OUR FIELDS OF DREAMS: LITTLE LEAGUE IN EAST ROCHESTER
By Anita Mance, Town/Village Historian December 2021
1952 Masons Little League Team
In December we often find ourselves reflecting on the year gone by. Perhaps it was because of the memories of the 1989 movie, “Field of Dreams.” Perhaps it was because the Chicago White Sox beat the New York Yankees, 9 -8 in the ninth inning this summer at the Field of Dreams site in Dyersville, Iowa. This year our Local History Department received many requests for photos and articles on Little League teams of the 1950s and 60s. While we have many articles about teams and individual games, we have few team photos. I did discover some interesting facts, however.
Midget baseball was founded in Williamsport, Pennsylvania in the 1940s. In the spring of 1950, the East Rochester Little League formally became the first in the Rochester area. It was tailored for children (8–12 years old) with balls, bats, distances between bases and the game’s length all two-thirds regulation in size. An election of officers was held in the old Fire Hall: Eugene Goddard (State Assemblyman) was elected President, Bob O’Brien (CYA Director) was chosen Vice President, Charles Wiley (President of St. Jerome’s Holy Name Society) became Secretary, and Walt Nohe (Rotary) Treasurer. Lewis Obourn (Superintendent of Schools) was chosen to be league commissioner.
Sponsors for the first teams created were: Rotary, Lion’s Club, Masonic Lodge, and the Chamber of Commerce. They were coached by: Clyde Wallace, Ham Conners (Police Chief), Alex Canniotto, and Cliff Fulton. Official scorekeepers were Louis Providence and Pat Pullano. 200 boys applied to take part. It was decided that games would be held on the Harris Field tract at the end of Woodbine Ave. Work began immediately to grade and seed the area, and create a diamond and outfield with fencing and dugouts. Games began June 3rd with special opening ceremonies. Mayor Howard Hustleby threw out the first pitch. 1200 fans came to see the first games. Assisting the team sponsors were: Frank O’Donnell, Sherman Reed, Bernard Mance, and Jack Tobin. Years later other teams named Tigers, Hornets, and Firemen joined the list.
By 1963, over 400 boys ages 5-16 were involved in Little League. That year Eyer Park became the place for boys (ages 13-16) in Senior Little League to play. Teams were sponsored by: Lawless Brothers Paper Mill, Jules Verne Fish Post of the American Legion, Debbie Supply, and All-State Insurance. With the history of involvement and community support, perhaps it was not surprising that our Senior Little League All-Stars won the World Championship in August, 1966 (55 years ago). East Rochester was the smallest community to sponsor such a team. Coached by Jack Brothers and Lionel Courtemanche, the boys beat a team from La Habra, California, by a score of 4-2. The parade into town and the celebrations which followed illustrated how much this accomplishment meant to us all.