Mayo Field has stood the test of time

Mayo Field has stood the test of time
The sun sets on Mayo Field during a Willie Nelson and Bob Dylan concert in 2004.

You're probably wondering what Bob Dylan, George W. Bush, Jesse Owens, Charles "Swede'' Risberg, Sam "Toothpick'' Jones, Willie Nelson, Leon Durham, Andre Ethier, Moose Skowron and Claude "Boney'' McQuillan have in common.

All played  or performed at Mayo Field. All except for President George W. Bush, who was at Mayo Field on Sept. 16, 2004 at a campaign stop for his re-election.

"I kind of like to spend an afternoon at the ballpark,'' Bush said at a podium set up behind home plate. "I also like to come and ask people for their vote.''

An estimated 10,000 attended the rally and is believed to be the biggest crowd ever at the old ballpark.

Dylan twice performed at Mayo Field, on Sunday night Aug. 29, 2004 and again two years later on Thursday, Sept. 7, 2006.


His 2004 concert — with  tickets at $45 —  drew an estimated 8,000. The four-hour concert also featured Willie Nelson.

Tickets were $49.50 when he performed at Mayo Field in 2006 in front of 3,000. Ticket-holders started to line up in mid-afternoon on that day. The stage was set up in what normally be deep center field.

Although he is not a big, big, big  Dylan fan, Nathan Davidson  attended both concerts.

"He's an icon,'' Davidson said, "so if Dylan comes, you go.

"I thought the Dylan concerts at the field created a more ‘fun' and relaxed atmosphere. Being a child of the 60's and seeing Dylan there was a bit of a throw back of that time.

"Simply standing or sitting on a blanket meeting people around you made it more into  one big party.  One year it rained-it was like a little ’Woodstock.' ''

Dylan, by the way, is coming back to Rochester again on Aug. 21, but this time will play indoors at the Mayo Civic Center Arena.

Drs. W.J. and C.H. Mayo donated the Mayo Field property to Rochester in 1910. The park was dedicated on June 3, 1946 in front of 1,400.


The capacity is 7,500.

The Rochester Royals, who were a minor league affiliate of the Kansas City Royals, have played hundreds of games at Mayo Field over the years. They were the first primary tenant and in the 1950s, playing in the Southern Minny baseball league and  typically drawing crowds between 1,000 and 1,500 fans.

Sam "Toothpick'' Jones pitched for the Royals and even tossed a no-hitter against Austin in the playoffs. Five years later he was pitching for the Chicago Cubs and became the first black pitcher to pitch a no-hitter in the major leagues.

Bill "Moose'' Skowron, who recently passed away, also played for the Southern Minny Stars in Austin and played in Rochester numerous times before joining the New York Yankees.

The Kansas City Royals eventually relocated their Rochester minor league affiliate elsewhere but, however, the Royals remained in town as an amateur baseball team.

Minor league baseball returned to Rochester in 1958. The city had a team in the Three-I League called the Rochester Athletics.

However, before the season was half over, attendance had dwindled and the team packed up and moved to Winona to finish up the year.

In 1993, another minor league team — the Rochester Aces  — came to Rochester in the newly organized Northern League. The Aces played the St. Paul Saints in the championship series.


The league, claiming that Mayo Field did not have enough seating capacity, moved the next year to Winnipeg. The Winnipeg Goldeyes are still playing in the Northern League today.

Curt Ford, who played for St. Louis against the Twins in the 1987 World Series, as a member of the aces. Leon Durham, a former first baseman for the Chicago Cubs, played for the St. Paul Saints in 1993 and made appearances at Mayo Field. Pedro Guerrero, four times an all-star with the Dodgers, also played for an Aces opponent that summer.

The Rochester Honkers of the Northwoods League — a summer college baseball league — started in 1994 and continue to call Mayo Field home. The Honkers won the league title in their first year of operation and since have won five championships, the most recent in 2009.

Andre Ethier, who now stars for the Los Angeles Dodgers, is the most famous Honkers alumni. Last year he signed a contract extension through 2017 for $85 million with a $17.5 million vesting option for 2018.

Mayo Field has hosted countless high school and American Legion baseball games. Even a WWF wrestling match not so long ago.

Jesse Owens? He, of course, won four Olympic gold medals in front of Adolph Hitler in 1936. In 1946, he was playing for the Seattle Steelheads Pacific Coast Negro League baseball team, who were playing an exhibition game on Aug. 17 at Mayo Field against the Havana LaPalomas.

Owens did not play baseball but traveled with the team in order to make special appearances in the communities where the Steelheads played.

It was rainy and sloppy when they came to Rochester and Owens raced around the bases before the game, skidded at first base and fell down.


And that was it.

Claude McQuillan was a five-term mayor of Rochester and was in charge when Mayo Field was under construction.

A story is told that in 1957 Rochester was forced out of the Southern Minny League and wanted to to gain entry into the Class B, Three-I League. Entry fee into the new league was $20,000.

A major fundraising effort was begun, kicking off with an all-star dinner in November of 1957. Yogi Berra and Whitey Ford were among those in attendance.

McQuillan proclaimed that day as "Baseball Day'' in Rochester and had this to say to the citizens: "Do you want professional baseball or nothing next season?''

And one final story about Mayo Field, which is located right next to a train track and adjacent to Oakwood Cemetery.

Led by Ida Churchill, a group of concerned citizens complained that the crowds at the ballpark were not only tying up traffic in downtown but that funerals in the nearby cemetery were also being disturbed.

Problems solved. New parking regulations helped solve the traffic problem and an agreement was reached to stop play at Mayo Field during funerals.


Churchill was still not satisfied.

"I'm a widow,'' she said, "and I should think that some of you men would come out with a shotgun and chase the men away that crowd up on the lawn.''

Baseball, somehow, survived.


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