By: Arlene Iuliano
“Baseball’s been king for years in these towns”, said Doc Bartlett while being interviewed by a local paper in the 1990’s. Tom Downey III made a similar statement in an interview when talking about the team he coached for over 25 years, the Amenia Monarchs. He claimed the Monarch’s success has always been due to the savvy players on the team, “but only in relation to what he calls the “baseball town of Amenia itself.”
Recognized as the national pastime, the game was invented and named “base ball” in 1839 by Abner Doubleday when he was a schoolboy in Cooperstown, NY. New York State is also credited with having the first club to play organized baseball in 1845; and in Poughkeepsie the game was first introduced in 1859. Because local newspaper coverage of baseball games was lacking at that time, the game also could have been played before then in other parts of the country.
An interview done in September 1966 in The News gave a good picture of events from the late 1800’s to the 1920’s. John Crossen, born in 1878, who was cited as “Amenia’s Oldest Fan”, named ballplayers and events that are documented in other newspapers of this period. It appears that all games were amateur; however, paid pitchers and catchers were beginning to be hired as the games increasingly became major town events. While there was no admission charge, the hat was passed to garner some funds.
Arlene Iuliano, in charge of the Amenia Historical Society baseball archives and author of this article, can personally report that this was so from the 1930’s through the 1950’s since she attended many games with her family, who were all avid fans.
When local baseball was being covered by the press, it was done with enthusiasm. As an example: reporting of activities at the 1890 Dutchess County Fair included a section on baseball games played at this event. The article began, “Great interest and excitement was created by the ball games between local clubs” which were listed as Wassaic, Lithgow, Millbrook and Lakeville with scores given.
In 1899 a detailed lineup and scores of a game between Amenia and Wassaic was given with an announcement that this was part of a series of games and that “People who admire the game should not miss this series.” A game played on June 30, 1905 by the Amenia Club against Philmont was played at the Amenia Diamond, says Pollucci in his book, Baseball in Dutchess County, also noting that a “July 4th game is scheduled.” A review of the lineup listed for Amenia included names of players from the 1899 team some of whom were still playing in a 1909 Amenia vs. Millbrook 3-day event.
The year 1910 marked the beginning of Amenia Field Day at which baseball was a major event. The celebration was held at Troutbeck and was an annual event until the beginning of World War I in 1914.
The early 20th century saw the game of local baseball reported with more detail, often supported by local businesses, and often included games with semi-pro teams from New York and New Jersey. By the 1990’s the game was still being played with many local athletes, some hired players and lots of fans. Throughout the century the game of baseball continued to dominate the sports scene in Amenia, aided and abetted by such men as William “Doc” Bartlett and Tom DowneyIII who not only played the game and managed it, but organized various youth teams in the town, developed the present ball fields at Amenia (Beekman) Park and kept great records. The Amenia Historical Society has archived many of “Doc” Bartlett’s records as well as others, including pictures and newsprint articles.
Amenia has always been a Baseball Town
By: Arlene Iuliano