The guys look defiant and confident — ready to hit a fastball over the fence or catch a screaming line drive at third base.
They’re members of the Schenectady State League Nine of 1895 and the Albany Black Sox of the Twilight League. Hitters and fielders from long ago are back this spring and summer, part of “Triple Play: Baseball at the Albany Institute,” an exhibit at the Albany Institute of History & Art.
The exhibit is presented in three sections. One is “Baseball: America’s Game,” a traveling exhibit produced by the Bank of America’s Art in Our Communities program. The game’s biggest names and stories are part of this display. The other two sections, “Play Ball: Baseball in the Capital Region,” and “The Clubhouse: Baseball Memorabilia,” focus on the sport’s history in the local area.
With Major League Baseball preparing for another season — the first game will be played Sunday when the St. Louis Cardinals visit the Chicago Cubs — Capital Region Scrapbook has borrowed a few shots from the Institute’s exhibit.
Local baseball author Frank Keetz has researched and written about some of the old-timers. He said the Albany Senators, who began playing in 1885 and remained a summer staple until 1959 — played mostly in the Eastern League. They jumped to the higher International League for a few years during the 1930s, Keetz said, but eventually returned to the Eastern.
The Schenectady Blue Jays were another Eastern League club, playing first at McNearney Stadium (later called Schenectady Stadium). The Jays were on the field from 1946 through 1957.
Keetz said many communities supported their local baseball teams right after World War II ended. But the late 1950s became a tough time for the minor leagues. Many went out of business.
“One major reason was television,” Keetz said. “Another was the popularity of Little League. A lot of people would say, ‘Why pay to see people from out of town play when we can watch the kids play?’ ”
Black players found spots on the Albany Black Sox and the Mohawk Colored Giants of Schenectady.
“For a couple years in the mid-1930s, the Black Sox had a fierce rivalry with the Mohawk Giants,” Keetz said, adding the teams would sometimes play in neutral Saratoga Springs on days when jockeys and horses had the day off. “I would emphasize the Mohawk Giants were the better team. They lost occasionally, but they would beat Albany.”
Meldon Wolfgang is also part of the show. He joined the Albany Senators in 1908, at age 18, and was once considered one of the top pitchers in the Northeast. He later joined the Chicago White Sox and was part of the 1917 World Series team.
The “Triple Play” exhibit will remain open through July 26.
Reach Gazette reporter Jeff Wilkin at 395-3124 or at [email protected] or @jeffwilkin1 on Twitter.