A Review: Silver Seasons And A New Frontier

This post first appeared on BaseballDigest.com

Silver Seasons And A New Frontier is a story that literally takes you from the first pitches thrown in unorganized baseball games involving famed abolitionist Frederick Douglass’ son in Rochester, New York to the most recent squads that have included the eventual 2006 American League Most Valuable Player Justin Morneau.

Jim Mandelaro and Scott Pitoniak have compiled the most comprehensive study of the Rochester baseball club, as their research follows the franchise through its various incarnations in the early years of the 1880’s through 1920’s before the St. Louis Cardinals cobbled up several minor league franchises to establish a player development system, and what would eventually become the norm throughout for major league organizations.

Silver Seasons And A New Frontier is not just a comprehensive listing of the events of the Rochester Red Wings during their tenure at the top minor league affiliate of the St. Louis Cardinals, Baltimore Orioles and Minnesota Twins. The story which Mandelaro and Pitoniak put together is a snapshot of baseball history from the perspective of the game played in Rochester, New York. The second edition of Silver Seasons includes the latest point in Rochester Red Wings history as the top minor league affiliate of the Minnesota Twins.

As baseball grew along with the country and the rest of the world, the Rochester Red Wings grew as well. Through the world wars, the Great Depression, and alongside the booming careers of many future baseball Hall of Famers, the Red Wings fielded a steady stream of quality teams. One such example of their historic ties is the end of segregation in baseball. Before breaking the color barrier at the major league level, Jackie Robinson played against the Rochester Red Wings while with the Montreal Royals, the Brooklyn Dodgers Triple A affiliate. Robinson dealt with rowdy fans elsewhere, but as depicted in Silver Seasons, he and the Royals proved to be a draw in games played in Rochester.

Jackie Robinson wasn’t the only eventual Hall of Famer to play in Rochester on his way to the big leagues. Also in the opposing dugout, Tommy Lasorda, more famous as a World Champion Manager for the Los Angeles Dodgers, spent some of his earliest professional days pitching against the Rochester Red Wings in the 1950’s.

There was also a great deal of homegrown talent that reached the majors over the years that included Red Wings appearances by Stan Musial, Red Schoendienst, Earl Weaver, Tom Seaver, and Cal Ripken Jr. along with current major leaguers Jason Bartlett, Justin Morneau and Francisco Liriano to name a few.

Mandelaro and Pitoniak profile the great players that played for the Red Wings and against them, and highlighted the several players and coaches that have come to define the team and the city. For example, Joe Altobelli had just 166 games as a player in the major leagues and 7 years as a big league manager including his duty leading the 1983 World Champion Baltimore Orioles squad. Silver Seasons gives readers a great understanding of the man who is known to Rochesterians as “Mr. Baseball”, a nickname earned for his winning ways as a Red Wings player, coach, manager and later on as general manager and broadcast announcer for the club. Another example of this is the Rochester Red Wings career of Luke Easter. By the time he arrived in Rochester, he was well into his 40’s and on the decline. However, his propensity for slugging long home runs remained, and his number is one of just three retired by the longest running organization in baseball history.

The remaining number to be retired by the Red Wings, 8,222, is perhaps the largest number to be retired and perhaps the most significant number in their long history. The number represents Morrie Silver and the Rochester Community Baseball company established in 1956 when the St. Louis Cardinals decided to end their relationship with the Rochester Red Wings. The importance of Morrie Silver and the community involvement to keep the team in Rochester is one of the central themes that Mandelaro and Pitoniak touch upon throughout Silver Seasons. The Silver family remains a presence today, as Morrie Silver’s daughter Naomi is the chairman of the board for the Rochester Community Baseball company.

Silver Seasons And A New Frontier is not just for fans of the Rochester Red Wings, or the St. Louis Cardinals, Baltimore Orioles, and Minnesota Twins. It is for all baseball fans, as the story of the Rochester Red Wings cannot be told without including players from dozens of teams throughout more than a hundred years of baseball.

You can learn more about Silver Seasons And A New Frontier and the authors Jim Mandelaro and Scott Pitoniak at the facebook page that is full of information about book signings and interviews related to their book and the Rochester Red Wings. The publisher, Syracuse University Press, also has a website full of information about how you can purchase the book.

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