“And is there anything that can tell more about an American summer than, say, the smell of the wooden bleachers in a small town baseball park, that resinous, sultry, and exciting smell of old dry wood.” – Letter from Thomas Wolfe to Arthur Mann
This quote reminds me so much of summer evenings in old Dwyer. I’m sure Wolfe would have enjoyed a cold Genny and some peanuts in the grandstand were he alive today. Although he’d miss the smells I’m sure. He was more of a localist than many 20th century writers, something for which he was praised in the 30’s and dismissed today.
The Muckdogs opened the season last night with a win over the Auburn Doubledays. After a close 1-1 game they broke it open, scoring 5 runs in the 7th on a series of miscues by the Doubleday’s to go on for a 6-1 win. I had the pleasure to listen via the WBTA live feed.
Auburn, the Toronto affiliate, is another great little town team in the NY Penn league. They play at a lovely little park, very much like the new Dwyer. There old park was a wooden affair, built in 1926.
There aren’t many of the old wooden parks left. Auburn replaced Falcon park in 1994, about the time that Dwyer was rebuilt. The only NY Penn league team playing in an wood park are the Oneonta Tigers.
There used to be no N.Y. Penn league team I despised more than Oneonta. From 1966 to 1998 they were the Yankees affiliate, and part of the evil empire and all that it entails. (Mainly championships, and famous ball players coming to town) But in 1999 they were dropped by the Yankees in favor of an expansion team in Staten Island. Oneonta was picked up by the Tigers, and since that time, I have soft spot for them. Welcome to the club of lovable losers boys. Let me show you around.
Oneonta is a lovely little town, about the size of Batavia, nestled along the Delaware river just south of Cooperstown. My Sister lived there for several years. It really is a beautiful little place, quite a bit different in character and culture from Batavia. Oneonta is in the Catskills, and feels much more Eastern, or “downstate” than the “burned over district” of W.N.Y. It wasn’t until I left Batavia that I realized how Midwestern the Western N.Y. area really is. I like to think the Catskills keeps the riff-raff out.
There used to be a lot more Auburn’s, and Oneonta’s in the N.Y. Penn league, but the recent trend has been toward bigger cities, or suburban areas with larger population bases. (Brooklyn, Staten Island, Aberdeen). These cities can afford to build 7,000 seat stadiums, and fill them regularly. Big money has come to the NY Penn league and I wonder how many more years the Batavia’s and Auburn’s, and Oneonta’s have left. The long time owner of the Oneonta club has sold out, and the purchase agreement only requires the new owners to stick around until 2010. I’m sure they are already looking for some suburb of Boston, or Philadelphia to build them a stadium.
Someday, we too may be left with nothing more than an empty grandstand, and the memories of summers spent in the dusty evening. Thomas Wolfe, that one time bat boy for the Asheville Tourists, said it best…
“O lost, and by the wind grieved, ghost come back again!”
For more Batavia Baseball Memories, check out these Bill Nichols columns from the 1980 Cleveland Plain Dealer.
For more on old NY Penn Ballpark’s I recommend Rochester Area Ballparks.com