Play Ball - Bradford Baseball
Baseball has been a part of Bradford for over one hundred years. An early photograph shows baseball being played on the Public Square as early as the 1860s. Of course, in those days, Main Street was unpaved and had only a handful of buildings, and was perfect for a lazy summer day's game of ball.
By the 1890s, baseball, and Bradford, had grown. The city erected its first ballpark in the late 1800s on a large plot of ground to the east of Mechanic Street, generally encompassing what is now known as Charlotte Avenue and the hack lots of the old Tuna Manufacturing Co. The Bradford Baseball Park was extremely popular and crowds of Bradfordians cheered on the Bradford teams. On Memorial Day, May 31, 1891, over 2500 men, women, and children viewed the doubleheader between Meadville and Bradford (Meadville won both games). An accident occurred when throngs of thirsty fans left the ballpark, jostling each other as they piled onto the Pine Street bridge, heading to the Black Bear Hotel on Pine Street for some "after game" refreshments. The Bradford Era reported that "Some of the observing ones noticed that the frail structure swayed slightly up stream, then it sagged back and then with a terrific crash, the bridge was precipitated into the bed of the creek. It fell 13 feet, and at least 200 people went down with it." Although no one was killed, 15 men were injured, breaking ribs, legs, ankles, and wrists. One man, William Carey, was not expected to live, but did.
But such troubles did nothing to lessen Bradford's love of baseball. The first official interstate NY & PA league, the "Iron and Oil League", was formed on February 24, 1898. Bradford ball players did their best against teams from Warren, Celeron, Oil City, Meadville and Olean. Each player earned $600 a month, and umpires were paid $60.00 monthly. During this time period, Rube Waddell, born on Jackson Avenue, got started in the game. Later, in 1946, eccentric left handed Waddell would be named to the Baseball Hall of Fame.
Interstate league play was discontinued for a time, but was started up again in 1905-06-07, and again in 1914-15-16. Pete Behan, a Dallas City native, rose to baseball fame with the Philadelphia Phillies in the 1920s; he began here, in the Interstate League of 1916. During these years, a community ball park in Foster Brook was built. Later this ball park became the Community Ball Park.
Bradford's most famous ball team, though, was the Bradford Bees, a farm team of the Boston Braves, which was formed in 1938. As members of the PONY League, a combination of Pennsylvania, New York, and Ontario, Bradford baseball reached its height. Later, after the war, the Bradford team became the Phillies, a franchise farm team of the Philadelphia Phillies. In 1949 the Phillies won the Governor's Cup.
But their fame was soon to end. Philadelphia sold the franchise in the early 1950s, and for a time, the city sponsored the team itself, but big time baseball was coming to an end, and by the mid 1950s, baseball was gone.
PHOTO ID LEFT TO RIGHT, STARTING AT BACK ROW:
Dancy, Hazelton, Foster, Busseu, Funely, C. Hoover, Zollers, Bedel
Kirnan, F. Hoover, Smith, Schroeder, Harrell