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  • Writer's pictureMarc Viquez

Baseball & a Steak Dinner

File Photo

Schenectady Stadium was somewhat ahead of its time when it opened in 1946; the modern structure had many innovations from its field lights to its very own restaurant. However, only eleven years later the stadium hosted its last baseball game.

Owners Pete and Jim McNearney built their steel and concrete structure from their own pockets to attract an existing ballclub during the Golden Age of baseball after World War II. The brothers had the foresight to understand that it might be more than just baseball that attracted fans through the gates.

The home of the Schenectady Blue Jays of the later Eastern League offered the first panoramic stadium restaurant in the country. The restaurant was open every day except Mondays, from 5 PM to 1 AM, regardless of a baseball game.

Patrons had the opportunity to enjoy dinner while watching the game from the clean and modern eatery. Tables were pressed against the large windows overlooking the diamond and a few lounge chairs provided extra comfort for those wanting to enjoy the elusive after-dinner cigarette. The house special was the stadium club steak for $2.

Today, you can find many restaurants located inside or adjacent to minor league ballparks. Frickers in Fifth Third Field in Toledo, Ohio,  offers 8 rows of seating overlooking the ballpark in the right-field corner of the stadium for Mud Hens fans. Against the Grain sits inside Louisville Slugger Field serves award-winning barbecue and brews its beer to fans before and after Louisville Bats games.

It’s normal to take for granted such comforts since the stadium restaurant in Schenectady–sans the cigarette smoke–describes most suite-level bars and restaurants that are the norm at all modern ballparks. However, this was not always the case more than 70 years ago when Schenectady Stadium opened for business.

The ballpark featured a few more innovations including the same GE floodlights that were used at Yankee Stadium, coined-operated turnstiles, and a modern electric scoreboard. The 278,000-watt system made the stadium the best-illuminated field in the league.

There was also a screen around the stadium’s grandstand, but as ex-Blue Jay Wally Habel would later say it wasn’t to protect the fans, it was to save on baseballs. Pete McNerney even set up a cop outside the parking lot to make sure any balls hit outside the venue were promptly returned from the various kids looking for the elusive baseball souvenir.

The Jays incorporated special nights to attract large audiences to the gate like Booster Night, which included fireworks, prizes, and appearances by local politicians. There was also the chance for a lucky fan to be awarded $25 for the first home run, $15 for the first triple, and $10 for the first single of the night.

Unfortunately, attendance would be a problem during the last half of the team’s existence. Ads in the local newspaper pleaded with its readers to “Keep Class A Baseball in Schenectady” by sending $4 to the stadium for four tickets that could be used at any game during the 1954 season.

The Booster Club set an objective of selling 100,000 tickets and offering prizes for a new automobile, toaster, and portable radio. There were nights when the crowds were large and fireworks were set off, but the future looked dimmed by the club’s 12th season.

The Blue Jays folded after the 1957 season when attendance dipped heavily from the year before. A campaign to sell 2,000 season tickets for $25 a pop fell short by 58%, and the team pulled the plug on operations, despite local interest in keeping the club in town. In the end, there were only 835 season tickets sold during the drive.

The disdained McNearney handed over a letter of withdrawal to the league. To him, the times were changing and it was a different era for minor-league baseball.

“During the past three to four years minor league baseball has been on the decline. The fact has been attributed to many causes, such as television, radio, and the like. To elaborate, at this point, would be needless.”

Author and local baseball historian Frank Keetz wrote two books on the Blue Jays during its days in town; he expressed his opinion in an interview with the Schenectady Daily Gazette in 2012.

“Eventually, things just fizzled out. Some people faithfully supported the team right to the end, but there weren’t enough of them. They were very popular for the first three or four years, and then attendance started to decline for several reasons, and the same thing was happening in Albany and other minor league towns around the country.”

McNerney would convert the ballpark into Stadium Golf Club and turn it into a 9-hole golf course until selling it in 1965. It would be later turned into an 18-hole course. The grandstand would remain as part of the clubhouse and maintenance entrance until 2002 when it was finally knocked down, 45 years after it last hosted minor league baseball.

Today, minor league baseball is played at Joseph L. Bruno Stadium in nearby Troy, New York. The Tri-City Valleycats have been members of the New York-Penn League since 2002. Its name Tri-City incorporates the cities of Troy, Schenectady, and Albany. There is even a Mayor’s Race that features mascots represented by the likeness of each city’s three mayors at every game.

The golf course is still in service today and its logo crest features a blue jay in the middle with two golf clubs, a nice little nod to the city’s baseball minor league past and stadium that was somewhat ahead of its time, but should not be forgotten.


Follow all of Marc’s stadium journeys on Twitter @ballparkhunter and his YouTube channel. Email at 

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