Closed to Restock

Luther Williams Field: Where the Excellent Adventure Began

This is going to be the last post for two weeks.

I’ve got a virtual conference next week to emcee. If you are interested in what I’ve been doing for my day job for the last 15 years, check it out.

After that the Craibs are taking a much-needed camping vacation here in Vermont, it will look a lot like this..

Photo Credit: Alistair Craib on the 2019 version of this trip

Ballpark History

The map above is a look at the communities that used to have affiliated professional baseball in 1991 and no longer do today. We will return with a renewed focus on getting the story of the ballparks of Minor League baseball told, not just with what we happened to capture on video in 1991, but also what we didn’t and to that end I’m going to be asking for your help.

There will be a new schedule of virtual visits promoted in advance when we start again in two weeks and my hope is that everyone who has a recollection of a ballpark will share their memories both on the YouTube channel and here on this Web site.

I think the great baseball writer Thomas Boswell once wrote there is no more seductive phrase in the English language than “Tell me your Story,” I hope he is right and that you will. If so, the “Bill & Sue” videos can be more of a conversation starter than just a snapshot of a moment in time.

The Low Mileage Tour Videos

The most recent Low Mileage Tour video is above but there are dozens more on the PFA 2020 YouTube channel, almost none of them have anything in the way of comments, if you have been to one of these parks, use the comment link below the video to share your memories.

On Deck

I have low expectations for the Major League Baseball season that begins tomorrow but that’s better, I guess, than no expectations. I hope, above all, that the players and their families stay safe but if they can do that and play some games, may they bring us some joy and excitement at a time we can surely all use it.

See you on August 5th.

EA Stop #114: Scranton (Moosic,) PA

Excellent Adventure Day # 103

Most of the work these days is going into the weekly video segment and the video from our stop at the home of the Scranton-Wilkes Barre Red Barons will be part of the Week 15 video coming up on Friday

I’ve been Lackawanna County Stadium in Moosix, PA twice, here are few images from both the Excellent Adventure and my later Extra Innings Tour in 2003.

The Trip

The Game

The Red Barons split a doubleheader with the Richmond Braves on the Saturday night we were there. They won the first game 3-1 and lost the nightcap 6-5.

The Gallery

On Deck

There were two stops on July 21, 1991, which was a Sunday that year. First we went to a day game in Williamsport, PA when that city was still in the Double-A Eastern League, then we went a night game in Elmira. NY.

LMT Week 14:

Toronto to Welland 7/9/91-7/15/91

In and Around the Lake

I’m not going to write a lot here, I’ve just made a video that runs almost 40 minutes to tell the story of Week 14 of “Bill & Sue’s Excellent Adventure.”

I would very much appreciate, however, either here on this Web site or on YouTube some comments about this new approach. I am happy with the way this new weekly video turned out and am anxious to hear what you think.

The Trip

The Video

There’s a lot here. Home runs from Hall of Famers, historic but not forgotten ballparks, Twister on the baseball field….even a Newhouse sighting.

On Deck

I didn’t get to the podcast this week but I’ve sent out some feelers for some people I think would be fascinating guests and I am still hoping to start them up again.

In the meantime, I’m planning to continue with a weekly video for awhile, look for the next one next Friday.

LMT Stops #55 & 56: St. Catharines, ON & Niagara Falls, NY

Excellent Adventure Day # 99

Beyond Baseball

29 years ago today I went for the first and only time in my life to see Niagara Falls. I remember it well and find that the video we took actually did it justice. I do not, however, remember a lot about either of the two games we went to that evening – the 109th and 110th of our trip.

We were camping, I think, at a campground in lovely Youngstown, New York, right on the shores of Lake Ontario and spent most of the day on the Canadian side of Niagara Falls. Then, we headed for Community Field in St. Catharines for the first of two games.

The Trip

The Games

If you ever have cause to look up St. Catharines, Ontario, it probably isn’t spelled the way you think. I had the darndest time trying to find a game story about the first of our two games that Tuesday evening until I realized I was spelling the city name wrong – there is an a not an e after the h. The Blue Jays played the Pittsfield Mets that night and ended up winning 7-2 after we left.

We got to Niagara Falls in about the 7th inning and, despite the fact that we had switched up our original schedule and decided to attend Welland after Hamilton the previous night instead of coming back over to Niagara Falls (see story image – Confusion Takes Over at Sal Maglie Stadium) the team was happy to see us and welcomed us on the stadium scoreboard. The Niagara Falls Rapids came from behind to beat the Watertown Pirates 7-5.

Sean Bergman, who won 39 games, mostly as a starter, in the Major Leagues was on that Rapids team that night but the shortstop in the lineup ended up having an intriguing story. While the fable of a player who gets just one at-bat in the majors is often romanticized, it is not particularly common statistically. But that’s exactly what happened with Rapids shortstop Kevin Morgan. Morgan made it up to the majors for just one game with the Mets in 1997 and popped out as a pinch hitter late in a 10-1 loss to the Red Sox. He also played two innings at third base and that was it for his major league career. The next season, though, Morgan began a 21-year career with the Mets in their player development department and just took a similar job with the Minnesota Twins last fall.

On Deck

The New York Penn League continues Friday with the Batavia Clippers, we’ll also have our first weekly highlights video…from Week 14 of “Bill & Sue’s Excellent Adventure.”

LMT Stops #53 & 54: Hamilton & Welland, ON

Excellent Adventure Day # 98

Short Timers in Southern Ontario

We headed back across the Canada border on a lovely Monday evening in Mid July for another two-park day on the Excellent Adventure…stops #107 and #108.

Both Hamilton, our first stop, and Welland, the second, were not long for the world of affiliated Minor League baseball after our visit. Hamilton moved after the 1992 season and Welland left after 1994. Oddly enough, Hamilton had moved from Erie, PA – our stop of the previous night in 1988 and Erie is where Welland moved when the Erie Sailors themselves moved to Dutchess County, New York.

The two parks were both pretty nice, however, and it was a lovely evening. You will get a look at Bernie Arbour Stadium and the Welland Sports Complex on this Friday’s Week #14 video.

The Trip

The Games

The home teams won both games that Monday night although we did not keep score at either of them because we would be leaving the first early and wouldn’t arrive at the second until well into the game.

Hamilton opened up a big early lead while we were there and went on to win 8-2. Outfielder John Mabry, who played with a number of teams over a 17-year Major League Career was playing right field that night and shows up in our video.

The second game was much more exciting, however. Infielder Tony Womack, who also went on to a long Major League career was on that Pirates team but it was an outfielder, Tony Mitchell, who stole the show. He hit a three-run homer with two outs in the bottom of the 9th to give the Pirates a walk-off come-from-behind 10-8 win over the Oneonta Yankees. Mitchell would get as high as a half season at Triple A in 1996 but never made it to the big leagues.

Some Links

Hamilton, Ontario had only a Short-Season Class-A baseball team for four years but the city is in the Major Leagues of Canadian football. The Hamilton Tiger Cats made it all the way to the Grey Cup last season but lost to the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.

If you have never heard of Welland, Ontario, this page on Wikipedia will help explain why there is a giant tanker ship on that Pirates 1991 program.

Just this week two ships apparently collided on the Welland Canal.

On Deck

Two more virtual stops tomorrow in the area around Buffalo. First, it’s St. Catherines, Ontario and then on to Niagara Falls, New York.

LMT Stop #52: Erie, PA

Excellent Adventure Day # 97

Sailing with the Tide

We didn’t know it at the time but the Erie Sailors were a team in a period of transition when we saw them in 1991, That season and the season before it the Sailors were, like a handful of other clubs, a “co-op” minor league team. These teams were mostly made up of players who either hadn’t been drafted out of college or had been but were then released. Most of the time these teams were not very successful on the field and the ’91 Sailors finished 37-41 that year, though the team did make the playoffs.

But the next year, everything changed in Erie. The expansion Florida Marlins needed a place for their first crop of draftees to play even before they started playing themselves the next year. Erie was chosen and for one summer, like Bend, Oregon where Sue and I wound up, the town got big league attention…check out some of the links below.

The team lasted just one more season in Erie, however and then the franchise relocated to Fishkill, New York where they continue to play as the Hudson Valley Renegades.

The Trip

The Game

Here are a few photos of the scorecard and rosters from that Sunday evening’s game between the Pittsfield Mets and the Erie Sailors. It was a wild game with the teams trading the lead all night until home runs in the 6th, 7th and 8th innings finally gave the Sailors the win.

Like many co-op teams, the Sailors were built to be try to be competitive at their level but not stocked with future major league talent. In fact, not a single member of the 1991 Erie Sailors ever got to the Major Leagues and only five of them got as far as Double-A. The most successful hitter on the Sailors was second baseman Rick Juday who had four hits the night we were there. The Michigan State product lasted just two more years in professional baseball, though, calling it quits in 2003.

The team’s best pitcher was the starter we saw, Mike Lynch, who got a shot with the Florida State League’s Winter Haven Red Sox the next season but left the game after that.

Some Links

Here’s an interesting story from the Miami Herald about the first team in the Miami Marlins history, which played in Erie the following year in 1992. Interestingly, the starting pitcher for the Erie Sailors in their first game was also named Lynch, but this time it was John Lynch who went on to become a longtime safety in the NFL and is now the GM of the San Francisco 49ers.

An even more interesting story comes from the South Florida Sun Sentinel during that historic 1992 season itself. Two cool tidbits to look for, one is the reference to a home run that was supposedly hit by Babe Ruth over the smokestack you will see in Friday’s video that includes Erie. The other references the GM of the Erie Sailors of that era, who also happened to be one my earliest employers when he managed a nightclub where I DJed in Syracuse in the early 80s.

Finally, perhaps you are interested in some early Erie Sailors.

On Deck

Tomorrow is the anniversary of another “Double Day” on the Excellent Adventure. We saw games in two Ontario cities that have long since lost their New York-Penn League teams, Hamilton and Welland.

I also want to clarify the new plan for the Low Mileage Tour I outlined yesterday. Each day, there will be some version of a daily recap like this one with a look at some of the baseball artifacts from the stop we made that day in 1991. The video, however, will be rolled into a weekly video that will feature all of our stops through Wednesday of each week and come out on Friday afternoon. A look at Ainsworth Field and the Erie Sailors will be part of this Friday’s video.

A New Approach on the LMT

Less is More

There are some changes coming to the Low Mileage Tour starting today. No, I’m not stopping, there is a story to tell here and I plan to keep telling it for as long as I can this summer and fall.

However, the analytics I get from YouTube make it seem pretty clear that my video output has outpaced the ability of even my most loyal subscribers to consume Low Mileage Tour videos.

I get it. It is summer time and if you are reading this post on the Low Mileage Tour site it is likely you are either a friend or a member of my family. I suspect a Venn Diagram intersection between people in this population and people who are huge fans of historic minor league ballparks is pretty small.

It’s also become clear that I am spending so much time producing these videos I have very little left to build a larger audience or do things like the Low Mileage Tour podcast, which I had been enjoying doing and produced some interesting content.

So, beginning this week I will be producing one Low Mileage Tour video per week and debuting it on Friday afternoon when it can be paired with your favorite libation of choice. Saturdays will be the launch day for a new podcast episode each week and every day starting tomorrow, there will be a very brief blog post here with a little about where we were that day and the game we saw.

Have a good Monday evening and…if you are itching for some Low Mileage Tour video…there are 54 of them right here!

LMT Stop #51: London, ON

Excellent Adventure Day # 95

Since 1877

Someday, I’m going to go back to London, Ontario. I’ve had occasion, both baseball-related and not, to spend a lot of time in various cities across Canada and almost always enjoyed them. I enjoyed London too, but I wish we had a lot longer than the 12 hours or so that we spent in this historical city with an especially historic ballpark.

Labatt Park has a long past…a very long past, but I’ll let the video tell the story.

The Trip

The Video

Some Links

I mentioned some places I’d check out if you would like to know more about the most historic park you may have never heard of.

Start with the Wikipedia entry, it is well researched and extraordinarily well done.

Apparently a documentary was produced about the park and I’d love to see it but couldn’t find it. There is this trailer, though, on YouTube.

Here’s the Guinness Book entry if you’re interested.

On Deck

It’s back to the USA tomorrow and on to Max Klinger’s favorite team, the Toledo Mud Hens playing in their old ballpark, Ned Skeldon Stadium.

LMT Stops #49 & 50: Geneva & Auburn, NY

Excellent Adventure Day # 93

It Takes a Village

McDonough Park in Geneva 7 10 91

I’ve already written and said a lot about the unfortunate plan of Major League Baseball to contract the number of affiliated teams by 42 in advance of next year. But tonight’s video offers at least a fleeting glimpse of a different possible model.

Wednesday July 10, 1991 was another one of our Double Days where we saw two parks in the same day and some questionable planning on my part meant we almost missed the game in the second stop. We went to Geneva first and then drove about 30 miles to Auburn where we didn’t arrive until the 8th inning.

I’ve added some video from my return trip to Auburn in 2003, though and that return visit is very much a part of tonight’s story.

The Trip

The Video

This video includes footage from both the Excellent Adventure in 1991 and the 2003 Extra Innings Tour. Special thanks to my friend Tim Ashe for manning the camera the second time around.

On Deck

Tomorrow on the Low Mileage Tour we will get back on schedule with our stop from July 12, 1991, venerable Labatt Park in London, Ontario. If there is time, I’ll also add a video from Utica, NY – otherwise we’ll catch up with the Blue Sox of 1991 later.