History of the Silversmiths
- Oneida Daily Dispatch
Baseball Comes To Sherrill (1900-1920)
Community Associated Clubs baseball in Sherrill, said the sport began to catch on with members of the Oneida Community in the late 1800s. Area businesses and organizations all had their own teams and they would all play each other.
Sometimes, even families would field a team like the famous Egan Brothers. James, John, Charles, Joseph, Frank, Robert, Albert, Edward and Arthur made up the original nine, with youngest brother Fred too young to play when the team started. Arthur, the second-youngest, would become the most well-known and was better known by his childhood nickname: Ben.
Ben Egan was one of the few Sherrill players to reach the major leagues. According to Steven McPherson’s biography of Egan, he signed his first professional contract in 1905 to play with Rome for $50. He worked his way through the minor leagues until he made his debut with the Philadelphia Athletics in 1908. He returned to the majors as a backup catcher for the A’s in 1912 and served the same role in Cleveland for parts of the 1914 and 1915 seasons.
Ruth and Egan were teammates for just four months but formed a friendship that led to one of the biggest legends of Sherrill baseball: Ruth once played in a game at Noyes Park in Sherrill. While Egan and the Orioles did play in Sherrill in May 1914, Ruth did not play and Sofranko said he was not there at all. Late baseball writer Gene Carney wrote the famous photo of the two players was likely taken much later than 1914, based on Ruth’s appearance and uniform.
C.A.C. Plays In Sherrill (1920-1950)
McPherson wrote in his biography of Egan that the photo was likely taken in 1920 or 1921 in Ruth’s hometown of Baltimore.
“He had a very close appearance with Ben Egan and even Egan’s memoirs never mentioned that Babe came by,” said Sofranko.
When Egan’s coaching career ended 1928, he returned to Sherrill where a new powerhouse had replaced the Egan Brothers squad. Oneida Community, Limited and the Community Associated Clubs had began sponsoring a semipro team, known by many names including the Silversmiths and the Platers. In addition to playing in a local league, the C.A.C. team would face any travelling team that it could. In addition to the Eastern-League Orioles, Sherrill also hosted several Negro League teams as well as “Shoeless” Joe Jackson and the Cleveland Naps, the major-league franchise that would eventually be renamed the Indians.
Egan played a key role in bringing these teams to Sherrill and began working at Oneida Community Limited after his final year of coaching and took over as manager and coach of the baseball team in 1930. The squad consisted mostly of company employees, who were paid for their time at work and then again for the time they spent playing and practicing.
This opportunity drew many local players to the team, including Sofranko’s father Mike. “A Diamond Community” began as a tribute from Sofranko, who now lives in Opelousas, Louisiana, to his father. He said it “got out of hand” but the project resulted in a 150-page booklet that provides details on several players from the 1940s, many of whom played for the Sherrill Post American Legion team as well. Two players who came through the city also reached the majors and played in Sherrill on opposing ends of their careers. Steve Peek pitched for the New York Yankees in 1941 – the year of Joe DiMaggio’s 56-game hitting streak – and earned a World Series ring. He returned from serving in World War II to play in the minor leagues before coming to Sherrill in 1948. Ted Lepcio, meanwhile, played against Sherrill for the Oneida Vets from 1947-1949 and went on to play for the Boston Red Sox from 1952-1959 before bouncing around from four teams over the final two years of his career.
The Smittie Era (1950-Present)
One of the Sherrill team’s last big days came in 1948 when a game was held to celebrate Ben Egan Day. Former teammate and Hall-of-Famer Chief Bender was on hand and Ruth had promised to be. When the day came, however, Ruth was too ill to attend and sent a telegram that was read to the large crowd. He died of cancer later that year.
Ben Egan Day drew one of the last big crowds of the era to Noyes Park. With no league to play in and attendance dwindling, the C.A.C issued a bulletin that it would not sponsor a team in 1952. Sofranko said the rise of television, and with it the ability to watch Major League Baseball games from home, led to the team’s decline.
Sherrill, however, continues to provide a pathway to professional baseball. Tyler Mautner and Marc Iseneker, both Vernon-Verona-Sherrill alums from the city, each played Legion Baseball for Sherrill Post and were selected in the Major League Baseball amateur draft in the past three years. The new-age Silversmiths began play in 2009 and are now a part of the New York Collegiate Baseball League, a summer wood-bat development league for college players that is partially funded by Major League Baseball. Iseneker is one of four Silversmiths currently on a minor-league roster along with Nick Lynch, Mike Bunal and Ka’ai Tom.