Just got back from the Finger Lakes. I was going to visit a ballpark with some interesting history, and then do the usual pix-and-lines writeup that I do when I go to a new (to me) ballpark.
But then my plans shifted and I ended up going to a much less interesting place — from a historical standpoint, and from a photographic standpoint as well.
Still, you gets the writeup and the pictures anyway, because that’s how I do.
This is Maple City Park in Hornell, New York, a city-owned and -run park that’s home to the Hornell Dodgers of the New York Collegiate Baseball League. (This is a summer league for college-age players, financially supported by Major League Baseball.)
The small (pop. 8,563) city of Hornell hosted affiliated minor-league ballclubs from 1942 to 1957. The best-known and best-remembered of them were part of the Brooklyn Dodgers’ massive minor-league network, though the city also hosted teams linked to the Reds, Red Sox and Pirates.
Tommy Davis, a sure-shot member of baseball’s Hall of Very Good, spent a season in Hornell in 1956. Charlie Neal and Don Zimmer — who both won World Series titles with the Dodgers, only to wash up with the ’62 Mets — played there in 1950.
Dick Tracewski, a two-time Series winner as a player and later one of Sparky Anderson’s trusted coaches, passed through in ’54.
And Frank Oceak played his last minor-league ball in Hornell in 1943. He never made the bigs as a player, but you might remember him as the Pirates third-base coach congratulating Bill Mazeroski after his Series-winning home run in 1960.
Those players and their teams also played at a ballpark called Maple City Park. But it ain’t the same one; that one was torn down in the early 1960s to make way for a new high school.
The school isn’t far from today’s Maple City Park — just up Seneca Street — but it seems likely that today’s park isn’t on the same site as the old one. Which kinda cuts down on the historical interest, compared to cities like Elmira and Geneva, which still have their old ballparks in play on their original sites.
To add insult to injury, the one set of fixed stands at Maple City Park is (a) set back from the field some, and (b) is fronted by a screen that completely covers the view. I understand why it’s there, but I don’t like watching baseball from behind a screen — especially at a little local field — so that cost the park a couple of points.
That said, you can always bring your own chair and sit in foul territory, as a fair number of people do …
… or if you’re too cheap to pay the $4 adult fee to get in, you can always pitch a seat right outside the chain-link fence and watch for free.
While it’s not my favorite park in the world — or even in the Southern Tier — Maple City Park has a few things going for it.
If you don’t bother anybody, you can watch the game from small unscreened areas next to each dugout, which brings you a little closer to the action.
The field is also surrounded by a residential neighborhood, a factor shared by some of my favorite college ballparks. There’s something great about seeing houses all around the field, especially when the houses are modest (though well-kept). Beats being at a ballpark that’s surrounded by acres of parking lots.
I left in the fourth inning with the Wellsville Nitros ahead of the Dodgers 5-2. I didn’t much care who won, and I had to run a 5K early the next morning.
I probably won’t be back … but I’ll end with a couple more pictures, anyway.