Readers of the Binghamton (New York) Press and Sun-Bulletin opened the sports pages on June 28, 1973, and read about a baseball team trying to snap out of its early-season struggles. Manager Hank Majeski’s Oneonta (New York) Yankees, of the short-season Class A New York-Penn League, had lost three straight games. In their most recent loss, they’d come up short despite receiving 14 walks and three opposition errors. Majeski’s team had committed 13 errors of its own in the season’s first five games. At the plate, they had yet to hit a home run. Clearly, the O-Yanks were looking to get their act together.1
That night, the junior Yankees found their groove in spectacular fashion. Playing the Milwaukee Brewers’ farm club, the Newark (New York) Co-Pilots, Oneonta erupted for a 20-1 win. Oneonta pitcher Bob Majczan, playing in only his second pro game, had a night Babe Ruth would have envied. He hit two homers, including a grand slam, and drove in six runs, while also throwing a complete-game five-hitter and striking out 17. And Majczan was only part of the story: The full account of the game also includes a future Hall of Famer, plus a team of rare and historic awfulness. Truly, June 28, 1973, was a noteworthy night at Newark’s Colburn Park.
The New York-Penn League was an early stop for players just out of college, and sometimes for those just out of high school. The average age of a player in 1973 was about 20. In late June the league was just getting rolling on a 70-game season, with eight teams representing old-stock New York minor-league towns like Auburn, Batavia, Elmira, and Geneva.2
Despite their early struggles, the Oneonta Yankees showed themselves over time to be a good ballclub. They finished the season in second place with a 44-26 record, 2½ games back of the first-place Auburn Phillies. The O-Yanks featured four players who later reached the major leagues. Three of them were in the lineup for the June 28 game: outfielders Kerry Dineen and Dell Alston and shortstop Mickey Klutts.3
The ’73 Co-Pilots, meanwhile, were an extreme example of a feast-or-famine team. The “feast” came from a 17-year-old rookie shortstop from California named Robin Yount, the Brewers’ first-round pick that year. Making the only minor-league appearances of his 21-year pro career,4 Yount hit .285, led the team in hits and stolen bases, made fielding plays look easy, and won the Stedler Award, given to the New York-Penn League player deemed likely to go the farthest in pro ball.5
The “famine” part came from … well, just about everyone else on first-year manager Matt Galante’s roster. The Co-Pilots logged the league’s worst batting average at .216.6 Newark’s hitters were next to last in walks, far and away worst in strikeouts, and last in RBIs — driving in less than half as many runs as league-leading Oneonta. In the field, the Co-Pilots led the league in errors. And Newark’s pitching staff posted the loop’s worst ERA (5.18), the most hits and home runs surrendered, and the fewest strikeouts. The end result of these cumulative stumbles was a last-place finish, a won-lost record of 15-55, and a winning percentage of just .214 — still one of the worst by any team since 1967, when the league moved to a short season.7
In the June 28 game, 1,060 fans — some drawn by a local car dealer’s promotion — saw the hapless Co-Pilots quickly fall behind. In the top of the second, Klutts and second baseman Randy Braxtan8 hit back-to-back triples off Newark starter David Simplot. That brought up Majczan, a Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, native who was drafted by the Yankees in the 19th round in 1973 after earning an engineering degree from Villanova University. Majczan, a decent hitter with some pop in his bat, hit a two-run homer to left field to make it 3-0, Oneonta.9
The rout was on. The O-Yanks posted two more runs in the third and four more in the fourth, driving Simplot from the game with a 9-0 deficit. Newark relievers Bob Brill and Mike Duncan landed in another jam in the sixth, yielding a combined six hits, two walks, a hit batsman, and eight more runs. Duncan served up Majczan’s second homer, a grand slam over the 340-foot marker in left-center field. Through 5½ innings, the score was 17-0, Oneonta.10
Meanwhile, Majczan — a power pitcher who relied on his fastball and slider — was mowing down the Co-Pilots. But he wasn’t perfect, and his mistakes in the bottom of the sixth helped give Newark its only run of the game. Newark center fielder Terry Ervin reached first when Oneonta third baseman Steve Coulson misplayed his groundball. Majczan threw two wild pitches, allowing Ervin to reach third, and Newark pinch-hitter Bill Smith drove in the run with a groundball.11 (Years later, Majczan recalled: “My offspeed stuff, especially the curve, I had a tendency to throw something like 58 or 59 feet, so maybe that’s what happened. I don’t remember the specifics.”12)
Newark’s final pitcher, Jack Chilton, allowed a run in the eighth following a double by Braxtan and two more in the ninth on a double by substitute third baseman Bob Bruno. Majczan, despite fatigue, held Newark from scoring any further runs; he struck out five of the final 11 hitters.13 The game ended 20-1. Besides Majczan, other Oneonta hitting stars included Braxtan (2-for-5, three runs scored), left fielder Craig White (4-for-5, two RBIs) and catcher Tim Grice (2-for-5, two RBIs). Newark’s five hits were scattered among five players. Shortstop Robert Bero (1-for-2) was the closest thing to a Co-Pilots hitting hero, as he got his team’s only extra-base hit, a double.14 Majczan ended his big night with a call home to his parents and then, most likely, dinner and beers with his teammates.15
And what of Robin Yount, the Co-Pilots’ shining star? He stands just offstage in the game narrative, as he did not play on June 28. One article in a local paper reported that Yount arrived during the game and could have seen action — but since his team was losing 17-1 when he got there, there seemed little point in his playing.16 Another story on the same page of the same paper said Yount arrived in time to play in the next night’s game, also against Oneonta, which was rained out.17 While accounts of Yount’s presence vary, it’s entertaining to imagine the future Hall of Famer clocking in for his first night as a pro ballplayer just in time to watch his team get creamed.18
Most of those taking part in the game washed out of Organized Baseball sooner rather than later, as low minor-leaguers will. One long-term success story, though, belonged to Newark’s Matt Galante. After his disastrous first season of managing, Galante bounced back in 1974 to lead the Danville Warriors to the championship of the Class A Midwest League.19 After more years as a minor-league manager, he coached with the Astros and Mets between 1985 and 2004,20 and was the Astros’ interim manager for 27 games in 1999 while Larry Dierker recovered from illness. Galante, a former minor-league infielder, is also credited with helping Houston’s Craig Biggio convert from a catcher to a second baseman, opening the door to a Hall of Fame career at that position.21
And then there was Majczan, for whom the June 28 game was the high point of a great rookie year. Majczan went 9-4 with a 2.58 ERA in 1973, throwing complete games in 12 of his 14 starts. He led Oneonta pitchers in strikeouts with 108,22 while his three home runs tied him for second among the team’s batters. But he’d suffered arm problems in college, and a recurrence of those and other injuries limited him to a 3-5 record and 4.86 ERA with Fort Lauderdale of the Florida State League in 1974. It was his last year in Organized Baseball.
Majczan’s big night had a few disappointing aspects in the short term. Although it got him a brief mention in the big-city New York Daily News on June 30, it didn’t help him get promoted, and there was no indication that anyone at the big-league Yankees noticed. But, looking back years later, he said June 28, 1973, remained a special night of memories for him. And he wouldn’t trade his life’s journey for anyone else’s: “No regrets on never getting to ‘The Show.’ I gave it my best and it simply wasn’t meant to be. In fact, when I left baseball, I went back to get my MBA at (the University of Pennsylvania’s) Wharton School, and that is where I met my wife. We have been married since 1979, and have three beautiful daughters and now five grandkids, so I am very happy with the way my life turned out.”23
In addition to the specific sources cited in the Notes, I used the Baseball-Reference.com and Retrosheet.org websites for general player, team and season data. I also relied on the game’s box score as published in the Binghamton (New York) Press and Sun-Bulletin, June 29, 1973: 7B.
Photo: Colburn Park in 2018, courtesy of the author.
1 “15 O-Yanks at a Standstill,” Binghamton (New York) Press and Sun-Bulletin, June 28, 1973: 12B. The “15” in the headline appears to refer to the number of baserunners left stranded by the team in its previous game.
6 With Yount’s contribution subtracted, they hit .208.
7 2019 NYPL media guide, accessed July 27, 2020. The 1981 Batavia Trojans, a Cleveland Indians farm club, narrowly edged out the Co-Pilots in this department by posting a .213 winning percentage on a record of 16-59. For context, the famously dreadful 1962 New York Mets had a winning percentage of .250 (40-120).
8 There are several name-spelling discrepancies between news reports of the game and Baseball-Reference.com. In this case, media accounts at the time spelled it Braxton; Baseball-Reference.com spells it Braxtan.
9 “Oneonta Pitcher Slams Two Homers to Shell Co-Pilots 20-1,” Newark Courier-Gazette, July 5, 1973: B4.
10 “Oneonta Pitcher Slams Two Homers to Shell Co-Pilots 20-1.”
11 “Oneonta Pitcher Slams Two Homers to Shell Co-Pilots 20-1.”
12 Author’s email correspondence with Bob Majczan, July 2020.
14 Another spelling inconsistency: In the game’s box score, he is alternately “Barrow” and “Barrows.” The spelling used here is that of Baseball-Reference.com.
15 Author’s email correspondence with Bob Majczan.
16 “Charley’s Chatter.” Based on the game’s box score, this would time Yount’s arrival to sometime between the bottom of the sixth inning and the top of the eighth. Majczan also recalls Yount being present during the game.
17 “Co-Pilots Host Niagara Falls, Elmira,” Newark Courier-Gazette, July 5, 1973: B4.
20 Except for one year, 1997, when he held other positions in the Astros organization.
22 This account sadly lacks the space to tell yet another eye-popping story involving the ’73 Oneonta Yankees — that of pitcher Neal Mersch, who went 11-0 with a 1.18 ERA, 104 strikeouts, and 10 complete games in 16 appearances. Mersch’s career topped out at the Triple-A level.
23 Author’s email correspondence with Bob Majczan.
Oneonta Yankees 20
Newark Co-Pilots 1
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