• Steve Potter

6/28/2020 - Phillies Minor League History - The Williamsport Grays


Time Period - 1958 to 1962


Venue : Bowman Field


City : Williamsport, PA


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Franchise History :


The Williamsport Grays were a charter member of the New York–Pennsylvania league which was established in 1923 and later became the Eastern League in 1938. Two of the most important boosters and financial backers of the team were J. Walton Bowman and Thomas Gray.


The team was in operation between the years of 1923 to 1962. At first the club did not adopt an official name, instead the name Williamsport Billies was used by the local media when referring to the club which initially played at Williamsport High School, now on the campus of the Pennsylvania College of Technology. The official team name Grays was adopted in 1924 in honor of Thomas Gray.


Over the course of their existence the team name changed a couple times to align with their major league affiliations ... there were multiple affiliations :


Cleveland Indians - 1932

Philadelphia Athletics - 1933 to 1942

Washington Senators - 1944 to 1945

Detroit Tigers - 1946 to 1952 ( team name was Williamsport Tigers )

Philadelphia Athletics - 1953 ( team name was Williamsport Athletics )

Pittsburgh Pirates - 1954 to 1956

Philadelphia Phillies - 1958 to 1962


After the Phillies left following the 1962 season the team name Grays was no longer used, new Williamsport franchises would come into existence ... here’s who followed :


New York Mets - 1964 to 1967 - played as Williamsport Mets - Eastern League

Houston Astros - 1968 to 1970 - played as Williamsport Astros - NY Penn League

Boston Red Sox - 1971 to 1972 - played as Williamsport Red Sox - NY Penn League

Cleveland Indians - 1976 - played as Williamsport Tomahawks - Eastern League


There was a 10 year gap without pro baseball in Williamsport from 1977 to 1986


Cleveland Indians - 1987 to 1988 - played as Williamsport Bills - Eastern League

Seattle Mariners - 1989 to 1990 - played as Williamsport Bills - Eastern League

New York Mets - 1991 - played as Williamsport Bills - Eastern League

Chicago Cubs - 1994 to 1998 - played as Williamsport Cubs - NY Penn League

Pittsburgh Pirates - 1999 to 2006 - played as the Williamsport Crosscutters - NY Penn League

Philadelphia Phillies - 2007 to present - play as Williamsport Cross Cutters - NY Penn League


I’ll do a separate detailed article on the Phillies/Cross Cutters in the future ...

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The Stadium the Phillies teams played in :


Bowman Field

Also Known As: Memorial Field from 1926-1929

Location: 100 W. 4th Street.


Capacity: 2,366

Field Dimensions : 323 - LF, 411 - CF, 331 - RF

Bowman Field was completed in 1926 to host the minor league Williamsport Grays team. The Grays had previously been playing their home games on the athletic field of Williamsport High School.


During its first three years the ballpark was known as Memorial Field because of its location inside of the surrounding park. By 1929, the Grays club officials deemed it appropriate to name the field "Bowman Field" in honor of Gray's club president, J. Walton Bowman, who had been the main driver in raising the money to build the facility.


The New York Mets, who were affiliated with Williamsport in 1964, added a historic and unique touch to Bowman Field, installing lights from the recently vacated Polo Grounds, former home of the New York Giants and Mets. These lights illuminated the stadium for the next 23 years.


Bowman Field fell into a state of disrepair and declined in the late 70's and 80's. There was no professional baseball in Williamsport from 1977 to 1986. When pro affiliated baseball returned in 1987, extensive renovations had been made.


During the summer of 2017 the first MLB Little League Classic game took place during the Little League World Series. Bowman Field was upgraded to conform to MLB's standards. A new playing surface with better drainage was installed along with padded fencing and new seating. The MLB Little League Classic has been played in Williamsport each of the past three seasons.


Bowman Field is the second-oldest ballpark in minor league baseball. It is presently the home field for the Williamsport Crosscutters and also the baseball home of the Pennsylvania College of Technology Wildcats.


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The Seasons :


1958


Eastern League (A) ... Manager : Dick Carter ... 67-65, 2nd place ... Attendance: 75,867. Lost in the Playoffs to the Binghamton Triplets 3 games to 0


25 year old outfielder Johny Easton led the league in doubles ( 32 ), triples ( 10 ), total bases ( 243 ) and OPS ( .894 ) ... he hit .321 in 473 AB’s ... he would play in 4 major league games with the Phillies ( 1955 & 1959 ) going hitless in 3 AB’s


1959


Eastern League (A) ... Manager : Frank Lucchesi ... 81-60, 3rd place ... Attendance: 91,819. Defeated Allentown Red Sox in playoffs 3 games to 0. Lost in Championship Series to Springfield Giants 3 games to 1.


21 year old outfielder Tony Curry led the league in runs ( 108 ), hits ( 178 ), doubles ( 49 ) and total bases ( 349 ) ... he posted a .313 batting average in 568 AB’s ... Curry would play in three major league seasons with the Phillies and Indians ( 1960-1961, 1966 ) appearing in 129 games


23 year old catcher Jacke Davis led the league in home runs ( 33 ) and recorded 115 RBIs ( 3rd best in loop ) ... he would play in 48 games for the 1962 Phillies - his only season in the big leagues


1960


Eastern League (A) ... Manager : Frank Lucchesi ... 76-62, 1st place ... Attendance: 100,298. League Co-Champions : Defeated Reading Indians in playoffs 2 games to 0. Led Championship Series against Springfield Giants 1 game to 0 ... rain halted series - declared co-champions


21 year old LHP Al Neiger went 8-3 with a 2.73 ERA in 15 games amassing 99 IP ... he threw 6 complete games and 1 shutout ... he pitched in 6 games with the Phillies later in the season - the extent of his big league career


23 year old outfielder Ted Savage led the league in stolen bases with 40 in his first pro season ... he would play in 9 big league seasons from 1962 to 1973 with 9 different organizations


1961


Eastern League (A) ... Manager : Andy Seminick ... 79-61, 2nd place ... Attendance: 79,183.


21 year old corner infielder/outfielder Danny Cater led the league in hits ( 193 ) and was second in batting average ( .343 ) and total bases ( 287 ) ... he would play in 12 big league seasons from 1964 to 1976 with 7 organizations


1962


Eastern League (A) ... Manager : Frank Lucchesi ... 83-57, 1st place ... Attendance: 77,595. Defeated Springfield Giants in the Playoffs 2 games to 1. Lost in the Championship Series to the Elmira Pioneers 3 games to 1


20 year old second baseman/outfielder Dick Allen led the league in doubles ( 32 ), OBP ( .409 ), OPS ( .957 ) and was second in runs ( 97 ), hits ( 168 ), home runs ( 20 ), RBIs ( 109 ), Batting Average ( .329 ) and slugging ( .548 ) and was third in triples ( 10 ) and total bases ( 280 )


He would go on to play in 15 major league seasons and record 1,858 hits, 320 doubles, 79 triples, 351 home runs, 1,119 RBIs and 3,379 total bases with a lifetime batting average of .292 in 6,332 AB’s - a Hall of Fame career in this Fan’s View


Happy Day, Happy Baseball ⚾️


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