|The Oswego Netherlands, namesake of the Netherlands Milk and Ice Cream Company,
worked with several clubs, including the Indians and Senators. Its president was Leonard
Amdursky, a young law partner of local congressman Francis Culkin.
The Nets installed lights in 1936 but in 1939 removed and sold them. Starting times were
termed "admittedly inconvenient," and by 1940 the local press conceded that baseball had
"reached the crossroads" in the Lake Port city.
"Oswego didn't draw enough people to pay for the balls," observed Rugmakers' travelling
secretary Spencer Fitzgerald.
AWPA project to improve the grandstand and reinstall lights was discussed. Then, the city
council considered allocating $7,500 to install arc lights at Otis Field, but "met with
considerable opposition among a number of taxpayers....
Albany produce dealer William V. Connely bought the Nets in the fall of 1940, moving them
to Pittsfield, Massachusetts. He originally planned on renaming them the Ponies, but by the
time 1941 opened they were the "Electrics."
Pittsfield's long baseball tradition dated back at least to July 4, 1859, when the very first
intercollegiate game (Williams vs. Amherst) was played there. In 1862 a nine called the
Elms took the field and was noteworthy locally for some time after. For a brief period in
1894 Pittsfield was in the New York State League, and from 1919 to 1930 it fielded the
"Hillies," of the old Eastern League, which in the spring of 1925 raffled off a house in the
Dalton Avenue section of town, grossing $15,252.51. At that point, some killjoy pointed
out the scheme was illegal. Those requesting refunds got them, and ironically the Hillies
netted $10,941.92--more than they would if the scheme had gone through!
At first, events were promising. Connely purchased ten acres of land on Dalton Avenue to
construct a new 2,400 seat ball yard, started work, and promised it would be ready for the
May 8 opener. All seemed rosy. At a welcoming banquet, a local baker who had
unsuccessfully tried out for the team even presented Berkshire Eagle sports editor John M.
Flynn with a huge cake in the shape of the proposed stadium.
That was as close as it got to completion. Connely had paid $1,000 for the land (which he
put in his wife's name) and advanced between $1,000 and $1,300 to the park's contractor,
but soon ran out of funds. Work was halted as the builder hit him with a court order,
declaring work would resume if Connely came through with partial payment of $7,500.
Because the new field wasn't ready, the Electrics were forced to play at makeshift Dorothy
Deming Field, which was hardly impressive. On Opening Day over a thousand fans paid
admission and even more lined nearby rooftops. (Most, sniffed the Berkshire Eagle, were
"not children and many were persons who were not shy of any cash.") But Deming Field's
crude conditions discouraged attendance, despite a competitive squad.
Within a month the franchise collapsed. Bill Buckley was brought in as business manager,
but it was far too late. Obligations, including the team payroll, were not being met, and
Father Martin appointed Amsterdam's Herb Shuttleworth to investigate the situation.
Connely earnestly promised to pay his starving squad and then to honor the remainder of his
debts, but soon missed his deadline on player salaries.
The handwriting was on the wall.
Connely first tried unloading the team on a local semipro promoter, but there was little
interest in assuming obligations on his unfinished park. Then he attempted to move. Auburn
was mentioned, but Sherbrooke, Quebec, was much more attractive than a two-time loser
like Auburn. In fact, an announcement was made that the franchise had shifted to the
Canadian city. A player revolt loomed, however, as many shocked Electrics (sorry about
that) swore they'd quit if the team left town.
The city rallied around its team. Father Martin was absent on a religious retreat up in
Plattsburgh. ("He was a great guy," says Herb Shuttleworth, "but every time there was a
crisis he was on spiritual retreat!") Shuttleworth, acting as league vice president, informed
the circuit that a group of local businessmen stood by to take over the club. He advised the
league and National Association President William G. Bramham to depose Connely. They
Connely blustered about regaining his franchise, and even about placing a Northern League
semipro team in Troy, but faded away. The Pittsfield Professional Baseball Corporation was
formed, with attorney Paul Tamburello as its president, to pick up the pieces. Tamburello
was a hustling young barrister who eventually became head of the Massachusetts Bar
Association and in 1972 a Justice of the Superior Court (aided, some asserted, by a timely
switch from the Democratic party to the G.O.P.).
The group took over in return for assuming the franchise's outstanding debts, estimated at
between $5,000 and $6,000. Within 24 hours, over $2,000 worth of stock was subscribed
and the remainder was raised easily enough.
The new team eventually became affiliated with the Cleveland Indians and finally with the
Philadelphia Phillies in 1951.