CANTON From the length of the baseball history that has evolved in Stark and Summit counties, a reader could expect the book "Akron-Canton Baseball Heritage" to be every bit its 128 pages.
The authors of the book - Thomas Maroon, Margaret Maroon and Craig Holbert - trace the roots of the sport in the two sports-rich cities back many years more than a century.
"Baseball came to the Akron-Canton area in an organized way in 1887," the trio of baseball fans write in the introduction to their book. "Although statistics and league information were not detailed during those early days, Akron fielded a team named the Akron Acorns. Canton's team was not named."
NADJYS AND AKRONS
The cities' teams both played in the Ohio State League, the authors noted, and later reincarnations of teams in that league were, inexplicably, the Canton Nadjys and, redundantly, the Akron Akrons.
From that humble beginning, a rich and celebrated "Akron-Canton Baseball Heritage" was bred.
"There truly is an impressive list of local players who have made an impact on major league baseball history," the authors write in their book. "The list includes players such as George Sisler, Thurman Munson, and Gene Michael, just to name a few."
Pictures of those three and dozens of others who were born or played in northeast Ohio are pictured in "Akron-Canton Baseball Heritage," published by the community history specialist Arcadia Publishing. Other names recognizable to baseball fans are Kent State and Washington Senators star Rich Rollins, Wayne County and Los Angeles Angels standout Dean Chance, and Akron native and Cleveland Indians notable Gene Woodling.
The authors, indeed, are baseball fans. Their interest in the sport was the incentive for their book.
FOCUS ON LOCAL TALENT
"Being lifelong fans of the Indians, (Akron) Zips and (Kent State) Flashes, we have always recognized the strong tradition of talent this area has produced," say the Maroons and Holbert, Akron-area residents. "We think 'Akron-Canton Baseball Heritage' provides a very unique visual introduction to the topic and will interest a wide range of people from hard-core baseball fans to local history buffs. This book focuses on local talent and how it shaped the game as we know it today, as well as how we will know it tomorrow."
The history, mostly a pictorial, shows through posed portraits and game-action photographs how the minor league standouts of today can become the major league stars of the future. Such notable Indians as Albert Belle, Manny Ramirez, Grady Sizemore, Jim Thome, Victor Martinez and C.C. Sabathia, for example, have played for the team's AA farm team - first the Akron-Canton Indians and now the Akron Aeros -during their minor league careers.
Of the most interest to most Stark County readers, no doubt, will be the pages devoted to pictures and text chronicling the career of Lehman High School and Kent State University product Thurman Munson and the baseball stadium in Canton that was named after him. The light from his stardom, the authors quite obviously believe, shines as bright as that of any of the players who were Akron-Canton natives.
"Thurman Munson was born in Akron and was not only one of the best catchers of his day but arguably one of the best catchers in baseball history," they wrote about the New York Yankees catcher and captain, whose life tragically ended in a plane crash at the height of his career in 1979. "Sporting the number 15 on his Yankee pinstripes, along with his leadership abilities, sideburns and mustache, Thurman Munson was a throwback player who helped the Yankees achieve three American League Championships and three World Series appearances (1976-1978). After losing the World Series in 1976 to the Reds, the Yankees defeated the Dodgers the next two years."
Reach Repository Living Section Editor Gary Brown at (330) 580-8303 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
Photos reprinted with permission from "Akron-Canton Baseball Heritage" by Thomas Maroon, Margaret Maroon and Craig Holbert
INDIAN GREATS This picture of past players for the Cleveland Indians, published in "Akron-Canton Baseball Heritage," includes Akron's Luke Sewell, who is shown here at the center. Bob Lemon and Sewell's brother Joe Sewell are to his left, while Hal Trosky and Vic Wertz are pictured to Sewell's right.
UNIVERSITY OF AKRON "The 1925 University of Akron baseball team featured Levi MacDonald as the captain and Clyde Tiley as the manager," write the authors of "Akron-Canton Baseball Heritage." "The squad, which finished the year 2-5, had the unfortunate distinction of not playing any home games due to their field being regraded."
A STAR WAS BORN The authors of "Akron-Canton Baseball Heritage" judged that one of the most successful University of Akron baseball teams was the 1987 squad, which finished with a record of 34-19. "The star of that 1987 team was Massillon resident John Massarelli," the caption to this photo acknowledged. "Massarelli batted .419 that season with 50 RBI. Shortly after the season ended, he was drafted in the eighth round of the major league draft by the Houston Astros and played 10 seasons in the minor leagues. He appeared in 932 games, batted .271 lifetime, and played on two Tuscon (Triple A) championship teams in 1991 and 1993. Massarelli managed for four seasons in the Houston system after retiring and is currently the manager for the Washington Wild Things of the Frontier League where he was named Manager of the Year in 2004."
MUNSON AND STADIUM Thurman Munson Memorial Stadium was opened in Canton in 1989, recall the authors of "Akron-Canton Baseball Heritage" when publishing this illustration in their book. "Three teams have called this ballpark their home. The first team making this stadium their home was the Canton-Akron Indians of the Eastern League. They were followed by the Canton Crocodiles and the Canton Coyotes of the Frontier League. The stadium holds a crowd of 5,700 people. This aluminum stadium can be quite loud. It was state of the art for its day as far as minor league stadiums are concerned, and it really packed a crowd. The start of the resurgent minor league phenomena in this area can be attributed to this park."