McGraw-Jennings Field

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Rededication of McGraw- Jennings Field on October 11, 1958 at the present day location.
Present in Photo: The Very Reverend Brian Lhota (President of St. Bonaventure), Mrs. McGraw,
and Mrs. Grace MacWilliams (Jennings' daughter). Buffalo Evening News Photo

1927 would mark the year at which St. Bonaventure's College would fill its need for a new baseball diamond. The field sat in the area between what is now Friedsam Memorial Library, Plassman Hall, and the Reilly Center. The newly constructed field  was dedicated on June 1, 1927 in honor of the great John McGraw, then manager of the New York baseball Giants, and Hugh Jennings, his friend and colleague. On this day the diamond would also host its first game between McGraw's major league Giants of New York and his old Alma Mater, the Brown Indians of St. Bonaventure. The reported attendance of the game was around 7,000 people. The game that day was a great performance but as it turned out the New York Giants came out on top with a score of 11-2.

1935 would prove to be a sad year for baseball at St. Bonaventure. One article in The Laurel, a student publication at St. Bonaventure's College, stated that one of the major reasons for the collapse of the baseball program was the "lean thirties." Money was very tight in this decade and the school was unable to fund a "large scale" program. This caused a lack of interest in the student body so there was no real need to carry the program. Another interesting source said that another reason behind the sport being dropped was that Branch Rickey of the major league Cardinals felt that teams in the big leagues needed to cultivate their own athletes. This in turn gave way to the farm systems that are still in place today in many major league ball clubs. Why would a young man go to four years of college and play four years of amateur baseball when the opportunity to play for a major league franchise was now available to them? As a result McGraw-Jennings Field became a vacant diamond, yearning for young men to take interest in the game once again. 

1950 saw the return of  Bona's Baseball nine but The Laurel stated that the restart was a difficult task. As of right now the statistics for the that returning season are unknown, due to the fact that it was probably not an impressive season. Hugh Erb, a writer in the 1950 Graduation issue of The Laurel, made the comment, which is very fitting for that returning season, that "...even John McGraw made nine errors in his first professional game." Erb like many others was optimistic despite the rocky start the Bonnies had shown in 1950. 

1958 marked the year that McGraw-Jennings Field would move to its present day location. Due to the college's expanding development the field needed to be moved from what is now the area between the Reilly Center, Plassmann Hall, and Friedsam Memorial Library, to the open area that is south of the Reilly Center. The move would make room for Plassmann Hall, the new academics building. The dedication of the newly relocated McGraw-Jennings Field took place on October 11, 1958. If one looks at the picture posted at the top of this page one can notice that those present at the ceremony include the Very Reverend Brian Lhota, president of the college in 1958, Mrs. McGraw, and Mrs. Grace MacWilliams, daughter of Hugh Jennings. At the ceremony on October 11th the two women were made honorary members of the university's Monogram Club.

1958-2006 one can see that the field that was originally built south of the Reilly Center has become numerous fields. McGraw-Jennings Field is not just home to St. Bonaventure's baseball team, it is also home to the university's soccer, lacrosse, and softball teams. McGraw and Jennings might be this institution's most illustrious figures to have ever come out of the baseball program, but one must remember that not only did they represent baseball, but more importantly they represented Saint Bonaventure's College. Athletes, no matter which sport they belong to here on campus, should be proud to play on McGraw-Jennings Field and hopefully exhibit the same winning and leadership qualities that McGraw and Jennings cherished while attending this historic university.  

Fred Handler Park at McGraw Jennings Field

 

(Left: Thomas Marra Center: Coach Fred Handler Right: Current coach Larry Sudbrook

The baseball diamond was renovated in fall of 2006. The new complex is named after longtime Bonnie's baseball coach Fred Handler.  The field was converted from natural grass to state-of-the-art Sport Turf XP. The project also included new 50-foot long sunken dugouts, new bullpens and new fencing around the entire facility, including an extended backstop behind home plate.

Thomas Marra, class of 1980, who played baseball under Handler and is a member of the University's Board of Trustees, donated $900,000 to The Anniversary Campaign for St. Bonaventure enabling the renovation to become a reality.
  The Fred Handler Park complex features a press box directly  behind home plate, in which game personnel as well as radio talent work on game days. The dimensions of Fred Handler Park stretch 330 feet down the left and right field lines, have 367 foot power alleys and are 403 feet to straight away center field.

INDEX  COACHES  PLAYERS  MCGRAW-JENNINGS FIELD   STATISTICS HISTORY VIDEO

For more information about the Archives' collections contact:

Dennis Frank 
(archives@sbu.edu)
Archivist
telephone: 716.375.2322
web site:  http://archives.sbu.edu/index.html

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