The Post-Journal

70 Years Of Jamestown Pro Baseball To Be Celebrated

In 1939, professional minor league baseball began in Chautauqua County when the Jamestown Pirates were formed as charter members of the newly organized Pennsylvania-Ontario-New York (PONY) League.

On Aug. 25th at Diethrick Park, the Chautauqua Sports Hall of Fame, in conjunction with the Jamestown Jammers ,will celebrate the 70th anniversary of the inaugural season.

Highlighting the celebration will be appearances by Jim Matthews, business manger of the 1939 Pirates' club, and Bob Olson, batboy for the team.

Matthews, now 92 years old and a resident of Leicester, first arrived in Jamestown in May of 1939 to manage the financial affairs for the local farm team of the Pirates. Although named the Jamestown Pirates, the ballclub actually played its home games at the former Celoron Park baseball field. Matthews remembers that the 1939 Celoron ballpark had seen better days and that there were no restrooms or concessions. He recalls that fans had to enter through the main gates of Celoron Park and then walk to the baseball field where they paid 25 cents for general admission.

Matthews reports that the Jamestown Pirates lost money that year and had to be subsidized by the parent club. At the end of the season, the Pittsburgh management, unhappy with the substandard conditions at Celoron, moved their franchise to London, Ontario. Fortunately for Jamestown area baseball fans, the owner of the Niagara Falls team in the PONY League transferred his club to Jamestown for the 1940 season with the understanding from city officials that a state-of-the-art stadium would be constructed within the city. After playing the 1940 season at Allen Park, the Jamestown Falcons were rewarded with the new Municipal Stadium (now Diethrick Park) in 1941.

Olson was a 14-year-old living in Celoron in 1939 when the Jamestown Pirates came to the village. Olson and his friend, Bud Showers, loved to hang around the ballfield watching the team. As time went by, and without ever officially being offered the job, they assumed the positions of batboys for the squad.

Olson, now a Jamestown resident, remembers having to carry two pails to a house across Duquesne Street from the park to get water for the home and visitors' dugouts. Although Olson was never paid for his duties, he has many priceless memories of the ballplayers that comprised the team.

The last living player on the 1939 Pirates is believed to be pitcher Bill Black of LaPorte, Pa. Black was contacted by the Chautauqua Sports Hall of Fame and invited to the 70th anniversary celebration, but poor health will prevent him from traveling.

Another player on the 1939 Pirates was Falconer native Les James. James, an outstanding athlete in several sports, was inducted into the Chautauqua Sports Hall of Fame in 2000. His widow, Arlene, will represent Les and other players from the original Jamestown professional team at the commemoration.

To join in the recognition of Jamestown's rich baseball heritage, the Chautauqua Sports Hall of Fame invited all of its inductees or family representatives to Diethrick Park for the Aug. 25 Jammers game. Nearly three-dozen Chautauqua Sports Hall of Fame inductees will be recognized for their contributions to sports in the Chautauqua County area.

The Jammers' opposition that evening will be State College, a farm team of the Pirates. To make this commemoration a truly fan-friendly event, the Jammers have designated the Aug. 25 game as another Dollar Night, meaning fans can purchase game tickets, hot dogs and beverages for $1each.

Game time is 7:05 pm.

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.