Play Ball! chronicles the Capital Region’s baseball history. It features close to 100 baseball artifacts, many on public view for the first time. The Capital Region has significant firsts in the national pastime, ties to legendary players, local ballparks, and deep-rooted amateur and professional teams. Archival photographs, rare game footage, signed bats and balls, historic jerseys, stadium seats, score cards, posters, and more help show how baseball was integrated into the community and how the community has helped preserve that history.
Organized baseball in the Capital Region dates to the 1860s. In 1871, the Troy Haymakers joined the first professional major league featuring the first Jewish major league player, Lip Pike, and the first Hispanic major league player, Esteban Enrique Bellan. Several early Hall of Famers played on the National League Troy Trojans, while in Schenectady the Mohawk Colored Giants were the area’s most famous Negro League team.
Perhaps the region’s best known minor league team was the Albany Senators. They play major league teams like the Yankees in barn-storming games at Albany’s Hawkins Stadium that featured Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, and Yogi Berra. Hawkins is famous for being the first ballpark in the Capital District to have field lights installed by General Electric of Schenectady.
Founded in 1930, the Albany Twilight League (ATL) is the oldest continuously running amateur baseball league in the county. The league got its name from its propensity to begin games in the evening, illuminated by the sunset. In the late 1930s the Albany Black Sox joined the ATL, making the league one of the earliest to incorporate black teams into their structure. In 2012, the ATL’s Albany Athletics won their first American Amateur Baseball Congress Stan Musial World Series.
In the mid-1980s, the Albany-Colonie Yankees played at Heritage Park in Colonie. In the early 1990s, the team featured many future Yankee players, including Bernie Williams, Jorge Posada, Any Pettitte, Mariano Rivera, and Derek Jeter.
The semi-professional Albany-Colonie Diamond Dogs play at Heritage Park from 1995 to 2002. That same year, the Tri-City Valley Cats, the A affiliate of the Houston Astros, began playing at Joe Bruno Stadium in Troy. The Valley Cats won the New York-Penn League championship in 2010 and 2013 and continue to cultivate an enthusiastic spirit for baseball among Capital Region fans.
Play Ball! A History of Baseball in the Capital Region is sponsored by Courtney and Victor Oberting III