Ghosts of the Minors goes Dutch in old New York
Welcome to the silent edition of Ghosts of the Minors, adapted from the segment from The Show Before the Show Podcast that asks you to identify a historical Minor League team hidden among two phonies. Here, we skip the quiz element and speed headlong into the past for a quick
Welcome to the silent edition of Ghosts of the Minors, adapted from the segment from The Show Before the Show Podcast that asks you to identify a historical Minor League team hidden among two phonies. Here, we skip the quiz element and speed headlong into the past for a quick romp through the true story of the real Minors team.
You can't weave together the story of the Canadian-American League of the mid-20th century without the Rugmakers.
You may know that the Dutch once covered up a part of New York, New York, with a settlement called New Amsterdam, but it was in old Amsterdam, about 15 miles northwest of Schenectady, that the Rugmakers surfaced. The town on the banks of the Mohawk River was a major manufacturing hub beginning in the 1800s. After decades of churning out rugs, Amsterdam figuratively rolled out the red carpet for the Rugmakers baseball club in 1938.
Catcher-manager Admiral Martin, who was 38 years old and had been in pro baseball since 1920, was at the helm when Amsterdam took first place in its debut Canadian-American League season of 1938, but the Admiral’s club was sunk in the playoffs. The Rugmakers finished first again the next year, but once more came undone in the postseason.
In 1940, though, led by slugging third-sacker Paul Badgett (who led the loop with 31 homers, 119 RBIs and 120 runs and enjoyed an 11-year Minor League career) and outfielder-skipper Eddie Sawyer (who managed the Philadelphia Phillies in the Majors for parts of eight seasons between 1948 and 1960), the Yankees-affiliated Rugmakers pulled the whatchamacallit out from under the competition in the playoffs for their first and only title.
It's OK that they never won another -- the Rugmakers really tied the league together for eight more seasons.
Amsterdam began the magic-carpet-ride careers of Vic Raschi and Lew Burdette, one-time Rugmakers who combined to weave together 335 wins in the Major Leagues. Raschi made his pro debut with the Rugmakers at age 22 in 1941, going 10-6 with a 3.86 ERA. Burdette was only 20 when he broke into the professional ranks, also rolling out as a member of the Rugmakers. He was 9-10 with a 2.82 ERA.
But on Halloween 1951, The Sporting News reported that the Yankees had lost $60,000 vacuuming up expenses for the Rugmakers over the previous two years. The financiers were floored by the figures, and final thread was yanked away from the Rugmakers.
And that about covers it for the Amsterdam Rugmakers, who ended up down and out but ultimately spent more time on the ceiling than underfoot in the Can-Am League.
Josh Jackson is an editor for MiLB.com. Follow and interact with him on Twitter @JoshJacksonMiLB.