Baseball City, USA
By Samantha Carr
The new book “Silver Seasons and a New Frontier: The Story of the Rochester Red Wings” set out to show that Rochester, N.Y., has the deepest, longest and richest baseball tradition of any minor league city.
Since 22 Hall of Famers have a connection to Rochester, the book makes a pretty good case.
Authors Jim Mandelaro and Scott Pitoniak were in Cooperstown Friday for an Authors’ Series event at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum and participated in a book signing following their talk. Mandelaro has covered the Red Wings for the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle since 1991, and Pitoniak is the author of 10 books.
“We’ve known each other for a quarter of a century, and what keeps our friendship going is our love for baseball,” said Pitoniak.
The authors set out to compile a definitive history of the Red Wings, retrace the careers of the players and managers who called Rochester home. Rochester has been named “Baseball City, USA” by Baseball America magazine. Among the many great ballplayers who have been a part of the Red Wings are Hall of Famers Stan Musial, Cal Ripken Jr., Jim Palmer, Eddie Murray, George Sisler, Billy Southworth, Jocko Conlan, Bob Gibson, Earl Weaver and Frank Robinson.
Each has a different connection with Rochester. Sisler came down to Rochester to play after his career in the big leagues. It was the only time the Hall of Famer spent time in the minors and was also the only team he was on which won a pennant. Hall of Fame umpire Jocko Conlan took the field as a player in Rochester, and Cal Ripken Jr. first came to Rochester as a boy in 1969 because his father managed the Red Wings for two seasons.
Cal and Billy Ripken would move to Rochester from their permanent home in Maryland for the summer and play ball in a lot near their rented home.
“The year Cal was inducted (into the Hall of Fame, 2007), I tracked down a few people who were neighbors during that time and they said the Ripken boys always played in their perfect full Oriole uniforms,” Pitoniak said.
Cal Ripken Jr. returned to the Red Wings as a player, earning International League Rookie of the Year honors and placing second in MVP voting in 1981. He also took part in the longest game in the history of professional baseball that season – a 33-inning affair against the Pawtucket Red Sox.
“How fitting that the man who symbolizes the Iron Man, Ripken played in all 114 Red Wings games (he was eligible for) that season and also played 33 innings in one game – of all the people who could have played in that game,” said Mandelaro.
Samantha Carr is the manager of web and digital media at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.