Lively Tales About Dead Teams

Archive for the ‘Northeast League’ Category

1995-2002 Adirondack Lumberjacks

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Adirondack LumberjacksNortheast League (1995-1998)
Northern League (1999-2002)

Born: 1995 – Northeast League founding franchise
Moved: October 2002 (Bangor Lumberjacks)

Stadium: East Field Stadium

Major League Affiliation: Independent

Team Colors: 

  • Hunter Green & Deep Burgundy (1995)
  • Hunter Green & Black (1999)

Owners: 

Northeast League Champions: 1995
Northern League Champions: 2000

 

The Adirondack Lumberjacks were an independent baseball team based out of Glens Falls, New York from 1995 until 2002. Glens Falls hosted Class AA minor league farm clubs of the Chicago White Sox and Detroit Tigers from 1980 until 1988, plus a Class A St. Louis Cardinals farm team in 1993. But by the mid-1990’s the city’s East Field no longer met modern standards for affiliated Minor League Baseball. Glens Falls was a classic example of a community left behind by the minor league stadium boom of the 1990’s. Like many such communities, it turned to independent ball to fill the void.

The ‘Jacks were founding members of the Northeast League, which included ball clubs from New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and the New England States. In 1999, the Northeast League entered into a merger with the Northern League, an indy circuit in the Upper Midwest. From 1999 through 2002, the former Northeast League clubs played as “Northern League East” and met with Northern League Central’s best team for the overall league championship.

Adirondack Lumberjacks LogoAdirondack defeated the Albany-Colonie Diamonds Dogs to win the first championship of the Northeast League in 1995. In 2000, the Lumberjacks swept the Duluth-Superior Dukes in three games to win the Northern League title. A crowd of 3,182 turned out to East Field to watch the decisive game on September 18, 2000.

One of the key figures in the Lumberjacks era was pitcher-manager Les Lancaster. Lancaster pitched in the Majors from 1987 until 1993, primarily as a reliever for the Chicago Cubs. He appeared in the 1989 NLCS with Chicago. He arrived in Glens Falls in 1998 as 36-year old player-pitching coach. By the end of the year, he was appointed the team’s manager. He was a regular in Adirondack’s starting rotation in 1999, but devoted himself mostly to managing in 2000. During the 2000 championship series against Duluth-Superior, Lancaster activated himself to the roster and pitched a shutout in Game 2.

In late 2002, the team was sold to new ownership and moved to Bangor, Maine. Owner Charles Jacey cited the small size of the Glens Falls market (approx. 60,000 people) as the decisive factor in giving up on the team. The Bangor Lumberjacks played two more seasons and then went out of business in April 2005. Professional baseball has never returned to Glens Falls since the departure of the Lumberjacks.

 

Adirondack Lumberjacks Memorabilia

 

Downloads

June 17, 1995 Adirondack Lumberjacks vs. Yonkers Hoot Owls Game Notes

 

Links

Northeast League Media Guides

Northeast League Programs

Northern League Media Guides

Northern League Programs

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1995-1996 Newburgh Nighthawks

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Newburgh NighthawksNortheast League (1995-1996)

Born: 1995 – Northeast League founding franchise.
Died: 1996

Stadium: Delano-Hitch Stadium

Team Colors:

Owners:

 

The Newburgh Nighthawks were a low-budget independent pro baseball team that played in the Hudson Valley region of New York for two summers during the mid-1990’s. The Nighthawks were overshadowed in the area by the Hudson Valley Renegades of the New York-Penn League, who played at the brand new $8 million Dutchess Stadium in nearby Fishkill, which opened just a year before the Nighthawks formed in 1995.

By contrast, the Nighthawks played at Delano-Hitch Stadium, a small no-fills ballpark that was 70 years old.

During the Northeast League’s first season in 1995, former Major League pitcher Floyd Youmans pitched six games for Newburgh.  Ex-Detroit Tigers and Chicago White Sox outfielder Ron LeFlore was the team’s field manager in 1995.

In 1996, Newburgh featured 35-year old Ken Dixon, who won 11 games for the Baltimore Orioles in 1986.  The 1996 Nighthawks also sent one player to the Majors – 26-year old pitcher Joel Bennett, who later had a cup of coffee with the Orioles (1998) and the Philadelphia Phillies (1999).  The ’96 Nighthawks team went 55-25 under new field manager Dan Shwam.  Newburgh lost to the Albany-Colonie Diamond Dogs in the Northeast League championship series.

Team owner Jeff Kunion shut down the Nighthawks after the 1996 season citing the inadequacy of Delano-Hitch Stadium and the city’s unwillingness to make improvements to it.  Two summers later, Newburgh briefly hosted a team in the independent Atlantic League – the Newburgh Black Diamonds – but they departed for Pennsylvania after only one season.  Pro baseball has never returned since.

 

==Links==

Northeast League Media Guides

Northeast League Programs

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1996-1997 Bangor Blue Ox

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Northeast League (1996-1997)

Born: December 8, 1995 – Northeast League expansion team.
Moved: 1998 (Quebec Capitales)

Stadium: Larry Mahaney Diamond

Team Colors:

Owner: Vincent Burns, Dean Gyorgy & Margot Gyorgy

 

The Bangor Blue Ox were a short-lived professional baseball team that played for two seasons in the independent Northeast League.  At the time, Bangor (pop. 33,000) had not hosted pro baseball since prior to World War I.

The team’s unique nickname derived from the legend of Paul Bunyan and his companion Babe, the Blue Ox.  Bangor is one of several communities that claims to be the birthplace of the folkloric hero and the city bosts a 31-foot tall, 3,700-pount statue of Bunyan.

The first player signed by the Blue Ox in March 1996 was 36-year old former Boston Red Sox hurler Dennis “Oil Can” Boyd.  This would be one of Boyd’s many comeback attempts in the independent leagues and he played extremely well, posting a 10-0 record and 3.22 ERA for Bangor in 1996.  The Blue Ox had one other former Major League, pitcher Mike Smith, who appeared in 33 games in the Bigs between 1984 and 1989.

Boyd and Smith did not return for Bangor’s second season in 1997.  The team added former Boston Red Sox 1st round pick Bob Zupcic and ex-California Angels pitcher Joe Grahe, who was rehabbing from injury.  Grahe would return briefly to the Majors in 1999 with the Philadelphia Phillies.  He was the only Blue Ox player to go on to play in the Majors after leaving Bangor.

During the Blue Ox’s two-year run the team played at Mahaney Diamond on the campus of the University of Maine at Orono.  The club averaged just under 1,000 fans per game in both summers.  Team and league officials hoped that Bangor would build a new ballpark for the team.  But an October 1997 Bangor city council vote to float a $2 million bond to construct a ballpark for the 1999 season failed by a single vote and signaled the death knell for the Blue Ox in Bangor.

Team owner Vincent Burns, along with his son-in-law Dean Gyorgy and daughter Margot turned their efforts towards New Bedford, Massachusetts where there was some political support to build a new ballpark.  With the Blue Ox franchise gone dark for the 1998 season, the family worked on the New Bedford angle, but ran out of time before the Northeast League’s April 1998 deadline to secure commitment for a stadium in the southeastern Massachusetts port city.

With New Bedford going nowhere, the family sold controlling interest in the Blue Ox franchise to Dean Gyorgy’s former mentor at Baseball America, Miles Wolff in mid-1998.  Wolff, the former owner of the Durham Bulls and a long-time independent baseball enthusiast, moved the team to Quebec City where it began play as the Quebec Capitales in the summer of 1999.

Independent baseball returned to Bangor in 2003 with the Bangor Lumberjacks, who were once again members of the Northeast League.  But like the Blue Ox, the Lumberjacks only lasted two seasons before folding.

 

==Links==

Northeast League Media Guides

Northeast League Programs

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Written by AC

March 5th, 2014 at 4:27 pm

1996-1999 Massachusetts Mad Dogs

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North Atlantic League (1996)
Northeast League (1997-1998)
Northern League (1999)

Born: 1996
Died: October 1999 – The Mad Dogs leave Lynn and go on a two-year hiatus.

Stadium: Fraser Field

Major League Affiliation: Independent

Owner: Jonathan Fleisig

North Atlantic League Championships: None
Northeast League Championships: None

 

The Massachusetts Mad Dogs were a low-level independent baseball club based out of Fraser Field in Lynn, Massachusetts from 1996 to 1999. Popular former Boston Red Sox star George “Boomer” Scott was the team’s field manager. The Mad Dogs attracted further attention from Red Sox Nation in 1997 by signing the 37-year old former Red Sox pitcher and noted eccentric Dennis “Oil Can” Boyd.

The Mad Dogs were the first pro sports investment for Jonathan Fleisig, a Wall Street commodities trader and long-time minor league baseball and hockey investor.  He bought the franchise for a reported $150,000 in 1995.

The Mad Dogs played their first season in the North Atlantic League (1995-1996), a wobbly independent circuit with teams in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania.  The Mad Dogs’ posted a 56-21 record – far and away the best in the league. But they lost the championship series in an upset to the Catskill (NY) Cougars. Reported attendance was 52,384, or slightly over 1,000 fans per game.  Following the 1996 season, the North Atlantic League disbanded and the Mad Dogs jumped to the more stable Northeast League.

Attendance plummeted in 1998 as the perilous condition of Fraser Field continued to deteriorate.  The clam shell roof of the park was condemned prior to the Mad Dogs third season and propped up by makeshift beams. There were no permanent concessions facilities.  In late 1998, Jonathan Fleisig hinted at leaving Lynn due to low season ticket sales and the decrepit state of the ballpark, but elected to return for a fourth and final season in the summer of 1999.

The Mad Dogs pulled some publicity during their final season by signing 25-year old Tammy Holmes. The former member of the Silver Bullets barnstorming team was thought to be the first female position player to play professional baseball for a men’s team.  Holmes appeared in two games, going hitless in nine at-bats with five strikeouts.

In October 1999, league officials approved a move of the Mad Dogs to Hartford, Connecticut. A planned $10 – $15 million renovation of Dillon Stadium would create a new home for the team. The Hartford deal later fell apart and the ball club was mothballed for two full seasons.

In 2002, Fleisig reactivated the franchise at Wahconah Park in Pittsfield, Massachusetts. Boomer Scott returned as manager of the renamed Berkshire Black Bears.   The story – well, one side of the story – of Fleisig’s rivalry with former New York Yankee and Ball Four author Jim Bouton to get the lease at Wahconah Park is captured in Bouton’s 2003 book Foul Ball.  The Black Bears lasted only two seasons in Pittsfield. The team moved again the New Haven’s Yale Field in 2004 and became the New Haven County Cutters, still under Fleisig’s ownership.

The Cutters folded after the 2007 season, finally closing the book on the original franchise started three cities and three leagues earlier in 1996.

After the demise of the Mad Dogs, a fan purchased the team’s Spike The Bulldog mascot costume at a storage unit sale. He periodically dressed up in the costume to attend minor league games around New England. For several years in the early 2000’s, it was not unusual to see Spike quietly sitting alongside human fans in various ballpark grandstands around the region quietly keeping score in his game program.

 

Massachusetts Mad Dogs Memorabilia

 

Downloads

1999 Massachusetts Mad Dogs Scorecard

 

Links

Northeast League Media Guides

Northeast League Programs

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2004-2007 New Haven County Cutters

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New Haven County CuttersNortheast League (2004)
Can-Am League (2005-2007)

Born: December 2003 – The Berkshire Black Bears relocate to New Haven, CT
Folded: October 30, 2007

Stadium: Yale Field

Major League Affiliation: None

Owners: Jonathan Fleisig, David Boyle, Rick Handelman, Brian Leetch, et al.

Northeast League Championships: None
Can-Am League Championships: None

 

The New Haven County Cutters were an independent baseball team in the Northeast League (2004) and Can-Am League (2005-2007).  The Cutters were a roadworn franchise, with roots dating back to 1996. That year, Wall Street commodity trader Jonathan Fleisig purchased an expansion franchise in the North Atlantic League, a low-level indy circuit.  Fleisig’s Massachusetts Mad Dogs played four seasons (1996-1999) at Fraser Field in Lynn, Massachusetts. But the neglected ballpark was in such crummy shape that portions of the structure were condemned and unusable during Fleisig’s tenancy.

Fleisig pulled out of Lynn after the 1999 season and put his franchise on ice for two summers. He resuscitated the team in Pittsfield, Massachusetts as the Berkshire Black Bears in 2002.  Like Lynn, Pittsfield had a rundown ballpark, Wahconah Park, and a depressed local economy.  The Black Bears scuffled along for two summers in Pittsfield but failed to generate much enthusiasm. But Fleisig did make an impression on Ball Four author Jim Bouton, whose own effort to obtain the lease at Wahconah in 2002 lost out to Fleisig’s proposal.  Bouton retaliated with Foul Ball, a vengeful and entertaining memoir titled about his rivalry with Fleisig and his bureaucratic brawls with Pittsfield officials and journalists. The Black Bears left Pittsfield in December 2003 and signed a new lease deal at Yale Field in New Haven.

In New Haven, the team adopted the Cutters identity, along with a pastel palette of powder blue and yellow.  The team introduced long-time New York Rangers captain Brian Leetch as one of several minority partners in the club to lend some celebrity appeal.  Management made some modest upgrades to ancient Yale Field, including the installation of no frills, air-conditioned luxury suites adjacent to the press box.

Fleisig’s previous stops in Lynn and Pittsfield were marred by dilapidated ballparks.  In Yale Field he had another old and outmoded ballpark (1927) and he faced a new problem as well.  The Cutters were coming into Yale Field in the wake of the departing New Haven Ravens (1994-2003), a double-A farm club of the Toronto Blue Jays.  The Ravens were the worst box office draw in the Eastern League from 2001 to 2003. Their final lame duck summer of 2003 especially poor, as it was announced prior to the season that the club was moving to Manchester, New Hampshire in 2004.

There are places in America where independent baseball thrives – Long Island, St. Paul, Somerset County in New Jersey to name a few – but the common thread is communities that have been starved for baseball for decades.  In cities and towns where independent clubs come right in on the heels of departing affiliated teams, the track record is one of almost 100% failure.  The indy ball concept tends to suffer by comparison when local fans have grown accustomed to watching “the stars of the future” for a Major League organization.  New Haven was no different.

New Haven County Cutters

Photo courtesy of James Siscel, www.baseballroadtrip.net

Circumstance dealt the Cutters a blow right before their New Haven debut in 2004.  The club would open 2004 with a three-game road trip against the Allentown Ambassadors beginning on May 31.  The home opener would follow on Thursday, June 3rd against Brockton at Yale Field.  But three weeks prior to the season, Ambassadors owner Peter Karoly abruptly folded his team. The remaining Northeast League owners scrambled to replace Allentown on the schedule with a collectively-financed travel team called The Aces. All road dates at Allentown now became additional home dates against the Aces.

For strong draws like Brockton and Quebec, the additional home dates were a boon to the bottom line. But for New Haven it was a disaster.  A winter’s worth of promotion and festivities targeted the June 3rd home opener. Suddenly the Cutters had to debut on a Monday night during the school year.  The Aces home stand drew only a few hundred fans and deflated the Cutters launch strategy.

For the 2004 season, the Cutters drew a meager 56,982 for 52 home dates, a drop of nearly 85,000 fans from the Ravens 140,922 for 71 dates in 2003.  Field Manager Jarvis Brown was let go after the club failed to make the Northeast League playoffs in 2004.

After the 2004 season, the Northeast League re-organized itself as the Can-Am League (short for Canadian-American Association of Professional Baseball). The re-brand was a legal maneuver in ongoing litigation with Peter Karoly, the former owner of the Allentown Ambassadors.  The Cutters replaced Jarvis Brown with new Manager Mike Church and the team’s performance picked up.  The Cutters made the Can-Am League playoffs in both 2005 and 2006. The club’s best season was in 2006 when the club finished 58-38 overall and lost to Brockton in the opening round of the playoffs.

New Haven County CuttersAttendance ticked up slightly to 67,607 in 2005 and 62,356 in 2006. But the Cutters still languished near the bottom of the league at barely 1,000 fans per game. During the club’s fourth and final season in 2007, announced attendance improved to 1,653 per game (82,651). The figure ranked 8th among the Can-Am League’s 9th clubs, ahead of only the Nashua Pride.  Ownership folded the club on October 30th, 2007.

2007 was a dark time for New Haven professional sports.  The city imploded the New Haven Coliseum – home to minor league hockey for the better part of four decades –  in January.  The October demise of the Cutters mean that New Haven would be without a professional sports team for the first time in 109 years in 2008.

 

New Haven County Cutters Memorabilia

 

Downloads

7-16-2005 New Haven County Cutters vs. New Jersey Jackals Game Notes

 

Links

New Haven County Cutters photos at BaseballRoadTrip.net

Northeast League Media Guides

Northeast League Programs

Can-Am League Media Guides

Can-Am League Programs

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