Time to Recognize Capital Region’s Baseball History!
Our entire staff was so thrilled this week to announce that we’ve partnered with Berkshire Bank to begin a brand new series of bobbleheads that will honor those who have played professional baseball in the Capital Region. The plan is to add a new bobblehead to the collection each season.
Let’s delve into the history books shall we?
Professional baseball in the Capital Region extends as far back as the late 19th century with the Troy Haymakers (1871-1872) and Troy Trojans (1879-1882).
Members of those teams include Hall of Famers such as Roger Connor, Dan Brouthers, Tim Keefe, Mickey Welch and Buck Ewing.
We also need to mention that Hall of Famers Johnny Evers (famously known to modern day fans as the pivot man in the “Tinkers to Evers to Chance” double play combination) and Mike “King” Kelly were both born in Troy, NY.
Aside from the Haymakers and Trojans, another team in town were the Albany Senators (1885-1959). Over the span of their existence, the Senators were affiliated with the Pirates, Yankees, Reds, Red Sox and Athletics. Hall of Famer Ralph Kiner played his first professional season with the Senators in 1941.
They played their home games at Hawkins Stadium in Menands:
The Schenectady Blue Jays (affiliate of the Philadelphia Philles) began their existence in 1946, playing their home games at McNearney Stadium until disbanding in 1957.
Tommy Lasorda, before going on to become a major league player and Hall of Fame manager, was a member of the 1948 Schenectady team:
Did you know that retired NBA player and coach Pat Riley is from Schenectady, NY? His father, Leon Riley, played minor league baseball for 22 years and had a brief stint in the Majors with the Phillies in 1944.
In 1947 Leon Riley managed the Schenectady Blue Jays to a Can-Am League Championship. Riley is pictured below in the front row, third from the right.
Then you had the Amsterdam Rugmakers (New York Yankees affiliate) from 1938-42 and 1946-51.
The Yankees actually payed a visit to Amsterdam in 1949, playing an exhibition game against the Rugmakers. Joe DiMaggio hit a home run in that game.
Pictured below from left to right is Bill Dickey, Casey Stengel, Rugmakers Manager Mayo Smith and Yankees coach Bill Turner:
Professional baseball made its return to the Capital Region in 1983 when the Oakland A’s moved their Double-A team from Connecticut to Heritage Park in Colonie, NY. For one season they were known as the Albany A’s and in 1984 the name was changed to Albany-Colonie.
The affiliation with the A’s would last just those two seasons before Albany-Colonie would become affiliated with the New York Yankees in 1985.
The Albany-Colonie Yankees run would last for ten seasons (1985-1994), and served as the path for many of the former and current stars we are very familiar with today. Deion Sanders, Mariano Rivera, Bernie Williams, Jorge Posada, Andy Pettitte and Derek Jeter to name a few.
Jeter, the most recent addition to the 3,000 hit club, will be the inaugural member of the Heritage Series Bobblehead Collection. He played 34 games with the Albany-Colonie Yankees in 1994 before going on to become Captain of the New York Yankees, a 12-time All-Star and five time World Series Champion.
ValleyCats VP/General Manager Rick Murphy had this to say about the inaugural bobblehead:
“There is a long-standing tradition of professional baseball here in the Capital Region and we feel this is a great way to honor a future Hall of Famer whose path to Cooperstown will have run through our local community.”
Following the A-C Yankees departure, professional baseball took a hiatus from the Capital Region until 2002. That year the Pittsfield Astros of the New York-Penn League moved their team to Troy, NY and became known as the Tri-City ValleyCats.
It was a great moment for the Capital Region and historic for the city of Troy, who hadn’t fielded a professional baseball team since 1916.
In the ten years since arriving in Troy, the ValleyCats have had 24 players reach Major League Baseball. Most notably All-Stars Ben Zobrist and Hunter Pence.
Looking back, it’s safe to say that the Capital Region has a very long tradition of professional baseball. We shouldn’t have too hard of a time adding to this unique collection of bobbleheads.