The Post-Journal

Honoring Jamestown’s Professional Baseball Origins

Bob Olson made his way through the concourse at Diethrick Park less than 20 minutes before the Jamestown Jammers were to take on the State College Spikes on Tuesday evening in a New York-Pennsylvania League game.As he approached the third-base dugout, he met up with Jack Keeney, the Celoron mayor and longtime baseball enthusiast, who was holding on to a photograph of the old Celoron baseball park.

Olson, 84, gazed at the photo and pointed to a dwelling behind the grandstand.

''This,'' he said proudly, ''was my great-grandparents' house.''

Olson grew up a few blocks away on Chadakoin Street in the village, but he spent plenty of time at the ballfield, which became home to the Jamestown Pirates in their inaugural season of professional baseball in 1939.

''We just hung around at the ballpark,'' he said, ''me and Buddy Schauers. We were always down there.''

Well, guess what?

Olson, than 14, and Schauers were rewarded as they spent that season as employees of the team.

''We ended up being the bat boy and water boy,'' Olson said. ''We'd do both. ... We had to go across the street to get a pail of water.''

And just like the water that flowed out of the spigot at the Monroes all those years ago, the stories were flowing aplenty last night at a pregame meal, sponsored by the Chautauqua Sports Hall of Fame, which honored nearly three dozen of its inductees at the 70th anniversary baseball party.

In addition to Olson, 92-year-old Jim Mathews - the Pirates business manager - and Arlene James, the wife of Les James, who was a member of that 1939 team, were also recognized in on-field pregame ceremonies.

''We would not be here tonight without those fellas and gals,'' said Russell E. Diethrick Jr.

Although it's been 70 years since the Pirates played, Olson's memory of those summer days on the shores of Chautauqua Lake remain remarkably clear.

''I can remember one long ball hit,'' he said. ''The whole outfield was trees, and a ball that Hank Buzzinotti hit hit the base of one of those trees and bounced back over the outfielder's head, and (Buzzinotti) got an inside-the-park home run.''

And then there was the time the Pittsburgh Pirates played an exhibition game in Celoron. That lineup included Honus Wagner, Paul and Lloyd Waner and Pie Traynor. Although Olson wasn't the bat boy for that star-studded team, he did provide them with water.

''They didn't know where to get it,'' Olson said with a smile.

For his efforts, he was able to take home a broken bat belonging to one of the Waners. Unfortunately, Olson no longer has it. Olson also no longer has in his possession a baseball signed by all the Jamestown Pirates.

He gave it away.

''I made a mistake,'' he said ruefully.

But baseball has provided Olson with something that cannot be taken away or lost - memories.

There were trips to see the New York Yankees play in Cleveland in the 1930s when a guy by the name of Lou Gehrig played first base. Years later, he attended major league all-star games in Washington and Philadelphia and, today, he rarely misses the Bronx Bombers on TV.

''It's a great game,'' he said.

Olson, Mathews and Arlene James each threw out the first pitch before the Jammers took the field. They posed for photographs and then joined the rest of the Chautauqua Sports Hall of Fame contingent in the grandstand for a night of baseball.

Olson, the ultimate fan of America's pastime, wouldn't have had it any other way.

''I tell everyone every day that it's a nice day,'' he said. ''I don't care what the weather is. It's a nice day if you're on this side of the grass.''

The additional financial assistance of the community is critical to the success of the Chautauqua Sports Hall of Fame.
We gratefully acknowledge these individuals and organizations for their generous support.