UTICA - In 1939, the Auburn entry in the Canadian-American League moved east and became the Utica Braves. It was Class C baseball, the lowest level of the minor leagues.
Amby McConnell was instrumental in the move. He played pro baseball for 19 years, including four seasons with a Utica team and four years as a major league second baseman.
As a Boston Red Sox rookie in 1908, McConnell was voted the most popular player on the team by fans, ahead of Hall of Fame teammates Cy Young and Tris Speaker.
He set a Red Sox team record for most stolen bases in a rookie season that stood for a century, and he set an unbreakable record as the first major league player to ever hit into an unassisted triple play.
In 1943, the year after he died, the Utica Braves' ballpark in North Utica was renamed McConnell Field in his honor.
The franchise also moved up that year to the Class A Eastern League and became a Philadelphia Phillies farm team.
The next year, the Phillies bought the team and renamed it the Utica Blue Sox.
The Blue Sox won the 1947 Eastern League pennant by 10 games with a 90-48 record and then captured the league championship trophy, the Governor's Cup, in seven games over the Albany Senators.
The '47 Blue Sox featured future major leaguers Granny Hamner, Stan Lopata and Hall of Famer Richie Ashburn, who hit .362 that year in his first full season of pro ball.
The three of them, and their manager, Eddie Sawyer, would all be part of the Phillies Whiz Kids team that won a surprise National League pennant in 1950.
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