by Waite Forsyth
August 19, 2009
EDITOR'S NOTE: The following was written by sportswriter Waite Forsyth in The Post-Journal in April 1946.
So brilliant has been the PONY League career of the Jamestown Falcons that many a Jamestowner has forgotten the humble beginning and the lowly estate of the 1939 Jamestown Pirates, the city's first representative club in the Pennsylvania-Ontario-New York League, organized in the fading months of winter and early spring that year.
And indeed, from the vantage point of that 1939 campaign, it would have taken the seventh son of a seventh son to foresee the glowing future of Jamestown's league entry, a future that encompassed a gate of 147,000 in 1942, the all-time minor league attendance record, two league pennants, possession of the Governor's Cup once, the participation in the post-season playoff series for five consecutive seasons.
The league was organized with six clubs, Jamestown, Batavia, Bradford, Olean, Niagara Falls and Hamilton, Ontario, and a 105-game schedule was adopted.
To begin at the beginning, there were lightning shifts in the executive management of the Jamestown club in those pioneer days. The first set of officers comprised Stuart C. Maguire, president; George F. Dodds, secretary; and Clayton A Rugg, treasurer. William G. Broadhead of Chautauqua was named president of the Jamestown Baseball and Exhibition Company, shortly thereafter.
The season was a week old when the Pittsburgh National League Pirates acquired the local club under an agreement to operate it as a farm with James F. Matthews as business manager. The deal was put together by J.G. Campbell, Dr. Charles F. Goodell, Oliver French, president of the Rochester Red Wings and "father" of the league, and Robert C. Stedler of Buffalo, president of the PONY League, negotiating with Matthews and Joe Schultz, head of the Pittsburgh farm system.
Lewis Napoleon "Mickey'' LaLonge of Buffalo, former major league catcher, was named manager of the locals, whose first nickname was Jockeys but was changed to Pirates after the deal with Pittsburgh.
Win First Two
The Jamestowners opened bravely enough, winning their league inaugural on Wednesday, May 10, at Batavia, by defeating the Clippers 9-4 behind the seven-hit pitching of Al Mucha. They also won their second game, defeating Niagara Falls 6-1 with Dick Hines, Warren, Pa. right-hander on the mound. Then the Cataract City entry blasted out a 10-6 victory at the expense of Don Newark, native of Brocton.
From that point on, most of the news, from the local fans' viewpoint, was sad. That NF win started the Pirates on Skidmore Road, the locals dropping 14 consecutive games. The LaLongemen hit the league bottom on the fourth day and remained anchored there the rest of the season, right down to Labor Day, when they lost their final game to the Batavians.
Naturally, with the tide running against him all the way, the desperate LaLonge tried every experiment known to man to sail his Pirate craft into the calm harbor of victory and the talent turnover was something with which to conjure. The pitching situation became so bad at a late stage of the race that Joe Black, a catcher, went to the mound and pitched a winning game. It was nothing unusual in Mickey's book to switch a pitcher to one of the outfield spots, as he strove to instill a victory spark.
Pollock In Lineup
The Jockeys' lineup (remember this was a week before the Pittsburgh acquisition), in the opening game at Batavia included Don Dolman rf, Les James 3b, Bill Cicarell lf, Merlin Peterson cf, Dave Acquina 1b, George Goodell 2b, George Eley ss, Johnny Pollock c, Al Mucha p. James and Peterson were Falconer High School products, Goodell a graduate of Jamestown High and Amherst College.
Along towards the middle of the season, the lineup shook down to this: Merlin Peterson cf, Johnny Lukon ss, George Goodell 2b (he also played third base and ended the season at first), Joe Price and Hank Buzzinotti, catchers, Eddie Carmichael lf, Chuck Taylor rf, Paul Peterson 3b, Steve Gera 1b. Bobby Barnhardt came on the scene and remained as third baseman for about two-thirds of the season being displaced by Herbie Kam, late in the campaign. Jack Lange bobbed up to play short for about a month but was shifted to the Hutchinson, Kansas Class C farm of the Pittsburgh club.
Oilers Win Pennant
The Jamestown mound corps was paced by Stan Zetusky, who won eight games, lost nine, and was sold to Knoxville of the Southern Association at the close of the season. Other pitchers included Bill Black, Don Newark, Al Krist, Ralph Mee of Falconer, Perry "Lefty" Hall of Jamestown, Chuck Ireland, Mike Legin, Eddie Welch (who came back for a trial with the Falcons in '43), Leon Skidgel, Paul Wiskup, and Leo Murray, a 17-year-old who had everything a pitcher needs in his business but control. Zetusky, Black, Welch, Wiskup and Murray were on hand at the close of the season.
Goodell, who was the slugger of the team, and who set a fielding record as a first baseman which still stands, was struck in the face by a one-bounce smash from the bat of Manager Don Hurst of Hamilton, suffering a broken nose and being forced to retire from action after playing 97 successive games.
Manager Jake Pitler's Olean Oilers won the '39 pennant and the Governor's Cup, defeating Hamilton in the playoff finals. In winning the flag, the Oilers compiled a record of 66 victories and 38 defeats for a .635 percentage while Jamestown, at the bottom, won 32 and lost 71, for a .311 average. The order of finish: Olean, Hamilton, Bradford, Batavia, Niagara Falls, Jamestown.