Local 1895 baseball field eyed for historic designation

Contributed

Players from the Mountain Athletic Club, in gold, and the Bovina Dairymen face off in a vintage baseball game earlier this year.

The Mountain Athletic Club in Fleischmanns is one of 28 sites recommended for listing on the state and national registers of historic places.

“The nominations reflect the incredible diversity of our state, its people and their stories,” said Erik Kulleseid, commissioner of the Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation. “Many people have worked over the years to preserve these places, and securing this recognition will help us to protect and appreciate New York's fascinating history.”

The park is home to a 125-year-old ball field built by Julius and Max Fleischmann, heirs of yeast magnate Charles Louis Fleischmann, according to Collin Miller, organizer of the vintage baseball team modeled after the original club.

The grounds were donated to the community in 1914 to be used as a park in perpetuity at which time the village, formerly called Griffin Corners, was changed to Fleischmanns, according to Miller.

“What happened here was unique,” Miller said. “These millionaires come to Fleischmanns and want to play baseball in a better way, so they built it — kind of like their own ‘Field of Dreams.’”

The Fleischmann brothers played alongside many future and former baseball players, including Johannes Peter “Honus” Wagner, a member of the inaugural Baseball Hall of Fame induction class who played most of his 21-season career for the Pittsburgh Pirates, and Miller Huggins, who played second base for the Cincinnati Reds and St. Louis Cardinals before taking over as manager of the New York Yankees in 1918.

“The nomination is a testament to the history that’s here,” Miller said. “It’s an honor to be able to carry that history forward — it’s a living history display every time we take the field.”

If the nomination is approved by Kulleseid, the club will join three other sites in the village to be listed on the historic register — Skene Memorial Library, Congregation B’Nai Israel Synagogue and the Maxbilt Theatre* — but would be the first listing to honor the community’s connection to the Fleischmann family, Miller said.

Approved properties are listed on the New York State Register of Historic Places and then nominated to the National Register of Historic Places, where they are reviewed and, once approved, entered on the National Register.

Miller said he spent “well over 100 hours” researching the origins of the club and the famous men who played there with the help of many baseball historians and the state historic preservation office.

“The more we uncovered, the more I believed that our field warranted the special recognition,” Miller said. “With our 125th anniversary this year, the timing was just right.”

Town of Middletown Historian Diane Galusha penned a letter in a letter of support for the site’s listing.

“The grandstand may be gone and cars have replaced the horse-drawn buggies, but today’s vintage baseball that attracts scores of fans to Fleischmanns Park can be traced directly to the Fleischmann family that brought America’s game to this classic Catskill Mountain Village in 1895,” she said.

“Even if we don’t get the designation, I did the research that will help me tell the story of the club for years to come,” Miller said. “It’s been fun. It’s something the community should really celebrate.”

For more information on the Mountain Athletic Club visit, www.macvintagebaseball.org

Sarah Eames, staff writer, can be reached at seames@thedailystar.com or 607-441-7213. Follow her @DS_SarahE on Twitter.

*Changed at 3:55 p.m. June 18 to correct the number of properties on the national register in the village.

Recommended for you