- Silver Seasons and a New Frontier: The Story of the Rochester Red Wings
For anyone who has attended a minor league baseball game, you know that there’s something incredibly captivating about those teams, stadiums, and cities. In my own experiences, summer often meant trips to see the Harrisburg Senators, the Altoona Curve, the State College Spikes, and recently the Toledo Mudhens, the Lansing Lugnuts, and the Great Lakes Loons. While fans certainly feel an attachment to teams in the National and American Leagues, minor league games are often more personal, focusing more on the game-day experience and team-fan relationship.
In Silver Seasons and a New Frontier: The Story of the Rochester Red Wings, Jim Mandelaro and Scott Pitoniak provide a well-written and thoroughly detailed and entertaining history of one of the most storied franchises in minor league baseball. This second addition builds upon the first with three more chapters on the team’s history since 1996. While the team has served as an affiliate of the Cardinals, the Orioles, and now the Twins, the Red Wings have remained a constant in the International League since the 1800s, winning more titles than any other club. Utilizing a linear narrative, Silver Seasons details the story of baseball in Rochester from the middle of the eighteenth century until the present. Nearly every season is given its due as are the players on the team, the fans, and even some of their opponents.
Silver Seasons is organized chronologically and gives the reader a glimpse into the development of the game and the city of Rochester along with it, tracing references to the game from “Muford’s meadow” to the Red Wings’ storied Silver Stadium to their new home in Frontier Field (p. 1). The book claims to tell the stories of the players and managers on the team and does that quite well, along with some interesting tails about diehard fans, community owners, and unfortunately injured spectators. The authors give equal weight to perennial minor leaguers as they do to future stars like Ripken, Stan Musial, Bob Gibson, Eddie Murray, and Justin Morneau.
While telling the history of the Rochester Red Wings, the authors also offer a glimpse into the overall history of professional baseball and the United States in general. The reader learns about teams paying players, the introduction of night games, the ebbs and flows of the American economy, and even American diplomatic relations with Cuba through a harrowing tale about a game played in Havana in 1959 that ended with a Red Wing receiving a bullet wound to his ear. Of course, there are also non-political accounts that will interest baseball fans, like a chapter detailing the longest game ever played: a 3–2 Red Wings loss that lasted thirty-three innings and sixty-five days and included future Hall-of-Famers Cal Ripken, Jr. and Wade Boggs. For those with interests outside baseball, the authors provide an interesting look into the purchase of the team from the St. Louis Cardinals by many of the community members of Rochester. Since 1957, the Red Wings have operated as one of the few publicly owned sports teams, much like the Green Bay Packers. [End Page 152]
For anyone with an interest in baseball or sports, this is an intriguing read that illustrates baseball’s history in Rochester. Historians and cultural studies scholars will likely be disappointed with the lack of footnotes, theory, or thick examinations of the cultural and historical implications of minor league baseball. While the book is incredibly detailed and presumably well-researched, readers within the academy will likely wish that the book would have provided more precise citations as this is a deep and interesting subject area. However, Silver Seasons never sets out to be an academic book, and it would be unfair to expect it to follow academic customs. Silver Seasons is written for a popular audience who would possibly agree with Ron Shelton, the former Red...