Webster’s baseball history celebrated at the Webster Museum

13 May

baseball140

It’s no secret that Webster is a huge sports town. In 1985, the town was even named “Number 1 Sportstown in New York” by Sports Illustrated. What is less well known is how long ago our love for sports — and especially baseball — began.

Back in the late 1800s, adults and teenagers were playing on village ball fields and at Nine Mile Point; with hard rubber balls fast-pitched underhand; one bat for the entire team; often wearing coats and ties, and with no protective equipment.

It’s a rich baseball history, on display this month at the Webster Museum, and celebrated during a special event on Saturday May 19, called “140 Years of Webster Baseball.”

The special event is being spearheaded by Tom Pellett, president of the Webster Museum and Historical Society.  It’s been a year in the making, prompted by a comment made last May by Don Kuhn, a former Webster High School baseball player.

He recalled that back when he was playing in the early 1950s, the Webster High team went undefeated three years in a row — 1950, ’51 and ’52. The team came up with a trophy to recognize that accomplishment, which was then presented to the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown. So the town could have its own keepsake, a local service organization (Pellett thinks it was the Rotary) then created a plaque, which included a photo of the trophy, the letter from Cooperstown, and the names of all the players.

No one was exactly sure where that plaque had made it to, but Pellett started poking around the museum’s attic, and found it rather quickly. Shortly thereafter, Historian Lynn Barton unearthed two boxes with a treasure trove of local baseball history. Pellett started going through it all and the exhibit began to take shape.

The newly rediscovered plaque is the centerpiece of the museum’s new baseball exhibit, which also includes photos of all three undefeated teams and several other local teams, and old time uniforms and equipment. But what I found the most interesting were some of the personal stories.

One of those, dated 1878,  is considered to perhaps be the first recorded memory from a local ball game.

That story (which is part of the exhibit) tells about an adult baseball team in Ontario who had challenged the Webster team.  The Ontario team was a little bit miffed when they discovered their opponents were just teenagers. The Ontario coach approached the Webster coach and asked, “Is that all you got, these kids? He was told, ‘Well, trot your team out, we’ll see how they do.'”

At the end of the sixth inning, the score was 40-6 in favor of Webster. The Ontario team walked off the field and forfeited the game.

Obviously, players from that era are no longer around. But everyone who has played Webster baseball has a story, and Pellett hopes that baseball players and fans of all ages will attend the special event on the 19th.

As for all those Webster High School players from the undefeated teams? They’re all in their 80s now. Many have moved away, others have passed away. But several are still in town, and Pellett hopes that some of them will be able to attend, so they can visit the plaque and share some of their memories.

“140 Years of Webster Baseball” will be held on Saturday May 19, from 2-4 p.m. at the Webster Museum, 18 Lapham Park in the village of Webster.  Admission is $5, which will include the very interesting historical presentation, a hot dog, peanuts and a lemonade or water. For more information, visit the Webster Museum website or call 585-265-3308.

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The commemortaive plaque is the centerpiece of the exhibit

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A close-up of the names of the players on the undefeated teams

 

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