Sodus Point Lakers

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The Sodus Point Lakers (formerly Sodus Point Chiefs) was a semi-pro baseball team that played from the early 1940s to the early 1950s in Sodus Point. They played in the Finger Lakes League  during a time when nearly all the local villages sported a baseball team and  their hometown fans would cheer them on during Sunday afternoon games. They  played teams such as the Lyons Merchants, barnstorming Ridge Clippers, Red Creek Chiefs, Clifton Spas and Clyde  Athletics to name a few. They once played the Rochester Red Wings here in town. The picture above shows George Arney (he played second  base) on the bottom row second from left. Also pictured is George Parsons at  far left on the top row. Dewey Raney (1st base, catcher)  is pictured top far right and “Oaky” Porrey is bottom 2nd from right. Also pictured is the coach (nicknamed “Tip” on the far right), Dick Carson (bottom row far right), Jack Torrey who was a long home run hitter (3rd from left in the 2nd row) and Oscar Fuerst who would have the baseball field named after him (bottom row far left).

 

From a discussion of the Sodus  Point Lakers by George Arney in the book “Sodus Point and Sodus Bay in the 20th  Century” (Pages 64-65) by Alan Firstone.

 

We played against a lot of good teams, and we always had good  crowds. The place to be on Sunday afternoon was the Sodus Point ball diamond, now called Oscar Fuerst  Field. There were a lot of former major league and International League players that  played in our league. Newark had a very good semi-pro team. A fellow by the name of Otis Davis, who had played centerfield for the Rochester Red Wings a couple of years before that, played for Newark. Bobbie Davies, an All-American  basketball player, who later played for the Rochester Royals, was a wonderful shortstop. Frank Grevino, who played in the International League, was a great home run hitter. He hit a pile of home  runs for Rochester during one season. Frank had a weakness that we noticed. He had a problem hitting a good curve ball. Once pitchers around the league found out that he couldn’t hit a curve ball,  he didn’t get any more fastballs. He left the Red Wings and played for Newark. Johnny Gee,  who pitched for the New  York Giants that summer (1946), left the Giants by the 1st of  September because he had obtained a job as the superintendent of schools at Waterloo. Johnny also played in the NBA for the Syracuse Nationals. He was 6’9″ or even taller. He had an unbelievable  fastball and the only reason he left the Giants was that he had gotten this school superintendent job,  he was near the end of his pitching in the major leagues so he didn’t want to lose that excellent job in  Waterloo. At that time,  pitching  in the major leagues didn’t pay that much. The first time we played against him was a  night game in Canandaigua. Johnny was pitching and I remember corning up to bat. He  was a lefthander and the stadium lights were not very good. He would throw that fastball, and it seemed like his hand was  right out in front of your face. The only thing that we could do was bunt. We did get a couple bunts down that we ran out for hits, and only two or three balls all game were hit to the outfield. After that, they didn’t play any more night  games at that stadium because the lights weren’t good enough. I had played some basketball against him when he played for the Nationals. He was a great athlete.

 

Most of the guys we played with in the state league were  college players. One of the teams was Corning. They had a couple of guys that played for Penn State and  Syracuse. On the Sodus Point Lakers, we had several players that had played college  baseball.

 

The fans got to see good live, local baseball and basketball and then along came television. Now people can sit in their living room and watch the New York Yankees play. They no longer have to  come down and watch a local team like the Sodus Point Lakers. I see a lot of kids now that go to high school and on  to college and when that’s over there is no place to play anymore. That’s one of the big  losses that television gave us.

 

Baseball Teams in Sodus Point went back many years before the Sodus Point Lakers or even the Sodus Point Chiefs. In the November 12, 1981 Wayne County Star (Buzz Stoetzel’s Scrapbook), an article and photo depicted the 1931 Sodus Point baseball team.

 

1931 BB Team

Sodus Point, over the years has been a real baseball town. Gene Cook includes in his collection the 1931 Sodus Point B.B. Team. We have most of the names and I’m using it as we have had them identified; So you northern tier people, finding any mistakes, drop a note to the paper and we will make a correction.

Front – Jack Torrey, played many years on some crack teams, seated left to right: Unknown, Jimmie (Raymond) Cooper 2B, Eugene Cook, 2B – Ernie Leroy, Pitcher – Harold (Hike) Furber

Back Row- Homer DeVille - Mgr.,   Curt Bigelow – C,  Elmer Wadler – 3B (also played in Lyons),  Cy DuBurke – 1B, Francis Derick (Newark), Tim Mulchey (outstanding outfielder from Lyons) and the late George Parsons – 1B and OF.

 

Recently, I had the opportunity to interview 2 members of the Sodus Point Chiefs. Ken Johnson (catcher, 3rd base) and Don Johnson (1st base, short stop) are brother-in-laws with the same last name who played for the Chiefs in the early 1950s before the team became the Lakers.

 

They told me of playing on the Sodus Point field before it became the Oscar Fuerst field and was considered a muskrat haven. This was because, for a couple of years, the field flooded in the spring and they would use flat boats to spear carp and trap muskrats on the field. It would dry out by Memorial Day but for the early part of the season they played on a baseball field in Holland’s Cove near Hugh’s Marina.

 

They told me of baseball games played only on Sundays and holidays which often attracted local crowds of up to 500 people to root for their team. No alcohol was allowed in the stands and cursing was also prohibited. That is not to say that there was not a lot of drinking going on after the game. The players and the spectators crowded the taverns after the games and not surprisingly, local taverns and the Malt House contributed to the cost of the uniforms and even paid the really good local players. It was a time where bunting was an integral part of the game, everyone used 3 finger gloves, all the players had nick names and every one played for the love of the game.

 

This love of the game was epitomized by barefoot Don Post of the Barnstorming Ridge Clippers who was always happy and a good sport (win or lose) and never played with shoes. Some said it was because of his Native American heritage.

 

 Click on the link below to read a newspaper article on this unusual player:

https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B1OFecRr7OuPcEVLZllmOXh4Nzg

 

For 3 other newspaper articles about the Sodus Point Lakers click the links below:

https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B1OFecRr7OuPaDZ1Wl9nTFB6Zzg

https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B1OFecRr7OuPYkgzQWNiQ0E3dDg

https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B1OFecRr7OuPd281WWNRVjU1aFU

 

They told me of the time George Arney got knocked out by a wild pitch from Sonny Jeffries who was the only black pitcher they played against. George was unconscious for a few minutes and there was real concern that he was seriously injured. Another story they told was the time Danny Johnson (centerfield) ran into the Bay in left field up to his waist in water and had the ball bounce off  his glove on what would have been the greatest play ever witnessed. When he came out, cheers erupted as the water came off  his wool uniform like he’d been in a car wash.

 

Besides sharing these precious stories of a bygone era, Ken Johnson also donated his Chiefs baseball uniform with Bridge Tavern on the back.  We will donate it to the Sodus Bay Lighthouse Museum where future generations can enjoy a reminder of a simpler, gentler time in our village’s history where the boys of summer brought hours of family fun.

 

Ken Johnson (650x488)