GLOVERSVILLE - The Fulton County Baseball & Sports Hall of Fame will host its 2013 inductions on Saturday at Parkhurst Field between innings of a vintage baseball game.
The game will be played that day between the Whatley Pioneers of Western Massachusetts and the local A., J. & G Team, which is being compiled of former Gloversville Little Leaguers who once played at the historic Parkhurst Field site and have gone on to play professionally.
The starting pitcher for the Whately Pioneers will be former New York Yankee Jim Bouton, while the manager of the A., J. & G Team will be major league coaching legend Jack McKeon.
Set to be inducted will be players from the old New York State League Teams that played in Johnstown & Gloversville from 1895-1907. Inductees will include Jack Chesbro (Johnstown Buckskins 1895/NY Yankees/MLB HOF'er), Cupid Childs (MLB 1888-1901/A.,J&G's 1902), George Bell (A.J.,G's 1904-1905/MLB 1907-1911), Howard Earl (MLB 1890-1891/A.,J.&G's 1904-1907) and Joe Birmingham (A.,J.&G's 1906/MLB 1906-1921).
"We are excited to be blending our traditional HOF concept with a vintage game to be played at an historic site such as Parkhurst Field where some of the 2013 Inductees actually played over 100 years ago," event co-chairman Mike Hauser said in a news release.
"We are taking the concept a step further by creating a team that honors the A., J. & G teams and players who played on this site with former Gloversville Little League Players, who also began their baseball careers on the very same patch of land several decades later," said David Karpinski, President of Gloversville Little League and co-chairman of the event, in the release.
This year's inductees
Pitcher Jack Chesbro is the only former Fulton County professional baseball player to have been inducted into the Cooperstown Hall of Fame. Righty Chesbro was 21 years old when he hurled for the 1895 Johnstown Buckskins of the New York State League.
Chesbro had began the 1895 season campaign with the Albany Senators; but when the Senators folded on May 20, 1895, Johnstown immediately signed him. The Buckskins had a poor team that year, and Chesbro was a rare bright spot. His reported 2-9 win/loss record for the Johnstownians is a bit deceiving; Chesbro lost a lot of low scoring games and received little run-support from the light hitting Buckskins.
Following his only season in Fulton County, Chesbro steadily graduated through the ranks of the minor leagues, and broke into the majors with the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1899.
In 1902, he led the National League in wins and winning percentage (28 and .824, respectively), before making national headlines by jumping to the upstart New York Highlanders of the newly-formed American League.
The Highlanders would soon change their nickname to Yankees, and Chesbro holds the distinction of being the first pitcher to win a game in New York Yankee franchise history. All told, he had five 20-game winning MLB seasons, including an incredible 41-win year in 1904, His primary pitch was the spitball, which wasn't outlawed until 1920.
He retired in 1909 at age 35, but unsuccessfully attempted a comeback during Spring Training in 1912. His MLB career pitching record was 198-132 in eleven big league seasons. Chesbro, a lifelong Western Massachusetts resident, was a 1946 Veterans Committee Hall of Fame Cooperstown inductee.
Clarence "Cupid" Childs is not yet a member of the Cooperstown Hall of Fame. But don't be too surprised if Cooperstown Pre-Integration Committee enshrines him someday; he certainly has the credentials.
Childs arrived in the majors in 1888, and for the next 13 years (mostly with Cleveland), the portly second baseman was widely acknowledged as one of the best players in all of baseball.
A severe bout of malaria took him from the game in 1901, but in 1902 he came to Fulton County to attempt to mount a comeback to the majors via the Amsterdam-Johnstown-Gloversville JAGs of the minor New York State League.
His year with the JAGs was a memorable one: he was flawless gloveman, a speed demon on the base paths, and he lead the league in hitting with a .358 batting average.
Childs was far and away the most popular player with JAGs fans. Sadly, Childs never did get back to the majors, but his MLB career stats are impressive.
Using the complicated SABRmetric Win/Share statistic and extrapolating it out to a career's worth of 162-game seasons, Childs comes as the eleventh best second baseman ever, and ranks ahead of Ryan Sandberg, Rod Carew, Nellie Fox, Johnny Evers, Bobby Doerr, Tony Lazzeri, Bill Mazeroski, and Bid McPhee--Cooperstown residents all.
Over 13 years in the majors, Childs had a .306 batting average. And the .358 average for the JAGs in 1902 was the highest season average ever in franchise history.
In the late 1800s, George "Farmer" Bell was widely regarded as the best amateur baseball player in all of New York's expansive Southern Tier region.
But he got no offers to play professionally, which was just as well because he had little inclination to leave the family farm near Hornell. All that changed in 1904, when Howard Earl, manager of the Amsterdam-Johnstown-Gloversville JAGs recruited Bell--then 29 years old--to come to Fulton County and pitch.
It was a master signing. His two years with JAGs were magic. Bell hurled a no-hitter and notched 17 wins in 1904.
In 1905, he amassed 25 pitching victories, including both ends of a road doubleheader in Utica on the final day of the season, to clinch the New York State League pennant by one game.
Bell made it to the majors as a rookie with Brooklyn of the National League in 1907 at the ripe age of 32. He then enjoyed five productive years in the Brooklyn starting rotation.
Bell is the only 20-game season winner in the history of Fulton County professional baseball, and his 42 career victories and 275 career strikeouts are all-time JAGs franchise records.
The Amsterdam-Johnstown-Gloversville JAGs were the laughing stock of the New York State League before Howard "Howdy" Earl arrived in Fulton County to lead the team as its first baseman/manager.
He quickly transformed the squad into a champion. Earl had a been a valued all-around major league utility player with Chicago and Milwaukee in 1890 and 1891, before leaving the big leagues to carve a career as a minor league player/manager.
The Palmyra native came to Fulton County in 1904, taking the helm of a JAGs team which had finished dead last in both of its first two years of existence. Earl cleverly used his connections to sign a number of old pros who, like he, had been MLBers in the 19th Century.
The JAGs immediately became a contender in 1904, and won the State League pennant in 1905.
Earl holds numerous JAG team records, such as most games played (484), most games managed (520), and most career hits (454). He retired from baseball altogether following the JAGs' 1907, when it became apparent the team's owner, The Fonda, Johnstown, and Gloversville Railroad Company, was divesting itself of the franchise.
All told, Earl played baseball professionally for 24 years, during which he appeared at every position on the field at one time or another. He becomes the first inductee in the Fulton County Hall of Fame to have actually played on the grounds of what today is the Parkhurst Little League Complex in Gloversville.
By the very end of the 19th Century, baseball buffs in the Elmira, NY area already knew that Joe Birmingham was destined for greatness. The peach-fuzzed teenager was unusually big, strong, and athletically gifted for his age.
He was a star for the local Father Matthew's Catholic amateur baseball squad, playing with and against adults, some of whom were twice his age. He then excelled at Cornell University, before coming to Fulton County in 1906 to play professionally for the Amsterdam-Johnstown-Gloversville JAGs of the New York State League.
Birmingham immediately became the JAGs' star and the fan favorite of those attending games at the franchise's brand new home, a state-of-the-art stadium on Harrison Street in Gloversville (where the present Gloversville Little League complex is located).
The speedy and strong-armed outfielder was a defensive standout, plus he led the 1906 JAGs in hitting (.303) and triples (13). When the JAGs' season ended around Labor Day 1906, Birmingham's playing rights were purchased by Cleveland of the American League, and he was immediately inserted into the MLB team's starting line-up for the balance of the 1906 season.
Birmingham spent the next nine years in the majors, all with Cleveland. For the last four years of that stint, he also served as the team's manager. Birmingham's best MLB season as a player was 1911, when he hit .304.
His best year as a manager was 1913, when he guided Cleveland to an 86-66 record and third place in the AL. As manager, Birmingham unsuccessfully lobbied Cleveland hierarchy to bring the team to Gloversville for an exhibition game, and personally wrote a published letter of apology to Fulton County fans for the inability to bring the team to town.
Birmingham's time as Cleveland manager was controversial. In 1913, he benched slumping Hall of Famer Nap Lajoie. The fiesty Lajoie, himself a former Cleveland manager who had often feuded with Birmingham, blasted Birmingham in the press, and was ultimately traded. In 1915 Birmingham benched himself as a player in order to manage Cleveland full-time.
Franchise owner Charles Somers ordered him to move the team's best player, Shoeless Joe Jackson, from outfield to first base in order to make room in the line-up for a promising rookie. Birmingham reluctantly obeyed. Twenty-eight games into the experiment, Jackson went on the disabled list with arm trouble. Birmingham publicly blamed the position change for the injury, and was promptly fired for insubordination. Birmingham returned to the minors, where he toiled as a player/coach/manger until retiring from the pros in 1921.
Respected historian Joseph Coblitz ranks Birmingham as the ninth-best centerfielder in Cleveland Indians history and Birmingham is the 23rd winningest manager in Cleveland franchise history. Joe Birmingham died in 1946.
"Both teams will be wearing throwback uniforms consistent with those worn by their respective teams at the turn of the century, while playing by MLB rules in place at that time. Adding such modern day legends as Bouton and McKeon will add to the excitement of the day and provide a wonderful memory not only for the players participating in the actual game, but for the residents of Fulton County and upstate New York who will have the opportunity to witness this historic event," Hauser said in the release.
This marks McKeon's first managing job since he retired as the Miami Marlins Manager at the end of the 2011 season.
Prior to that, McKeon had guided the Florida Marlins to the 2003 World Series championship over the New York Yankees. McKeon has been in the game of baseball professionally for 64 years and has managed the Kansas City Royals (1973-75), Oakland A's (1977-78), San Diego Padres (1988-90), Cincinnati Reds (1997-2000) and the Florida/Miami Marlins (2003-2005 and 2011).
McKeon is the only manager in the history of baseball to win over 1,000 games in both the minor leagues and the major leagues.
Along the way, he earned Major League Baseball's Manager of the Year Award in 1999 and 2003, while becoming the oldest person to win a World Series in 2003 at the age of 72 when he guided the Marlins past the Yankees.
Bouton, who authored the controversial book Ball Four, a tell all diary and memoir of his playing days as a MLB player, will start the game for the Pioneers. Bouton's major league career spanned from 1963 to 1978, with the Yankees, Seattle Pilots, Houston Astros and Atlanta Braves. He was a 1963 all-star and a World Series champion with the Yankees in 1962. His World Series pitching record is 2-1, with a 1.48 ERA.
At the conclusion of the game, a roadside ceremony will take place in which representatives from the Fulton County Museum will be on hand to help unveil the very first Fulton County Sports Historical Society road marker that denotes that baseball has been played at that site since 1906. The Parkhurst Field Museum chronicles the history of the facility since 1906 and will be open to the public that day. Admission to the game will be $5 donation to the group's Hall of Fame fund. Gates will open at noon and the vintage game/ceremonies will begin at 1 p.m.
Parkhurst Field/Gloversville Little League is located at 50 Harrison St. in Gloversville.
For more information, visit www.fchof.com or contact Mike Hauser at 725-5565. Information also is available at the Parkhurst Field or Fulton County Baseball & Sports HOF Facebook pages.