Academic journal article Base Ball

Scranton Times Coverage of the 1906 New York State League Champions Led by Moonlight Graham

Academic journal article Base Ball

Scranton Times Coverage of the 1906 New York State League Champions Led by Moonlight Graham

Article excerpt

"I was a pretty fair hitter in the minors-.335 one year-and I wasn't bad in practice with the Giants."1 This is how Archibald "Moonlight" Graham summed up his baseball career in W.P. Kinsella's classic work of fiction Shoeless Joe. Graham's real-life .335 average in 1906 was pretty fair indeed. It was enough to lead the New York State League and to propel the Scranton Miners to their first pennant.

Graham and his Scranton Miners were the pride of the city during the championship campaign of 1906. This pride is evidenced in the reporting of the Scranton Times. To this day, the Times continues to promote local amateur and professional sports teams. However, it would be difficult to mistake the writing of a 1906 reporter for that of a modern counterpart. The colorful language and vivid imagery of the journalists combined with a strong pro team led by a star-caliber player make the 1906 Scranton Miners season one worth remembering.

Scranton is nestled in the Lackawanna Valley in northeastern Pennsylvania. The city owed much of its surging population and wealth in the late 19th and early 20th centuries to the large deposits of hard (anthracite) coal in the area. The waning use of coal beginning in the 1920s brought with it a slow but steady erosion of Scranton's importance and prosperity. The population declined from a peak of approximately 140,000 in the mid-1930s, making Scranton the third most populous city in Pennsylvania,2 to slightly more than 70,000 today.3 The physical decay of the city also became increasingly noticeable over the years. A recent economic renaissance notwithstanding, Scranton has been reduced to being the object of ridicule in popular culture in the past several decades. From Archie Bunker dreading a potential trip from Queens, New York, to Scranton to visit a relative in the 1970s television series All in the Family, to the buffoons in The Office that call Scranton home, the city has been the recipient of jest.

Through good times and bad, Scrantonians have had an affinity for local sports teams and individual athletes. High school teams have steadily held their popularity over the years, and professional teams representing the city have enjoyed strong followings. Organized baseball began in Scranton at the close of the Civil War, and today the top New York Yankees farm club plays its games just outside the city. In 1931 and 1932, Babe Ruth led contingents of Yankees to Scranton to play in exhibitions against the Scranton Miners from the Class B New York- Pennsylvania League.4 From 1939-1953, the Scranton Red Sox were the Class A Eastern League affiliate of the Boston Red Sox.5 Notable players coming through Scranton in those years included Mel Parnell, Jimmy Piersall, Maurice McDermott, and Sam Mele. Following a 35-year absence, professional baseball returned to the Scranton area in 1989 with the AAA club of the Philadelphia Phillies. Three baseball Hall of Famers, Nestor Chylak (Olyphant), Hughie Jennings (Pittston), and Christy Mathewson (Factoryville), called the Scranton area home. The rich history of Scranton baseball includes a stint in the Class B New York State League (NYSL) for the Scranton Miners from 1904-1917. During the 1904 season, "...John Farrell, president of the NYSL, moved the financially plagued Schenectady team to the anthracite region."6 After lackluster seasons in 1904 and 1905, the Miners organized a strong team for 1906.

Thanks in large part to the anthracite coal in the area and the great demand for it across the country, Scranton was enjoying peak prosperity in 1906. The number of people in the city swelled from 45,000 in 1880 to approximately 115,000 in 1906.7 This was a time when electricity was increasing in popularity and availability in the city, and Civil War veterans from Scranton were attending reunions. The spring of 1906 brought not only high hopes for a strong baseball team but also a new outlet for entertainment. Toward the end of May, the highly anticipated amusement venue, Luna Park, opened to the public. …

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