Parkhurst Field hosts vintage game

GLOVERSVILLE – Those that made it out to Parkhurst Field on Saturday afternoon said the traditional style of play and classic uniforms reminded them of the rich history of Fulton County’s very own Field of Dreams.

Although this wasn’t the classic movie, it was the first time many of the county’s best athletes returned to the field that was the starting point of their future success in sports and baseball.

The day’s events and vintage game were set to honor and pay tribute to multiple facets of Fulton County’s rich baseball history.

“This is the original Field of Dreams to us,” said co-chairman Dave Karpinski during the opening ceremony.

The Fulton County Baseball and Sports Hall of Fame Induction ceremony was held at Parkhurst Field in Gloversville between each of the first innings. This year’s ceremony honored five players that played in Gloversville and Johnstown near the turn of the 20th century.

The days events also included 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.

The event also brought star power to the area, as former New York Yankees pitcher Jim Bouton and local baseball icon Jack McKeon, a former Gloversville Glover, each participated in the daylong event.

Bouton, who was a member of the 1962 World Series champion and author of the controversial memoir “Ball Four”, pitched for the Pioneers during the opening ceremony.

“It’s always great to be back on the field and I’m lucky to have had the opportunity to have played in the majors and to have been invited here today,” Bouton said.

Although this was an exhibition appearance for Bouton he said at the age of 74 his biggest concern was the release point of his knuckleball.

“I just want to get it over the plate,” Bouton said with a laugh. “I can’t embarrass myself out here.”

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.

“This is about the third straight year I’ve been back and I always like to come back here to see some of the old fans, although there aren’t many of them left,” McKeon said about his return to Gloversville. “This is an exhibition but it’s exciting because I’ve never been involved in a vintage game.”

This was McKeon’s first managing job since he retired as the Florida Marlins manager at the end of the 2011 season. McKeon is the only manager in the history of baseball to win over 1,000 games in both the minor leagues and the major leagues.

According to Karpinski, baseball legends such as Honus Wagner, Cy Young, and Doc “Moonlight” Graham played on the grounds of Parkhurst Field.

The event also was held 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.

The modern A.J., & G team featured former Gloversville Little Leaguers who have gone on to play professionally or at a high-level college program.

The vintage game included a variety of rules from 1868 that differ from the game watched today.

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 differed from the standard 60 feet, 6 inches seen in today’s game.

Positioning of the umpires, fair and foul calls, and rules regarding bunting also are different on the vintage baseball circuit.

The first inductee was Jack Chesbro. “Happy Jack” Chesbro, a baseball 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 major league 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.

Howard Earl was inducted and 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.

Finally inductee, Joe Birmingham was honored and previously 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.

His great-granddaughter Patty Byrne of Carmel, N.Y. was in attendance and accepted his induction plaque on behalf of the family.

“It’s an honor to be here and for him to be recognized is great,” Byrne said. “I feel so grateful to be able to do this and I’m excited to be here and be a part of this. We love baseball and have had his card on our wall so this is just really exciting.”

During the seventh inning stretch, the Fulton County Baseball and Sports Hall of Fame unveiled a sports historical road marker on the Harrison Street side of the Gloversville Little League property. The marker will 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.

Representatives from the Fulton County Museum were on hand to help unveil the first Fulton County Sports Historical Society road marker.

The A., J. and G’s ended up winning the vintage game and against the Pioneers with the final score of 11-7.

Officials said many of the Pioneers were shocked to lose to a first time team, but seeing the roster on paper they knew they were in for a challenge.

The timing of the festivities was carefully chosen to coincide with the 100th anniversary of baseball hall of fame pitcher Charles “Chief” Bender pitching in an exhibition game at Parkhurst Field on Oct. 13, 1913, just two days after winning the World Series with the Philadelphia Athletics.

“This was the first time anything like this has ever happened in Fulton County,” said event co-chairman Mike Hauser. “It’s special on so many levels. It’s special for my appreciation of the sports history and it’s also special for this area and this day has just been fantastic.”