What's in a name? Rochester's baseball legacy
ROCHESTER, N.Y. -- Morrie Silver, director of communications for the Rochester Red Wings, has a name that looms large in the city's baseball history. He's carrying on a multi-generational Red Wings legacy started by his namesake grandfather, whose biggest accomplishment was nothing less than saving the franchise. The Red Wings,
ROCHESTER, N.Y. -- Morrie Silver, director of communications for the Rochester Red Wings, has a name that looms large in the city's baseball history. He's carrying on a multi-generational Red Wings legacy started by his namesake grandfather, whose biggest accomplishment was nothing less than saving the franchise.
The Red Wings, currently the Triple-A affiliate of the Washington Nationals, have operated continuously since 1899, and for this they have the Silver family to thank. Following the 1956 season, the Red Wings learned their parent club, the St. Louis Cardinals, were no longer interested in operating the team. Morrie Silver, businessman and passionate baseball fan, felt it was imperative to keep the Red Wings in Rochester and raised funds via a stock drive. After 8,222 shareholders bought in, Silver's group, Rochester Community Baseball, purchased the Red Wings from the Cardinals.
In recognition of these frantic offseason efforts, later dubbed "The 72-day miracle," Red Wings Stadium was renamed Silver Stadium in 1968. The team's current home of Innovative Field, which opened in 1997, is located at One Morrie Silver Way, and a statue of Silver, flanking a young fan, sits outside the main entrance. Silver's retired number, the unorthodox but meaningful 8,222, is displayed on the outfield wall alongside franchise icons Joe Altobelli (26) and Luke Easter (36).
Morrie Silver died in 1974, 23 years before the grandson named after him was born. The younger Silver has nonetheless always felt deeply connected to his grandfather, considering their shared name a blessing rather than a burden.
"It’s obviously all I’ve known. So I guess subconsciously, and consciously, it’s just guided everything I’ve ever done in life," he said, speaking prior to a mid-September Red Wings game. "I think that’s been a huge benefit. There’s something bigger at stake than just me. I’ve been very fortunate with what I’ve been brought up around and into. It makes everything that much more important, knowing that it’s what my grandfather did, or my grandmother did, and obviously my mom."
Silver's mother, Naomi, is the president, CEO and COO of Rochester Community Baseball. She has spent her entire life with the Red Wings organization, eventually becoming the first woman to lead a Minor League franchise.
"Seeing my mom be a woman in this kind of field has definitely been interesting. To see how she navigates things, because I grew up not knowing any different," said Silver. "She’s a remarkable person."
Growing up, Silver said he essentially lived at the ballpark. As a result, he was able to familiarize himself with a variety of jobs while learning about the game firsthand from players and coaches.
"I have a lot of fond memories of players who took me under their wing and showed my how to play the game," he said. "Because here you’re on the brink of the pinnacle of your career. That just showed me that whatever you do, you better be the best at what you do. Nothing else is acceptable. The players have been a big part of my life. [Current Red Wings manager] Matt LeCroy was a player when I was 9 years old in the clubhouse."
These experiences, combined with a collegiate baseball career at nearby St. John Fisher University, where he served as a pitcher and coach, led Silver to become a baseball entrepreneur. Silver Dawg Inc., his "full-service player development company," assists players in their quest to be drafted by a Major League team. He stepped into his current director of communications role with the Red Wings one week prior to the 2022 season, as the job's previous occupant, Nate Rowan, took a job with the Baltimore Orioles.
"It’s funny because when I was 14 we had a PR guy here, Mark Rogoff. He had been in the big leagues for a while. He let me be his assistant when I was pretty young," he said. "If he had not given me that opportunity, I would be a lot more lost in this kind of role. ...There's that cliché of, 'It happens for a reason.' That’s the role we needed to fill and I was able to do it."
Going forward, Silver plans to attend law school while continuing to pursue his interest in the player development side of the game. But no matter what he does, the Red Wings organization will always be a top-of-mind concern.
"Where can I be a benefit to this organization and not just be a body that fell into a good spot?" he said. "With any idea I have, it’s, 'Can I make it work while being here?' It’s so unwavering, that this is what matters, and everything else is second priority. ... It has been the most crystal-clear ideal, what I want to do and what I want to honor. It’s just never been a question."
Benjamin Hill is a reporter for MiLB.com and writes Ben's Biz Blog. Follow Ben on Twitter @bensbiz.