Utica Blue Sox
|Utica Blue Sox|
(1944–1950 and 1981–2001)
Utica, New York
|Minor league affiliations|
|Major league affiliations|
|Minor league titles|
|League titles||1947, 1983|
The Utica Blue Sox were a minor league baseball team based in Utica, New York. In their most recent incarnation, the Blue Sox played in the Short-Season A classification New York–Penn League from 1977–2001, with their home games at Donovan Stadium at Murnane Field. The NYPL Blue Sox affiliations through the years include: Toronto Blue Jays from 1977–80, independent from 1981–85, Philadelphia Phillies from 1986–87, Chicago White Sox from 1988–92, Boston Red Sox from 1993–95, and Florida Marlins from 1996 until 2001.
On February 7, 2002, Cal Ripken, Jr. and the Ripken Professional Baseball Association purchased the Blue Sox and moved the club to northern Maryland, where it became the Aberdeen IronBirds. The city needed a standard level ball park and Donovan Stadium needed repairs in order to keep the Blue Sox team.
Utica's first baseball team took the field in 1878. The city fielded a team in the New York State League from 1899–1917, then was without professional baseball until 1939, except for one year, 1924, when the Utica Utes, a member of an earlier edition of the New York-Pennsylvania League, moved to Oneonta, New York, in midseason.
Baseball returned with the Utica Braves of the Class C Canadian-American League, formed when the former Auburn Bouleys were moved to Utica by Amby McConnell and Father Harold Martin. The Utica Braves were initially a Boston Braves farm team and kept the nickname through 1942.
In 1943, Utica moved up to the Class A Eastern League and became an affiliate of the Phillies. The nickname Blue Sox dates to 1944 when their parent team was unofficially called the Philadelphia Blue Jays. The Blue Sox of the 1940s played in a ballpark in the northern part of the city called McConnell Field (itself named after the team owner and former pro player from Utica).
The Blue Sox of the ‘40’s were a feisty bunch, with many later becoming the Whiz Kids of the 1950 National League champion Phillies. Future Philadelphia stars such as Hall of Famer Richie Ashburn (who came to Utica as a catcher but within a month was moved to center field by his manager, Eddie Sawyer, to utilize his speed), Stan Lopata and Granny Hamner all took the field for both Utica and Philadelphia during the late 1940s.
Sawyer, Ashburn’s manager with the Blue Sox in 1945 and 1947 and later for seven more years in Philadelphia (including 1950), once said, "We had great ballclubs in a bad ballpark." Ashburn recalled the peculiar way the field was laid out, with center field to the west. "The sun would set over it," he once said. "I never got a hit up there in the first five innings in 150 games, and I still hit .300."
Acclaimed author and journalist Roger Kahn (The Boys of Summer) wrote about his year as owner of the team in the 1985 book Good Enough to Dream.
- Lloyd Johnson and Miles Wolff, editors. The Encyclopedia of Minor League Baseball, 1997 edition. Durham, N.C.: Baseball America.
- Utica Blue Sox on FunWhileItLasted.net
- Photographs of Donovan Stadium (Murnane Field), former home of the Utica Blue Sox of the NY-P League - Rochester Area Ballparks