Rochester Baseball Historical Society

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Rochester Baseball Historical Society

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Name Rochester Baseball Historical Society
Regional Focus Greater Rochester, NY
Main Contact: Priscilla Astifan
Continuity Editor Priscilla Astifan
Url http://rochesterbaseballhistory.org/
Location Rochester, NY, United States

About this Society

<em>Note:</em> Protoball's PrePro data base includes data on 15 early clubs and 11 early games in the Rochester proper, as of August 2014.  Other data for nearby play in Western New York has not been tabulated

 

“People ask me what I do in winter when there’s no baseball. I’ll tell you what I do. I stare out the window and wait for spring.” - Rogers Hornsby

Winters in Rochester are cold, snowy and very long. However, the worst part about winter here isn’t trying to cautiously navigate your car on interstate 490 during a whiteout – for many of us, the worst part is the absence of baseball.

One frigid night in the winter of 2007, a small group of Rochester baseball history enthusiasts met at the Webster home of noted baseball historian, Priscilla Astifan. Gathered around a fireplace, the group began to discuss ways to add a little baseball flame into the cold Rochester winter months. What eventually grew out of this meeting was The Rochester Baseball Historical Society (RBHS) – a kind of “hot stove” group.

Like most historical societies, it was decided that education would be central and because baseball has been an important Rochester tradition since the early 19th century, there is a lot to learn. The society’s mission is to research, preserve and interpret Rochester’s long, rich baseball heritage. To help accomplish this, the RBHS seeks to educate its members and the community through the exhibition of historically significant artifacts and through various meetings and programs designed to foster discussion. 

Award winning sports reporter and columnist, Scott Pitoniak, has been one of the driving forces behind the society from the start. “The history of Rochester baseball is like one of Luke Easter’s legendary home runs – long and compelling – and it’s been a thrill to be a part of a fledgling group dedicated to bringing that history to life for past, current and future generations," says Scott, who has authored three books and scores of articles about Rochester baseball through the years. "It still boggles the mind to think the game was played here at least as far back as 1825 – a good 14 years before Abner Doubleday was supposed to have invented the sport and more than a century before the Red Wings took flight.”

Our city’s love affair with baseball is as old as the game itself. Many of Rochester’s founding fathers were among those playing baseball in the mid 1820s. They played in a pasture known as Mumford’s Meadow, located on the west bank of the Genesee River near the current day Andrews Street Bridge and just a few blocks from our current home for baseball, Frontier Field. In those early days of old fashioned baseball, perhaps brought here by settlers from New England, Rochester baseball pioneers recorded outs when a gloveless fielder successfully hit the runner with the ball as he tried to reach one of the four foot high stakes (instead of bases). If you were on the meadow back then, you might have also witnessed them skillfully swinging their homemade bats with one hand in an attempt to achieve accurate ball placement.

Many 19th century Rochester baseball pioneers are buried in the Mt. Hope Cemetery and one of the organization’s on-going research projects has been to search for and identify their resting places. The group plans to conduct tours in conjunction with the Friends of Mt. Hope, led by society members who will attempt to bring these players back to life through short biographies.

The RBHS is also presenting an exhibit at the Rundel Memorial Building of the Central Library, 115 South Avenue. The exhibit, entitled Rochester Baseball – from Mumford’s Meadow to Frontier Field, opens on April 1, 2013. Rochester Baseball accompanies the National Baseball Hall of Fame’s traveling exhibit, Pride and Passion – the African-American Baseball Experience, which opens on May 1, 2013. Both exhibits close on June 14, 2013. They are free and open to the public.

Members of the society have wide interests when it comes to learning and studying the various eras of baseball in the Flower City. Some are fascinated by the 19th century early amateur period while others are curious about the dead ball era which saw teams like the Rochester Broncos and the Rochester Hustlers. Of course the majority are passionate about the rich history of our current Rochester Red Wings.

RBHS member and vintage base ball player Tony Brancato has conducted extensive research on the nationally recognized 19th century team the Rochester Live Oak Base Ball Club. “I became interested in studying the Live Oak Base Ball Club, Rochester’s first city champions in 1858, after spending many summers playing for the modern Live Oaks in the vintage base ball program at the Genesee Country Village & Museum,” says Tony, a sure handed outfielder. “These men were among the many true baseball pioneers in Rochester.  Their 1858 city championship helped spark local interest in the game back then.”

As our long winter gives way to spring and the ice begins to melt on the mighty Genesee, baseball once again returns to our great city. Our Red Wings fly north from Florida, home to Rochester once again. But in the minds and hearts of the Rochester Baseball Historical Society members, baseball never left. Their connection to the American past-time is year long.

To learn more about the Rochester Baseball Historical Society or to become a member visit them at http://www.RochesterBaseballHistory.org/

Documents

Media:From Mumfords Meadow to Frontier Field.pdf, Media:Pride and Passion Final Report.pdf


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Resources

Antonelli, Johnny (2012) Johnny Antonelli: A Baseball Memoir. RIT Press.
Pitoniak, Scott (2003) Baseball in Rochester. Arcadia Publishing.

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