FOCUS ON HISTORY: When minor league ball left Amsterdam

PHOTOGRAPHER:

After minor league baseball ended in Amsterdam in the 1950s, town resident Frederick J. Mitchell recalled that two Amsterdam teams participated in the Schenectady Twilight League, playing home games at what was still called Mohawk Mills Park.

There were about eight teams in the Twilight League which Mitchell recollected existed from 1959 to 1967. One Amsterdam squad was called the Rugmakers, the same name used by the former New York Yankees minor league franchise. 

Mitchell said the Rugmakers were mainly college and high school students, in general younger than members of the other Amsterdam team, called the Textiles, many of whom had played minor league ball in the area. The Textiles were sponsored by the carpet mill union, the Textile Workers Union of America.

Mitchell wrote, “Both teams enjoyed very good fan support and the attendance in Amsterdam exceeded that of any club from Schenectady. A rivalry developed here, needless to say, but never a bitter one. In fact, most fans supported both entities.”

BILL FENNHAHN

In 1961, Bill Fennhahn pitched for the Amsterdam Textiles. The junior high textile shop instructor, Fennhahn was president of the city teachers’ union.

Fennhahn was wounded several times in World War II. His worst injuries were sustained when his legs were broken and nerve fibers severed by machine gun fire in Germany.

Fennhahn’s daughter, Patricia Fennhahn Dunn, said her dad became a teacher when his injuries prevented him from signing on with St. Louis to play baseball.

ALL STARS

Mitchell said, at least during one year, two all-star games were played in the Twilight League, one at Schenectady’s Central Park and the other in Amsterdam.

Mitchell said, “At that late game I recall watching a walk off home run sail over the left field screen. It was hit by Billy Connors, who later became a Yankee pitching coach.”

Mitchell is grateful to the Amsterdam Mohawks, who now play at the refurbished former Mohawk Mills Park. 

The ballfield was renamed Shuttleworth Park to honor the late Herbert Shuttleworth II, the carpet mill executive who at one time headed the Rugmakers in the Canadian-American League and who continued the Mohawk Carpet company practice of financially supporting the ballpark.

In the Twilight League era, Mitchell recalled that food and soft drinks were available, but no beer. Mitchell said beer was not sold there during the Shuttleworth years, even when the team was the Yankee farm team in the Canadian American League.

Mitchell said, “The Yankees [who played twice in Amsterdam in the 1940s] were not at all happy with that, so I’ve been told.”

ON ANOTHER NOTE

A sign that could flash a number hung inside the Glove Theatre in downtown Gloversville 60 years ago, next to the clock that advertised WENT radio. 

Bob Landrio of Johnstown wrote, “I was told doctors attending a movie would be issued a number and if they had an emergency call the number would illuminate to go to the office.”

Landrio said that there frequently was a long line to get into the Glove Theatre, “And you learned quickly where and where not to sit. Staying out of firing range of the balcony was a priority, especially with a date!”

Landrio and his wife Debbie have created the Town Line Museum on Route 29 that remembers the 1950s and early 1960s with memorabilia ranging from jukeboxes and arcade games to Pez dispensers. 

They have turned a building on their family property into a replica of a 1962-era gas station, ice cream parlor, barbershop, grocery store and more. The museum is open until Labor Day by appointment made by calling 762-5853.

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