Heroes of the Middle Atlantic League

This article was written by Stanley Grosshandler

This article was published in 1973 Baseball Research Journal

Reminiscing about players and teams from the the old Middle Atlantic League, which existed in various iterations from 1925 to 1951.While minor leagues have all but disappeared from the American scene; those of us who spent our youth in a minor league city still cherish the memories of times spent in the local ballpark, watching the heroes of our innocence. I am sure that time has magnified their prowess.

The most bizarre ball game I have ever seen took place in the summer of 1941 between our hometown heroes, the Youngstown (Ohio) Browns and the Springfield (Ohio) Indians. This was in the Class C Middle Atlantic League, and the trials and tribulations of the local Youngstown club seemed to far outweigh the troublesome problems that existed in many capitals of the world.

The Browns were an incubation ground for the struggling St. Louis Browns; while the Indians were to produce future greats for the St. Louis Cardinals. The main attraction that day was the big first baseman for the Indians, the top home run hitter in the league for three years, and now also the manager.

We arrived at the park in time for the second game of a doubleheader and were thrilled to hear that our hero had hit three homers in the opener. This was quite a display of power because not many roundtrippers were hit in the league that year. The bandbox ballpark stood in the middle of Idora Park, the local amusement area. The roller coaster was just beyond the left-field fence. Often the clatter and shouts of the ride drowned out the cheers of the baseball fans.

The Browns had injury problems and manager-second baseman Joe Bilgere was forced to start his first-string catcher in right field and a pitcher in left. Ace pitcher Rochevot was to oppose Dobbs, the Springfield starter.

The Indians’ struck for five runs in the first inning and continued to score in every frame save the eighth.

With the score 13-0, Rochevot gave way to Hofmeister. The latter then gave up 4 more runs and was moved to center field. The center fielder went to second and manager Bilgere went to the mound to finish the game. When the Browns came to bat in the last of the ninth, the scoreboard read Springfield 18 runs, 20 hits, and 2 errors!  While Youngstown’s line read 0 runs, 0 hits, and 7 errors!  Every Springfield batter had at least one hit except for the big first-sacker, who had but a walk to show for seven ABs. With one out in the last of the ninth, Bilgere received a base on balls. But he was quickly erased on a game-ending double play which saved the no-hitter for Dobbs.

Neither parent club reaped much of a harvest from these two farm teams. Brownie third baseman Dick Kimble appeared in 20 games with the Senators and was the only man in the lineup to make it to the Bigs. Not even the no-hit pitcher made it. Of course, America’s entry into World War II later that year was a major disruption. And then we should not forget the star first-sacker of the Indians, who had been a major attraction in the league for several years. About five years earlier, he had been up with the Cardinals for a quick cup of coffee. In three innings of play he made one error in the field and struck out in one at bat. He never made it back to the majors.

That is, he never made it back as a player; but as a manager he has been one of the most successful in the last 20 years. His name is Walter Alston.

The Middle Atlantic League was founded in 1925. Under the guidance of the great minor league magnate Elmer Daily, t served as one of the most successful minor leagues for 28 years. The original lineup consisted of Wheeling, Fairmont, and Clarksburg, W.Va., Cumberland, Md., and Johnstown, Pa. On July 4, 1925, Scottsdale, Pa. was added to the League.

A brother act with the Wheeling club burned up the league that initial season. Art and Dan Rooney were the terrors of the circuit. Art was later to make the Football Hall of Fame for his contributions to the pro game, while Dan entered the priesthood and became widely known in educational circles.

By the time the league folded in 1951, 27 cities from Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Maryland, and New York had been represented. The league fluctuated from a high of 12 teams in 1931 to a low of 6 used on several occasions. Johnstown was a member for 24 of the 28 years.

More than 100 MAL grads made the major leagues. They were strong in pitching, but two others also went on to the Hall of Fame. This list by position should indicate the high caliber of players produced in this great little minor league.

  • 1B – Frank McCormick, George McQuinn, Dick Siebert
  • 2B – Eddie Stanky
  • 3B – Floyd Baker, Whitey Kurowski, Bob Dillinger
  • SS – Joe Cronin, Eddie Miller, Marty Marion, Vern Stephens.
  • OF – Joe Medwick, Hank Sauer, Pete Fox, Jeff Heath, Tom Henrich, Barney McCosky
  • C  – Jim Hegan, Babe Phelps, Warren Rosar
  • RHP- Tommy Bridges, Bob Lemon, Allie Reynolds
  • LHP- Whitey Ford, Mel Parnell, Johnny Vander Meer
  • Relief – Johnny Murphy.