The title “Mr. Baseball” in Oneonta doesn’t get tossed around lightly like a Frisbee. It’s more like a manhole cover, as those who have earned the title didn’t just hope for good luck to bring or keep baseball in Oneonta. They used determination and hard work to achieve that goal.
Ask longtime local residents or newcomers to Oneonta who are some former “Mr. Baseball” titleholders, and chances are likely they won’t tell you such names as Francis Marx, Charles Bowdish or Dorr Hickey. While those names were iconic for their era of the early 20th century, they just aren’t as recognizable today, much like silent movie or early “talkies” stars.
Who most people would refer to as “Mr. Baseball” in Oneonta’s modern era is Albert “Sam” Nader. Certainly there are some newcomers to the scene and others who have made some key assists in keeping professional baseball in Oneonta, but those newcomers consider Mr. Nader to be the sole titleholder of this era.
Nader, former Oneonta mayor, said he felt that the city needed something to be proud of in the 1960s. At that time, with the railroad industry starting to decline in Oneonta, and the Vietnam War escalating and causing a lot of unrest across the country, he said, the community needed a boost in morale.
“Professional baseball would be Oneonta’s flag to fly,” Nader said. Sure enough, a New York-Penn League franchise was brought to Oneonta in April 1966. Professional baseball had been missing from Oneonta in 1951, after the Canadian-American League folded.
That 1966 season was a one and only for a Boston Red Sox affiliation with Oneonta. After that season, Nader was told Oneonta could choose another franchise, either the Tigers, Phillies or Yankees. The Yankees was an easy choice, but Nader made sure that if the franchise was going to be sold again, local people would be given first dibs on buying into it.