Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Baseball and Softball in the Town of Marshall

To paraphrase Tennyson, in spring a young person's fancy turns to thoughts of - baseball! Baseball and softball are traditions in the Town of Marshall. The first instance I could find of a game was 1890, when Deansboro defeated Kirkland 6-20. Later, in 1893, there was a game between the single and married men (the single men scored more runs) in Deansboro. In 1895, Deansboro and Oriskany  falls played (Oriskany Falls won 22-11).

Baseball has continued as a tradition in our town. Clifford Small told me in a January 18, 1987, interview that Deansboro had an "awfully good ball team".  They played in the teens and 1920s on the flats down the west side of Route 315 near the bridge over Oriskany Creek - behind where Stolarczyk's used to live. He said he sold tickets to the ball games on Saturdays, and they used to have as many as 200 attending. Wilford Ingersoll was manager, and Randall Davis pitched. Kes Kennard  and Earl Chesebro played on the team with a couple of players from Bouckville. Red McLaughlin from Oriskany Falls played, too. I guess it really was a good team, as an article from the Utica Daily Press in 1921 called the play between Deansboro and Oriskany Falls, in this match-up, a "real snappy brand of ball from start to finish." They are also called speedy. Does anyone remember the name of the team? The papers just say Deansboro Baseball Club, so maybe that was it.

The aforementioned Randall Davis, better known as Dink Davis, who pitched for the Deansboro team, went on to be voted the most valuable player in the "Y" Associated Baseball Twilight Leagues in 1927. He was then pitcher for the Bossart Corporation baseball team and might have gone into pro ball - he was scouted by the Pirates and the Giants - but decided to stay on at Bossert's, where he had worked since 1919.

In the 1930s, baseball was popular still, as stated in a 1935 article from the Waterville Times which tells of a game scheduled between the Forge Hollow Orioles and the Daytonville Nine, after which the players cooled off in the Oriskany Creek. Another mention of baseball during this period is of a near-tragedy: a Clinton man was struck by a baseball bat and fell unconscious to the ground during the game during the Deansboro Band Field Day. He suffered a fractured skull and was taken to Faxton Hospital, where he died the next day.

Donkey Baseball
Despite discouraging comments from the President of the National League and such luminaries such as Babe Ruth about the future of major league baseball during the World War II years, baseball teams still continued, and donkey baseball was especially huge in the 1940s and 1950s. There were donkey baseball leagues in Oriskany Falls, Clinton, Waterville, Utica - all over, and Deansboro was no exception. The rules of donkey baseball are simple: each player except the pitcher and the catcher have to ride a donkey at all times, even when hitting. There are a lot of recorded incidents regarding tangles with beast and bat, going back to the 1940s. These games were sponsored by the Barton Hose Company, and the games were not just for kicks (although I am sure there were some) but to raise money for the Fire Department, and in one case to purchase new uniforms for the Little League baseball team. Spectators enjoyed seeing someone they knew being dumped off a donkey. Those games were played on the diamond behind what was the school and is now the Town Hall.
Donkey Baseball in 1955

In 1961, there is a record of "a Deansboro softball team" which hit and ran successfully over a team from Our Lady of Lourdes. The pitcher was George Kennard, and Don Ray was catcher. Some other team members were Don Miller, Mac MacLeod, Mike McLaren, Bill Lemery, Stanley Mazor, Eric Wardman and Ray Dupree. Does anyone know what the name of this team was? Or does anyone remember who else was on the team?
1960s baseball team in Stockbridge Valley

Of course, Little League and Bush League have been going on for a while. Deansboro East coached by Bill Woodward and Bill Marris, won the Waterville Area Bush League championship in 1979 (yes, the was a Deansboro West team, coached by Mike McLaren). In 1989, the two Deansboro Bush League teams, sponsored by C&H Plastics (in red shirts) and the Deansboro Superette (in green shirts), played each other for the first time that season, along with the Little League team, sponsored by the Barton Hose Company and coached by Bob Bell and Paul Fick. The occasion was marked by a visit from elected officials: Senator James H. Donovan, Assemblyman Jack McCann, Oneida County Legislator Nick Oliver and Marshall Supervisor David Hazelden. They inspected the field and watched the teams making good use of it. The facility was made possible through the auspices of Senator Donovan's office and the New York State Office 6T Parks and Recreation. Amounts of $3,000 in 1987 and $7,500 in 1988 were made available for the fencing, bleachers, and dugouts. The guests all expressed a favorable impression with the diamond and also with the manner in which the players were handled by the coaches. The Bush League teams are coached by Bill Humphrey, Janet Dangler, Chris Johnson and Bob Graham. Many parents, grandparents and friends filled the bleachers. The Little League team were there in uniforms, having completed their tournament. After the game, one and all were invited the Beerhalters on Route 12B (the Dean Homestead)
for a swim. Members, coaches and families of the teams enjoyed the party.

As a side note to the popularity of baseball in the Town of Marshall, D.C. Williams, who ran a blacksmith shop at the turn of the 20th century also fabricated baseball and softball bats of all sizes and weights. His shop was on Route 12B, in the barn on the Sehn property, next to the Kounty Kafe, His great-grandson is Daniel Williams, who operates a successful fencing business, called Williams Fence.

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