by Jim Riggs
March 14, 1999
There Was A Ballpark
EDITOR’S NOTE: Most of the information here comes from a study of Billy Webb by Jamestown attorney Greg Peterson, the area’s most avid baseball researcher. The result is a 43-page history of Webb titled: William M. Webb – The Man and his Legacy. Information was also obtained from David Mule’s book Across the Seams that covers the history of professional baseball in Jamestown.
There was a lot of area baseball history associated with Municipal Stadium, which became College Stadium and now is called Diethrick Park.
Before there was the stadium, a lot of that baseball history was at Allen Park. But even before that, the place for baseball history was Celoron Park.
When the then famous Celoron amusement park was built in 1894, a baseball field with grandstands was added in 1895 and until 1939, that field was where some of the great names in professional baseball made a stop during barnstorming tours.
The reason for those teams making a stop there was Billy Webb, who managed the semi-pro team called the Spiders.
In 1921, the Spiders took on the Babe Ruth All Stars, featuring the “The Sultan of Swat.” The Spiders’ pitcher that day was Falconer’s Hugh Bedient, who was a member of the Boston Red Sox from 1912 – 14.
Ruth defied baseball Commissioner Kennesaw Monti Landis’ ban on barnstorming and made numerous appearances including the stop at Celoron Park. He ended up being suspended, along with teammates Bob Meusel and Bill Piercy until May 20, of the 1922 season and they also lost their 1921 World Series shares of $3,362.26.
On August 6, 1930, the Boston Braves came to Celoron to take on the Spiders. Webb’s pitcher was Jamestown’s own Swat Erickson, who had pitched for the New York Giants, Detroit Tigers and Washington Senators. On that day at Celoron Park with one out in the ninth inning with the Spiders leading 3 – 0, Erikson had a no-hitter. Then Lancelot “Lance” Richbourg hit a “seeing eye” single between first and second base, and Erickson ended up with a one–hitter.
Three days later, the first game under the lights in Western New York was held at Celoron Park. The Spiders took on the California Owls, who brought their own artificial lighting. The Spiders won 16 – 9.
Josh Gibson and the Homestead Grays played at Celoron Park many times beginning in the 1930’s.
While Gibson was one of the best hitters in the Negro Leagues, one of the best pitchers, Leroy “Satchel” Paige, played at Celoron Park in 1932 with the Pittsburgh Crawfords.
Connie Mack managed the Philadelphia Athletics in a game at Celoron Park and Grover Cleveland Alexander pitched there for the House of David in 1934.
When the Pennsylvania – Ontario – New York (PONY League) was established in 1939, that is where the Jamestown team played for one season. It was the first time a professional team had called Celoron Park home since the Celoron Acme Colored Giants of the Iron and Oil League in 1898 and the Jamestown team of the Interstate League in 1914 and 1915. Webb played in the infield and also managed Jamestown’s Interstate League entry.
By 1939 with the arrival of the PONY League, the baseball grandstands had seen better days. Though the amusement park would last into the 1960’s Celoron Park was the site of professional baseball for only one more season and soon the grandstands and field disappeared.
However, the memories haven’t.
Where the current Ellicott Shores Apartments are located, Babe Ruth hit a batting practice home run into Chautauqua Lake. Connie Mack managed in usual suit and tie and Satchel Paige babbled batters with his pitches.
Celoron Park – It was an important part of Jamestown area baseball history.