• Steve Potter

7/10/2020 : Phillies Minor League History - The Vandergrift Pioneers


Time Period - 1947 to 1950


Venue : Davis Field


City : Vandergrift, PA


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Franchise History :


The Vandergrift Pioneers were a Class C minor league baseball team in Westmoreland County, Western Pennsylvania. They played in the Middle Atlantic League and were league champions in 1947. The club was a class-C affiliate of the Phillies throughout their existence. The Pioneers formally disbanded during the 1950 season on July 20th due to financial difficulties and as the the Shamokin News-Dispatch wrote  “because the people of Vandergrift showed an intense lack of interest”.


“The Pioneers drew approximately 91,000 fans to Davis field for their inaugural voyage in 1947. But attendance dropped sharply to 51,000 in 1948 despite an outstanding team and never recovered ... The Pioneers fell to sixth place in 1949. The team was mired in another losing season in July 1950. The club’s local sponsor, the Vandergrift Athletic Association, petitioned the Middle Atlantic League to fold the team midway through the schedule. The club’s backers withdrew because of financial troubles” - Drew Crossley - Fun While it Lasted


Professional baseball never returned to Vandergrift after that ...


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The Stadium the Phillies teams played in :


Davis Field :

Location: Penn Avenue off River Road.

Capacity: 4,700 (1948); 6,000 (1949)


“Davis Field is a year shy of its 100th anniversary. It was deeded to Vandergrift in 1921 by Apollo Iron & Steel and named after company executive Stewart Archibald Davis.


The former Vandergrift High School began playing football at Davis Field full time in 1933.

To bring a baseball farm club to town, lights were installed at Davis Field in 1946. The pro baseball Mid Atlantic League Pioneers were formed and started playing there in 1947.


When Vandergrift and Bell-Avon high schools merged to form Kiski Area High School, the new school played at Davis Field even though the new high school was more than two miles away in Allegheny Township. Large crowds jammed Davis Field on Friday nights in the fall.


The Pioneers played their final game at Davis Field on July 21, 1950, an 11-10 win over Butler. When that game wrapped up, Pioneers President Joe Bucci made an announcement over the stadium’s public address system: “Thanks to all you players and loyal fans. We are sorry we have to fold up.”


As the years wore on, one of the biggest problems at Davis Field was a lack of drainage. After rainstorms, the field would remain soggy for several days because it was built on a former slag dump, and the stormwater had nowhere to go. Kiski Area continued to play its home games at Davis Field until 2018, when a new field on the high school campus opened.


Vandergrift officials are exploring what to do with the borough’s historic Davis Field now that Kiski Area School District is terminating its lease to use it.


Now, the only tenant is the Vandergrift Lancers youth football team.”


George Guido - Trib Live - Valley News Dispatch


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The Seasons :


1947


Middle Atlantic League (C ) ... Manager : Pat Patterson ... 76-46 , 1st place ... Attendance: 87,000. League Champions : Defeated Erie Sailors 3 games to 0 in playoffs & defeated Butler Yankees 4 games to 0 in Championship Series


Vandergrift, only had a population of 10,500. But the city managed to draw 87,000 fans. 25 year old shortstop Alex Garbowski won the league’s batting title with a batting average of .396 in 402 AB’s ... he would go on to play in only 2 major league games with the 1952 Detroit Tigers but played 8 seasons in the minor leagues


25 year old infielder Mike Goliat hit .370 in 359 AB’s ... he would play in 259 major league games from 1949 to 1952 with the Phillies & St Louis Browns


21 year old first baseman Jackie Mayo hit .355 in 197 AB’s ... he would play in 6 major league seasons with the Phillies from 1948 to 1953 appearing in 139 games


1948


Middle Atlantic League (C ) ... Managers : Pat Patterson & Lew Krausse ... 86-39 , 1st place ... Attendance: 51,367. Defeated Uniontown Coal Barons 3 games to 1 ... Lost in Championship Series to Erie Sailors 4 games to 1


Manager Floyd “Pat” Patterson returned for a second season at the helm. Patterson suffered a heart attack in late July and was not able to return to the club. Phillies Scout Lew Krausse, Sr. took over manager duties for the rest of the season.


18 year old RHP Rudy Minarcin, a native of Vandergrift, went 7-7 season (3.44 ERA) in 17 games with the Pioneers, and also hit .458 ( 27 for 59 ). He was signed to a “bonus baby” contract that season with the Phillies after starring at Vandergrift’s high school where he tossed an incredible 10 no hitters during his scholastic career. Minarcin would play in the big leagues from 1955 to 1957 with the Cincinnati Reds and Boston Red Sox appearing in 70 games.


20 year old LHP George Heller went 20-4 with a 2.75 ERA in 34 games ( 203 IP ) ... the best season of his pro career .. he played 11 years of minor league baseball but didn’t reach the majors


1949


Middle Atlantic League (C ) ... Manager : George Savino ... 63-72 , 6th place ... Attendance: 40,523.


22 year old Catcher Joe Lonnett belted 20 home runs in 398 AB’s and posted a .307 batting average ... he went on to play in 4 big league seasons with the Phillies from 1956 to 1959 appearing in 143 games


1950


Middle Atlantic League (C ) ... Manager : Don Hassenmayer ... 31-41 , 6th place ... Attendance: 13,493.


23 year old third baseman Don Hasenmayer was second in the league in batting average with a .370 mark in 303 AB’s ... his major league career consisted of 11 games with the 1945 & 1946 Phillies ... he played seven minor league seasons


Happy Day, Happy Baseball ⚾️


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