Northeast League (1996-1997)
Born: December 8, 1995 – Northeast League expansion team.
Died: 1998 – The Blue Ox relocate to Quebec City, Quebec.
Stadium: Larry Mahaney Diamond
Owner: Vincent Burns, Dean Gyorgy & Margot Gyorgy
The Bangor Blue Ox were a short-lived professional baseball team that played for two seasons in the independent Northeast League. At the time, Bangor (pop. 33,000) had not hosted pro baseball since prior to World War I.
The team’s unique nickname derived from the legend of Paul Bunyan and his companion Babe, the Blue Ox. Bangor is one of several communities that claims to be the birthplace of the folkloric hero and the city bosts a 31-foot tall, 3,700-pount statue of Bunyan.
The first player signed by the Blue Ox in March 1996 was 36-year old former Boston Red Sox hurler Dennis “Oil Can” Boyd. This would be one of Boyd’s many comeback attempts in the independent leagues and he played extremely well, posting a 10-0 record and 3.22 ERA for Bangor in 1996. The Blue Ox had one other former Major League, pitcher Mike Smith, who appeared in 33 games in the Bigs between 1984 and 1989.
Boyd and Smith did not return for Bangor’s second season in 1997. The team added former Boston Red Sox 1st round pick Bob Zupcic and ex-California Angels pitcher Joe Grahe, who was rehabbing from injury. Grahe would return briefly to the Majors in 1999 with the Philadelphia Phillies. He was the only Blue Ox player to go on to play in the Majors after leaving Bangor.
During the Blue Ox’s two-year run the team played at Mahaney Diamond on the campus of the University of Maine at Orono. The club averaged just under 1,000 fans per game in both summers. Team and league officials hoped that Bangor would build a new ballpark for the team. But an October 1997 Bangor city council vote to float a $2 million bond to construct a ballpark for the 1999 season failed by a single vote and signaled the death knell for the Blue Ox in Bangor.
Team owner Vincent Burns, along with his son-in-law Dean Gyorgy and daughter Margot turned their efforts towards New Bedford, Massachusetts where there was some political support to build a new ballpark. With the Blue Ox franchise gone dark for the 1998 season, the family worked on the New Bedford angle, but ran out of time before the Northeast League’s April 1998 deadline to secure commitment for a stadium in the southeastern Massachusetts port city.
With New Bedford going nowhere, the family sold controlling interest in the Blue Ox franchise to Dean Gyorgy’s former mentor at Baseball America, Miles Wolff in mid-1998. Wolff, the former owner of the Durham Bulls and a long-time independent baseball enthusiast, moved the team to Quebec City where it began play as the Quebec Capitales in the summer of 1999.
Independent baseball returned to Bangor in 2003 with the Bangor Lumberjacks, who were once again members of the Northeast League. But like the Blue Ox, the Lumberjacks only lasted two seasons before folding.
Northeast League Media Guides
Northeast League Programs