From Andrew Harris, 11/2/21
There was a time when the Wellsville Braves games at Tullar Field were the highlight of small town life. After World War II, baseball exploded all over the nation and almost every small city hosted a team that was affiliated with the big leagues. “Farm teams,” like the Wellsville Braves were essential during a time when college sports had yet to provide consistent talent to the major league. Bill Hendrick was growing up in Wellsville during the Braves hayday and can remember it like yesterday.
The Wellsville Braves were part of the original Boston Braves organization, which moved to Milwaukee for many years. For most of the time the Wellsville Braves played the team was part of the Milwaukee farm, which moved to Atlanta in 1966. They played in the PONY/New York-Penn League which was just disbanded in 2020 after over eighty years in action. From 1953 until 1961 the Wellsville Braves were the team to beat and league champions several times.
The season ran from May until September and Wellsville could count on at least two games per week, sometimes four depending on the schedule.
“On game nights they would run this huge banner across Main Street reading “BASEBALL TONIGHT,” which as a kid was always very exciting. The banner would run to the Fassett House(now gone,) from the building across the street, we called that the Ludden Building.”
Tullar Field at the time had a big grandstand area with box seats and a press box. Wayne “Coop” Cooper was the well known announcer for the games and was well known being a real character. Hendrick remembers Coop well:
“Wayne was Judy Cooper’s(The Vogue Shop) dad and worked for a while in the telegraph office. I can distinctly remember one game where Coop was calling the game and during a pause in the action he was loudly complaining about the management. Well he had forgotten to turn off his mic and everyone heard him, including the management!”
Players were on the team to make a name for themselves and get called up to the next level, or maybe even the major leagues. Uncle Bill recalls that they only made fifty dollars per week, had a complimentary room, and had were treated very well by the area restaurants and public houses. Merchants were very active in sponsoring the games and even incentivizing players with, “Hit a Home Run and win a Free Steak Dinner!!”
Some of the players who came through Wellsville went on to storied careers in the big leagues and Hendrick kept in touch with several. In the next installment of this three part series we will talk about some of the big names associated with the Wellsville Braves, and Hendrick.
To wet your appetite for the next edition of our look at local baseball history, some of these names might ring a bell:
Harry Minor, Nestor Chylak Jr., Gravel Gert Hieneman, Elrod Hendricks, George B Harris Sr, Jerry Coleman, Phil Rizuto, Francis Dean, Don Zimmer, Don Ludden, Yogi Berra, Billy Martin, Frank Bartholomew….. Read some history—- https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wellsville_Red_Sox