Susquehanna Bank Park at Historic Bowman Field
|Historic Bowman Field|
|Former names||Memorial Field (1926–1929)|
|Location||Williamsport, Pennsylvania 17701|
|Owner||City of Williamsport|
|Field size||Left Field: 345 feet (105 m)
Center Field: 405 feet (123 m)
Right Field: 350 feet (110 m)
|Broke ground||October 1925|
|Opened||April 22, 1926|
($999 thousand in 2014 dollars)
|General contractor||James V. Bennett/Drennen Bros./J. C. Dressler|
Williamsport Crosscutters (NYPL) (1999–present)
Susquehanna Bank Park at Historic Bowman Field is a minor league baseball stadium in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, in the United States. It is home to the Williamsport Crosscutters of the New York - Penn League. Official seating capacity is 4,200. Opened in 1926, Bowman Field is the third oldest ballpark in minor league baseball. It is also the home field for the Wildcats of the Pennsylvania College of Technology.
Ballparks in Williamsport before Bowman Field
Williamsport has hosted minor league baseball since the late 19th century. The various teams played at differing sights in Williamsport. The earliest ballfield was near the West Branch Susquehanna River. It was long since been replaced by a levee and U.S. Route 220, U.S. Route 15 and Interstate 180. A second and more permanent facility was built in the Vallamont neighborhood. Cochran Elementary School sits on the former site of the ballpark. The Williamsport Billies and later Williamsport Grays played the seasons at Williamsport High School's athletic field on West Third Street. It too is long since gone, this property is currently home to the Pennsylvania College of Technology.
Construction, opening, and renaming
Bowman Field was completed in 1926 to host the city's entry as an original franchise in the New York-Pennsylvania League called the Williamsport Grays. The Grays were a charter member of the New York-Pennsylvania league which was established in 1923. Two of the most important boosters and financial backers of the team were J. Walton Bowman for whom the stadium was named and Thomas Gray, the Lycoming County, for whom the Grays were named.
The Grays had previously been playing their home games on the athletic field of Williamsport High School. This facility proved to be much too small. A larger and more permanent stadium was needed. A group of civic leaders and baseball boosters lead the drive to construct a new stadium for the Grays on the western side of Williamsport on the banks of Lycoming Creek. An agreement between the Grays and the city was reached in July, 1925 to build what was then known as Memorial Field, which was named for the municipal park in which it is located. J. Walton Bowman headed an eleven member holding company that financed and managed the construction of the ballpark at a cost of $75,000. Ground was broken in the fall of 1925 and the stadium opened in time for the beginning of the 1926 New York-Pennsylvania League season.
The original dimensions of Bowman Field were quite large compared to the dimensions of modern baseball fields. Bowman Field measured 367 feet to the right field foul pole, 450 feet to dead center field and 400 feet to the left field foul pole. Another unusual feature of the stadium was a terrace that was located on left field near the fence.
The first game to be played at Bowman Field took place on April 22, 1926 when the Grays hosted the team of nearby Bucknell University in an exhibition. The first professional opponent to appear at Bowman Field was the Harrisburg Colored Giants. The Grays lost two games to the Giants on April 27 and 29. The first New York-Pennsylvania League game took place on May 4. The Grays beat the Shamokin Indians 5-1.
Bowman Field was known as Memorial Field from 1926 until 1929. It was renamed on June 26, 1929 to honor J. Walton Bowman. Bowman was the president of the Grays at the time and instrumental in the effort to fund and construct the stadium. He was additionally honored by the players of the team with a Swiss watch and his granddaughter was given the honor of hoisting a pennant in center field bearing the name "Bowman Field".
The Eastern League was at Bowman off and on for nearly seventy years. The Williamsport Grays started play in 1926 in Bowman Field. The final Eastern League team to call the park home was the 1991 Williamsport Bills. That team moved to Binghamton, New York, the next season and became the Binghamton Mets.
The Grays began playing in the forerunner of the Eastern League, the old New York - Pennsylvania League in 1923. The Class B league was made entirely of teams from New York and Pennsylvania. It kept this name until 1938 when the Scranton Miners move to Hartford, Connecticut. Williamsport was a member of the league for 46 years between 1923 and 1991. The teams were known as the Grays, Tigers, A's, Mets, Tomahawks and Bills. Williamsport had affiliations with the Philadelphia A's for three periods, Pittsburgh Pirates, Detroit Tigers, Washington Senators, Philadelphia Phillies, New York Mets for two separate periods, Cleveland Indians for two separate periods, and Seattle Mariners.
The potato incident
Dave Bresnahan was catching for the 1987 Williamsport Bills, who were in seventh place in an eight-team league, playing the last-place Reading Phillies in late-August game. With a runner on third base, Bresnahan switched catcher's mitts and put on a glove in which he had secreted a shaved-down potato. When the pitch came in, Bresnahan fired the white potato down the third-base line, enticing the runner to sprint home. Bresnahan then tagged the runner with the baseball, prompting the umpire to award the runner home plate for Bresnahan's deception, even though he clearly had been tagged out with the ball.
The president of the Eastern League took offense to what he perceived as Bresnahan's affront to the game, banning the grandnephew of Hall of Famer Roger Bresnahan from the league. However, the citizens of Williamsport applauded Bresnahan for his ingenuity, eventually prompting the club to retire his number 59. At the retirement ceremony in 1998, Bresnahan was quoted as saying, “Lou Gehrig had to play in 2,130 consecutive games and hit .340 for his number to be retired, and all I had to do was bat .140 and throw a potato.”
New York–Penn League
For the 1994 season, baseball returned to Bowman with the New York - Penn League's Williamsport Cubs. The club became the Crosscutters, a Pittsburgh Pirates farm team, in 1999. Significant stadium upgrades took place prior to the 2002 season. The club became a farm team of the Philadelphia Phillies in 2006.
Ice hockey–Federal Hockey League
On July 24, 2012 Williamsport mayor Gabriel J. Campana announced that the Williamsport Outlaws of the Federal Hockey League (FHL) would play their 2012–2013 season at an outdoor ice rink built at Bowman Field. The Outlaws were the FHL champions their previous (and first) season, which they played in Wayne, New Jersey as the "New Jersey Outlaws". On August 1 the Crosscutters and Outlaws agreed to terms regarding restoration of the baseball diamond after the removal of the ice rink at the end of the hockey season, though beer sales at Outlaws games were still an issue (as the Crosscutters hold the liquor license for the stadium). Construction of the ice rink, named Airmen Pond after a local sponsor, began in early October. The rink was also open for public skating and use by local amateur teams.
The 80-by-200-foot (24 by 61 m) ice rink officially opened on October 18, and the first home game of the Outlaws' 60-game season on October 24 drew over 3,000 fans, an FHL record. The Dayton Demonz beat the Outlaws 5 to 2; temperatures were over 65 °F (18 °C) for much of the game. Williamsport Ice Arena, a local non-profit group headed by FHL commissioner Don Kirnan, operated the ice rink and rented it to the Outlaws and other users. In November 2012, the non-profit filed an injunction seeking to prevent the rink's builder, Rink Specialists of Naples, Maine from repossessing it for late payments; both sides alleged breach of contract. The FHL All Star Gme was scheduled to be played at Bowman Field on January 2, 2013.
Bowman Field has been the home to just four championship teams.
- 1934 Grays - New York - Pennsylvania
- 1960 Grays - Eastern co-champions
- 2001 Crosscutters - New York - Penn co-champions
- 2003 Crosscutters - New York - Penn
- Consumer Price Index (estimate) 1800–2014. Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis. Retrieved February 27, 2014.
- Quigel Jr., James P.; Hunsinger, Louis E.; Hunsinger, Jr., Louis E. Williamsport's Baseball Heritage [Diamonds]. Chicago: Arcadia Publishing. p. 15. ISBN 978-0-7385-8574-1. Retrieved June 2, 2014.
- Gateway to the Majors pg. 77
- "Wildcat Baseball". Pennsylvania College of Technology. Retrieved October 14, 2008.
- Gateway to the Majors pg. 7
- Gateway to the Majors pg. 33
- Gateway to the Majors pg. 46
- Hunsinger, Jr., Lou. "Welcome to Historic Bowman Field, Williamsport, PA.". Williamsport Crosscutters. Archived from the original on April 7, 2009. Retrieved August 14, 2008.
- Gateway to the Majors pg. 78
- Gateway to the Majors pg. 79
- Gateway to the Majors pg. 79-80
- Gateway to the Majors pg. 81
- Gateway to the Majors pg. 80
- Gateway to the Majors pg. 97
- "Eastern League Baseball: History". Minor League Baseball. November 5, 2008. Retrieved August 15, 2008.
- Speicher, Tom. "The Great Potato Caper... Revisited". Williamsport Crosscutters. Archived from the original on July 6, 2008. Retrieved August 14, 2008.
- "Dave Bresnahan Potato". The Baseball Reliquary Inc. Retrieved August 14, 2008.
- Rupert, Mitch (July 25, 2012). "Hockey in City Could Face Pitfalls". Williamsport Sun-Gazette. Retrieved December 18, 2012.
- Maroney, Mark (August 1, 2012). "Crosscutters Reach Deal with Ice Rink Management". Williamsport Sun-Gazette. Retrieved December 18, 2012.
- Maroney, Mark (October 4, 2012). "Freezing the Field: Building Begins on City Ice Arena". Williamsport Sun-Gazette. Retrieved December 18, 2012.
- "New League for Rink at Bowman". Williamsport Sun-Gazette. October 2, 2012. Retrieved December 18, 2012.
- Maroney, Mark (October 17, 2012). "Ice Arena Ribbon-Cutting Ceremony Thursday". Williamsport Sun-Gazette. Retrieved December 18, 2012.
- Felix, Jake (October 25, 2012). "More Than 3,000 Fans Witness Outlaws' First Game". Williamsport Sun-Gazette. Retrieved December 18, 2012.
- Hutchinson, Matt (November 30, 2012). "Rink Owners, Non-Profit in Legal Squabble". Williamsport Sun-Gazette. Retrieved December 18, 2012.
- "Hockey Team: In ‘No Way Part’ of Legal Dispute". Williamsport Sun-Gazette. December 1, 2012. Retrieved December 18, 2012.
Quigel, Jr., James P.; Hunsinger, Jr., Louis E. (2001). Gateway to the Majors: Williamsport and Minor League Baseball. University Park, Pennsylvania: The Pennsylvania State University Press. ISBN 0-271-02248-5.
- Williamsport Crosscutters
- Bowman Field Views - Ball Parks of the Minor Leagues
- Official New York–Penn League Website
- Photographs of Historic Bowman Field - Rochester Area Ballparks
- Baseball Reliquary's Exhibit of the Bresnahan potato