Scranton-Wilkes Barre Red Barons 2005: Shane Victorino , MVP

Shane Victorino, International League MVP 2005

2005 International League MVP

2005 International League MVP

Shane Victorino is now an established Professional. He has been an all-star, gold glove winner and World Series Champion. He is currently with the Boston Red Sox. He signed with them after spending the later part of the 2012 season with the LA Dodgers.

Shane was drafted out of high school by LA. Selected by the Padres in the Rule 5 draft in 2002, he failed ot stay in the Bigs and was returned to the Dodgers. The Phillies selected Victorino from the Dodgers in the Rule 5 draft in 2004. He failed to stay on the Phillies roster and was offered back to the Dodgers. The Dodgers did not want him back and he spent the 2005 in Moosic, Pa. playing for the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Red Barons on the “Astro-turf” of the “mini” vet. He had a great year. He .310 , 18 HRs and 70 rbi. He won the International League MVP becoming the first (and only) Red Baron to do so. His play earned Shane a September call-up and he hit his fist homerun on September 22nd off of Tim Hudson of the Atlanta Braves. Shane has been one of the best defensive Centerfielders in the game as well as being a solid hitter.

The photo above is from a July afternoon game. In the background is Garrett Jones of the Pirates. He was playing for the Rochester Red Wings, the Twins AAA franchise.

The 2005 Red Barons did not do well in 2005. It is surprising. They had the International League Batting Champion in Danny Sandoval, who hit .331, Victorino, and Gavin Floyd was an up and coming pitcher. They were managed by Gene Lamont and finsihed 69-75, good for 5th place in the North Division of the International League. Future Phillies’ catcher, Carlos Ruiz also played for the 2005 Red Barons. Ruiz batter an even .300 in 2005. Ruiz split time with Chris Coste. Chris Coste played parts of seasons with the Phillies and finshed his career with the Houston Astros. He hit .328 with the Phillies in 2006 playing in 65 games. In 2005 with Scranton, Chris hit 20 homers and batted .292 .

Ryan Howard played in 61 games and hit 16 HRs for Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. He was called up to Philadelphia in the summer and never returned. He hit 22 HRs in Philadelphia and won the Rookie of the year award in 2005. He also won MVP honors in 2006, a season where he smashed 58 hrs.

Babe Ruth hits a LONG HR in Wilkes Barre 1926, Nearly gets crushed by a mob of kids in Scranton 1923

When Major League baseball was still in its infancy, players made appearances and promoted the game..and their wallets. Barnstorming across the country was a source of income before million dollar salaries and television. For some, this would be their only shot to see a baseball star in person.

In Ocotber 25, 1923, Babe Ruth came to Scranton to play in an exhibition at Brooks Athletic Field. The Babe Ruth all-stars defeated the local Scranton team 2-1. Thousands of youngster waited to get a up close view of their hero and came onto the field. It was reported that Babe in an attempt not to “spike” any of the youngsters fell. Some youngsters piled on the Babe and had to be removed by local law enforcement to prevent injuring Ruth. Babe was ushered out of the stadium by officials to a waiting car.

In 1926, Babe Ruth came to Wilkes-Barre’s Artillery Park. The Babe played in an exhibition game between Hughestown and Larksville, playing for Hughestown. The game was played on October 26th, 1926. During the game Ruth challenged Larksville’s hurler Ernie Corkran to throw him his “best stuff”. Corkran did. It was not too good for Ruth. He smashed a home run. It landed in Kirby Park on the far side of a high school running track.

Ruth asked that his homer be measured. It was hit an estimated 650 feet, the longest home run in baseball’s storied history.

(source MILB.com)

A team with many names: Scranton Wilkes-Barre Railriders, Indians, Miners, Red Sox, Red Barons, Yankees…..

Lackawanna%20County%20Stadium2008 Lackawanna County Stadium 2004

scrantonstadium Scranton Stadium 1953

It is hard to believe that a contest to “rename” the Scranton Wilkes-Barre Yankees would produce the nickname “Railriders” and a mascot of a Porcupine.  So many possibilities and this joins the long list of names for Scranton’s minor league baseball team. My suguestion of the “Breaker Boys” was not even a finalist. I suppose it would not lend itself to a mascot or marketing, given its connection to Child labor. Wikipedia also says that Scranton had a team called the “Coalheavers”.

The team has announced that the entire staff from last year will be retained which should be a good thing. Playing all of their games on the road, the “Empire State”  Yankees did what they normally do, they won their division of the International League with an 84-60 record. They then made a quick exit from the play-offs. The Scranton team had made the Play-offs 5 of the last 6 seasons. It has been the most success the Scranton team hsa had since the early years of red Sox, 1939-46.

According to the Baseball reference.com, the Scranton has had 8 different names since the first minor league franchise in 1887. That team was known as the Scranton Indians. They competed in the International League. There is no information on this team @ http://www.baseball-reference.com.

In 1888, the Scranton Miners first appeared. This team would compete in the following Leagues Central League 1888, Pennsylvania State League 1892-1893; Eastern League  1896-1897; Atlantic League  1899-1900; New York State League 1904-1917; New York-Penn League 1923-1937 and the  Eastern League1939- -1953. There was no team in 1938. According to Nick Petula’s A History of Scranton Professional Baseball 1865-1953, local poitical and business leaders organized “A Save Baseball Committee”. It was successful and the Scranton Red Sox were born in 1939 and stayed until 1951. The 1952 Scranton Miners were sponsored by the St. Louis Browns. 1953’s team was sponsored by the Washington Senators. It was the last year of professional baseball in Scranon until 1989.

1888
In 1888, Scranton joined the Central League. The team was managed by second baseman Same Crane. Also on the roster for the Scranton franchise was Jesse Burkett. Burkett was listed as a pitcher and was a 19 year old wonder winning 27 games. He also played some outfield. According to the history of Scranton Professional Baseball the Miners finished the year at 55-51. The league consisted of the following teams : Allentown Peanuts, Binghamton Crickets, Easton, Elmira, Hazelton Pugilists, Jersey City Skeeters, Newark Trunkmakers, Scranton Miners and Wilkes Barre Barons. The Newark Trunkmakers won the league with a 83-23 record.

Sam Crane later became a sportswriter for the New York Evening Journal. He was barred from the Polo Grounds in 1895 after writing an article harshly criticizing the NY Giants owner Andrew Freeman. Sam was close friends with New York Giants manager John McGraw. Sam made the front page of the Sporting Life in 1889. He was jailed for larceny. Sam left town with a married woman, Mrs. Hattie E. Fraunfelter. He was arrested in New York City. The article appeared under the title Sam Crane’s Plight “The Eloping Secondbaseman behind bars”. The husband of Hattie said Sam had stole $1500. Mrs. Fraunfelter was charged with adultery, both were later acquitted.

Also on the roster of the 1888 team was future MLB champ, Jesse Burkett. According to Wikpedia.com, Jesse Burkett won 27 in Scranton in 1888 at the age of 19. He played some outfield for Sam Crane’s team as well. Burkett was a pitcher who hurt his arm. Burkett would later find a permanent home in the outfield, playing 16 seasons (1890-1905) in the major leagues, winning three National League batting titles while hitting .400 twice (.409 in 1895 and .410 in 1896 with the Cleveland Spiders) and .376 with the Saint Louis Cardinals in 1901. Burkett is also a member of the Hall of Fame. Jesse still holds the major league record for inside the park home runs with 55. He also stole 389 bases in his career.

This was the last year of organized baseball until 1892.

During the 1892 Season the Harrisburg Ponies moved to Scranton during the season and became the Indians again. The team played in the Pennsylvania State League. The team played their games on the Island Grounds located in the flats section of South Scranton (Petula). The league in 1892 consisted of the Allentown-Bethlehem Colts, Altoona Mountainnerss, Danville, Harrisburg Ponies/Scranton Indians, Johnstown Pirates, Lebanon Pretzel Eaters, Reading Actives, Wilkes Barre Coal Barons/ Pittsburgh.

The 1893 Scranton Miners were a middle/lower end of the pack team. The Pennsylvania State League played a split league format. There was a first half and a second half champion. Scranton was 23-33, 10 games under .500 for the first half and exactly .500, 22-22 for the second half.

1900 Atlantic League Campions
Scranton Miners

1906
New York State League Champions
Scranton Miners
Archbald “Moonlight” Graham is maybe the most famous former Scranton baseball player, thanks to field of Dreams and the book Shoeless Joe by W.P. Kinsella. Graham played in Scranton from 1905-1908. In 1906, The Miners won 82 and lost 48, 12 games ahead of the nearest team. The movie doesn’t mention it but after Graham one brief appearance, he was sold back to the Scranton club. Minor League teams had loose agreements with the major league clubs. The system that is in place now did not exist.

1908
New York State League Chanpions
The Scranton Miners had a full page in the season ending issue of the sporting life. The team played at Athletic Park in Scranton.

The Scranton Miners played from 1923-1937 in the NY-Penn League.
1923
In 1923 the league consisted of the following teams: Binghamton Triplets,Elmira Red Jackets,Scranton Miners, Wilkes-Barre Barons, Williamsport Billies, York White Roses. The Miners had no affiliaiton with a major league club this year. It appears that at the time most minor leagues had loose agreements if any.

1936
1936 New York Penn League Champions
In 1936, the Scranton Miners were the Class A affiliate of the Pittsburgh Pirates. The NYP leagues consisted of Allentown Brooks (Brooklyn), Binghamton Triplets (NYY), Elmira Pioneers (BOS), Hazleton Mountaineers (Phil-Phillies), Scranton Miners (PIT), Wilkes-Barre Barons, Williamsport Grays (Phil-Athletics), York White Roses/Trenton Senators.

The team played at Athletic Park on Providence Road in Scranton, Pa. The classification for minor league ball in 1936 was AA (top teams) A, A1 B, C and D. THe Miners were localed owned and despite being the A designation, they were the top minor league team for the Pirates, the Pirates had no AA team. The league instituted a first half and second half champions format. The winner of the first half would play the winner of the second half in a 7 game play-off. The Miners won the first half with 42 wins and 27 loses. Elmira won the second half of the season. The Miners swept through Red Jackets and won the New York Penn League title. There was a 5-5 tie in game two, not sure how that happened. Elmer Yoder was the manager of the Miners. Joe Schaute was from Peckville, Pa. He was a standout pitcher on the team. He was left-handed and 36 years old. He won 20 games and lost 7. Joe pitched in the Big Leagues for Cleveland 1922-1930, Brooklyn 1931- 1933 and finally 1934 with Cincinatti. Joe won 20 games in 1924, his over-all record in the majors was 99-109 with a 4.09 ERA. *

*Stan Kovelski of Shamokin also pitched for the Indians in 1924. Stan would be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1969. Famous for his spitball, Stan won over 200 games in the majors.

1946 Eastern League Champions
1946 Govenor’s Cup Champions

The 1946 Scranton Red Sox were voted the 90th best team in the history of the minor leagues by minorleaguebaseball.com. The closest team to the Red Sox in 1946’s Eastern League was the Albany Senators, a distant 18.5 games behind the Sox. The Scranton club dominated the Eastern League in the standings statistics and play-offs. Scranton swept Wilkes-Barre 4 games to none in the opening round of the playoffs. They then beat Hartford 4- 1 to win the Govenor’s Cup. Scranton was managed in 1946 by Elmer Yoter, a former third baseman who played briefly for Cleveland and the Cubs in the 1920s. He enjoyed a 40-year career in baseball, the last 20 as a manager and scout in the Boston Red Sox organization. In 1946, Yoter was named Manager of the Year.

The Scranton Red Sox of 1946 were built on pitching. Mel Parnell (1.30 )won the ERA title. Parnell’s mark is an Eastern League record that still stands, he bested Chet Covington’s of Scranton mark of 1.51 set in 1943. But the league MVP was Scranton pitcher Tom Fine, who was an incredible 23-3 in 1946.(Fine won only one game for the Boston Club in the majors). Mickey McDermott ended up the season with a 16-6 record with a 3.29 ERA and 136 strikeouts in 175 innings. On July 14, 1946, at the age of 17, McDermott threw a no-hitter against the Albany Senators, making him possibly the youngest pitcher to throw a no-hit game in the high minors. (McDermott threw three no-hitters in his minor league career.)

Scranton was led by outfielder Sam Mele who led the league in batting (.342) and triples (18), seond baseman Al Kozar, who batted .316 and first baseman Kensecke who hit .305. Part-time outfielder Al Signaigo contributed with a .313 average.

Five Red Sox players made the Eastern League All-Star team. Kensecke, Kozar, Mele and pitcher Fine were joined by catcher Tex Aulds on All-star squad.

The following players played in the major leagues from the Scranton team. They had various degrees of success:

Leslie “Tex” Aulds played in three games for the 1947 Boston Red Sox. He had a hit in four at-bats in three major-league games for a .250 average.

Sam Mele had a moderately sucessful major league career. During his playing days (1947-56), Mele saw duty with six major league clubs: the Boston Red Sox, Washington Senators, Chicago White Sox, Baltimore Orioles, Cincinnati Reds and Cleveland Indians, batting .267 with 80 home runs in 1,046 games. His best season was his first with Boston, Mele batted .302 in 123 games, hit 12 home runs and drove in 73 runs. He also had .992 fielding percentage that year.His managerial career was more sucessfull. Mele managed the Twins from 1961 – 1967, he was fired in the middle of the 1967 season. He won the pennant in 1965, winning 102 games. The Twins had Hall of Famer Harmon Killebrew, Jim Kaat, Zoilo Versalles, Rod Carew and Bob Allison under Mele. Mele’s record as a manager was 524-436 (.546). He never managed again, but returned to the Red Sox as a scout for 25 years.

Mickey McDermott played 12 seasons, including time with the Red Sox, Senators, Yankees, Athletics, Tigers and Cardinals. He was 69-69. He was compared to Lefty Grove, but an elbow injury, coupled with a hard-living lifestyle, is reported to have put a damper on his career. One of his best seasons came in 1953 when he was 18-10 with a 3.01 ERA in 206.1 innings.

Mel Parnell was a stand-out left-hander at Boston’s Fenway park for many years. He was an all-star in 1949 and 1951, leading the American League in wins in 1949 with a 25-7 mark and a 2.77 era. Parnell was the winningest left-hander in Red Sox history. An injury cut his Red Sox career short. The 1949 Red Sox finished second to the Yankees.

Tommy Fine pitched for the Boston Red Sox in 1947 and the St. Louis Browns in 1950. He finished his career with a 1-3 mark, the one win coming for the Sox in 1947. Tommy did have 7 hits in 21 career at bats for a stellar .333 average.

Al Kozar never played in the majors with the Red Sox, he was traded to the Washington Senators in 1948 and played in 150 games hitting .250, his playing time diminished the next season and in 1950, he changed his Sox to White and played for Chicago.

Sam Dente played for 4 teams from 1947 to 1955, achieving some success. He played for the Red Sox, St. Louis Browns, Washington Senators and Chicago White Sox. He had a career .252 batting average.

New York Times, May 18, 1909

Under the Heading:Scranton Baseball Man fined

E.J. Coleman, President of Scranton Baseball was fined $4 in connection with an attempt to play baseball on Sunday. The attempt to play was in violation of Pennsylvania’s blue laws. The case against the players was continued.

List of Scranton Major League Baseball Players

images.jpgThe following players from Scranton have played in major league baseball.

Ed Barnowski P MLB 1965-1966
John Cavanaugh 3B MLB 1919-1919
Joe Collins 1B MLB 1948-1957 Yankees
Bill Coughlin 3B MLB 1903-1908
Paul Foytack P MLB 1953-1964
Charlie Gelbert SS-3B MLB 1929-1940
Joe Grzenda P MLB 1961-1972
Jim Kane 1B MLB 1908-1908 1
Gary Lavelle P MLB 1974-1987
Bob Lipski 7C MLB 1963-1963
Frank Loftus P MLB 1926-1926
Jerry Lynn 2B MLB 1937-1937
Jim Murray P MLB 1922-1922
Finners Quinlan OF MLB 1913-1915
Joe Samuels P MLB 1930-1930
Chick Shorten OF MLB 1915-1924

Jim Kane played in 55 games for the 1908 Pittsburgh Pirates. He went by Shamus and batted .241. He batted left-handed and threw left-handed. He never played in the major leagues after 1908.

Frank Loftus played for the 1926 Washington Senators. He pitched in one game, one inning, giving up 3 hits, 2 runs and walked 2. He never again played in the Big Leagues.

Finners Quinlan was born on Friday, October 21, 1887, in Scranton, Pennsylvania. Quinlan was 25 years old when he broke into the big leagues on September 6, 1913, with the St. Louis Cardinals. He was an outfielder and played part of the 1915 season with the Chicago White Sox. He batted .183 for his career. Finners was injured while serving in the U.S. Army during World War I and never returned to baseball. He later held several local elected positions in his hometown of Scranton. He is buried in Saint Catherine’s Cemetery in Moscow, Pa., right outside of Scranton.

Joe Collins
Given Name: Joseph Kollonige
1B-OF 1948-57 Yankees

Joe hit .256 with 86 home runs and 329 rbi for his career. Rather than play for the Phillies at the end of his career, Joe chose to retire. In the World Series, Joe played in 36 games he hit .163 4 HR and 10rbi.

Joe Grzenda was a reliever in all but three of his ML appearances. Grzenda, was known as Shaky Joe. He was a chain smoker. He threw the last pitch for the Senators in 1971 before the fans swarmed the field and the team (without Grzenda) moved to Texas to become the Rangers. He was 14-13 lifetime with a 4.01 ERA. He retired at the end of 1971. He pitched with the Tigers, A’s, Mets, Twins, Senators and Cardinals in his career.

Charles Henry Shorten is more famous for who he played with than his actual career. Chick Shorten played all three outfield positions. Shorten played with Babe Ruth in Boston and the Babe actually took his place in righ field. He also played with Ty Cobb in Detroit, George Sisler in St. Louis, and with Edd Roush in Cincinnati. Shorten was a career back-up outfielder.

Shorten hit .571 in the 1916 World Series. He was 4 for 7,seeing action in 2 games. He was caught stealing twice, which at the time negated his hits.

Chick had a career year in 1920 with The Tigers. He batted .288 with a homer and 40 RBI.

After baseball, he was a scout for the Cleveland Indians.

Charlie Gelbert, Scranton Baseball

Charlie Gelbert was born on Friday, January 26, 1906, in Scranton, Pennsylvania. Gelbert was 23 years old when he broke into the big leagues on April 16, 1929, with the St. Louis Cardinals. He was an above average fielder with a good bat. Charlie was in 13 World Series games with St. Louis and never committed an error.

On November 22, 1932 a hunting accident nearly costs Charlie his leg. He came back two years later but was never the same ballplayer. Charlie played SS and 3B for the Cardinals , Reds, Tigers, Senators and the Red Sox.

In 1945, Gelbert joined the Lafayette College staff as baseball coach. In 21 years he coached the team to seven post-season tournaments, five National Collegiate Athletic Association District II titles and more than 300 victories.

During this period he fought for and finally won a battle with National Collegiate Athletic Association officials to permit a college coach to work as a baseline coach. The rule was changed in the winter of 1965-66.

Gelbert also served at Lafayette as assistant football and basketball coach.
Charles M. Gelbert was christened Magnus Ott Gelbert, but took his name in honor of his father an All-American football player, at the University of Pennsylvania. He died in 1967 in Easton, Pa.gelbertc.jpg

Jimmy Piersall, Scranton Red Sox

Jimmy Piersall

Not Quite, an author but not a movie star. Jimmy Piersall wrote an autobiographical novel on his emotional breakdown: Fear Strikes Out: The Jim Piersall Story. Piersall authored “The Truth Hurts,” in which he details his ouster from the White Sox organization.

Jimmy played for the Scranton Red Sox in 1948. He was a centerfielder and played in 141 games. He hit .281 with 12 home runs and 92 rbi. He led the Eastern League in RBI that year. Piersall also met his first wife, Mary during his time in Scranton. They had nine children together. They divorced in 1968.

Jimmy did a lot of strange things on the ball field. When he came up with the Red Sox, he called attention to himself by taking bows after almost every catch. Before a game on May 24, 1952 Piersall fought Yankees second baseman Billy Martin. He then brawled with teammate Mickey McDermott. Three weeks later, he made pig noises at St. Louis Browns pitcher Satchel Paige.

Jimmy hit his 100th homerun with the Mets at the old Polo Gounds, he decided to run the bases backwards. This stunt got him suspended and later released from the Mets.

Could it have been his .194 batting average with the Mets?

MoRE to come.

A 788 Foot Fence (from the Sporting News)

A 788 Foot Fence ( reprinted from a 1932 issue of the Sporting News)
I have seen some long fence distances, but this fence distance that Davis Barker came up with is the longest I have heard of. Davis found this in a 1932 issue of the Sporting News. What is also of note is that certain towns were still using “Sunday parks,” presumably because of the Blue Laws still in effect in Pennsylvania.

Scranton, Pa– A deed to the park awaits any player who make a home run over the center field fence at Dickson City Park, the Sunday home of the Scranton Miners of the NYP League. The offer has been made by Stanley Evans, head of the Dickson City Association, who says the deed will be presented to the player when he crosses home plate after making the clout.However, the fence stands 788 feet from home plate and not even Babe Ruth of the New York Yankees ever knocked a ball that far. The park is one of magnificent distances, for the left field fence is 315 feet from home plate and that in right field 416 feet.The Miners utilize the property on Sunday, on which games are forbidden in Scranton. It has accommodations for 7,500.

Who Was Piper Davis? 1950 Scranton Red Sox

Piper Davis

The Boston Red Sox were the last team in major league baseball to integrate black players. The Brooklyn Dodgers were the first in 1947. The Red Sox finally added a black ballplayer in 1959, Elijah “Pumpsie” Green became the first black man to wear a Red Sox uniform. Green was an infielder and was average with the bat. The Red Sox could have been one of the first to intergrate if they had given Piper Davis a fair chance.

Lorenzo Davis may be a footnote in Scranton sports history (and Boston sports history) but he deserves to be mentioned. Lorenzo “Piper” Davis was the first black player signed by the Boston Red Sox. Scranton was Boston’s one affiliate that was not under the Old Jim Crow laws. The Jim Crow Laws were state and local laws enacted in the Southern and Border States of the United States and enforced between 1876 and 1965. They mandated “separate but equal” status for African Americans. That didn’t mean that racism didn’t exist in Scranton or in the locker room. Davis was forced to stay and eat in the servants quarters on the road apart from the rest of the team and even dress in the visitors’ locker room all by himself. Piper played fifteen games for Scranton in 1950 and was leading the team in batting (.333), homers (3), and RBI’s (10). . But two days before the May 15 deadline he was called into the office and was told that he was being released for “economic reasons”. The Red Sox had promised to pay Piper’s former team $7500 if he stayed on the roster unitl May 15th.

Davis had served his purpose–critics could no longer charge that the Red Sox organization had never signed an African American. He tried out again in 1951 with the Red Sox and was cut in Spring Training.

According to his daughter, Piper speculated that the reason he was cut from the Red Sox was because of his race. One of the local area papers put a Caucasian picture with Piper Davis’ picture underneath. The same picture was also used for Willie Mays. They did not want people to know their hot prospect was black.

Piper Davis was a great two sport athlete, basketball and baseball. He was a star in the old Negro leagues and played for the Harlem Globetrotters before giving it up to play baseball.

Babe Ruth’s Barnstorming ends suddenly in Scranton, 1921

Babe Ruth in Scranton In 1921, Babe Ruth, Bob Meusel, and P Bill Piercy launched a barnstorming tour in Buffalo, NY. Five days later, they cut it short in Scranton, Pa. Kenesaw Mountain Landis put a ban on World Series participants playing post-season exhibitions,he thought it took away from the dignity of the game. The Babe was so popular in Scranton that it was rumored the local coal mines had to be shut down and schools closed early.

Babe Ruth was the most popular athlete in the United States in the 1920’s. He had many opportunities to tour the country for big money. He took the chance in 1921 and it cost him and the Yankees. Ruth openly challenged Landis to fine him.The judge obliges, fining the players their World Series shares—$3,362.26—and suspending them until May 20th of the next season.