Backtracking: In Our Times: Thirst for professional baseball in Oneonta quenched in 1965

ContributedShown is an undated view of what was then called Neahwa Park Field. Professional baseball returned to the city in the mid-1960s.

It was a long wait, but well worth it.

It’s not often a major news story breaks on a Sunday night in our area, and chances are it was a late night for many in The Oneonta Star news and press rooms in late August 1965.

The wait had been concerning baseball, and the man who had been in the front of the battle to bring the professional game back to the city, had an announcement.

Albert “Sam” Nader, Oneonta’s mayor, said the city had been assured of a spot next year in the New York-Pennsylvania League.

Readers of The Star on Monday, Aug. 30, learned that, “Nader said that Vincent McNamara, president of the NY-P, a class A minor league, notified him of the acceptance.

“Nader said that Oneonta will be given a working agreement by the Boston Red Sox. 

“The mayor stated that Neil Mahoney, Director of Minor Leagues for Boston, had informed him that the Sox would transfer their franchise from Wellsville, now a member of the NY-P, to Oneonta.

“Nader said that McNamara called him after a league meeting in Geneva to say that the Red Sox had not renewed their agreement with Wellsville.

Oneonta once had a Boston franchise during the Canadian-American League baseball years. The franchise was taken out of the city when the entire league folded in 1951.

“‘The Red Sox have looked over the city thoroughly,’ Nader went on, ‘and have expressed satisfaction with the facilities here.’”

Star editor Frank Perretta said of Nader, “Sam is an old time pitcher. He pitched in high school, at Bates College and at Hartwick College.

“And since he took office four years ago he has been pitching for a minor league team in Oneonta.

“‘Oneonta can support organized baseball. It’s a baseball town.’

“Sam’s selling job was tough. But he kept at it. He bombarded the minor league owners with mail. Made countless phone calls. Drove miles to have lunch with ‘the right man.’ Had guests at his home and constantly pitched for his hometown.”

This wasn’t a one-day “news cycle” story. There were a lot of other questions to be answered, and many of them were answered in the Aug. 31 edition. Questions such as who will run the team? What exactly is the association between the city and Boston? What will it cost the taxpayers?

“The team…will be owned and operated by a private group of individuals.

“The actual owner and head of the group will be Joe Buzas. Buzas now owns the Pittsfield, Mass. Red Sox, also a farm club of Boston.

“Buzas said Monday that he would operate this Oneonta team with a working agreement with the parent Boston club.

“Buzas stated that he will get a local board of advisors in Oneonta to help with the running of the new team.

“Actually, the Oneonta Red Sox will cost the taxpayers of Oneonta relatively nothing. The ball club will rent Neahwa Park from the city. The only probable cost to the taxpayers will be in the improvement of the field. … Nader has said that he would seek to put in new lighting facilities in the park.

“He also said that the field itself, along with the outfield fence and the bleachers, would be improved.

“But the threat of a loss of money would rest solely with the Red Sox and the group that owns and operates the team.

“The merchants of the city would probably be asked to buy advertisements for the programs of the team and some would buy ads on the outfield fence.”

A manager first considered for the team was Frank Malzone, who played with the Oneonta Red Sox in the former Canadian-American League. Still a third baseman for Boston at the time, Malzone politely declined the offer. Malzone married Oneonta’s Amy Gennarino, and still visited the city often.

A new era in Oneonta baseball was born.

This weekend: This column marks a notable milestone.

Oneonta City Historian Mark Simonson’s column appears twice weekly. On Saturdays, his column focuses on the area before 1950. His Tuesday columns address local history 1950 and later. If you have feedback or ideas about the column, write to him at The Daily Star, or email him at simmark@stny.rr.com. His website is www.oneontahistorian.com. His columns can be found at www.thedailystar.com/opinion/columns/.

Ask Mark... 

Have you ever had a question about a history-making event or a prominent person in our area and didn't know where to find the answer? Well, we've got an expert who might be able to help you. Historian Mark Simonson has spent many years chronicling major local happenings, and he's ready and willing to dive into The Daily Star archives for answers, which will appear in this newspaper and online at www.thedailystar.com.

Write to him at "Ask Mark," The Daily Star, 102 Chestnut St., Oneonta, NY 13820 or email him at simmark@stny.rr.com

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