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Thread: Semi-Pros

  1. #1

    Semi-Pros

    They are not amateurs, yet they are not quite pros. They are semi-pros.

    I've been doing a lot of research lately on mid-20th century semi-pro teams in New England. I can find very little resources out there to support my research, so I thought I'd turn some of the questions over to the community.

    I put the thread in "The Minor Leagues" because the semi-pro circuits were certainly quite minor leagues for the most part. Then again, some of them were great drawing cards for the local towns. In the case of the New England League, they were an official Minor League, then a minor league, then an official Minor League again, and then part of another Minor League.

    Anyway, if someone thinks this belongs in a better place, feel free to move it. Or maybe a Semi-Pro forum could be started.

    Some of the teams I've been researching are in no particular order:

    • George Lane's Weymouth Pal's (Mass.)- The Pals were obviously based in Weymouth, Mass. and were one of the strongest semi-pro teams of the 30's.
    • The Plymouth Cordage team (Mass.)- This was the company team for the Plymouth Cordage rope making company in Plymouth Mass. They were also a very strong team at times.
    • Pittsburgh Hobos (Mass.) - I've found these Hobos before WWII. They're hard to figure out because they all used well known millionaires' names as aliases. They were a novelty team "made up of former minor league stars and several vaudeville performers".
    • The New England Hobos (Mass.) - These Hobos were a gag team made up of many former pros who dressed as hobos when playing local college, Town or minor league clubs. They were based out of Boston in the 40's and 50's and were a yearly featue at Fenway Park's Mayor's Field Day.
    • Georgia Chain Gang (Mass.) - Like the Hobos, this was another gag team which featured mostly the same players as the New England Hobos. They dressed in jail attire and were chased to their positions by the team captain dressed as a cop.
    • Casassa Club (Mass.) - This was an entry in a Revere baseball League in the 20's and 30's sponsored by Revere Mayor Andrew A. Casassa. Casassa made a push to build a ball park for the Braves and Red Sox in Revere when Sunday baseball was being denied the Hub teams.
    • Arthur Fisher Shoe Company Team - Fisher's team was not only a company team, but also an aggregate of local all-stars who played a yearly charity game against the Boston Braves in the 1930's. In 1936, they played the St. Louis Cardinals instead.
    • McElwain Shoes (NH) - This was a company team based in Manchester. They played against many of the teams listed here.
    • Plus teams from the following leagues: New England League (WWII years) River Valley League, Boston Park League, Blackstone Valley League among others.
    • Then there are teams who frequently toured New England, playing against the above teams: House of David, City of David, Philadelphia Giants, Royal Giants, Quaker Clowns and many more.



    I've got info on all of the above, but I'm looking for a lot more. If you have any questions or answers, please feel free to post.

    Thanks!
    Last edited by botolph; 11-27-2012 at 02:27 PM.

  2. #2

    New England Hoboes

    The New England Hobos were operated by former Sox farmhand and future Sox BP pitcher, Pete Cerrone. Many of the players are still around and talk fondly of their days tramping around baseball.

    Here's a picture of a few of the players from The Nashua Telegraph, April 29, 1948, a few days before facing the Nashua Dodgers: Hobos. The Dodger catcher that day, John Murphy, went on to become a proud Hobo.
    Last edited by botolph; 11-27-2012 at 06:49 PM.

  3. #3
    Here's a pretty cool picture of a Hobo01-27-2013 10;56;29AM.JPG at Dexter Park in 1946.

  4. #4
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    My grandfather played semi-pro for the Polish Nationals of Buffalo basically from 1917 to 1924 (although near the end he jumped to other teams). I have been trying to assemble news clippings about him from local Buffalo newspapers. The league included such teams as "the Phoenix" and the Niagaras, Central-Depew and the "Pittsburgh Stars" (sometimes called the Pittsburgh Colored Stars). Like you, I have had some difficulty getting solid info. Unfortunately, my grandfather died when I was 1 year old, so I couldn't really ask him. And by the time I was old enough to be interested in his playing career, my grandmother had passed the point of giving reliable information. A couple questions that I have:

    (1) As semi-pros, was there pay and, if so, what was it or how was it calculated? It seems to me that it could be that the players just split the gate receipt, but that is not certain. Could a team be called "semi-pro" because it had paid players coming down from the major leagues and others on the team who were true amateurs?

    (2) My impression is that the Pittsburgh Stars did not actually come from Pittsburgh to play in a Buffalo semi-pro league. But I can't find any info to prove it.

    One of the main claims to fame that the Buffalo Polish Nationals has is that it was the team that Babe Ruth played with/against on his barnstorming tour just as Judge Landis decided to lower the boom on him for doing such "extracurricular" games. It is mentioned in an article from the October 17, 1921 New York Times under the heading "Ruth Defies Landis, May Be Suspended." Ruth's team (which included a couple other Yankees and then some players supplied by the Polish Nationals to make a full team) won 4-2. My grandfather played in that game.

  5. #5

    Buffalo Semi-Pro

    Quote Originally Posted by Phils V. Pirates View Post
    My grandfather played semi-pro for the Polish Nationals of Buffalo basically from 1917 to 1924 ...the "Pittsburgh Stars" (sometimes called the Pittsburgh Colored Stars).

    (1) As semi-pros, was there pay and, if so, what was it or how was it calculated?

    (2) My impression is that the Pittsburgh Stars did not actually come from Pittsburgh to play in a Buffalo semi-pro league. But I can't find any info to prove it.

    One of the main claims to fame that the Buffalo Polish Nationals has is that it was the team that Babe Ruth played with/against on his barnstorming tour just as Judge Landis decided to lower the boom on him for doing such
    After a quick look, I haven't found anything on the Polish Nationals other than the Ruth brou-ha-ha. But I don't have access to Buffalo papers at home. The Chicago Defender covered the Pittsburgh Stars quite a bit, so it's possible a search of the black papers might yield info on your grandfather as an opponent.

    As for the pay:

    What I've found is that if they were playing in an enclosed field, it was easy. They charged admission and split the money between teams and among players according to a predetermined method. If not, they "passed the hat" and split the money. Home team or stars could get more money. Or the owner of the team might get the money and distribute what he agreed to.

    Another way was for direct solicitation of stars. I have telegraphs which request so and so show up at a game to pitch at a certain rate. Sometimes it was more for wins than losses.

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by Phils V. Pirates View Post
    My grandfather played semi-pro for the Polish Nationals of Buffalo basically from 1917 to 1924 (although near the end he jumped to other teams). I have been trying to assemble news clippings about him from local Buffalo newspapers. The league included such teams as "the Phoenix" and the Niagaras, Central-Depew and the "Pittsburgh Stars" (sometimes called the Pittsburgh Colored Stars). Like you, I have had some difficulty getting solid info. Unfortunately, my grandfather died when I was 1 year old, so I couldn't really ask him. And by the time I was old enough to be interested in his playing career, my grandmother had passed the point of giving reliable information. A couple questions that I have:

    (1) As semi-pros, was there pay and, if so, what was it or how was it calculated? It seems to me that it could be that the players just split the gate receipt, but that is not certain. Could a team be called "semi-pro" because it had paid players coming down from the major leagues and others on the team who were true amateurs?

    (2) My impression is that the Pittsburgh Stars did not actually come from Pittsburgh to play in a Buffalo semi-pro league. But I can't find any info to prove it.

    One of the main claims to fame that the Buffalo Polish Nationals has is that it was the team that Babe Ruth played with/against on his barnstorming tour just as Judge Landis decided to lower the boom on him for doing such "extracurricular" games. It is mentioned in an article from the October 17, 1921 New York Times under the heading "Ruth Defies Landis, May Be Suspended." Ruth's team (which included a couple other Yankees and then some players supplied by the Polish Nationals to make a full team) won 4-2. My grandfather played in that game.
    Try www.fultonhistory.com (Old Fulton Postcards website). Type in Polish Nationals of Buffalo and you will find thousands of newspaper writeups from many newspapers throughout New York State.

    Many semipro teams were sponsored by factories and businesses. A scout would sign up a player and he would be offered a job during the week for excellent pay. The job wouldn't involve much work since time was open so the team could practice during the week. Weekends usually found them playing ballgames on both Saturday and Sunday.

    A lot of future major leaguers got their start as semipros, while many former major leaguers moved down to the semipros. An ex-big-leaguer would help attract sizable crowds to games.
    "He's tougher than a railroad sandwich."
    "You'se Got The Eye Of An Eagle."

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by TonyK View Post
    Try www.fultonhistory.com (Old Fulton Postcards website). Type in Polish Nationals of Buffalo and you will find thousands of newspaper writeups from many newspapers throughout New York State.
    Thank you. That actually is the source that I have been using for the large majority of the newspaper write-ups that I have.

    It is, perhaps, the nature of semi-pro ball or the limitations of the fulton history site, but often there will be a newspaper account about the games that are to-be-played--but then no follow-up write-up of the games themselves.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by Phils V. Pirates View Post
    Thank you. That actually is the source that I have been using for the large majority of the newspaper write-ups that I have.

    It is, perhaps, the nature of semi-pro ball or the limitations of the fulton history site, but often there will be a newspaper account about the games that are to-be-played--but then no follow-up write-up of the games themselves.
    Have you tried his name along with the Polish Nationals of Buffalo on the site?

    Another thought would be to go to the Library of Congress website, Chronicling America, to look up Buffalo newspapers from 1917 to 1924, particularly Polish newspapers. If you cannot visit Buffalo libraries to see what they have on microfilm, then try interlibrary loan. Eventually you might find one newspaper that had excellent coverage of the team and the league. And check opponent's newspapers too.

    What I do is get a blank sheet of paper for every year and fill in the Saturday dates and any other days of the weeks you know they might have played a game on. Often the writeup after yesterday's game includes when the next game is and who their opponent is.You slowly fill in the open dates with scores and games rained out. Preseason articles often give you a list of games already scheduled. End of season articles might give the total won-loss record for the year, and if you are lucky the player's averages etc. for the season.

    Good Luck!
    "He's tougher than a railroad sandwich."
    "You'se Got The Eye Of An Eagle."

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by Phils V. Pirates View Post
    Thank you. That actually is the source that I have been using for the large majority of the newspaper write-ups that I have.

    It is, perhaps, the nature of semi-pro ball or the limitations of the fulton history site, but often there will be a newspaper account about the games that are to-be-played--but then no follow-up write-up of the games themselves.
    duplicate post
    "He's tougher than a railroad sandwich."
    "You'se Got The Eye Of An Eagle."

  10. #10
    Quote Originally Posted by Phils V. Pirates View Post
    Thank you. That actually is the source that I have been using for the large majority of the newspaper write-ups that I have.

    It is, perhaps, the nature of semi-pro ball or the limitations of the fulton history site, but often there will be a newspaper account about the games that are to-be-played--but then no follow-up write-up of the games themselves.
    Have you tried local libraries, historical societies and clubs? I find a lot of local volunteers at these organizations who are happy to do a little research for you. Usually they just charge the price of copies.

  11. #11
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    Some info on a couple of New England semi-pro circuits, one of which you didn't mention.

    The Blackstone Valley League: I read a little bit about this league while researching former Red Sox manager Joe Morgan, who played with the Hopedale team from 1949 through 1951. He called it a pretty good league; Walt Dropo played in it and several other guys went to Triple-A. He said it folded after 1952 because of economics.

    The Morgan League: This circuit operated in southeastern Connecticut from 1934 through 1985. Paul Casanova, who went on to play in the majors, played for the Quaker Hill team in 1962.

  12. #12
    Quote Originally Posted by VIBaseball View Post
    Some info on a couple of New England semi-pro circuits, one of which you didn't mention.

    The Blackstone Valley League: I read a little bit about this league while researching former Red Sox manager Joe Morgan, who played with the Hopedale team from 1949 through 1951. He called it a pretty good league; Walt Dropo played in it and several other guys went to Triple-A. He said it folded after 1952 because of economics.

    The Morgan League: This circuit operated in southeastern Connecticut from 1934 through 1985. Paul Casanova, who went on to play in the majors, played for the Quaker Hill team in 1962.
    Very interesting. I've never heard of the Morgan League. Do you know what teams were involved?

    Joe Morgan has some great stories about the Blackstone Valley League. The Milford team featured at least two Major Leaguers, Lenny Merullo (MGR) and George Yankowski, and some good minor leaguers like Pete Provezano.

  13. #13
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    I didn't really look into the Morgan League any further than finding out when it ceased operations. The New London Day wrote about it with some frequency, though, and you can get the stories from Google News (though it seems to me that they are restricting the archive more).

    I grew up in that area but was unaware of the league's existence!

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