Recently my family and I made the 52-mile drive west from the small city of Utica, NY to the larger city of Syracuse, NY. Syracuse has a population of about 146,000 compared to Utica, which has a population of about 61,000. Most people haven’t heard much about Utica. They are known for their brewery, the F.X. Matt Brewery, the second oldest family-owned brewery in America. The brewery is best known for selling the first beer after prohibition was lifted. This beer, Utica Club, can still be purchased today. Utica is also the home of the Utica Blue Sox, which was one of the Single-A short season Minor League affiliate of multiple teams, including the Boston Braves (1939), Detroit Tigers (1940), Philadelphia Phillies (1943-1950, 1986-1987), Toronto Blue Jays (1977-1980), Chicago White Sox (1988-1992), Boston Red Sox (1993-1995), and most recently the Florida Marlins (1996-2001).
The Tale of Two Cities: Utica Vs. Syracuse
Syracuse, however, is a lot better known. If you are any type of sports fan, especially that of the collegiate level, you know about the Syracuse Orange. Syracuse is also home to the American Hockey League’s Crunch. But more importantly, Syracuse has the Chiefs, which has been the Triple-A Minor League affiliate of several teams, including the Boston Red Sox (1934-1936), Cincinnati Reds (1937-1938, 1942-1950), Pittsburgh Pirates (1940), Philadelphia Phillies (1954-1955), Detroit Tigers (195-1957, 1963-1966), Minnesota Twins (1961), New York Mets/Washington Senators (1962), New York Yankees (1967-1977), Toronto Blue Jay (1978-2008), Washington Nationals (2009-2018) and as of next season, once again the New York Mets.
Now, I know that no one who is reading this care about where I live, so let us get into the true reason of the piece. The move got me thinking about baseball, as usual, and how many players from each city had ever made the Major Leagues, and I wanted to compare the careers of those players to see which city had a greater amount of success in the big leagues.
Utica has been home to 20 Major League Baseball players. These players’ careers have ranged from 1882-2000 with the most recent player being Chris Jones, who played 12 games for the Milwaukee Brewers in 2000. Here is the complete list of players hailing from Utica, with their birthdays and years played listed.
|Andy Van Slyke||12/21/1960||1983-1995|
The 20 players that come from Utica have an average WAR (wins above replacement) of 9.3. Andy Van Slyke leads everyone with a 41.3 WAR, followed by Mike Griffin (40.8 WAR), George Burns (39.4 WAR), Dave Cash (25.6 WAR) and Bill Duggleby (13.2 WAR). Strangely enough, even though he is found on Baseball Almanac, no career information can be found on Baseball Reference on Hale White. The worst player, in terms of WAR from Utica, is Tom Carroll. Carroll posted a -1.5 WAR pitching in two seasons for the Cincinnati Reds. In his career, he posted an 8-4 record with a 4.16 ERA in 125.1 innings pitched.
The pride of Utica, at least in terms of WAR, Andy Van Slyke played from 1983 to 1995 and played for the St. Louis Cardinals (1983-1986), Pittsburgh Pirates (1987-1994), Baltimore Orioles (1995), and Philadelphia Phillies (1995). Van Slyke was a 3-time All-Star (1988, 1992, and 1993), 5 time Gold Glove winner (1988-1992), and a 2-time silver slugger (1988, and 1992). Throughout his career, Van Slyke posted a batting line of .274/.349/.443 with a .792 OPS with 164 home runs.
Mike Griffin played 12 seasons from 1887-1898 with the Baltimore Orioles (1887-1889), Philadelphia Athletics (1890), and the Brooklyn Grooms (1891-1898). Over his career, Griffin played a total of 1513 games posting a batting line of .296/.388/.407 with a .795 OPS while also hitting 42 home runs.
George Burns played 15 seasons from 1911-1925 with the New York Giants (1911-1921), the Cincinnati Reds (1922-1924) and the Philadelphia Phillies (1925). Over his career, Burns played a total of 1853 games posting a batting line of .287/.366/.384 with a .749 OPS while also slugging 41 home runs. Burns also played in the 1921 World Series, where his Giants defeated the crosstown New York Yankees 5-3. Burns played in all 8 World Series games batting .333/.389/.515 with a .904 OPS.
Dave Cash played 12 seasons from 1969-1980 with the Pittsburgh Pirates (1969-1973), Philadelphia Phillies (1974-1976), Montreal Expos (1977-1979), and the San Diego Padres (1980). In a total of 1422 games played, Cash posted a batting line of .283/.334/.358 with a .692 OPS while hitting 21 home runs. Cash was also a 3-time All-Star (1974-1976). He played in one World Series, in 1971 where Cash’s Pittsburgh Pirates defeated the Oakland Athletics 4-3. Cash, who played in all 7 games, didn’t hit well batting .133/.212/.167 with a .379 OPS.
Bill Duggleby played 8 seasons from 1898-1907 with the Philadelphia Phillies (1898, 1901-1907), Philadelphia Athletics (1902), and the Pittsburgh Pirates (1907). Over his career, Duggleby posted a 93-102 record with a 3.18 ERA over 241 games pitched. In those 241 games, Duggleby pitched 1,741.1 innings while striking out 453 and walking 424.
Mark Lemke didn’t make the top 5 players from Utica based on WAR, but would have been number 4 on the Syracuse list, and was one of my favorite players to watch growing up. Lemke played 11 seasons with the Atlanta Braves (1988-1997), and the Boston Red Sox (1998). In those seasons he played in a total of 1069 games while batting .246/.317/.324 with a .641 OPS. Mark Lemke also played in and won the 1995 World Series when the Braves defeated the Cleveland Indians 4-2. Lemke played in all 6 games and posted a batting line of .273/.360/.273 with a .633 OPS.
Syracuse was the birth place of 27 Major League Baseball players. These players’ careers have ranged from 1876-2007 with the most recent player being Todd Williams who pitched in 14 games for the Baltimore Orioles in 2007. Here is the complete list of players hailing from Syracuse, with their birthdays and years played listed.
The 27 players that were born in Syracuse have an average WAR of 2.3. Syracuse is led in WAR by Bill Dinneen at 40.2 followed by Doc Scanlan (13.0 WAR), Harry McCormick (9.1 WAR), Dave Lemanczyk (3.9 WAR), and Al Grabowski (3.0 WAR). The worst player, on terms of WAR from Syracuse, is Jack Neagle. Neagle has posted a -6.0 WAR while playing for the Cincinnati Reds (1879). He did not play again until 1883 when he played for the Philadelphia Quakers. In his career, Neagle posted a 16-50 record with a 4.59 ERA in 560.1 innings pitched.
Bill Dinneen played 12 seasons from 1898-1909 with the Washington Senators (1898-1899), Boston Beaneaters (1900-1901), Boston Americans (1902-1907), and the St. Louis Browns (1907-1909). In 391 career games, Dinneen posted a record of 170-177 posing a 3.01 ERA. In the 391 games pitched Dinneen pitched 3,074.2 innings posting 1,127 strikeouts and 829 walks.
Doc Scanlan played 8 seasons from 1903-1911 with the Pittsburgh Pirates (1903-1904), and the Brooklyn Superbas (1904-1911). In 181 career games, Scanlan posted a record of 181-149 with a 3.00 ERA. Scanlan, in his 181 games, he pitched a total of 1,252 innings posting 584 strikeouts and 608 walks.
Harry McCormick played in 4 seasons with the Syracuse Stars (1879), Worcester Ruby Legs (1881) and the Cincinnati Red Stockings (1882-1883). In 103 career games, McCormick posted a 41-58 record with a 2.66 ERA. In his 103 games, McCormick pitched 884 innings and posted 157 strikeouts and 115 walks.
Dave Lemanczyk played in 8 seasons with the Detroit Tigers (1973-1976), Toronto Blue Jays (1977-1980), and the California Angels (1980. Lemanczyk played in 185 career games, posting a 37-63 record with a 4.62 ERA. Also in his 185 games, Lemanczyk pitched a total of 913 innings amassing 429 strikeouts and 363 walks. Lemanczyk also played in one All-Star game, in 1979 when he was a member of the Toronto Blue Jays.
Al Grabowski only played in 2 seasons, both with the St. Louis Cardinals (1929-1930). In 39 career games, Grabowski pitched to a 9-6 record with a 4.07 ERA. In his 39 games, Grabowski pitched a total of 157 innings posting 65 strikeouts and 57 walks.
So looking at the overall picture Syracuse may have had more players make it to the Major Leagues and may be much better known. The city of Utica did have a better set of Major League players, according to the WAR. When you can dive into Major League players from both cities, it makes it a lot more exciting.
Main Credit Image: Embed from Getty Images