New York-Penn League (1983-1988)
Died: 1989 - Affiliation change to Watertown Indians.
Stadium: Duffy Fairgrounds
Several future Major League stars spent a summer in upstate New York city during the Pirates era, including Jay Buhner (1984), Moises Alou (1986 & 1987) and Tim Wakefield (1988). Wakefield was in his first summer of pro ball after the Pirates selected him in the 8th round of the 1988 amateur draft. He would later spend 20 years in the Majors as a knuckleball pitcher, retiring in 2011. But Wakefield played first base for Watertown and never pitched an inning.
The Pirates played in a glum little econo-park called the Alex Duffy Fairgrounds. At the end of the 1988 season, the Pirates moved their NY-Penn affiliate across the border to Welland, Canada and the Cleveland Indians moved into Duffy Fairgrounds. The re-branded Watertown Indians played from 1989 through 1998 before departing for a shiny new ballpark in Staten Island. Given the severely outdated nature of Duffy Fairgrounds, it’s unlikely that pro baseball will ever return to Watertown without a new facility. The Fairgrounds are currently used for collegiate amateur baseball in the summer.
The Watertown Pirates are of minor note among minor league industry types as the first pro sports investment for sports psychologist Dr. Eric Margenau. Margenau bought the team in 1986 with his partner in United Sports Ventures, Jay Acton (who was a prolific minor league operator in his own right). Margenau would go on to own upwards of 20 different minor league baseball, hockey and Arena Football teams from the 1980′s through the 2000′s.
That’s longtime Pittsburgh Pirates catcher Ed Ott plastered all over the cover of Watertown’s 1986 yearbook (above right). Ott, who was part of Pittsburgh’s 1979 World Series championship team, managed Watertown in 1986.