The group crowded into Room 3 on the second floor of the former Miners & Mechanics Bank building on a spring evening in 1946 had one purpose in mind – seeing that all the plans for Carbondale’s entry into organized baseball came off without a hitch.
Under the banner of the newly-incorporated Carbondale Baseball Association, the group had accomplished much during the year since it had accepted an invitation to join the Class D North Atlantic League, one of 28 minor leagues to spring up in 1946 after the end of World War II.
The city hadn’t had a professional baseball team since 1895-1896 when the Carbondale Anthracites played in the Penn State League. It appeared the time was ripe for another try which had the support of Mayor Billy Monahan and other city leaders.
Thanks to Joe Reardon, the Philadelphia Phillies farm director, the team had a major league affiliation and a manager, Pat Colgan, the popular former Scranton Red Sox catcher just home from the Navy.
As I remember it, the team was already undergoing Spring training with other Phillies farmhands at Milford Delaware.
Work on converting Russell Park from the monstrosity constructed during the WPA days into a modern lighted stadium with a covered grandstand behind home plate and bleachers along the first and third base lines was well underway. What’s more, the outfield fences were drawn in to more respectable distances.
The park could hold 3,400 and advance ticket sales were showing promise.
I don’t remember all who attended that meeting, but I am sure Art Chabott, the association president; Marcus McDonough, the business manager; Harry Kamsler and Jimmy Hughes, the Olyphant resident who had been appointed the league’s umpire in chief, were there.
So was the 16-year-old high school junior who was sports editor of the city’s daily newspaper, the Carbondale News – Edwin Rogers who hadn’t yet adopted the Ed E Rogers byline that would be his professional moniker for the next 70 or so years.
At one point in the meeting, the subject of an official scorer came up. It didn’t take much discussion to decide that the town’s sports editor should have the job. The next day I was at Tom Taylor’s in Scranton buying an A.G. Spalding baseball score book.
The Pioneer Blues opened their season on May 8 with a 6 p.m. game at Stroudsburg that had to be called with two out in the top of the eighth inning because of darkness which the venerable Chic Feldman wrote “made it impossible to count one’s fingers let alone a pitched baseball.” The action wiped out a Carbondale lead and Stroudsburg won 4-2.
Stroudsburg Manager Joe Antolick, a former Phillies catcher, was behind the plate and, as the shadows deepened, attempted to feign a passed ball on a pitch from Johnny Jaust. It didn’t work; Colgan saw what was happening and alerted his batter.
Two days later (another late afternoon game because lights hadn’t been installed yet) the Pioneer Blues opened their home season at Russell Park with Mahanoy City. That’s when I learned that I not only was the official scorer but the public address announcer as well.
There were impressive ceremonies with an American Legion color guard, flag raising and the Benjamin Franklin High School band playing the National Anthem while everybody, including the players, stood
It wasn’t much of a game - the locals won 18-0 – but the 1,600 or so fans had a chance to see their new ball park, meet the players and enjoy a hot dog and soda from Joe Cohen’s concession stand behind the grandstand.
The Pioneer Blues ended their first season with 69 wins and 48 losses, fourth in the league standings. In the post season playoffs they beat Nazareth four games to one in the semifinals but were edged out by Peekskill four games to three in the finals.
An average of about 1,000 fans per game passed through the turnstiles for a season total of 62,617.
Pat Colgan, the Phillies, Leon Helk, the Star Spangled Banner and yours truly were back again the following spring for a repeat performance. It was to be my last since I had signed on with The Tribune as its Wayne County correspondent.
The North Atlantic League would continue through the 1950 season, then with attendance sagging, television beginning to give fans a reason to stay home and the Korean War siphoning away players, called it quits. It was great while it lasted.
Ed E Rogers is a Carbondale native who spent more than 70 years as a reporter and editor for regional newspapers. He frequently shares his memories of his home town with Advantage readers. He can be reached at EdERogers@aol.com.