Baseball And Utica Have A Long History
If you’re a baseball fan, you may know that Utica had a long association with the game. In fact, according to baseball-reference.com. Utica was home to a minor league baseball team dating back to 1878.
Most of us are familiar with the Utica Blue Sox (and for a while Blue Jays), who played their later games at Murnane Field in Utica. I remember taking my kids to Blue Sox games on warm summer nights, and they were more interested in the concession stands than the games, but it was fun anyway.
Here’s a brief history of the Utica Blue Sox according to Wikipedia:
The Utica Blue Sox were a minor league baseball team based in Utica, New York. In their most recent incarnation, the Blue Sox played in the Short-Season A classification New York–Penn League from 1977–2001, with their home games at Donovan Stadium at Murnane Field. The NYPL Blue Sox affiliations through the years include: Toronto Blue Jays from 1977–80, independent from 1981–85, Philadelphia Phillies from 1986–87, Chicago White Sox from 1988–92, Boston Red Sox from 1993–95, and Florida Marlins from 1996 until 2001.
Utica’s first baseball team took the field in 1878. The city fielded a team in the New York State League from 1899–1917, then was without professional baseball until 1939, except for one year, 1924, when the Utica Utes, a member of an earlier edition of the New York-Pennsylvania League, moved to Oneonta, New York, in midseason.
Baseball returned with the Utica Braves of the Class C Canadian-American League, formed when the former Auburn Bouleys were moved to Utica by Amby McConnell and Father Harold Martin. The Utica Braves were initially a Boston Braves farm team and kept the nickname through 1942.
In 1943, Utica moved up to the Class A Eastern League and became an affiliate of the Phillies. The nickname Blue Sox dates to 1944 when their parent team was unofficially called the Philadelphia Blue Jays. The Blue Sox of the 1940s played in a ballpark in the northern part of the city called McConnell Field (itself named after the team owner and former pro player from Utica).
The Blue Sox of the ‘40’s were a feisty bunch, with many later becoming the Whiz Kids of the 1950 National League champion Phillies. Future Philadelphia stars such as Hall of Famer Richie Ashburn (who came to Utica as a catcher but within a month was moved to center field by his manager, Eddie Sawyer, to utilize his speed), Stan Lopata and Granny Hamner all took the field for both Utica and Philadelphia during the late 1940s.
Acclaimed author and journalist Roger Kahn (The Boys of Summer) wrote about his year as owner of the team in the 1985 book Good Enough to Dream.”
And the Utica area has had no shortage of local players who made it to the big leagues, including Dave Cash, Andy Van Slyke and others.
For a complete list of minor league baseball teams that played in Utica over the past century, visit baseball-reference.com.