In 1995, St. Catharines rebranded their team as the Stompers, a nod to the area’s wine-making. (AUTHOR'S COLLECTION)

Minor-League Baseball in Niagara, Canada, 1986–99

This article was written by David Siegel

This article was published in the Spring 2021 Baseball Research Journal


In 1995, St. Catharines rebranded their team as the Stompers, a nod to the area’s wine-making. (AUTHOR'S COLLECTION)

In 1995, St. Catharines rebranded their team as the Stompers, a nod to the area’s wine-making. (AUTHOR’S COLLECTION)

 

This paper will discuss how a conjunction of events led to the presence in or near the Niagara area of Canada of four minor-league teams for a brief period in the 1980s—90s. It will illustrate how the different cities dealt with their teams and also identify some significant changes that were occurring in minor-league baseball at this time.

Hockey and rowing are the usual sports of choice in Niagara. So how did it happen that for the period from 1989 through 1992 there were four professional baseball teams playing within or near Niagara? One was in Niagara Falls, New York; since it was not based in Canada, it will not be considered in this paper, but it was an easy drive across what was at the time a relatively open border. There were franchises in the Canadian cities of St. Catharines, Welland, and Hamilton. Hamilton is not really in the Niagara region, but it is just beyond its border so it is included in this paper. All four teams were in the Class A (short season) New York-Pennsylvania League. A league of that name began operation in 1890. In its current incarnation, the league dates itself from 1939, and bills itself as the oldest continuously operating Class A league.1 It currently has 14 teams located in the northeastern United States.2 St. Catharines had a Toronto Blue Jays farm team from 1986 until 1999. Welland had a Pirates farm team from 1989 to 1994. This was the first time that either of these cities had hosted a team in Organized Baseball.3 Hamilton had a farm team of the Cardinals from 1988 to 1992 and hosted professional baseball on several occasions before. It was a charter member of the predecessor of the New York-Penn League in 1939.4

St. Catherines Blue Jays (or Baby Jays)/Stompers (1986—99)

In 1985, the Toronto Blue Jays acquired the Niagara Falls, New York, franchise which had been a farm team of the White Sox. The Blue Jays wanted to move the team to Canada, fairly close to Toronto. St. Catharines won out over the nearby cities of Niagara Falls, Ontario, Welland, and Hamilton because St. Catharines promised to upgrade significantly the existing facility.5 The official name of the team was Blue Jays, but the sobriquet Baby Jays was quickly adopted by most people to distinguish the local team from the parent club which operated 100 kilometers up the road and received a large amount of press in the Niagara area.

The team played in Community Park, which was an established park with much history as the home of local high-level amateur baseball teams. It had all the basic requirements of a minor-league baseball park, but there was nothing fancy about it. The playing surface was a bit rough, but new lights were installed to meet New York-Penn League standards.6 In that first year, seating was in wooden high-school-style bleachers. It was part of a larger neighborhood park, hidden from street view by a high school building and a lawn bowling club. It wasn’t exactly a luxurious setting even by minor-league standards, but it was enough for St. Catharines to be awarded the team. The city had not previously considered the idea of hosting a professional baseball team, so this request came out of the blue. Several municipal councillors were pushing the idea of sports tourism—promoting tournaments for amateur teams. There seems to have been no discussion of how this professional team could fit into a program for economic development. From the city’s perspective, it was a small investment, and it had some local support, so the city provided a minimal sum to upgrade an existing facility.

In some places, there is consideration of a baseball stadium as an anchor for downtown redevelopment or economic development generally.7 This was never on the agenda in St. Catharines. Community Park is located at the juncture of a nice, middle-class residential neighborhood and a retail area with a series of car lots and strip malls. It is in the southeast corner of the city and not easily accessible from other areas. The Dairy Queen across the street from the stadium seemed to do increased business on game nights, but beyond that there was no notion of the stadium as an anchor for economic development.

The home opener was played on June 17, 1986. It came one day after the team’s first ever game, which it won in Batavia.8 The opener was a momentous occasion. The St. Catharines Singing Saints were there to provide entertainment. The 1930—31 Niagara District Champion Merritton Alliance Baseball Club was honoured. Leo Pinckney, the revered league president, and the requisite local politicians were in attendance. Mayor Joe McCaffery, who was well known for malapropisms, threw the ceremonial first pitch after paying tribute to the fact that the city would now be the home of a professional football team. The crowd of 2,191 cheered and the game was under way. The Blue Jays won their second game in a row for an auspicious start to an inaugural season.9

The team and the local sportswriters recognized that this was a first for St. Catharines, so there was a conscious effort to educate local fans about what to expect from a minor-league baseball team.10 The Jays provided a pull-out section in the local newspaper that introduced the players.11 The first few games got special coverage in the St. Catharines Standard. Throughout the season, the team’s games were covered in stories that usually appeared on the first page of the Sports section, sometimes relegating coverage of the parent club to an inner page.

Even halfway through the season, Jack Gatecliff, the acknowledged dean of local sportswriters, deemed this first season a success. Rick Amos, the youthful general manager, expressed pleasure with the average attendance of 1,200.12 The only cloud on the horizon was some concern about whether the team would be able to serve beer the following season.13

The long-term picture was less sanguine. Baseball did not have extensive roots in St. Catharines and the team never really became a fixture in the city. It was always one of the largest cities in the league, but attendance was never stellar. At the beginning, there was some community fund-raising but over the longer term business support for the team never developed. The city council took its cues from the local citizenry and businesspeople, and provided limited financial support, usually somewhat grudgingly.14 The new “stadium”—which amounted to improved spectator seating—was completed ahead of schedule and over the years the city came up with funds for improved concession stands, washrooms, and clubhouses, but when larger amounts, particularly requests for funds for a new stadium, were on the table, the council always drew the line.

In 1994, the team was provisionally sold to a group with plans to move it to London, Ontario. The league did not approve the move because of the additional travel that would entail, so the team stayed put, but an important signal had been sent.15

In 1995, the Toronto Blue Jays sold the team to a group of local businesspeople for a reported $1 million. The group included marketing guru Terry O’Malley, who planned to use his acumen to turn the team’s fortunes around.16 One of the marketing innovations was to rename the team the Stompers. St. Catharines is in grape and wine country and the logo was a stylized figure who was enjoying stomping grapes.

With John Belford as the team’s general manager, attendance jumped over 60%, from 31,000 in 1994 to 51,000 in 1995, and operating losses were reduced. There was a brief period of rejuvenation, but over the longer term this did not turn around the lack of interest in baseball in the city.

In 1998, the group presented a plan to city council for construction of a new stadium on an unused parcel of land in the downtown area. A member of the group felt that they were “virtually laughed out of the room.”17

Local residents had shown a limited interest in the team. The owners were making a very large financial ask to occupy a parcel of prime land to build a baseball diamond that would be used 10 weeks of the year. This proposal was never considered seriously. (The land was later used for a multi-use spectator facility which is home to the Niagara Ice Dogs minor hockey team and has seen a succession of minor-league basketball teams pass through.)

Alas, even this group could not increase interest in the team and suffered losses each year of operation. Finally, in 1999 the owners received an offer which was reportedly in the $2—3 million range from a group that wanted to move the team to the New York City area.18 Doubling or tripling their money in four years on an investment that had never yielded an operating profit was more than they could resist. The next season, the Queens Kings became a reality.

After 13 years, the team left St. Catharines with more of a whimper than a bang. There were a few regular attendees who lamented the demise of local professional baseball, and local sportswriters were predictably outraged.19 But the Stompers had never built a significant base among the general populace. There was little controversy or outcry about the team leaving; many local residents were no more aware of the demise of the team than they had been of its birth.

The remaining evidence of the existence of the minor-league team is a stadium on which minimal money had been spent to make minimal improvements. It is a reasonably good community ballpark which is currently the home of the Brock University Badgers baseball team and several local recreational leagues.

Hamilton Redbirds (1988—92)

Hamilton was the only one of the three cities that had previously had a professional baseball team. Canadian baseball historian Bill Humber refers to Hamilton as “one of baseball’s first strongholds in Ontario.”20 It was a member of the International League in 1886—90.21 It was also a charter member of the PONY League in 1939. PONY League stood for Pennsylvania-Ontario-New York; it became the New York-Pennsylvania League in the 1950s when Hamilton dropped out.22 Over the years, Hamilton had been the home of several professional baseball teams.23

The Hamilton Redbirds franchise was owned by Jack Tracz, who has been described, somewhat affectionately, as an “old-style baseball hack.”24 He embodied an emerging trend of minor-league team owners who wanted to make money, but were also attracted by the romantic dream of being involved in professional baseball. Growing up in upstate New York, he had been a St. Louis Cardinals fan, so he relished the idea of owning a farm team of his beloved Cardinals. At the same time, he was working to have a minor-league team in the Tampa-St. Petersburg area so that a major-league team moving to that area would have to pay him to liquidate his territorial rights.25

Tracz was happy to move his franchise from Erie, Pennsylvania, to Hamilton because of the poor playing field and clubhouse in Erie.26 In Hamilton, the team would be playing at Bernie Arbour Memorial Stadium in Mohawk Sports Park. This was a nice stadium which had long been used by the Hamilton Cardinals of the Inter-county Baseball League. It was upgraded for use by the Redbirds to a seating capacity of 2,700, portable clubhouse buildings were added, better lights were installed, and a paved parking area for 400 additional cars was built.27 However, its location in the southeast section of the city was not strategic to attract large numbers of spectators. The two major highways that now encircle this area had not been built at this time.

With a population of just over 300,000 in 1986, Hamilton was by far the largest city in the New YorkPenn League.28 It became clear fairly soon that this was likely what attracted Tracz because he wanted to establish a class A team in Hamilton to be positioned to obtain one of the expansion franchises which would soon be awarded by the class AA Eastern League.29

The Redbirds played their first home game on June 16, 1988, in front of an apparent over-capacity crowd of 3,271 who braved a chilly night.30 The way the game was described in the local press was a reminder of the difference between a relatively large city and the two smaller cities which are a part of this paper. The opening game in Hamilton was marked by four skydivers. Newspaper accounts do not mention any official opening ceremonies attended by civic dignitaries. Stories on the baseball team never made it beyond the sports pages to the front page of the newspaper as they did in the smaller cities in Niagara. Even in the sports pages, the training camp of the Tiger-Cats football team drew more ink than the Redbirds.

In early 1991, Tracz sold the team to a group led by Rob Hilliard.31 Hilliard was the same type of entrepreneur-romantic dreamer as Tracz. The new owner made a speech thanking his mother, his wife, and his children for understanding “a big kid [who wanted to] realize his childhood dream.” His father had signed a contract with the Phillies in 1941, but did his duty by enlisting after Pearl Harbor and never realized his dream.32

Hilliard made it clear from the outset that his plan was to use this team as leverage to secure an expansion franchise in the Eastern League, and he also made it clear that he would need a better stadium to accomplish this.33

The Centre for Canadian Baseball Research holds in its collection a manuscript titled “Double Vision: Let’s See Double A Baseball in Hamilton” (dated January 9, 1991) that provides an assessment of various Hamilton locations in comparison to the standards set out for a AA stadium. It also contains an assessment, prepared by a local university professor, of the economic impact of a AA team, and numerous letters of support from local groups. The provenance of the document is unclear, but it bears the Hamilton Redbirds logo on the title page. It is also unclear how this document was used, but it seems that someone cared enough about this to spend a significant amount of money to develop this document.

The ownership group recruited former Ontario politician and well-known baseball fan, Larry Grossman, to take the lead. There were a head-spinning number of different proposals for a stadium ranging in cost—$8 million34/$12 million35/$16—18 million36—to a stadium to be constructed by a private developer if he was given land by the city.

These proposals need to be set in context. The relative newcomer baseball franchise was making a multi-million dollar ask at a time when the city council had just turned down a request for $300,000 from the city’s long-time cherished football team, which was threatening to leave.37 The baseball group’s credibility was also not enhanced by the constantly-changing stadium plans.

Mayor Bob Morrow and members of the council’s Parks and Recreation Committee were generally sympathetic to the team’s proposals, but the full council seemed to have no appetite to spend millions of dollars on a facility for a new team when the existing team had not attracted the interest of large numbers of fans. The 1992 season was a good one for the Redbirds.

Their record of 56-20 was one of the best in professional baseball, and put them into the playoffs.38,39 To their surprise, they lost the first sudden-death game to the wild-card team and were eliminated.40 Their season ended in sadness on September 4, 1992, but not many realized that this would be the team’s last game in Hamilton.

At a reception on September 22, 1992, Mayor Morrow was discussing sports highlights in the city and referred to the Redbirds as leaders in the city moving forward. Immediately after the reception, the team owner informed Mayor Morrow that the team would be moving to Glens Falls, New York, for the 1993 season.41 Bernie Arbour Memorial Stadium is still there in Mohawk Sports Park, serving as the home of Hamilton’s entry in the Inter-county Baseball League.

Welland Pirates (1989—94)

The City of Welland finished second in the fight to land the Blue Jays’ short-season A franchise. This whetted the city’s appetite to search for another NY-P franchise. Its goal was to increase the entertainment value available to local residents as well as to increase the number of baseball and softball diamonds that were available for recreational use.

George Marshall, the city councillor who was chair of the council’s Parks and Recreation Committee, remembers preliminary discussions with a number of interested franchises, but eventually the courting became serious with Dr. Eric Margenau and Jay Acton, the principal owners of United Baseball.42 This group also owned the South Bend, Indiana, franchise in the Midwest League and was in the process of acquiring a franchise in the Carolina League.43 United Baseball exemplified the same ownership approach mentioned above in Hamilton. The purpose was to make money from the resurgence of interest in minor-league baseball while also allowing grown men to pursue their boyhood dreams of being involved in professional baseball. If you weren’t good enough to play, but had a few million dollars to invest, you could still live the dream.

United Baseball had operated a franchise in Watertown, New York, for three years, but had decided to move the franchise because of poor attendance and a lack of community support demonstrated by the refusal to upgrade the existing stadium.44 United was excited to move to Welland because it was a larger city supposedly with a baseball tradition, and the city had demonstrated a willingness to invest in a new stadium.45

The Welland Sports Complex was a brand new facility which included the stadium built for the team, two additional diamonds built for recreational use, and a large parking area. It was built in the north end of the city to satisfy local residents who had been complaining about a lack of recreational venues.

There was some local hyperbole about it being “the finest facility in the province next to the SkyDome” in Toronto and being the best facility in the minor leagues.46 The truth was that this was a new, good facility by Class A standards. It accommodated more than 2,500 patrons in a concrete grandstand with a nice concourse hosting concession stands.47 The large parking lot easily accommodated all patrons. It was clearly the nicest of the four stadiums in the area.

It also came with a total price tag in excess of $3 million.48 However, Marshall remembers the stadium being a fairly easy sell to the council for several reasons. The economy was weak and very little construction was taking place; this facility would provide construction jobs and be a stimulus to the local economy. There was general agreement that the city needed additional sports facilities, particularly in this area. There was considerable local support from sports associations and the local business improvement area. One of the major selling points was that the $3 million total cost of the complex was covered in part by grants from the federal and provincial governments, and donations of land and cash. Marshall estimates the net cost to the city at less than $500,000. In exchange, the city obtained a new recreational facility, which was badly needed in the north end, and city services extended to an area of the city that eventually led to a significant housing development, which served as an anchor for further development. This followed a model used by Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, when it built a stadium which served as a catalyst to attract people to a previously under-used area of the city.49

The complex was located near a busy intersection between a major highway serving the Niagara area and a major street providing entrance to the city. The sports complex was touted as the driver that had stimulated the expansion of an existing hotel and the construction of a new hotel.50 Honestly, it was obvious that this area of the city was ripe for development with or without the baseball stadium, but the new stadium certainly didn’t hurt.

The city had the foresight to design the stadium as a multi-purpose facility. It has a large moveable stage and an oversize kitchen to accommodate various civic activities in addition to baseball.51

When the Welland Pirates played their home opener on June 17, 1989, everything was in place and ready to go—except the grass. The structural part of the stadium had been completed, but a very rainy spring had prevented the installation of sod on the field52. For the first month, the team had to play at a somewhat upgraded Burgar Park.53 The team played its home opener at Burgar Park with all the usual dignitaries in attendance. The result was a 9—3 win over the Niagara Falls Rapids. The opening-day crowd of 613 was disappointing, but this was attributed to the temporary venue and the cloudy weather.54 The team played its first game at the Welland Sports Complex on July 17, 1989. It was an exciting event which the home team won by a score of 5—1 before 3,162 fans.55 Though the Welland Pirates would be the city’s first professional sports franchise, the city does have a strong baseball tradition.56,57 However, there was an attempt to educate local residents about baseball including providing the information that the Pirates’ parent team was located in Pittsburg [sic].58

The relationship started out well with all sorts of kind words from both team management and the city. However, the relationship did not blossom well over the years. Between 1989 and 1993, the Pirates never had a winning season. Fans responded by staying away. In every year after the first, attendance for the season was in the bottom third in the league.59

By the beginning of the 1994 season everyone could see where this relationship was headed. The team’s five-year lease on the stadium expired at the end of the season. Even before the first hopeful pitch of the new season was thrown, the rumor was spreading that the team would be moving for next season into a brand new $8 million stadium in Erie, Pennsylvania.60

The rumor was confirmed at the New York-Penn League meeting shortly after the end of the season.61 All that remained were parting shots on both sides. The team owner opined that Welland was not a good baseball town and likely never would be. The mayor of Welland and others countered that the owners had delivered a sub-standard product in spite of city efforts to provide an excellent place to play.62

The situation of Erie, Pennsylvania, reveals a great deal about what minor-league baseball had become in the 1990s. Erie lost its NY-P franchise to Hamilton in 1988, in part, because of the quality of its stadium. Therefore, it set about building a new state-of-the-art facility, which attracted the Welland franchise in 1994. A perfect illustration of the musical chairs that baseball had become.

The demise of the Welland Pirates was similar to the story in the other two cities, with one significant difference: the stadium. The city was able to leverage federal, provincial, and private funds to construct a sports complex which included a high-quality multipurpose stadium and two recreational diamonds at a limited cost to the city. After the demise of professional baseball in Welland, the stadium continues to be home to baseball teams such as the Welland Jackfish of the Inter-county League, as well as a number of civic activities.

Conclusion

The saga of these few years says something about both team owners and the host cities with which they have a symbiotic, but sometimes troubled, relationship. City councillors and cynical residents see franchise owners as trying to sell empty dreams, with a clear intention to pass through town, bilking the local yokels and moving on to the next town, accumulating millions as they move around. The story told in this paper would suggest this characterization gives the owners way too much credit.

A better characterization of the owners in this paper would see them as vagabond carpetbaggers wandering from town to town attempting to peddle their wares with no understanding of their market. In St. Catharines, owners paid a significant amount for a franchise that had always had weak attendance and little local support. They did some small marketing fixes, and then made a major ask of a council that had always only grudgingly parted with small amounts of money, and were surprised when they were unsuccessful.

The story in Hamilton is similar. The owners took their baseball team into a football and hockey town and ultimately made a pitch for a larger amount of money than the council had just refused to give the city’s cherished football team. Again, no success.

The Welland story was a bit different. There, the city gave the owners exactly what they wanted in the form of a good stadium in a good location. The owners then made a lackluster marketing effort to sell an inferior product and blamed the local residents for not buying their product.

The owners in this story seemed to be like little boys with romantic dreams who had too much money and time on their hands, but no clear plan. Their only salvation was the fact that despite these franchises never turning a profit, as they moved around the country they continued to increase in value whenever they were sold. Maybe there was a method in these people’s madness, but it is a rather unintuitive way of making money.

The other part of this symbiotic relationship was host cities that seemed willing to accept, with more or less enthusiasm, the wares these vagabonds were peddling.

In an environment where cities would fight desperately for the right to host a professional baseball team, teams fell into the laps of these three semi-interested cities. None of these cities had a strategic plan with regard to professional sport that involved minor-league baseball. To the extent that any of them considered professional sport at all, their dreams were focused on hockey.

Welland was the only city that fit the opportunity into a broader plan for development of an area of the city. In Hamilton and St. Catharines, the stadiums were located in outlying areas with no real plans for development. There was discussion of a downtown stadium in St. Catharines, but it was deemed unworkable, and there was no real effort to make it work or to find a location that would benefit the city.

This kind of laconic involvement was acceptable in the early years of this story, when minor-league baseball was coming back from its collapse in the 1950s and franchises sometimes changed hands for nominal amounts.63 However, as franchises increased in value during this renaissance, parent teams or romantic investors could no longer hold onto teams on a whim. The local group that purchased the Baby Jays from the parent club for $1 million was confronted with the opportunity to sell the team for double that amount five years later. How could they turn down an offer like that for a team that had never turned a profit? In Welland the team was not sold, but the owner was given the opportunity to move from a city where attendance was relatively flat to a city which had just built a shiny new stadium. Teams that now had a value measured in the millions needed to turn a profit, and teams located in Niagara were not going to do that.

The story of these three cities indicates that Welland benefited because it was systematic in its approach and had a clear and well-considered goal. It was realistic in understanding that a minor-league team would provide enjoyment and a potential source of pride to local residents; it would not provide a major economic stimulus. Fans from all over North America flock to the shrines of Wrigley Field or Chavez Ravine. Fewer fans travel any distance to see minor-league baseball.

“If you build it, they will come” is a cute maxim inspired by a charming movie, but do not invest hard cash in it. Consider carefully the kind of stadium you want to build. In Welland’s case it wanted to build additional fields for recreational use anyway. It took advantage of a minor-league team to leverage funds and land from other levels of government and local businesses to build a sports complex that included two baseball fields for recreational use and a multi-purpose stadium suitable for a variety of civic events. When the team predictably left after five years, the city had a nice multi-use facility, built with minimal local funds.

It is difficult to see any plan in the actions of Hamilton and St. Catharines. Both cities spent relatively small amounts of money and ended up with marginally better baseball facilities paid for in part by the departed professional team. No attempt was made to think in broader economic development terms.

The sometimes uneasy relationship between a minor-league baseball team and its host city can be very advantageous. Cities frequently feel that they are taken advantage of by team owners, and this clearly has happened. However, this paper indicates that there can be situations in which the host city comes out very well. It is a matter of the host city having a plan that it can use to its advantage.

DAVID SIEGEL has been a member of SABR since 2006. After 40 years as a Professor of Political Science and administrator at Brock University in St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada, he has now turned his attention to doing research on baseball. Contact: dsiegel@brocku.ca.

 

Acknowledgments

The author would like to thank the two anonymous reviewers for this Journal, as well as John Belford, Doug Herod, Bill Humber, Joseph Kushner, George Marshall, Andrew North, and Elena North for their assistance in the preparation of the paper. All errors and omissions are the responsibility of the author.

 

Notes

  1. https://www.milb.com/new-york-penn/history (Accessed, September 28, 2019).
  2. Baseball Reference, https://www.baseball-reference.com/bullpen/ New_York-Penn_League(Accessed, September 11, 2019).
  3. Robert Obojski indicates that Catherines (sic) had a professional team in the Ontario League which began play some time in 1930 and disbanded on July 22,1930. Bush League: A History of Minor League Baseball (New York: Macmillan Publishing Co., Inc., 1975), 376.) The Brewers are also mentioned in: Humber, Diamonds of the North, 208. It does not seem like too much of a stretch to exclude this short foray from consideration.
  4. Steve Milton, “A League with Pizzaz,” Hamilton Spectator, June 14, 1988, F2; “A Look Back at Minor League Happenings,” Hamilton Spectator, June 14, 1988, F3; Humber, Diamonds of the North, 207; Humber, Cheering for the Home Team, 28; Obojski, Bush League,
  5. Mike Hamilton, “Promise of New Stadium Enticed Jays to Locate its Farm Team Here,” The Standard (St. Catharines, Ontario), June 28, 1986, 7A; Mike Hamilton, “Plan for Baseball Stadium Unveiled,” The Standard, June 4, 1986.
  6. “Park Lights Go up Today,” The Standard, June 2, 1986,
  7. Arthur Johnson, Minor League Baseball and Local Economic Development (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1995).
  8. Mike Hamilton, “Baby Jays Make Successful Debut,” The Standard, June 17, 1986,
  9. Peter Conradi, “Baby Jays Hatch a Win,” The Standard, June 18, 1986, 1; Mike Hamilton, “Blue Jays Set for Season Opener,” The Standard, June 16, 1986, 21.
  10. Mike Hamilton, “Patience Needed to Baby Jays,” The Standard, June 7, 1986, 29; Jack Gatecliff, “Every Blue Jay in Catharines Has a Shot at Majors, The Standard, June 10, 1986, 21.
  11. The Standard, June 28,
  12. Jack Gatecliff, “Baby Jays Successful First Season,” The Standard, July 26, 1986,
  13. Doug Herod, “City Hall Cool to Beer at Ballpark, The Standard, July 8, 1986,
  14. Abigail Vint, “Councillors Anxious to Go to Bat for Stompers, The Standard, June 7, 1999, A3.
  15. Bill Potrecz, “Stompers’ Final At Bat?” The Standard, June 19, 1999,
  16. Bill Potrecz, “The Stompers Are Out at Home,” The Standard, June 2, 1999, A1,
  17. Peter Conradi, “City Fiddles while Stompers Burn, The Standard, June 5, 1999, B1,
  18. Bill Potrecz, “The Stompers Are Out at Home,” The Standard, June 2, 1999, A1,A7.
  19. Editorial, “City Shouldn’t Just Let Team Go Stomping Off,” The Standard, June 5, 1999, A12; Peter Conradi, “Council Blew Chance to Save Stompers,” The Standard, June 12, 1999, B1,
  20. Humber, Diamonds of the North,
  21. Obojski, Bush League, 95, 97, and 100
  22. https://www.milb.com/new-york-penn/history (Accessed, September 28, 2019).
  23. Steve Milton, “A League with Pizzaz,” Hamilton Spectator, June 14, 1988,
  24. Bob Andelman, Stadium for Rent: Tampa Bay’s Quest for Major League Baseball (McFarland and Company, , Publishers, 1993).
  25. Andelman, Stadium for Rent.
  26. Larry Moko, “The Redbirds Come Home to Roost,” Hamilton Spectator, June 13, 1988,
  27. Larry Moko, “The Redbirds Come Home to Roost,” Hamilton Spectator, June 13, 1988,
  28. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_largest_Canadian_cities_by_ census#1986 (Accessed, October 25, 2019).
  29. Steve Milton, ”Franchise Fever Class AA in Birds Plan,” Hamilton Spectator, March 4, 1989.
  30. Larry Moko, “It Was the Blue Jays in a Walk,” Hamilton Spectator, June 17, 1988, B2.
  31. “Redbirds Sale OKed by League,” Hamilton Spectator, January 23,
  32. Larry Moko, “Redbirds’ Dream: Affordable, Outdoor Entertainment,” Hamilton Spectator, February 21, 1991.
  33. “Redbirds Make Pitch for AA Ball,” Hamilton Spectator, January 23,
  34. Jim Poling, “Park Pitch for $588,000 on Mark …if AA Comes, Hamilton Spectator, August 26, 1992, B1.
  35. “Committee Backs Proposal for $12m AA Ball, Hamilton Spectator, January 22,
  36. Jim Poling, “Stadium Study Strikes Out with Morrow,” Hamilton Spectator, August 20, 1992, B1.
  37. Ken Peters, “Big Bucks for Baseball,” Hamilton Spectator, June 24, 1992, A1,A2; Jeff Dickins and Jim Poling, “No Cash No Cats!,” Hamilton Spectator, June 11, 1992,
  38. Only the Elizabethton Twins had a better winning average in 1992 (.742, 49—17, in the Appalachian League).
  39. https://www.baseball-reference.com/register/league.cgi?id=408b8984 (Accessed, November 24, 2019).
  40. Larry Moko, “Shocker,” Hamilton Spectator, September 5, 1992,
  41. Larry Moko, “Redbirds Leave Town Blame City for Impasse on Stadium,” Hamilton Spectator, September 23, 1992.
  42. Interview, October 10,
  43. Wayne Redshaw, “Welland Pirates—A New Baseball Era,” The Tribune (Welland, Ontario), June 13, 1989, 2A; “New Partner,” The Tribune, June 13, 1989,
  44. Wayne Redshaw, “Pirates Ran out of Shots,” The Tribune, June 13, 1989,
  45. “Complex One Reason,” The Tribune, June 13, 1989,
  46. Charles Muggeridge, “Details Are Finalized for Sports Complex Opening,” The Tribune, June 13, 1989, 1.
  47. Wayne Creighton, “Sports Complex Can Be Used,” The Tribune, June 13, 1989,
  48. Wayne Redshaw, “Welland Pirates—A New Baseball Era,” The Tribune, June 13, 1989,
  49. Johnson, Minor League Baseball and Local Economic Development, Chapter
  50. “Niagara Street Spinoffs Starting—Brunner,” The Tribune, June 21, 1989,
  51. Wayne Crichton, “Sports Complex Can Be Used,” The Tribune, June 13, 1989, 11A.
  52. “Field is too Wet to Lay down Sod,” The Tribune, June 8, 1989,
  53. Ken Avey and Charles Muggeridge, “Batter Up at Burgar Park—For Now,” The Tribune, June 9, 1989, 1.
  54. “Pirate Opener,” The Tribune, June 19, 1989, 5C; Wayne Redshaw, “Where Were the Fans for the Home Opener?” The Tribune, June 19, 1989,
  55. Ken Avey, “New Stadium to Open July 17,” The Tribune, July 11, 1989, 3; John Sherwin, “Baseball Bosses Impressed,” The Tribune, June 18, 1989, 1; Ken Avey, “At Long Last…” The Tribune, July 18, 1989,
  56. Wayne Redshaw, “Welland Pirates—A New Baseball Era,” The Tribune, June 13, 1989,
  57. George “Udy” Blazetich, “A Welland Baseball Flashback,” The Tribune, June 13, 1989, 17A,
  58. Ken Avey and Charles Muggerridge, “Batter Up at Burgar Park—For Now,” The Tribune, June 9, 1989, 1.
  59. Bill Sawchuck, “Pirates’ Future in Limbo until Season is Over,” The Tribune, June 21, 1994, A-1.
  60. Bill Sawchuck, “Pirates’ Fans Say Next Year Will Take Care of Itself,” The Tribune, June 2, 1994, B-5; Bill Sawchuck, “Pirates’ Future in Limbo until Season is Over,” The Tribune, June 21, 1994, A-1; Bill Sawchuck, “Pirates Moving to Erie, ” The Tribune, September 16, 1994, A-1.
  61. Bill Sawchuck, “Pirates’ Move Stirs Little Discussion at League Meeting,” The Tribune, September 19, 1994, B-3.
  62. Bill Sawchuck, “Pirates Moving to Erie, ” The Tribune, September 16, 1994, A-1: Joop Gerritsma, “Club Let Fans Down,” The Tribune, September 21, 1994, B-1.
  63. This history is told well in: Obojski, Bush League, chapters 1 and 2; Harold Seymour, Baseball: The Golden Age (New York: Oxford University Press, 1971), chapter 20; Neil Sullivan, The Minors (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1990), chapters 12—14.

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