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Amsterdam, NY ,

Photo courtesy of Amsterdam Historical League President Jerry Snyder. A picture of the dam people used to boat on at Crescent Park.

Photo courtesy of Fulton-Montgomery Photographic Archives A photo of people riding the miniature train at Crescent Park.

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Shuttleworth City park turns 100 years old

Monday, May 26, 2014 - Updated: 10:13 AM

By CASEY CROUCHER

casey.croucher@recordernews.com

One hundred years of age never looked so good.

The city of Amsterdam's playground -- Shuttleworth Park -- is a century old today.

The park, nestled among the trees along the Chuctanunda Creek, today offers visitors a variety of recreational options, from baseball to tennis to picnicking; however, that wasn't always the case.

City Historian Robert von Hasseln said the park officially opened on Memorial Day in 1914.

The park originated when the McCaffrey Brothers bought 175 acres of land in the current location in 1913, he said. They transformed the land into a midway-style park with rides, a dance hall, a motion picture theater, a miniature railroad, and a dammed-up creek for boat rides. They named their creation Crescent Park.

Crescent Park also had a baseball field, and the very first game ever played there was between the local Empires and the Philadelphia Colored Giants in 1914.

Later, in 1923, the McCaffrey brothers sold the park to Fred J. Collins, who changed Crescent Park into Jollyland. Jollyland continued with the midway until 1934 when Mohawk Carpet Mills purchased the land and it became known as Mohawk Mills Park. According to historian David Pietrusza, around the same time the Amsterdam Rugmakers of the Canadian-American baseball league were developed.

The team was run by Herbert Shuttleworth, after whom the park is currently named. He helped install lights, create a bigger infield, and built a taller, more professional fence for the baseball field in 1940.

In July 1942 Mohawk Mills Park saw one of its most inspirational moments. A fire destroyed the field's entire 900-seat grandstand plus fences and concession areas just eight days before the New York Yankees were scheduled to play the Rugmakers. The fire caused a $15,000 loss. But Mohawk Mills workers got together and the grandstand was rebuilt within a week, with 200 additional seats -- just in time for the Yankees' arrival.

Robert Going, lifelong Amsterdam resident and former Montgomery County Family Court Judge, said he remembers stories from his father, who attended the 1942 Yankee game.

"My father said the fire was so hot that the light pole closest to the grandstand bent right to the ground," he said. "After three or four days the light post cooled off and went right back up to where it had been before. You can still see a bend in that light post today."

Going's father and more than 4,000 other fans went to the 10-inning game to see the Yanks beat the Rugmakers 9-5.

Later that year the Canadian-American League was forced to shut down because of World War II, but the league continued back up again in 1946 with the Rugmakers as a team.

In 1949 the Yankees returned to the Rug City for a rematch against the Rugmakers. They defeated the home team 9-2 in seven innings, ending early because the Yanks had a train to catch.

In 1951 the Canadian-American League ended and the Mohawk Carpet Mills sold the park to the city for a dollar.

From 1955 to 1980 there were no night games held on the baseball field and the park officially changed its name to Herbert L. Shuttleworth Park in 1977.

The field underwent renovations in the past 30 years, with this year's artificial turf installation being the most recent.

Today, instead of the Rugmakers, Amsterdam residents have had the pleasure of watching the Perfect Game Collegiate Baseball League's Amsterdam Mohawks play ball on Shuttleworth field, since 2003.

Going, a baseball aficionado, said many famous athletes have played ball at Shuttleworth.

"Over the years, for some reason or another, all kinds of famous baseball players played in that park," he said. "Quite a few that went into the hall of fame and a lot that ended up in the major leagues."

Going said players like Joe DiMaggio of the Yankees, L.A. Dodgers' long-time manager Tommy Lasorda and manager of the Detroit Tigers, Mayo Smith, all played or coached at Shuttleworth at one point in their lives.

Von Hasseln said the park is an example of how Amsterdam has "turned the corner" and redeveloped something good into something great. He said the park is one of the city's selling points for people who might consider living here.

"Thousands of people every year come to Shuttleworth from outside of Amsterdam and the immediate vicinity to see baseball games and enjoy the park," he said. "It's a big selling point for Amsterdam. It's a chance to demonstrate that we're getting closer and closer to achieving that tipping point where we have enough things to give us a sense of place, enough reasons for people to want to work or visit here. People can choose to live wherever they want and work anywhere in the capital region but things like the river, Riverlink Park, Mohawk Valley Gateway Overlook and Shuttleworth Park are the reasons people come here to work or live."

Rob Spagnola, director of the city's Recreation Department, said Shuttleworth is the busiest park throughout the year because of the number of recreational uses it offers.

"There's the baseball field, the two girls' softball fields, the barbecue pits, the tennis courts, the playground, there's the walking trail along the water, there are birthday parties there every weekend; it's just a nice place for families to spend time together," Spagnola said. "Every city needs a place like Shuttleworth Park that has space for people to do any number of activities. My guess is that around 80,000 people go through the park in the summer, so it's definitely well-visited from people not only from Amsterdam but all over the area and country for that matter."

Jerry Snyder, president of Amsterdam's Historical League, also said parks are necessary for cities and the city is lucky to have Shuttleworth.

"We've lost a lot of the parks we used to have here," Snyder said. "When Amsterdam was originally laid out we had a park at every entrance to the city and the city had a lot of green space, but we've lost that green space to buildings and roads. It's important that the park has been there because it's an important part to our green space. It's there and it's available for people and that's why it's so important. It's a nice place to go."

Going said it's one of his favorite places to go for a baseball game.

"It's one of the greatest places in the world to watch baseball," he said. "It's modern in the sense that there's a new scoreboard and astro turf, but there's that old-fashioned feel to it. With that natural wooded bowl and the Chuctanunda Creek, there's no where else like that park; everyone who comes here is impressed, because you don't see it anywhere else."

Von Hasseln said Shuttleworth Park brings the city hope and helps maintain a sense of history.

"I think Shuttleworth is an example, in and of itself, of what was and what is and what will be," he said.

Throughout the summer Shuttleworth Park will host 100th-anniversary celebrations and the addition of a new Amsterdam historic marker, provided through the Shuttleworth Park Foundation. Dates of events will be released within the next month.

     

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