An impressive host of activities is set to honor and pay tribute to multiple facets of Fulton County's rich baseball history.
On Oct. 12, the Fulton County Baseball and Sports Hall of Fame Induction ceremony will be held at Parkhurst Field in Gloversville. This year's ceremony will honor five players that played in Gloversville and Johnstown near the turn of the twentieth century. The ceremony, however, is just one element interweaved into what is sure to be a nostalgic look at America's pastime.
"We are excited to be blending our traditional Hall of Fame concept with a vintage game to be played at Parkhurst Field where some of the 2013 inductees actually played over 100 years ago," said event co-chairman Mike Hauser.
Whatley Pioneers team captain and first baseman Buck Pieraccini, left, shows A-J-G team representative Mike Hauser a bat, ball and glove that will be used during the vintage baseball game to be played at Parkhurst Field on Oct. 12. (The Leader-Herald/Shaun Anich)
The game will see a vintage baseball club from Massachusetts, the Whatley Pioneers, squaring off against a local team called the A.J., & G's. The team is named as a tribute to the A.J., & G team that played in Gloversville from 1906-1908. According to co-chairman Dave Karpinski, baseball legends such as Honus Wagner, Cy Young, and Doc "Moonlight" Graham played on the grounds of Parkhurst Field during that time period.
"The grandstand used to sit right where the minors field is," said Karpinski.
The event will also serve to highlight and showcase the recently opened Parkhurst Field Museum. The museum documents the little-known history of the grounds from 1906 to the present day.
While most of the traveling vintage baseball teams have hung up their cleats for the season, the Pioneers jumped at the chance to put a game together after getting a glimpse at a 134-slide presentation on the rich history of Parkhurst Field put together by Karpinski.
"When they learned about the history of this park, it's what made them want to come here," said Hauser.
Karpinski's presentation is set to become part of the National Baseball Hall of Fame Library in Cooperstown later this fall.
The modern A.J., & G team will feature former Gloversville Little Leaguers who have gone on to play professionally or at a high-level college program.
"Both teams will be wearing throwback uniforms consistent with those worn by their respective teams at the turn of the century, while playing by MLB rules in place at that time," said Hauser.
Aside from bases filled with hay and using baseball mitts that more closely resemble a light winter glove, the distance from the pitchers mound to home plate will differ from the standard 60 feet, six inches seen in today's game.
"When a major league pitcher releases the ball his hand is about 55 feet from the batter," said Pioneers team captain and first baseman Buck Pieraccini. "In vintage baseball, when the hurler releases the ball, he's about 50 feet from the batter. It adds about five to six miles per hour to the fastball."
Positioning of the umpires, fair and foul calls, and rules regarding bunting are also different on the vintage baseball circuit.
"If you go to Cooperstown and go into their 19th century wing you'll see this is all spot on," said Pieraccini.
The event will draw star power to the area, as former New York Yankees hurler Jim Bouton and local baseball icon Jack McKeon will play important roles in the daylong event. Bouton, 1962 World Series champion and author of the controversial memoir "Ball Four", will be pitching for the Pioneers, while McKeon will be coming out of retirement to manage the A.J., & G team. McKeon managed the Florida Marlins to a championship over the Yankees in 2003, making him the oldest person to ever win a World Series. He was the first honoree to be inducted into the Fulton County Baseball and Sports Hall of Fame last year.
In between innings of the vintage game the 2013 honorees will be inducted.
The first inductee will be Jack Chesbro. "Happy Jack" Chesbro, a MLB hall of famer, won 41 games in one season for the New York Yankees and played for the Johnstown Buckskins in 1895. Inductee Cupid Childs enjoyed a 13-year MLB career before joining the A.J., & G's in 1902. George Bell is another former member of the A.J., & G's who went on to play five seasons with the Brooklyn Dodgers. Another inductee, Joe Birmingham played centerfield with the A.J., and G's before going on to both play for and manage the Cleveland Naps in the early 1900's. Finally, Howard Earl enjoyed two major league seasons with the Chicago Colts and the Milwaukee Brewers before going on to play for and manage the A.J., and G's from 1906-1921.
Following the game and induction ceremony, the Fulton County Baseball and Sports Hall of Fame will be putting up a Sports Historical Road Marker on the Harrison Street side of the Gloversville Little League property. The marker will proudly designate that baseball has been played at the location since 1906, a fact that has unfortunately, for the most part, been lost on the current generation of locals.
"We hope that that's going to become a series of Historical Markers around the county," said Hauser.
The timing of the festivities was carefully chosen to coincide with the 100th anniversary of MLB Hall of Fame pitcher Charles "Chief" Bender pitching in an exhibition game at Parkhurst Field on October 13, 1913, just two days after winning the World Series with the Philadelphia Athletics.
Admission to the game is a five-dollar donation to the Hall of Fame Fund and will include up close and personal access to all of the day's events and the museum. Players, including Bouton, will be signing autographs. The gates will open at noon and the vintage game and induction ceremonies will kick off at 1 p.m.
For more information regarding the event, visit fchof.com, facebook.com/FCHOF, or contact Mike Hauser at 725-5565.