If you’ve attended Minor League baseball games in recent years in Binghamton and Syracuse, you can’t help but notice the state-of-the-art video scoreboards the ball clubs have added to the baseball game atmosphere. Having attended some games in these cities myself, oftentimes the scoreboards became more interesting than the actual game.
Oneonta got a somewhat similar but temporary experience in 1913 with a most innovative scoreboard that technology could offer at the time. It arrived just in time for the World Series that year between the New York Giants and the Philadelphia Athletics.
Since most Oneontans couldn’t make it to the out-of-town games, a couple of local entrepreneurs brought the games here, simulated, as reported in The Oneonta Star of Tuesday, Oct. 7.
“Messrs. H.P Weidman and Joseph Haggerty have competed the erection of their mechanical score board on the Neahwah (sic) Park diamond, facing the new grandstand and every possible play that might arise in the game will be telegraphed to the grounds and shown on the board before the cheering has ceased in New York. A man is seen to step to the bat, the ball is thrown to him and the next minute he is thrown out at first or he runs around to second as it lands in fair territory too far out to be fielded in time to keep him at first; whatever happens to him in the actual game will be shown on the board and the progress of every runner and every batter and the work of every fielder will be as plain as at the Polo grounds,” where the Giants played. “The private wire direct from New York will be installed at Neahwah park this morning, all ready for the word ‘Play Ball’ at 2 o’clock.”
A company named Peerless made these elaborate scoreboards and took them to many locations. The company worked with the two Oneonta men to furnish a full orchestra to provide music before the game began. An Oneonta man, Joe Burns, was an announcer with a megaphone at the ballpark. Unlike nowadays, the World Series began in early October and games were played in the daylight hours. Admission at Neahwa Park Field, today’s Damaschke Field, was 50 cents, but it was free if you sat in the grandstand.
At New York’s Polo Grounds that day, more than 36,000 watched the Athletics beat the Giants, 6-4. The Star had the full report on the front page on Wednesday, Oct. 8. Attendance at Neahwa Park to follow the “high tech” scoreboard was apparently a bit sparse.
“Had all baseball fans in Oneonta and vicinity appreciated how fully the mechanical score board…reproduces all the plays of the game … there would have been a far larger crowd. The board is as all witnesses yesterday will attest a mechanical marvel and the cheers of the spectators as they witnessed the ball on the board soar away into deep outfield as Baker made his home run yesterday, evidences that they get into the spirit of the game.” Baker was John Franklin “Home Run” Baker of the Athletics, elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1955.
Word must have spread about the innovative scoreboard, as by Thursday attendance had picked up at Neahwa Park Field, as reported in Friday’s Star.
“An interesting feature yesterday was the exhibition of the ball which ‘Home Run’ Baker hit into the crowd on Tuesday at the New York grounds. An Oneonta gentleman present at that game happened to be in the locality where the ball was hit and caught it, and he brought it to Oneonta for exhibition on his return. He modestly prefers that his identity be kept a secret.”
The series continued and the Philadelphia Athletics became World Series champions, winning four games to one. If one couldn’t follow the games at Neahwa Park, the actual game films were shown at The Oneonta Theatre on Tuesday, Nov. 11, 1913. All seats were 10 cents, “no higher,” and five cents for children.
On Monday: A famous poet and part time Cherry Valley resident visited Oneonta for the second time in 1978.
City Historian Text ColorSwatch/NoneStrokeStyle/$ID/SolidText ColorSwatch/NoneStrokeStyle/$ID/Solid$ID/NothingText ColorText Color$ID/NothingText ColorText ColorMark Simonson’s column appears twice weekly. On Saturdays, his column focuses on the area during the Depression and before. His Monday columns address local history after the Depression. If you have feedback or ideas about the column, write to him at The Daily Star, or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. His website is www.oneontahistorian.com. His columns an be found at www.thedailystar.com/marksimonson.