History of Bona Baseball




From the 1890's, when John J. McGraw and Hugh Jennings got things rolling, to the first ever trip to the NCAA tournament in 2004, baseball's tradition at Saint Bonaventure has been one of aspiring to excellence.  This has sometimes been challenging in the hill country of upstate New York, where the baseball season begins in the snows of late winter, continues through the rain soaked days of spring, and ends before the warm summer months we think of as baseball weather actually arrives. Rain has always played a factor for the Bona baseball team. The season of 1979 saw only twelve of twenty-four games played, the remainder were rained out. Jupiter Pluvius, also known as the "Sender of Rain," seems to have taken up permanent residence on the rain soaked fields of McGraw-Jennings Field throughout the decades, and by the looks of it he may be here to stay.

According to Angelo, "The first formal athletic contest on record was a game of baseball with a pick-up team from Olean and Allegany on May 23, 1882.  The game was hard fought and some bruises were the reward of this contest." (205)  

The report from the Sunday Morning Herald of May 28, 1882 recorded the event:

"On Tuesday a match game of ball was played on the college grounds at Allegany between the College team and a picked nine, composed of men from Olean and Allegany, in which the former were victorious by a score of 19 to 15.  The fielding and batting of the college nine was remarkably good, while Mahaney of the picked nine won honors for his side by making the heaviest hit ever made on the grounds.  Mr. Donnely, catcher of the college team received some quite severe hurts during the game.  The umpiring was satisfactory to both clubs."

As interest in the sport grew, the college made better provision for supporting it.  A regular diamond was laid out between Alumni Hall and the railroad tracks (205) so that, by the time the 1894-5 team photo heading this page was taken, the stage was set for two new coaches.  John J. McGraw, at the top right, and Hugh Jennings, at the top left, were both respected professional ball players and are members of the Baseball Hall of Fame.  In the center of the shot, out of uniform, is Father James Dolan.  Fr. Dolan is seen by many as the "Father of Athletics" at Saint Bonaventure. He encouraged young John J. McGraw to get an education and brought him into the college.  McGraw, in turn, brought Jennings onto campus.  

The aforementioned Alumni Hall was the scene of the early season practices, as the weather in the 1890's wasn't appreciably better than it is today.  In the basement of that facility, they practiced bunting and made that technique an integral part of their game strategy.  McGraw and Jennings were the first of a line of St. Bona's baseball players to join the major league ranks.  They were followed by John P. Burke, George Daly, James A.(Shine) McLauglin, William Heine, Francis Loftus, George Susce, James McCloskey, and Daniel McDevitt. (We're still trying to confirm whether all of these played baseball during their time at St. Bonaventure.)

Baseball was played against minor league and independent baseball teams for the most part before World War I, as travel for intercollegiate games was difficult to arrange.  In the 1920's a full intercollegiate schedule was established.  Baseball continued as a major sport on campus until 1933 when it became overshadowed, first by football and then by basketball, not to mention the Great Depression. (212) Baseball disappeared as an intercollegiate sport from 1933-1949.  However, its proud tradition never faded completely and, since its revival in 1950, the team has reestablished itself as a force to be reckoned with in the A-10 Conference. 





Angelo, Mark V. The History of Saint Bonaventure University. St. Bonaventure: Franciscan Institute, 1961.

Baseball Hall of Fame. https://baseballhall.org/

Baseball Library.com. http://www.baseballlibrary.com/baseballlibrary/ballplayers/J/Jennings_Hughie.stm

Erb, Hugh. "Forty Years of Bonas Baseball." The St. Bonaventure Laurel 157.5 (1950): 12-15.

Gianiodis, Matthew. John McGraw: St. Bonaventure's Most Illustrious Alumnus. Student Thesis: 
St. Bonaventure University, 1991. 

Jennings, Hugh A. "Reminiscences." The St. Bonaventure Laurel 27.4 (1926): 326-327.

McGraw, Blanche Sindall. The Real McGraw. New York: D. McKay Co., 1953.

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Last updated: 30 March 2011