Lively Tales About Dead Teams

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1995-1996 Newburgh Nighthawks

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Newburgh NighthawksNortheast League (1995-1996)

Born: 1995 – Northeast League founding franchise.
Died: 1996

Stadium: Delano-Hitch Stadium

Team Colors:

Owners:

 

The Newburgh Nighthawks were a low-budget independent pro baseball team that played in the Hudson Valley region of New York for two summers during the mid-1990’s. The Nighthawks were overshadowed in the area by the Hudson Valley Renegades of the New York-Penn League, who played at the brand new $8 million Dutchess Stadium in nearby Fishkill, which opened just a year before the Nighthawks formed in 1995.

By contrast, the Nighthawks played at Delano-Hitch Stadium, a small no-fills ballpark that was 70 years old.

During the Northeast League’s first season in 1995, former Major League pitcher Floyd Youmans pitched six games for Newburgh.  Ex-Detroit Tigers and Chicago White Sox outfielder Ron LeFlore was the team’s field manager in 1995.

In 1996, Newburgh featured 35-year old Ken Dixon, who won 11 games for the Baltimore Orioles in 1986.  The 1996 Nighthawks also sent one player to the Majors – 26-year old pitcher Joel Bennett, who later had a cup of coffee with the Orioles (1998) and the Philadelphia Phillies (1999).  The ’96 Nighthawks team went 55-25 under new field manager Dan Shwam.  Newburgh lost to the Albany-Colonie Diamond Dogs in the Northeast League championship series.

Team owner Jeff Kunion shut down the Nighthawks after the 1996 season citing the inadequacy of Delano-Hitch Stadium and the city’s unwillingness to make improvements to it.  Two summers later, Newburgh briefly hosted a team in the independent Atlantic League – the Newburgh Black Diamonds – but they departed for Pennsylvania after only one season.  Pro baseball has never returned since.

 

==Links==

Northeast League Media Guides

Northeast League Programs

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1996-1997 Bangor Blue Ox

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Northeast League (1996-1997)

Born: December 8, 1995 – Northeast League expansion team.
Moved: 1998 (Quebec Capitales)

Stadium: Larry Mahaney Diamond

Team Colors:

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.

 

==Links==

Northeast League Media Guides

Northeast League Programs

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Written by AC

March 5th, 2014 at 4:27 pm

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