Top 10 CNY Sports Stories EVER! – 1983 Utica Blue Sox
Talk about a come-from-behind unlikely hero story! Just picture the Sand Lot and that just about describes both the players and the condition of the ballpark in which they played. But the history that would happen that year still echoes today.
No Major League Team would even glance in their direction so they were forced to play independently without easy sponsorship money and none of their players ever had hopes of being drafted into the Big Leagues. They also had the wonderful distinction of being the only team in the minors with this embarrassing disadvantage. So, basically they were on the respirator and everyone was just waiting for the team to just take it's natural course towards death. Sounds like the makings of a miracle to me.
Instead of going away with their tails between their legs, the underdog Blue Sox team seemingly unaware of everyone's criticisms or more likely fired up by them would be accepting their apologies and congratulations before long. Just because they were a rag-tag team didn't mean they didn't have baseball hearts beating under those holey ironed on jerseys.
Enter Roger Kahn, a notable baseball author who saw the potential for a good story and ended up buying the team and bankrolling their operation for the year with the intention of writing a book about his experience. The man has good instincts because the year ended up with a picture-perfect finish. A few others including Bill Murray (yeah, "who ya gonna call...") were inspired enough to throw money at the team too.
To everyone's surprise (or not) the team started the season off great for the Blue Sox and they shut the critics up with a 26-6 win/loss record right out of the gate but then lost their stride mid-season. All's it takes is one moment to get your mojo back though and when an opposing player hit a ball during a game in Little Falls that should've been a homer but somehow bounced back into play, the Blue Sox took full advantage of it, or rather outfielder Barry Moss did and only let the hitter get to second base. Later on that game like something out of Hollywood the best batter on the Blue Sox hit another ball to the same spot but it sailed over the wall instead which further added to the team's momentum. Yes, Utica went on to win that game which ended up carrying them up to the best-of-three championship series against Newark.
As you might guess, each team snagged a win leaving everything on the line for the final tie-breaker game which ironically took place 29 years ago yesterday! The Blue Sox didn't disappoint shutting out their opponents 7-0. Upon the win owner/author Roger Kahn had this to say:
“I think the moral was that it was still possible, in 1983, for individuals, not a corporation, to win... We were independent, made up of individuals and we beat the teams affiliated with the big corporations. "
While none of the guys who played that season ever saw Major League action, the outfielder that robbed that Little Falls player got a small role in Brad Pitt's recent movie, Moneyball as an Oakland A's scout and even gets to say a few words... Roger Kahn also went on to write his book "Good Enough To Dream" chronicling that historic season and you can grab it here... 30 years later I'm as impressed as I would've been had I been there to witness these event myself and I'mm proud to call myelf a Utican knowing these guys showed the world how it's done. May we all take a lesson from them.