Focus on History: Book tells of baseball in Amsterdam

Today’s Amsterdam Mohawks, of the Perfect Game Collegiate Baseball League, play at Herbert Shuttlewo

Today’s Amsterdam Mohawks, of the Perfect Game Collegiate Baseball League, play at Herbert Shuttleworth II Park.

The recreational site was called Crescent Park in 1914, then Jollyland in 1923, followed by the name Mohawk Mills Park in 1934. The facility was named in Shuttleworth’s honor in 1977; he died last year. Before his days as chief executive of Mohawk/Mohasco carpets in Amsterdam, Shuttleworth was president of a New York Yankees’ farm team, the Amsterdam Rugmakers, that played at what was then Mohawk Mills Park.

Amsterdam native David Pietrusza has documented those days in his book “Baseball’s Canadian-American League.” A scorecard from the 1939 Rugmakers season, when Shuttleworth headed the team, shows admission was 40 cents and the scorecard cost five cents. Many of the businesses that advertised are no longer with us, including East End Coal Co., People’s Ice, Olbrych’s Dairy and Sampone’s soda fountain at 225 E. Main St. Sampone’s advertised that its treats were always a hit on a hot day.

The Yankees played two exhibition games at Mohawk Mills Park in the 1940s. Joe DiMaggio came to Amsterdam in 1942, and Yogi Berra and Phil Rizzuto played there in 1949. The 1942 game was particularly remarkable in that the grandstand had burned eight days before the arrival of the Yankees.

Pietrusza wrote, “Hammers and saws replaced bats and balls at the site, and a miracle happened. By the time the Yankees arrived, not only had every barbecued seat been replaced, but the park’s total capacity had been increased by 200 seats.”

Joe DiMaggio hit a two-run homer over the 320-foot right field fence in the fourth. The game went to extra innings, and the Yankees won, 9-5, in the 10th. A 7-year-old heart patient named Johnny Martuscello, wearing a Superman shirt, got to meet DiMaggio. The New York City baseball writers were impressed with what Jack Smith of the Daily News called the “sheer love of baseball, enthusiasm and support” they found in Amsterdam.

Baseball memorabilia collector Bob Mayer of Putnam Valley has a 9-inch by 12-inch carpet square commemorating the Yankees’ 1942 trip. When the Yankees returned to Mohawk Mills Park in 1949, they drew a crowd of 4,562, about 500 more than 1942. The Yankees beat the Rugmakers, 9-2.

The late John Szkaradek tried to get into Mohawk Mills Park for free by finding baseballs that had been hit out of the park. If that didn’t work, he and other youngsters resorted to peepholes in the park fence. Szkaradek recalled that Charlotte Snyder, who lived at Hawk and Church Streets, was at every game and rang a loud cowbell from time to time.


The Gloversville Glovers also played in the Canadian-American League. According to Pietrusza’s book, Glovers Park needed work in 1937, when the Can-Am team started using the facility. Even though baseball had been played there as far back as 1898, the outfield was a muddy hayfield and the original fences were snow fences. Lights were installed in 1940, and the park was overhauled in 1948.

In 1950, an orange and black color scheme was adopted for the scoreboard. Major league manager Jack McKeon, who led the Florida Marlins to a World Series victory in 2003, was a catcher for the Glovers in 1950. The late area broadcaster Phil Spencer did play-by-play for Glovers’ games on WENT radio that year.

The Glovers, a farm team for the former St. Louis Browns, played their last season in 1951. Spencer said television coverage of major league baseball put a damper on the minor leagues. Glovers Park was at the corner of Fifth Avenue and Route 30A. Wal-Mart now occupies the site.

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