Sep 21, 2016
Old grey baseball uniforms with white lettering hang on black wire racks, baseballs and wooden bats sit underneath a glass case — the entire room in the Holland Land Office Museum a dedication to the history of baseball in Batavia.
“We are trying to do a little bit of a historic timeline of baseball in Batavia starting back from when it was a casual baseball club up until present day,” said Katy Sergel-Crabtree, assistant director at the museum. “Mostly because the team is always in jeopardy of being sold, it seems every year. We’re trying to show everybody we don’t have many sports in Batavia, at least minor league. It’s kind of important.”
“The Boys of Summer: Baseball in Batavia” — which will stay up until about November when the Wonderland of Trees starts — opens today. It was slated originally to open earlier in the summer to be relevant with the baseball season, however due to various circumstances, it took longer to set up.
While museum officials were doing research and putting the exhibit together, David Palmateer, who is currently living in Arizona, but was born and raised in Batavia, called the museum saying his father and grandfather were batboys for years, and he had a lot of artifacts.
“He actually sent over a lot of stuff, and he’s sending over even more stuff — like a 1915 baseball glove that is still in really good shape,” Sergel-Crabtree said. “He’s sending over old baseball spikes. He has a ton of photographed original photos — some of which he’s kind of holding back on them just because he’s waiting to have them appraised because they were Clippers or Trojans or Muckdogs that made it into the big leagues.”
Palmateer’s father, Robert A. Palmateer Jr., was one of the first batboys for the Clippers in addition to being on the team in 1939 and 1940. His father provided free room and board for the players for more than 10 years.
“My father received the Magnus baseball cleats sometime after he became a batboy for the team. I received them in 2007 when my father passed away. They also, just as my grandfather’s baseball glove, had been stored in my parents’ basement in Oakfield for over 50 years,” David Palmateer wrote in a letter to the museum. In another letter, David Palmateer wrote the baseball glove was the only glove his grandfather ever owned, receiving it as a small boy around 1914 or 1915. “At the time I received them, they were hard and stiff. Thanks again to the wonders of he Horseman’s One Step cleaner and conditioner and a few months of working on them, and thanks to the Holland Land Office Museum, they have a new life.”
Sergel-Crabtree said the museum also found the original uniforms, autographed baseballs, original score books, original contracts for players and for the Muckdogs joining the league.
Baseball started in Batavia originally as a private club in the late 1800s. Donned in crimson uniforms, the baseball team was referred to as the “Batavia Reds,” but by the end of July into the 1897 season, the team was so entrenched in last place fans refused to pay for tickets and the players refused to play without pay. Eventually Geneva took in the poor performing team Batavia turned its back on.
The Muckdogs became a minor league team in 1939 — although they were known then as the Batavia Clippers.
“There had been talks of professional baseball for the town as early as 1936,” Sergel-Crabtree said. “But lack of a proper playing field including fences and lights didn’t exist.”
The baseball names over the years ties in with area; the current name, Muckdogs, Sergel-Crabtree said, comes from the agricultural history with muck being a name given to the soil because it’s full of nutrients.
“Actually, the Batavia Clippers were named after a specific piece of farming equipment,” she said. “I think the Trojans were actually named after another local company. It always seems to have local ties.”
For more information on the exhibit, call the museum at (585) 343-4727