared to the National League. But the NL quickly mended this and incorporated the players' union and some of the PA teams; alas, Buffalo is again dropped in favor of the new big city teams.

I figure the people of Buffalo really liked baseball because in the first form of today's American League, the Western League, 1893 until 1900 when it became the American League; the Bisons were back- if only briefly. "In the Chicago Tribune, January 29, 1901, it is reported that the American League voted to drop Indianapolis, Minneapolis, and Buffalo, and award new franchises to new backers in Baltimore, Philadelphia, and Boston." [2]

The Federal League (1914-1915) was perhaps the last real challenge to the dominance of the American and National Leagues. The Buffalo Buffeds/Blues emerge as the last major professional baseball team in Upstate, and then the story goes: "After the 1915 season the owners of the American and National Leagues bought out half of the owners (Pittsburgh, Newark, Buffalo, and Brooklyn) of the Federal League teams." [3]

-joe

1 comment:

joe said...

If you're interested or curious why I mentioned Doubleday's upstate mythology here's a link that I think's really informative about baseball's origins:

http://www.thebaseballpage.com/features/2001/origins/origins.htm

I especially like how it mentions a game from the Domesday Book. Downstate probably wins the origins of baseball.